Arsenal's French manager Arsene Wenger (C) watches from the stands as he continues to serve a touchline ban during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Arsenal at Stamford Bridge in London on February 4, 2017. PHOTO: Ian KINGTON / AFP
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has urged everyone connected with the Gunners to remain “united” despite seeing the club slip further behind in the Premier League title race.
Successive defeats by Watford and leaders Chelsea have left Arsenal 12 points off the summit and only one point ahead of Liverpool in the race for the fourth and final Champions League qualifying position.
Arsenal last won the Premier League in 2004 and with the title once more looking beyond their grasp, speculation over the future of Wenger, who is out of contract at the end of the season, has intensified.
But this is not the first time the veteran French manager’s Arsenal position has been called into question since he arrived at the north London side in 1996 and Wenger said Thursday it was vital that the Gunners remember their “special strength” of unity.
“Ideally you want everybody to be happy,” Wenger said when asked what factors would help him decide whether or not to sign a new contract.
“Arsenal is made of special strengths, and that strength is to be united when things go wrong.”
Wenger tried to emphasise that unity by insisting quotes attributed to Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny, which appeared to question the team selection against Chelsea, had been “lost in translation” from the defender’s native French.
“That story has been twisted,” said Wenger.
Asked if he had spoken to the France international regarding his reported comments, the Arsenal boss added: “Yes of course. He didn’t mean that at all (that the line-up was wrong).
“But when you have disappointing results you know what you get — people who turn things around. But we can deal with that.”
Arsenal will look to return to winning ways in the league at home to relegation-threatened Hull on Saturday, although the visitors will arrive at the Emirates Stadium fresh from a morale-boosting 2-0 win at home to Liverpool.
Wenger said a decision on whether Spanish full-back Hector Bellerin could play against the Tigers was expected to be taken on Friday.
The 21-year-old suffered a head injury as he tried to stop Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso heading the opening goal in the Blues’ 3-1 win at Stamford Bridge last Saturday.