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Wenger: I can live with reality

PUBLISHED: 07:54 04 March 2018

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger before the Europa League match between Arsenal vs Ostersunds FK at the Emirates Stadium. Picture: Danny Loo

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger before the Europa League match between Arsenal vs Ostersunds FK at the Emirates Stadium. Picture: Danny Loo

Danny Loo Photography 2018

Arsene Wenger insists he can “live with the reality” of Arsenal’s season becoming a write-off as he heads towards his worst campaign since taking charge in 1996.

Thursday’s night’s comprehensive 3-0 defeat to Manchester City leaves the Gunners sixth in the Premier League with only 13 wins from 28 matches – the first time since his debut season in England in 1996-97 that Wenger’s side have won less than half of their league games.

On that occasion, he took over eight games into the season and won 14 of the remaining 30, a win ratio of 46.7 per cent – this season’s total is currently 46.4 per cent.

Arsenal head to Brighton on Sunday and some supporters have again turned on the 68-year-old, calling for him to leave at the end of the season, while a host of pundits have also suggested Wenger’s time has been and gone.

Wenger was in a similar position last year when it was unclear whether he would sign a new contract amid growing unrest, something he eventually did after winning a third FA Cup in four years.

That success offset missing out on Champions League qualification for the first time in a full season under Wenger.

This year, Arsenal are 13 points off the top four and crashed out of the FA Cup at the third round – another first of the Wenger era.

A 3-0 defeat to Manchester City in last weekend’s Carabao Cup final and a forthcoming Europa League last-16 tie with AC Milan means Arsenal could end the season empty-handed, with Wenger conceding that would make this campaign worse than last year and all the calls for him to leave that came along with it.

“This season is worse than last season because last season we won the cup and we made 75 points,” he said.

“I don’t deny that, but we’ll analyse that at the end of the season. Don’t worry, I can live with reality. At the moment, we lost a cup final and we lost a big championship game.

“What are the underlying things? We have to focus on what we did well (on Thursday) and what we didn’t do well. We need to correct it.

“I’ve been in sport long enough to know that we played against a top side who is at its best at the moment, and we have to say ‘Thank you, well done’.”

Former Arsenal defender Martin Keown offered one of the most damning criticisms of the league defeat at the hands of City.

He accused Wenger of managing ‘by routine’ and not adapting to situations – something his former manager denied.

“You can discuss that statement because it’s not completely true,” he added.

“We played with five at the back on Sunday, we played with four and played in a very offensive formation. That statement is not completely adjusted to the situation I think.

“I try to find solutions where the team feels comfortable and confident. Overall, I believe that at the moment it’s difficult but we also have to take a little bit of perspective. We played against a team who is not only top quality but in full confidence at the moment.”

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