Wenger says Arsenal protesters full of 'disappointed love'
Arsene Wenger dismissed protests against him as more "disappointed love" than "real aggression" after disenchanted supporters held up banners calling for his resignation in the 1-0 victory over Norwich in the Premier League on Saturday. A well-trailed campaign saw demonstrations inside and outside the Emirates Stadium with fans, unhappy at the 12-year gap since the club last won the Premier League, brandishing placards in both the 12th minute and 12 minutes before the end. Yet afterwards Wenger played down the protests, adding that he intended to carry on seeking to bring success to Arsenal. "We were in a position for a long time where our fans thought we could win the league," he said. "It's more disappointed love than real aggression. "It was a strange atmosphere. Some were protesting, yes, but the vast majority were supporting the team. I'm really sorry if I cannot make them all happy. We continue to work hard to achieve it." The stadium was split between pro and anti-Wenger factions displaying rival posters. One said "Wenger - 12 years of excuses, Ranieri - 9 months, champions," a reference to Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri, whose side will win the Premier League if they beat Manchester United on Sunday. But the majority of supporters appeared to oppose the protest, drowning out the first disruption with a chant of "There's only one Arsene Wenger". Many displayed banners declaring their loyalty, with one saying: "Proud of Arsene, ashamed of fans". The stadium mood had not been helped by Wenger's pre-match comments in which he said that his team's title aspirations had been hindered by playing "in a very difficult climate" at home. That angered the faction calling for him to resign. Before the game, fans from the Arsenal Supporters' Trust, Red Action and the Black Scarf Movement handed out posters saying "Time for a change". Wenger's supporters will point to the success of his tactical substitution in bringing on Danny Welbeck just after the interval. Within four minutes, the striker got on the end of an Olivier Giroud knock-down to score the game's only goal and lift Arsenal into third place with two games to play. The Gunners could still finish ahead of traditional rivals Tottenham Hotspur, who are two points ahead with a game in hand. That would go some way to assuaging the anger of those who feel the club are stagnating after almost 20 years under Wenger, who is the longest-serving manager at one club in European football. Yet the Gunners' fans cannot have been as miserable as supporters of visiting Norwich, whose side were plunged into even deeper trouble amid the dog-fight at the foot of the table. They were the only one of the three relegation candidates to endure a pointless afternoon, with Newcastle United beating Crystal Palace 1-0 and Sunderland rescuing a point with a last-gasp penalty from Jermain Defoe in a 1-1 draw at Stoke City. RELEGATION DRAMA With Leicester City poised to clinch the title on Sunday if they beat Manchester United, most drama was centred on the bottom of the table where two from Newcastle United, Sunderland and Norwich will join doomed Aston Villa in the Championship. Newcastle were leading Palace 1-0 at home through Andros Townsend's goal when their former player Yohan Cabaye's spot kick was saved by Karl Darlow and the home side had to hang on for the win that hoisted them out of the bottom three. Sunderland were seconds away from defeat at Stoke City when Defoe kept his cool to tuck away a 93rd-minute penalty that earned a potentially huge point in a 1-1 draw. Norwich's loss in the day's late game now leaves them second-bottom, a point behind Sunderland and two adrift of Newcastle, who have played one game more. Spaniard Rafa Benitez's arrival at Newcastle has spurred hopes of a great escape and with confidence soaring and a match against hapless Villa next week, it now looks possible. SENSATIONAL STRIKE "This was massive for us, we needed to win," Benitez said. "If that penalty save keeps us up Darlow will be a hero for sure." Sunderland had trailed to Marko Arnautovic's strike at Stoke, but kept plugging away and were offered a lifeline in stoppage time when Defoe was fouled by Geoff Cameron and the former England striker nervelessly converted his spot kick. "It is a very precious point and in the end the referee was brave and good enough to make the right decision for us for the penalty," Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce said. West Ham United captain Mark Noble scored twice as they won 3-0 at West Bromwich Albion to move above Manchester United into fifth place on goal difference with 59 points - their best haul in the Premier League era. Everton recorded a first win in eight league games, 2-1 at home to Bournemouth, although the home fans still displayed banners calling for manager Roberto Martinez to be sacked. Watford staged a late comeback to win 3-2 against Aston Villa, whose 11th straight league defeat equalled a club record set in 1963. By Reuters