Arsene Wenger under scrutiny as Arsenal plays Aston Villa
Mired in a "vicious circle'' of poor results and increasing unrest among fans, Arsene Wenger's position as Arsenal manager has rarely been under such scrutiny heading into Saturday's home match against Aston Villa in the Premier League.
With the club on the verge of making it eight seasons without silverware, even Arsenal's players have been forced to defend the credentials of their esteemed coach, whose record of qualifying for the Champions League every year since 1997 is under threat.
"I don't want to focus on the negativity,'' Arsenal winger Theo Walcott said. ``I just want to focus on the positive side of the team, because I know how good those guys are, and get to where we should be."
"We've got the best man in the job to get our heads back to where they should be.''
After losing at home to second-tier club Blackburn in the FA Cup and then Bayern Munich in the first leg of the last 16 of the Champions League, another defeat at Emirates Stadium to a Villa side battling against relegation would be hard to stomach.
Arsenal is four points behind fourth-place Tottenham in the fight for a finish in the Champions League positions, which Wenger views as the equivalent of winning a trophy.
The north London rivals meet next Sunday at White Hart Lane in what is shaping up to be a defining match, and Arsenal needs to be within touch of Tottenham after this weekend.
"A bad period for a club is also a good opportunity to show how united and strong you are. We have a good history of that at Arsenal,'' Wenger said Friday, after insisting he had no thoughts of quitting.
"I have a contract until the end of 2014 and at the moment we are on a short-term plan. This is for two reasons, because I am here for a long time and as well I have to consider what I want to do. That will be decided in 2014, not before.''