Arsene Wenger urges Arsenal fans not to boycott Sunderland game
Arsene Wenger has called on Arsenal fans to attend Tuesday's game against Sunderland rather than participate in a boycott aimed at removing him as manager.
The 67-year-old has still yet to announce whether he will sign a new contract at the Emirates Stadium to stay beyond the end of the current campaign.
Arsenal have just three games remaining before that point - two home Premier League clashes against the Black Cats and Everton, before an FA Cup final date with newly-crowned champions Chelsea.
After Liverpool's 4-0 win at West Ham on Sunday a place in the Premier League top four, and qualification for next season's Champions League, is now out of Arsenal's hands.
They need the Reds to fail to beat relegated Middlesbrough at Anfield on Sunday to realistically stand any chance of maintaining Wenger's record of never finishing outside of the top four in a full season at the helm.
But even if the Gunners do upset the odds by reaching the Champions League, a number of fan groups are still calling for Wenger's near 21-year reign to come to an end.
Following recent measures such as protest marches, staying away from the Emirates before kick-off and flying planes carrying anti-Wenger slogans over stadiums, those groups now want to stage a mass boycott of the Sunderland fixture.
In a statement released on onlinegooner.com, the group listed the likes of Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone and Max Allegri of Juventus as preferred alternatives to Wenger - before asking for fans to stay away on Tuesday night.
"We are calling on fans that feel the same way to boycott tomorrow evening's match against Sunderland," the statement read.
"Please consider joining us in this boycott. Don't sell your seat to a tourist or give it to a mate. Let yours be one of the many gaps in the stands that send a direct and unarguable message to the directors. You do not want to watch any more of the same old same old.
"If you are in any doubt, look at our season and compare that to Chelsea, Juventus and Atletico Madrid. We are a bigger club than all three of them but we are being held back by a greedy owner and a past it manager.
"By doing this, we can send a message to Stan Kroenke and Arsene Wenger that Arsenal should be doing so much better."
A number of empty seats have been visible at Arsenal's recent home wins over Leicester and Manchester United, with some supporters already opting to steer clear.
But Wenger, who again dodged the question over his own future, wants to see Arsenal fans back his side.
"My message is always the same, it is to support the team," he said.
Pushed on the recent trend of empty seats, Wenger claimed those matches were sell-outs, as Arsenal judge attendance on tickets sold before the event rather than the number of supporters inside the stadium.
"Yes, but that doesn't mean we are not sold out," he replied when asked about the empty seats.
"I think we are always sold out so I don't know where you get that impression."
Arsenal are sweating over the fitness of Laurent Koscielny (calf) and Alexis Sanchez (thigh) ahead of the game.
Meanwhile, Sunderland boss David Moyes has admitted he could not argue with Alan Shearer's withering critique of his relegated team's abject surrender against Swansea.
The Black Cats succumbed with barely a whimper as the Swans won 2-0 at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.
Match of the Day pundit Shearer was scathing as he assessed their performance, describing it as "disgraceful", "pathetic" and "lazy", and Moyes found it difficult to disagree.
Asked about Shearer's comments - which were mirrored by fans on social media - at his pre-match press conference, he said: "I'd have to say that I think in many ways, he was right. I was incredibly disappointed with the performance.
"I don't think any player ever goes out to try to perform like that. There were some reasons for it, but I'm actually privy to the stats, I can see the physical stats and on much of that, I couldn't disagree."
Jason Denayer (thigh) and Victor Anichebe (hamstring) both limped off at the weekend and are not expected to feature.
George Honeyman is also struggling to shake off a back injury sustained when defender Lamine Kone fell on him in training last week, but fellow midfielder Lee Cattermole (Achilles) and full-back Bryan Oviedo, who was named among the substitutes at the weekend following a hamstring injury, are pushing for returns.