Arsene Wenger: Jeers from Arsenal fans has been 'difficult to take'
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger says the recent criticism from fans has been "difficult to take," hitting back at supporters who turned against the team during their recent struggles.
The Gunners' convincing 2-0 win over Everton on Saturday was only their second in their last nine games in all competitions, a stretch that saw them eliminated from the FA Cup and Champions League and fall well behind leaders Leicester in the Premier League.
Wenger has faced the brunt of criticism during that stretch from both media pundits and fans, many of whom have called for him to leave after this season. But after the win over Everton, Wenger said he was more upset that the players have not been given united support from supporters.
"What hurts me is that at the important moment of the season we played in a sceptical environment," Wenger told reporters.
"I think after the Tottenham game where we played a very good game with 10 men against 11 and came back to 2-2, I couldn't understand why -- at the moment when you need everyone behind the team -- we had to hit that storm.
From the media, OK. From our fans? It is a bit more difficult to take."
The draw at Tottenham was followed by a 4-0 win over Hull in the FA Cup, after which some traveling Arsenal supporters held up a banner telling Wenger it was time to leave. Another banner with a similar message was held up at Goodison Park after Saturday's victory.
"I never complain about critics, especially when they are turned against me," Wenger said. "But we have to get the fans behind us with our attitude, and make sure that they stand behind the team until the end of the season."
Wenger has one more season left on his contract, and the Arsenal board is widely expected to let him see out his contract. However, even some former Arsenal players have said it might be time for the 66-year-old Frenchman to leave if Leicester or Tottenham go on to win the league title.
But Wenger again defended his record at the club.
"I just think I give my best. I built this club over 19 years with the quality of my work, not with resources from outside the club," he said "Not with big money, but by caring about every pound that I spent.
"And I think the club has moved forward a lot. I just want to continue that, you know. And show the quality of the football I like. That's all I can do. I can take criticism, I'm in a public job, so I personally can take the criticism and I can use that."
Aside from the continued split among fans, there were plenty of positives to take from the victory over Everton ahead of the international break. Teenager Alex Iwobi scored his first goal for the club and Danny Welbeck again impressed up front, scoring the first goal for the Gunners.
Welbeck has four goals since returning from nearly 10 months out with an injury, and Wenger said the England forward can continue to have a big impact as they chase Leicester.
"You cannot say you don't miss a player of that stature for nine months," Wenger said. "I had many hesitations to play him before the game because he is still not completely over his knee problem. We have to be cautious but I pushed it because I knew this was now or never [for the title bid]."
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him @MattiasKaren.