LONDON — Arsene Wenger admits vulnerable Arsenal must show some fight to avoid more misery in tonight’s crucial Champions League play-off first leg against Fenerbahce in Istanbul.
Wenger’s team suffered a dismal start to the Premier League campaign as Aston Villa romped to a surprise 3-1 win at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.
Arsenal’s lacklustre display sparked a furious response from Gunners fans, who left Wenger in no doubt they blame him for failing to fulfil the club’s pre-season promise to spend big on new signings.
The Arsenal Supporters’ Trust joined the chorus of disapproval on Monday when they called on the club to halt any contract talks with Wenger and focus instead on rebuilding the squad.
After eight years without a trophy, Wenger and his players are already under intense pressure and failing to qualify for the lucrative Champions League group stages would be a disaster in the current climate of dissatisfaction.
But to make matters worse for Wenger, he was hit with a series of injuries against Villa which have left him with just eight fully fit senior players.
England midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain sustained a serious knee problem that could rule him out for several months, while Kieran Gibbs, Bacary Sagna, Tomas Rosicky and Aaron Ramsey joined a growing injury list that already includes Mikel Arteta, Nacho Monreal and Thomas Vermaelen.
In the circumstances, Wenger could have done with an easier task than trying to emerge unscathed from Fenerbahce’s deafening Sukru Saracoglu Stadium.
And Wenger let his guard down as he conceded his team are currently more fragile than he would like.
“We missed chances, were unlucky and had injuries, roll the three together and it is a fragile position, but the difference between us and the rest is not massive,” Wenger said.
“I believe our season will depend on how we respond to this defeat.
“After such a disappointing start it will be difficult, but we will bounce back because the spirit and the focus in the team is good.
“It is a vital game for us because we have fought very hard to be in this position.
“It is a tricky fixture, but we want to finish the job now.”