Arsene Wenger pleads for perspective from fans as failed title bid frustrations boil over
Arsene Wenger has called for a sense of perspective as Arsenal's supporters prepare to protest during Saturday's Premier League fixture at home to Norwich.
Black Scarf Movement, RedAction and the Arsenal Supporters Trust want those present at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday to raise placards reading: "Time for change. Arsenal is stale, fresh approach needed."
Wenger believes certain critics of the team are trying to "manipulate" supporters to suit their own agenda, but shares the general frustration among Gunners supporters at Arsenal's latest failure to win the league.
However, the 66-year-old thinks the club's overall "evolution" since their move from Highbury has wrongly been overlooked.
"We have to put things a little bit into perspective and see how the club's evolution has gone over the years," Wenger said.
"It was not always easy. The quality of the work we've done at the club has got us into a strong position where expectations are very high, but we are frustrated when we don't get what we want.
"When you build a stadium, we had five to seven difficult financial years where we had to pay back - we had (to qualify) for the Champions League three years out of five and have an average (gate) of 54,000 people (to finance the new stadium). We didn't know we would be capable of that.
"We had to sell our best players every year to survive, but we didn't do three years out of five in the Champions League. We did five out of five. But during that time, it was very difficult."
Former Tottenham midfielder Jamie Redknapp this week said Wenger had "brainwashed (Arsenal fans) into thinking fourth is good enough", while former Arsenal forward Paul Merson and celebrity Gunners fan Piers Morgan are among other vocal critics, and the Frenchman said: "The best chance (Arsenal supporters) can give our team is to be behind our team.
"Some groups of people try to manipulate our fans, and I believe apart from an agenda, a personal agenda, a big ego, there's not a lot behind it.
"This team has character and attitude. Some people question them. I know them well, and they have less character than this team have. I saw them play and I know them very closely, and they shouldn't question this team's character.
"When a club cannot enjoy anything any more, it's in trouble. In football you go down very quickly and come up very slowly. We have to stick together."
The return to fitness of Santi Cazorla and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain means Wenger has a fully-fit squad to choose from for a match they must win in their pursuit of a top-four finish, but the manager will at best only select one of them.
"One could be involved," he said.
"Santi Cazorla has already practised now for two weeks with the team. Alex is in the first week. So one of the two (might be in the squad)."