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Wenger calls for united Arsenal front

Arsenal must stay united on and off the pitch if they are to take the title race down to the wire, according to Arsene Wenger.

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The Gunners head to Bolton on Sunday sitting in third place after draws against Liverpool and Tottenham in the week opened the door for Chelsea, who leapfrogged them with victory over Birmingham.

Arsenal are unbeaten in 16 games but have only won three of the last nine, their habit of drawing consistently hurting their bid to keep pace with leaders Manchester United.

Wenger has faced criticism from fans, with the Arsenal Supporters Trust going as far as releasing a statement over their "considerable disappointment'' at how their team dropped out of three competitions in a matter of weeks.

Added to that there is a continuing row over an interview Cesc Fabregas gave to Spanish magazine Don Balon in which he suggested the club had come to a point where they had to decide whether they would develop young players or win trophies, and admitted his team-mates did not have a winning mentality.

Wenger, though, insists his team have already performed way beyond expectations and is in no doubt with everyone pulling in the right direction, the campaign can yet be salvaged.

"The Arsenal supporters can be very proud of their team and the experience I have is that they have turned up with a fantastic mentality since the start of the season,'' Wenger said. "We created a huge hope because we were fighting on all fronts, and the first quality a club wants to have is a fighting spirit.

"We did fight beyond the expectation of everybody. If I listen to the expectation at the start of the season, nobody expected us to be where we are. Sometimes I would like you [the media] to acknowledge that.

"What I would like from our fans is to be behind the team until the last day, the last minute, of the season. This club has massive values, has been built on solidarity and it is important we show this kind of solidarity until the last second of the season.

"Then I will accept what people think, but until the last second of the season I believe it is very important that everybody who loves this club fights together.''

Not so long ago, a trip to Bolton would have been a completely different proposition for the Gunners, so often coming unstuck against the strong tactics of Sam Allardyce.

However, Owen Coyle has transformed the playing style of the Trotters, who look set for a top-10 finish but last week suffered a 5-0 FA Cup semi-final thrashing by Stoke at Wembley.

Wenger has been impressed. "Bolton has done very well, but they have just got a massive disappointment. Overall they have been one of the teams above expectations,'' he said.

"They have been expecting to go to the cup final and the disappointment must be huge for them. How they will respond? I don't know, but we have to focus on our own performance in a game of that stature.''


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