Wenger not surprised by boos
The Gunners are now in real danger of seeing FA Cup winners Manchester City, who are two points behind with a match in hand, overtake them in the race for automatic Champions League qualification after a third defeat in four games at the end of a campaign which promised so much but again failed to deliver. The game was effectively decided when Darren Bent struck twice inside the opening 15 minutes following more poor defending. While Wenger will no doubt point to key decisions from referee Michael Oliver to turn down a first-half penalty shout and then rule out a close-range header from substitute Marouane Chamakh before Robin van Persie bundled home a late consolation, the jeers which rang out around the ground at the final whistle sent a clear message. Indeed, thousands of Arsenal fans had already headed for the exit doors ahead of the squad's lap of appreciation. Wenger, though, said: "It was our job to thank the fans and you never have to be embarrassed when you do your job. "It was not a tour of glory, of course, but I think, no matter what happens, you have to respect your fans for turning up for the whole season. "You have to accept that [some left] and you have to thank those who are still in the stand. "What is important is that this club has values and respects those values. "We are in a job where you have to please people and if they are not happy, we have to accept that." Wenger added: "The fans will not check how much money we spend, they want to win football games. "When we don't, they are not happy and that is completely normal. We will try to strengthen our team, of course, but the best way to keep our fans happy is to win the games." Arsenal, though, looked anything but likely to repeat the victory over Manchester United here two weeks ago and Wenger acknowledged his side had played for a slow start. "We were caught on a very bad start. We became stronger as the game went on and on top of that we were a bit unlucky," he said. "I feel we had a penalty, a goal that I have not seen cancelled often away from home. "We were punished because we went into the game too tentative. "We have been hit very hard by bad results and you could see that at the start of the game, but we have to rise above that. "Once we were in the game we looked comfortable, but it was too late." And Wenger admitted it would be a big blow if his side are overhauled by City and need to go through qualifying for the Champions League. "We dropped three points today which could cost us the automatic qualification for the Champions League," he said. "That would be a big setback, but we will adapt our preparation in pre-season to it." Centre-back Thomas Vermaelen made his long-awaited return from eight months out with an Achilles problem, but took time to grow into the game alongside Sebastien Squillaci, who was substituted at half-time in a tactical change. "They are two players with experience so normally it should work," said Wenger. "Vermaelen grew stronger and stronger as the game went on and they have not played since September, so it is a lot to ask to be dominant like he was before. "But I believe we gave very cheap goals away." Wenger, meanwhile, revealed captain Cesc Fabregas will not play again this season for club or country because of a thigh injury, while France midfielder Samir Nasri is also struggling with a hamstring problem. Villa were in need of at least a point to mathematically secure their top-flight status and produced a display worthy of their vocal travelling support. "You have to be happy with everything," said assistant manager Gary McAllister. "It has been a good day, with a great performance and result. "There has not been a great deal to shout about, but the journey home will be sweet and we appreciate the support because it is not been a great year but they stuck by us." McAllister hailed Bent's contribution. "Darren has been class since the first minute he arrived and has been excellent around the place," he said. "People raised eyebrows at the £18million fee at the start of the transfer window, but by the end of the month when there was a few gone for £50m and £35m, I think he is looking at not a bad buy."