Arsène Wenger has claimed that Arsenal’s comeback against Manchester City can be pivotal in salvaging their season and praised what he called the “sensational” fan support inside the Emirates.
A 2-2 draw still leaves Arsenal sixth, seven points outside the top four, but after the worst period in his 21 years at the club Wenger wanted to seize the positives of avoiding what would have been a seventh defeat in 10 games.
“We started with quite a high level of anxiety and we were punished,” he said. “It was a mental test, and you could see the team was touched on the confidence front and that the fluency in our game suffered.
“We have shown great mental resources because we were twice down. It will help us to rebuild confidence. Hopefully it will help us to restart. We have responded in a united, strong way.”
There were again fan protests about the prospect of Wenger signing a new contract, with chief executive Ivan Gazidis having earlier addressed fans and reiterated that there must be significant change this summer even if Wenger stays.
Wenger wants to go on and has told the club that he is ready to “reinvent” himself, and Arsenal do believe that the 67-year-old is capable of becoming what Gazidis has called a “catalyst for change”. However, there is also an appreciation of the volatile fan mood around the club and Gazidis again stressed that the final decision must be “mutual”.
There is still no certainty on when that decision will be made, although it now appears that Wenger’s tenure is resting on results over the next two months. “I don’t know how long I will be here but I am clear in my head, that’s the most important thing,” said Wenger. “The decision will be soon. I have always shown complete loyalty and I’ll continue to do that as long as I’m here. After, I will always support this club and wish it goes even better.”
Arsenal are again at home on Wednesday against West Ham United when Wenger hopes that the supporters inside the stadium will stay with the players. He is likely to be without Laurent Koscielny, who came off here at half-time with an Achilles injury, although Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could both return.
“Our fans were fantastic,” said Wenger. “In the very difficult moments in the first half I felt they could have turned against us but they were absolutely sensational. They helped the team to get through those difficult moments.”
A draw also potentially ended Manchester City’s distant title hopes, with Pep Guardiola’s team still 11 points behind Chelsea ahead of their match on Wednesday at Stamford Bridge.
Guardiola was convinced that his team should have had a penalty in added time and even claimed that Nacho Monreal admitted it hit his arm when he attempted to head the ball clear as Sergio Agüero waited. “Monreal said he touched the ball with the hand but he said to me in England, in that kind of situation, there’s no whistles,” he said.
Guardiola came on to the pitch and spoke to referee Andre Marriner after the game. “I said to the referee, ‘The same happened against Tottenham’. The same referee.
“It’s OK. I said many times, what I can do is control what I can control.
“I want the ball, I want to play. That is what I can control, and I have to improve as a manager to convince the players to do that. About the decisions of the referee, fortunately it’s not my business, but it’s bad.”