Arsene Wenger conceded he is in a “very difficult situation” after Arsenal’s wretched campaign hit a new low with a humiliating Champions League exit against Bayern Munich.
Wenger’s side suffered their heaviest home defeat for 19 years as Bayern romped to a 5-1 victory on Tuesday that sealed a 10-2 aggregate success in the last 16 tie.
It was an evening of abject misery for Wenger, who was subjected to calls for his resignation from Arsenal fans before and after one of the most chastening losses of his 21-year reign.
Wenger angrily complained that refereeing decisions had denied his team the chance of an epic fightback after Theo Walcott’s opener was cancelled out by a Robert Lewandowski penalty that led to the dismissal of Gunners defender Laurent Koscielny.
But the way his team surrendered so limply in the closing stages, conceding four more goals while fans rained boos and abuse down on Wenger, was a sign of the turmoil gripping the Emirates Stadium.
All the stats as Bayern progress 10-2 over two legs 💪https://t.co/sXsVrcIOc0— Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) March 7, 2017
With Arsenal’s Premier League title hopes in tatters and even a top four finish far from certain, Wenger had already faced stinging criticism following his decision to drop Alexis Sanchez for Saturday’s loss at Liverpool -- a move that reportedly led to a blazing row between the striker, his manager and several team-mates.
And, while the final score against Bayern may have been harsh on Arsenal, it was a defeat that did little to stem the feeling Wenger is destined for an acrimonious exit.
Asked if he would be managing Arsenal in Europe next season, Wenger, who has yet to reveal if he will extend his contract when it expires at the end of the campaign, gave a response that invited renewed speculation about his future.
“I don’t know, you always want headlines. I’m here to speak about football not my future,” he said.
“I’m don’t feel there was any uncertainty from the players. We played very well.
“At the moment we are going through a very difficult situation, but I think this club is in great shape.
“What needs to change is a good result at the weekend. We play the quarter-final of the FA Cup against Lincoln and we want to focus on that and do our job properly.”
Questioned about the protests, Wenger wisely opted against criticising the supporters, saying: “I have nothing to add to that.”
Instead, he focused on slamming referee Tasos Sidiropoulos for the decisions that condemned Arsenal to a seventh successive failure to advance from the Champions League last 16.
“I have to take it on the chin and I will get a lot of criticism, but it doesn’t make it right,” he said.
“The end result will not highlight the quality of our performance. The players haven’t let us down, the referee has.
“The referee was very powerful for Bayern. Not only was it not a penalty, he was offside, and on top of that he gave a red card.
“It leaves me very angry and very frustrated because we are in a difficult situation.
“It’s irresponsible from the referee. It’s absolutely unexplainable and scandalous.”
While Wenger faces up to a troubled end to the season, Bayern boss Carlo Ancelotti remains on course for a triumphant season that could feature a Bundesliga, Champions League and German Cup treble.
Ancelotti conceded Arsenal had put Bayern under heavy pressure before the decisive penalty decision.
But the former Chelsea boss wasn’t going to worry too much about the damage done to Wenger’s increasingly tarnished reputation.
“Wenger has more experience than me, he knows he has to manage the pressure,” Ancelotti said.
“Until the penalty it was difficult for 60 minutes. Arsenal played really well and we made mistakes we don’t normally do.
“It was a strange game, honestly the result doesn’t reflect what happened on the pitch.
“The penalty took out all the pressure out for us, but the important thing was to reach the quarter-finals.”