Football

Arsenal on brink of meltdown

Gunners boss faces renewed calls for his head after thumping at Crystal Palace

Arsene Wenger faces renewed calls to quit after Arsenal's miserable season spiralled out of control with furious fans turning on his flops during their 3-0 loss to Crystal Palace yesterday morning (Singapore time).

The defeat - their worst in the Premier League this season - means Wenger's side have lost four successive away league games for the first time in his 21-year reign as manager.

Goals from Andros Townsend, Yohan Cabaye and Luka Milivojevic gave Palace their first home win over Arsenal since 1979 and left Wenger in turmoil after his team's fifth defeat in their last eight league games.

With many Arsenal supporters again calling for Wenger's head, the toxic atmosphere around the north Londoners boiled over as fans refused to return the ball to Gunners right back Hector Bellerin when it went into the away section in the second half.

Instead, they berated Bellerin and his teammates with chants of "you're not fit to wear the shirt". The Spaniard had to be consoled by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain when he was jeered again at the final whistle.

Wenger and his squad were targeted for more abuse when they made their way from the dressing room to the team bus.

Arsenal's shocking surrender leaves them in sixth place, seven points behind fourth-placed Manchester City.

With Wenger's record of leading Arsenal into the Champions League for 19 consecutive years in severe danger, the beleaguered Frenchman acknowledged he has to find a way to avoid the mutinous mood wrecking what may yet prove to be his final season in charge.

UNDERSTAND

"I want the fans to support the team, but I can understand they are extremely frustrated, like we all are," Wenger said.

"We came with the desire to win the game, but in the decisive moments of the game, Palace were sharper.

"To see us lose in that way is disappointing. It's part of my job to build the confidence. We have a week to do it. It's our job. We will try to do it."

Wenger has hardly helped his cause by refusing to confirm if he will sign an extension to the contract which runs out at the end of the season.

The uncertainty has been a major distraction for a team lacking the fighting spirit required to cope with adversity.

Wenger conceded Arsenal's chances of making the Champions League via a top-four finish look bleak, but he refused to be drawn on his future.

"I think it will be very difficult, certainly," he said. "I don't want to speak about me tonight. I'm not in the mood.

"At the moment, I pay more respect to the fact we had a disappointing result."

Looking shell-shocked and far less defiant than he often is at such downbeat moments, Wenger must have been devastated by the way the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Oezil and Theo Walcott went missing when he needed them most.

Former Arsenal players were united in their criticism.

Arsenal legend Ian Wright claimed Wenger has lost the support of his players while former defender Lee Dixon lambasted the players for a soul-less display.

Dixon tweeted: "Sometimes players have nights where nothing goes right. All 11 of them tonight."

Palace moved six points clear of the bottom three and boss Sam Allardyce hailed a magical 10 days that also included a win at leaders Chelsea.

"One or two more results and we should be safe, but it's a massive night for everybody, and a huge week for us all," he said. 
- WIRE SERVICES

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