Out of contention for the Premier League title and in danger of missing out on Champions League qualification, Arsenal fans let manager Arsene Wenger know just how upset they were on Sunday.
Injury-hit Arsenal had fought back to 1-1 against second place Manchester United when Wenger’s 74th-minute decision to withdraw Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was greeted with derision from the Emirates Stadium crowd.
Andrey Arshavin replaced the young winger and moments later was partially to blame for United’s winning goal, failing to challenge Antonio Valencia as he pushed forward to set up Danny Welbeck.
Arsenal’s players trudged off 2-1 losers with jeers ringing in their ears.
“I can understand that fans are upset about the substitution, especially when it doesn’t work,” Wenger said. “But Arshavin is captain of the Russia national team, so maybe we have to justify that he is substituted for a guy of 18 who is playing only his second Premier League game.
“People pay their tickets and are free to express their emotions and we have to deal with that. That doesn’t mean they are right always.”
Having led Arsenal to three Premier League titles since joining the club in 1996, Wenger has long been revered by fans repeating the mantra “Arsene knows”.
But an increasing number are restless after a near seven-year streak without a trophy and it wasn’t only fans who seemed to disagree with Wenger’s substitution on Sunday.
Television footage appeared to show Arsenal captain Robin van Persie, who had equalised from Oxlade-Chamberlain’s pass for his 19th Premier League goal of the season, shake his head and shout “No!” when the winger’s number was held up on the touchline.
“I didn’t see that,” Wenger said. “I have to stand up for the result and for the substitutions I make. I am 30 years in this job and I make 50 000 substitutions and I have to justify to you every time I make a decision?
“I do not have to explain to you every single reason why I make a decision.”
Wenger praised his team — which is still playing without specialist fullbacks because of injuries to the likes of Bacary Sagna and Kieran Gibbs — for fighting back against United and refused to blame Arshavin for the defeat.
“If you expect me to blame one individual player, it will not happen,” Wenger said. “We lose together and we win together. You want me now to blame one player and I will not do that.
“It could have happened as well if he [Oxlade-Chamberlain] had stayed on.” — Sapa-AP