Arsène Wenger now claims he has made a decision on his future but that he has yet to communicate his intentions to anyone else at Arsenal.
“You will soon know,” he said teasingly, after a 3-1 defeat to West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns saw his team lose further ground in the battle to finish in the top four. How soon? “Very soon, but I’m not necessarily worried about my future right now, when we are in a unique bad patch where we haven’t been for 20 years.”
Wenger is right about that. Arsenal have lost four of their last five league games, and could miss out on Champions League qualification for the first time this century. “We have a big fight on our hands now,” the manager conceded. “There is no other way to do it but to fight for the rest of the season.”
The Arsenal supporters who chartered a plane to buzz the ground with the message “Wenger Out” will take more convincing. Arsenal and fighting are not natural bedfellows, and even here Wenger admitted his defence had been naive at set pieces. Albion scored two almost identical goals from corners, and after losing Craig Dawson in the first half managed to lose him again in the second. “Our record on defending set pieces is quite good this season, but we were a bit naive on their movement,” Wenger said. “They blocked our goalkeeper both times.”
Tony Pulis, to the surprise of absolutely no one, said Albion had been working on set pieces all week in training. “We know what we’ve got,” the Albion manager said. “We concentrated on keeping Arsenal in front of us, they are hard to handle if they get behind you, and trying to score from set plays. The key is the quality of the delivery, and we had that. Craig Dawson should have had more goals this season, because he’s missed a few chances.” As Wenger ruefully pointed out, the success of Albion’s gameplan was borne out by the match stats. “We had 77% of possession but we couldn’t create enough chances,” the Arsenal manager said. “That is the problem, I don’t think it is the players’ attitude or the fact the fans are disappointed. The planes do not concern me. I don’t watch the sky during a match, I watch the game.”