The result has been a widespread panning, including ex-manager George Graham’s assessment that Arsenal were “in crisis” and former midfielder Emmanuel Petit’s verdict that the players lacked motivation and appeared to have lost faith in Wenger.
“Life is not only ups, it’s ups and downs. Successful lives are how people respond when they are down,” Wenger told a news conference at the club’s training ground at London Colney.
“We have a big game in front of us. To feel sorry for ourselves would be criminal.
“We have a good opportunity to show that we have character, that we have the mental qualities to play for this club and so let’s go for it.”
Arsenal are fourth in the Premier League with 43 points from 25 games and are 10 points behind bitter rivals Spurs, who are third. Manchester City are top, two points above champions Manchester United.
Having made a poor start to the season where they were closer to the relegation zone than the top four, the fact that Arsenal are now leading the race for the fourth Champions League spot is evidence that it has not been all bad.
“When you have to face what we have faced this season, the position we are in - I don’t speak about the cups but in the championship - I think the players have not done too badly,”Wenger said.
“At the moment it’s important that you show faith in your players and that you stick with them.”
Whether that sentiment is being reciprocated is what Petit questioned in comments made to France Football magazine.
“I feel they (players) lost their motivation. I even fear that some have lost faith in Arsene,” the former midfielder, part of Wenger’s vintage 1997-98 double winning side, said.
“Ninety five percent of the players can do better. But I feel there is a communication problem. Each player seems to be in his own world. These players are fragile. They can crumble.”
Petit, whose midfield partnership with fellow Frenchman Patrick Vieira was key to much of Arsenal’s success under Wenger, said some of the players needed to show they cared.
“I went twice in the dressing rooms after the Villa and Leeds games. Titi (Thierry Henry) was still there 40 minutes after the final whistle (…) But half of the others were gone already.” he said.
“Football is not a popularity contest on Twitter or Facebook. Pull your fingers out, chaps!,” added Petit who described some of the current squad as acting like “peacocks in a farmyard”.
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