Arsene Wenger admitted it will be “very difficult” for Arsenal to finish in the top four after Monday’s 3-0 loss to Crystal Palace, but said it would be “inconvenient” to talk about his own future in the wake of such a disappointing result.
The Gunners fell to their fourth straight away loss in the Premier League in dispiriting fashion, as Sam Allardyce’s team dominated throughout and had Arsenal’s away fans chanting “You’re not fit to wear the shirt” toward the end of the game.
The loss leaves Arsenal in sixth place, seven points behind fourth-place Manchester City, and Wenger is now in real danger of missing out on Champions League qualification for the first time in his 21-year reign.
Asked to assess his team’s top-four chances, Wenger said: “As very difficult, like you, certainly.”
This result will only heap more pressure on the beleaguered Frenchman, who was already facing increasing calls from supporters to step down when his contract expires at the end of the campaign. But Wenger, who has repeatedly refused to say what he intends to do, was in no mood to discuss his own future after the defeat.
“Honestly, I’m disappointed tonight. After such a long time to see that we lose a game the way we lost it, is of course very disappointing,” he said. “My person at the moment, and especially tonight, I think it would be inconvenient to speak about me tonight.
“It’s more painful to lose a game the way we lost it … I think [the fans] are extremely disappointed, and I can understand that, like we all are.”
Arsenal had a couple of early chances but seemed to lose confidence after Andros Townsend put the hosts ahead after 17 minutes. The Gunners looked void of ideas after that, and started sagging even more when Yohan Cabaye doubled the lead after the break.
But Wenger rejected the notion that his players had stopped fighting in the second half.
“No I wouldn’t say that,” he said. But he admitted that the team’s poor away form had affected their confidence after Palace went ahead.
“It’s really strange because we were for a long time unbeaten away from home. And since we cannot win away from home. You could feel that it had an impact on us after the second goal tonight,” Wenger said.
“I think we faced a team that played very deep and went for a game that was very direct. And we lost many direct duels and second balls because they were sharper than us in the duels, and more decisive. Overall we created many dangerous situations but we couldn’t score.”
Speaking to SFR Sport, Wenger added that it was normal for Arsenal fans to be disappointed in the manner of defeat and said he understood that disappointment.
“I’m disappointed like them, and it’s normal they’re disappointed this evening,” Wenger said. “I have taken charge of more than 1,100 matches with Arsenal, and when you lose a match like this one, it’s a real defeat, and I understand their disappointment.”
And of their top four chances, he said: “Very hard, because this evening, we did a very bad operation given everyone won at the weekend. It’s extremely difficult.”
Sam Allardyce’s Palace moved six points clear of the bottom three and have seven remaining to cement their Premier League status.
A run of five victories from their past six fixtures includes a recent defeat of league leaders Chelsea, and after describing the past week as his finest at Palace, Allardyce said they had moved “one or two results” from safety.
“It’s the best week,” said the 62-year-old. “Certainly Chelsea away, a little blip [3-1 defeat] at Southampton, then Arsenal at home. The two victories were such great victories, in such a short space of time, but it was well deserved.
“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. We were full of energy. Full of fight. Full of belief. And full of talent.
“If we can perform like that in any of the last seven games, we can beat any team. Our performances have to be to that level, so we get safe and can start preparing for next season.”