The Gunners’ European hopes are in tatters following a comprehensive beating at the hands of Bayern Munich, but the club captain is still surprised at the treatment of his boss
By Tom J Doyle at the Emirates Stadium
Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen has admitted he is shocked by the speculation surrounding Arsene Wenger’s future, but has called on his team-mates to stand behind their coach in the wake of the 3-1 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
Pressure is mounting on the 63-year-old after the Gunners were knocked out of the FA Cup by Blackburn on Saturday, while goals from Toni Kroos, Thomas Muller and Mario Mandzukic on Tuesday put Bayern firmly in control of the last-16 tie ahead of the return leg in Munich.
The two defeats mean it is likely Arsenal will go without a trophy for an eighth successive season, but Vermaelen insists his coach is still the right man to lead the side to glory.
“I am [shocked], but I know in football everybody thinks really short term and they don’t look at the long term,” he told reporters.
“[Wenger] has done a lot for this club, it’s not going well at the moment but you have to stand behind him. You have to look at the long-term; he’s the right man for this club and we’re all behind him.
“He’s done a lot for this club, he still does a lot of hard work for us. I think he’s the right man for us, and we have to show that on the pitch as well. At the moment the results are not going for us – it’s been quite difficult, but we will work hard with the boss to get the results back.”
Supporters at the Emirates made their feelings known with a chorus of boos at the final whistle on Saturday, as well as at the end of each half against Bayern, but the Belgium international has insisted that they must get behind the team.
“[The fans] can’t forget that we need them,” he added. “We need their resolve because they belong to the team, they belong to the club. We have to stand behind each other because it’s the only thing you can do.
“Of course we’re not happy, we have to look at ourselves and stick together in difficult times – it’s the first thing we have to do.
“We can’t blame each other. Don’t look at each other, just stay as a team and work harder to get the results back. We hurt as players, we don’t want to lose.”
The tie looked to be beyond Arsenal as early as the 20th minute after Bayern raced into a 2-0 lead, and Vermaelen bemoaned his team-mates’ lack of discipline and inability to cope with the Bundesliga leaders.
“We did our best, I think we had a good start but they took over really quickly and that’s a disappointment,” he continued. “They came out in the tackle strongly, with a lot of players on the flanks and that’s difficult to cope with.
“At the moment there is disappointment that we lost. We weren’t disciplined enough as a team to win the game, especially in the first half. The second half was a bit better – we created a few more chances but they were stronger. It was quite difficult.
“[Bayern] are a good team, they’re really disciplined, they work hard as a team and that’s the key to success. They did really well today. They are strong physically.”