Wenger feels the fans' agitation over a summer of transfer inactivity, and a desperate display at Newcastle does not bode well for Tuesday's Champions League tie with Udinese
By Rob Stewart
The new season is only in its nascent stages but the signs of revolt among Arsenal supporters were there for all to see – or rather hear – at St James’ Park.
There is trouble brewing at the Emirates Stadium because the fear of another trophyless season is looming large and the Gunners’ top brass should be braced for a fans’ backlash this week.
A taste of things to come on home territory when Arsenal host Udinese in the first leg of their Champions League qualifier came from high up in the stands before Gervinho’s antics suddenly woke everyone up in the drab 0-0 draw against Newcastle United.
The expletive-laden chants pouring down from the Leazes End on Tyneside urging Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger to, shall we say, spend some money showed that Gooners are ready to turn on the Frenchman as well as the club hierachy.
Those travelling supporters had seen enough to know that, without Barcelona-bound Cesc Fabregas or Manchester City-bound Samir Nasri, this team will struggle to make it into the Champions League places at the end of the new season let alone mount a title bid.
Newcastle were there for the taking on home turf but without the guile of Fabregas, Nasri and the injured Jack Wilshere, lacklustre Arsenal did not possess the creativity necessary to secure all three points against modest opposition and quell the growing unrest.
That domestic strife whirling around the Emirates all boils down to the perceived lack of progress and the failure of Wenger to bring in or at least line up adequate replacements to invigorate a set of players who look workmanlike rather than able to even match last season’s fourth-place finish.
| PLAYER RATING
|6.5||The best player on the pitch for the opening 45 minutes.By the second half a lack of end product was evident though and that frustration boiled over when he foolishly raised his hands to Barton, meaning his debut ended with an early bath|
Such a bundle of cash would be enough to bring in experienced operator such as West Ham and England midfielder Scott Parker and Lille’s Belgian international Eden Hazard and still leave over plenty of dosh to strengthen the defence with someone of Chris Samba or Gary Cahill’s stature and keep the bank manager happy.
Make no mistake, Arsenal’s back four might have left Newcastle with a clean sheet but most defences would have easily contained an attack as blunt as the one spearheaded by Shola Ameobi on Tyneside.
There will be far sterner tests to follow so a no-nonsense centre-half is required but for now the focus is on the midfield void that will need to be filled by Wenger when the inevitable happens and his two star midfielders head off to pastures new.
Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey as well as Alex Song all look class acts but they are too young to be able to cope all season-long in the midfield trenches without someone who has been around the block a few times to nurture them in the dark arts of Premier League football.
The odds against Arsenal winning their first Premier League title went out to 12/1 thanks to their laboured display against Newcastle and they could lengthen even further next Saturday when Wenger’s lot take on Liverpool in a dare-not-lose match that is already growing in magnitude for both clubs.
And Arsenal also have to negotiate their Champions League qualifier against Udinese where a slip-up would be tantamount to a disaster for the London club.
Arsenal’s current predicament is certainly no laughing matter but the gallows humour from Wenger’s in post-match press conference – citing the signing of pantomime villain Joey Barton as the “best solution to our problems” - showed that he recognises that hostility is mounting, especially among those who made the long trek up the A1 on Saturday.
As the public face of Arsenal, Wenger knew what he had to do when he was faced with the media because there are hearts and minds that he needs to win and he did not hold back with a charismatic performance on the stage in the St James’ Park media suite, coming on all avuncular.
Normally Arsenal pressers in the north-east are brief affairs with a plane home to catch but on Saturday evening there was no stopping Wenger as he launched a full-on charm offensive aimed at disgruntled Gooners that felt like emotional blackmail.
“I'm worried that our fans are behind our team,” Wenger told reporters. “I feel these players deserve it, it's important there's a love between the fans and the players have shown today the commitment to deserve the support of the fans.”
So too does Wenger but Arsenal’s next two games will show if the fans’ patience is running out.
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