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Wenger ‘sorry’ for failings amid Arsenal protests

London, United Kingdom | AFP |

Arsenal 1 (Welbeck 59) Norwich 0

Everton 2 (Cleverley 7, Baines 64) Bournemouth 1 (Pugh 9)

Newcastle 1 (Townsend 58) Crystal Palace 0

Stoke 1 (Arnautovic 50) Sunderland 1 (Defoe 90+4-pen)

Watford 3 (Abdi 45+2, Deeney 90, 90+3) Aston Villa 2 (Clark 28, Ayew 48)

West Brom 0 West Ham 3 (Kouyate 34, Noble 45+2, 79)

Playing Sunday

Manchester United v Leicester

Southampton v Manchester City

Swansea v Liverpool

Playing Monday
Chelsea v Tottenham

Arsenal’s long-serving manager Arsene Wenger acknowledged the grievances of fans who protested against him during the north London club’s 1-0 Premier League win over Norwich City on Saturday.

In a pre-planned protest, a smattering of fans held up A4 posters bearing the words “TIME FOR CHANGE” in the 12th and 78th minutes of the game at the Emirates Stadium, in a nod to Arsenal’s 12-year league title drought.

But in response thousands of supporters chanted “There’s only one Arsene Wenger!”, with some holding aloft placards in support of the under-fire Frenchman.

“We respect the opinion of everybody and we give absolutely the best,” Wenger told Sky Sports after the game, in which substitute Danny Welbeck scored a 59th-minute winner.

“I think I have shown my commitment and care for this club, and for the fans. I’m really sorry if I cannot make them all happy, of course. We’ll continue to work hard to achieve it.”

There were also reports of pro-Wenger and anti-Wenger factions being separated by stadium stewards.

With Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool all toiling and Manchester City inconsistent, this season was seen as a prime opportunity for Arsenal to end their wait for the Premier League title.

But instead they have been left behind by champions-elect Leicester City and now find themselves in a familiar battle to secure a top-four finish and a Champions League place.

Speaking before Saturday’s game, Wenger said: “I can understand the frustration of our fans. But despite that, they want to support our team. The best chance they can give our team is to be behind them.

“Some groups of people try to manipulate our fans and I believe apart from an agenda, a personal agenda, a big ego, there’s not a lot behind it.”

Wenger, 66, became Arsenal manager in 1996 and led the club to three Premier League titles and four FA Cups in his first nine years at the helm.

But they have only back-to-back FA Cup wins in 2014 and 2015 to show for their efforts since then and have gone out of the Champions League in the last 16 for the past six seasons running.

 

TIME TO GO ROBERTO

Meanwhile, Andros Townsend scored a stunning free-kick as Newcastle United edged Crystal Palace 1-0 to escape the relegation zone at the expense of northeast rivals Sunderland.

“The victory means a lot. It gives us momentum, confidence and a connection with the fans,” said Benitez, who succeeded Steve McClaren as Newcastle manager last month.

“We still have to play another two games. We will enjoy this weekend because we won and then we will focus on the next one against Aston Villa, which will be a tough one.”

Townsend broke the deadlock in the 58th minute at St James’ Park, the one-time England winger sending a free-kick from wide on the right whistling into the top-left corner.

Twelve minutes later, Cabaye had a chance to equalise, but the France international, who angered Newcastle fans by leaving for Paris Saint-Germain in 2014, saw his penalty brilliantly turned away by Darlow.

Jermain Defoe scored a stoppage-time penalty to rescue a 1-1 draw at Stoke City for Sunderland.

Although Sam Allardyce’s side were left a point behind Newcastle in the bottom three, they, like Norwich, have a game in hand.

“Where would you be without Jermain Defoe? Relegated probably,” said Allardyce after Defoe scored his 17th goal of the season to cancel out Marko Arnautovic’s 50th-minute opener.

“I am going home satisfied it is a point gained rather than two dropped.”

West Ham United captain Mark Noble scored twice for the second game in succession as his side won 3-0 at West Bromwich Albion to replace Manchester United in fifth place, with Cheikhou Kouyate also on target.

Leighton Baines scored the winner as Everton prevailed 2-1 at home to Bournemouth, after Tom Cleverley’s seventh-minute opener for the hosts had been swiftly cancelled out by Marc Pugh’s deflected strike.

But it was an uncomfortable afternoon for Everton manager Roberto Martinez, with protesting supporters paying for a plane trailing the banner “TIME TO GO ROBERTO” to fly over Goodison Park during the game.

Meanwhile, skipper Troy Deeney scored a last-gasp brace as Watford twice came from behind to inflict a 3-2 defeat on already-relegated Aston Villa at Villa Park.

 

Leaders Leicester City can become England’s first new top-flight title-winners since Nottingham Forest in 1978 if they win at Manchester United on Sunday.

Should they fail to win, they will still be crowned champions on Monday if second-place Tottenham Hotspur cannot better their result when they visit Chelsea.

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