Arsene Wenger has hit back at his latest critics – labelling the condemnation of his Arsenal team as “excessive”.
The Gunners are now five points adrift of Barclays Premier League leaders Leicester after losing 3-2 at Manchester United on Sunday.
In the aftermath of the defeat, against a United side that had more than a feel of a makeshift look to it, Wenger and his players were criticised by Sky Sports pundit Graeme Souness – who called the team “weak and insipid”.
“Arsenal today bordered on being a joke for me,” the former Liverpool boss said.
“This is an Arsenal team you were saying a month ago was a real team. They’ve got to play Tottenham, Barcelona – by March 16 they could be out of all competitions.
“Arsene Wenger must be tearing his hair out. This Arsenal team just doesn’t have ‘it’ – and I’ll stand on my head if they prove me wrong and go and win this league.
“They’ve been so weak, so insipid. If I were an Arsenal supporter I’d be so angry right now.”
Former Arsenal favourite Paul Merson also called for Wenger to leave if either Leicester or Tottenham win the league but the Frenchman believes the strength criticism are unjust.
“I’m never surprised by the criticism that comes,” he said.
“That’s part of the media today. Part of the opinion is always a bit excessive and emotional, but we have to deal with that and I don’t complain about it.
“I don’t want to respond to individual criticism. I think people are a bit too emotional and we want to put things into perspective by analysing things a bit more in a neutral way. This club is respected all over the world despite what people say.
“Everybody has freedom of opinion and I enjoy very much that people care about my future. I thank them for that. Apart from that, in my life, I always taken care of myself and my future.”
Wenger has called on his players to respond to their public shaming by using it as motivation to beat Swansea on Wednesday night and get themselves back into the title race ahead of a massive north London derby against Spurs at the weekend.
“That’s what we want to do,” he added.
“We want to transform the negatives into positives around us and create even more solidarity. Let’s not go overboard, we do not play to be relegated.
“We are playing to fight for the title. That’s why we have to put criticism in the right place.”
One player whose involvement over the rest of the season is now in doubt is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
The England winger injured his knee in the Champions League loss to Barcelona and Wenger has revealed he could be out for as long as two months.
“(He will be out for) six for eight weeks,” he said of Oxlade-Chamberlain’s injury.
“No surgery. We feared surgery at some stage before we saw the MRI. In the end we got, on that front, positive news.
“The next eight weeks means March and April. He should be okay for the European Championships.”