Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has told BBC Sport that the disrespect he has been shown this season has been “a disgrace” and that he will never forget it.
Wenger came out fighting ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup final against Chelsea — which could still be his final game as Arsenal boss — with his strongest words yet toward the pundits and supporters who have called for him to step down in recent months.
Wenger has faced unprecedented criticism this season, with some supporters staging protest marches before home games and flying banners over the stadium at two away games.
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In an interview broadcast before the FA Cup final, Wenger said: “You don’t mind criticism, because we are in a public job. The lack of respect in some stages has been, for me, a disgrace. And I will never accept that.
“I believe there is a difference between being criticised and being treated in a way that a human being don’t deserve to be treated. And I will never forget that.”
Wenger is trying to become the first manager to win seven FA Cup titles, but has yet to announce whether he will stay in charge of Arsenal next season.
He has refused to discuss his future plans, but admitted after the final day of the Premier League campaign that the uncertainty had contributed to the team’s disappointing fifth-place finish, but he also seemed to blame fans for behaving in a way Wenger said has tarnished the image of the club.
“The behaviour of some people during the season, that hurts me most,” he said. “Because behind the work and the respect for this club are the values of this club. And the image that the club has [been] given in recent weeks is absolutely unacceptable because it tarnishes the impeccable image that the club has all over the world.
“It’s not my person that is hurt. I don’t believe that kind of behaviour reflects what Arsenal is and the values that Arsenal carries through.”
Wenger’s future is expected to be finalised at a club board meeting next week, and he told the board members that they shouldn’t be too concerned with the popular opinion.
“A strong club is people who make the right decisions,” he said. “That’s why I think the board is important and the manager is important in a football club. And what has gone wrong in modern society? It’s not anymore: Is this the right decision? But: is this popular or not popular?
“Is to buy this player popular, or not popular? Is to sack this manager or to employ this manager popular, or not popular. That has nothing to do with competence. People with responsibility have to make the right decision. And today, maybe more than ever, make decisions that are not popular.”