LONDON â€” Arsene Wenger is teasing out the decision on his Arsenal future. Some fans will only be satisfied if there’s a new manager next season â€” especially after Arsenal slumped to a fourth loss in five Premier League games.
“I know what I do,” Wenger said after Saturday’s 3-1 loss at West Bromwich Albion that saw another wave of fans’ protests â€” in the skies over the Hawthorns and in the stands.
But Wenger isn’t saying whether his reign will be extended into a 22nd season, or even if Arsenal wants him to stay.
“I don’t worry,” he said. “I know what I will do in my future so you will soon know.”
The “NO CONTRACT WENGER OUT” banner that trailed from a plane flying over West Brom on Saturday made it clear that some fans want the decision taken out of Wenger’s hands.
The latest collapse further jeopardizes the one constant under Wenger: Champions League qualification. Arsenal is five points from the qualification places, having played a game less than fourth-placed Liverpool.
Any hopes of a first title since 2004 faded long ago, with Chelsea surging 19 points ahead of Arsenal with a 2-1 win at Stoke on Saturday. Not that any team is close to Chelsea. Tottenham and Manchester City are the closest challengers but are 13 points behind the leaders heading into their games on Sunday.
WEST BROM 3, ARSENAL 1
Arsenal’s downfall once again was its porous defence with Craig Dawson heading in twice from corners. Wenger’s side should have been prepared as no side has scored more goals from set pieces than West Brom, a tally that was extended to 18 against Arsenal.
“We are sorry to the fans because that’s not acceptable,” Arsenal midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain said.
Arsenal fell behind in the 12th minute when Dawson rose above Laurent Koscielny to glance in his first header.
Although Alexis Sanchez equalized inside three minutes after a 19-pass move, West Brom regained the lead in the 55th when substitute Hal Robson-Kanu scored with only his second touch of the game. The Arsenal defence was at fault again when substitute David Ospina, who replaced injured goalkeeper Petr Cech, came to collect a cross and clattered into Hector Bellerin. The ball fell to Robson-Kanu to prod into the net.
The crossbar prevented Arsenal levelling again through Danny Welbeck’s header before the unmarked Dawson sealed the win in the 75th minute with his third goal in four games.
In the last month, Arsenal has been eliminated from the Champions League by Bayern Munich and only won two games â€” both against fifth-tier teams in the FA Cup.
“We are in a unique bad patch which we’ve never had in 20 years you know,” Wenger said. “We lose game after game at the moment and that is for me much more important than my future.”
While Arsenal’s misery was compounded, eighth-placed West Brom moved to 43 points to maintain its bid for Europa League qualification that could be secured by finishing seventh.
STOKE 1, CHELSEA 2
After Willian’s free kick put Chelsea ahead, Jonathan Walters equalized from the penalty spot after being nudged by Gary Cahill. The Chelsea defender made amends by scoring a late goal to seal a fifth successive win for Chelsea.
WEST HAM 2, LEICESTER 3
Leicester’s recovery under Craig Shakespeare continued to ease the champion’s relegation fears. Since manager Claudio Ranieri’s firing, the Premier League champions have reeled off three successive victories to move six points clear of the drop zone and sealed a first-ever place in the Champions League quarterfinals.
Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy, whose goals powered Leicester to the title last season, scored either side of Robert Huth’s header at the Olympic Stadium.
EVERTON 4, HULL 0
Romelu Lukaku scored twice in stoppage time to wrap up the victory at the end of a week when the Everton striker cast doubt on his future at the club. Lukaku’s value to the team is underlined by the fact he’s the first Everton player to score 21 league goals in a season since Gary Lineker in 1985-1986.
Lukaku also set up Everton’s second goal from Enner Valencia after 20-year-old Dominic Calvert-Lewin put the hosts in front on only his sixth league appearance.
CRYSTAL PALACE 1, WATFORD 0
Troy Deeney’s own-goal handed Palace a third straight win, taking the south London club four points above the relegation zone.
SUNDERLAND 0, BURNLEY 0
Burnley remained winless away from home and Sunderland stayed bottom.
BOURNEMOUTH 2, SWANSEA 0
Bournemouth achieved back-to-back wins for the first time in a year thanks to Benik Afobe’s two strikes, with the first deflecting off Alfie Mawson. While midtable Bournemouth climbed nine points clear of the drop zone, Swansea is only one place and three points from danger.
Rob Harris, The Associated Press