23 Jan 2012

Wenger tries to quell mutiny after loss

3:31 pm on 23 January 2012

The Arsenal football manger Arsene Wenger was forced to quell talk of a mutiny at Arsenal after his costly mistake led to the Gunners' 2-1 home defeat against Manchester United in London.

The Frenchman made a huge blunder when he decided to send on Russia winger Andrey Arshavin in place of young Englishman Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the closing stages at the Emirates Stadium.

A lacklustre first-half performance from Arsenal ended with Antonio Valencia heading United into the lead, but Wenger's injury-hit side gave a far better account of themselves in the second period and equalised when Robin van Persie finished off a move that swept the full length of the pitch.

Arsenal looked capable of snatching a winner at that point but Wenger took the wind out of his team's sails by replacing Oxlade-Chamberlain, who had marked a dynamic first Premier League start by setting up van Persie's goal, with Arshavin.

The Russian has infuriated Arsenal fans with his lacklustre displays over the past 18 months and the home supporters responded to the switch with a torrent of abuse for Wenger.

Even Gunners captain van Persie was seen shouting 'No' while gesturing towards his manager as Arshavin came on.

Arshavin then showed Wenger exactly why there was such an angry reaction as his sloppy defending allowed Valencia space to set up Danny Welbeck's 81st minute winner.

This may not have been as humiliating as Arsenal's 8-2 defeat at Old Trafford in August, but the consequences for Wenger could be even more damaging if he is unable to stamp out such open signs of dissent from players and fans alike.

Wenger says he thought Oxlade-Chamberlain had started to fatigue and as he was sick in the week and bringing on the captain of the Russia national team for an 18-year-old making his first Premier League start was the right call.

Van Persie's frustration should be even more concerning for Wenger. The Dutch forward's contract expires in 18 months and he has indicated he is in no rush to extend it, so it was no surprise Wenger was coy about how he would deal with van Persie.

Arsenal have now lost three successive league games for the first time in five years and lie five points behind fourth-placed London rivals Chelsea with 36 points after 22 games - their worst total at this stage of Wenger's entire 16-year reign.