Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger complained that criticism of his team was misplaced following their 2-0 victory over West Bromwich Albion and said that stay-away supporters were not necessarily protesting.
Alexis Sanchez scored twice as Arsenal returned to winning ways on Thursday following successive draws, climbing above Manchester City and into third place in the Premier League in the process.
With Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool all out of the picture, this season represented a golden opportunity for Arsenal to end their 12-year title wait, but Wenger feels that it is unfair to single his side out for criticism.
“It is difficult for everybody,” said the Frenchman, whose team now have a four-point cushion over fifth-place Manchester United in the scramble for a top-four finish and a place in next season’s Champions League.
“Look at the table. There are top, top teams who are behind us. Because Leicester are in front, everyone thinks we should have done it.
“Yes, OK, but you can say that for any other team because Leicester were bottom of the table last year. So you could say all the 19 teams can say that.”
Despite Arsenal’s victory, there was no disguising the lack of any sense of occasion, with thousands of empty seats visible throughout the game.
Asked if he had a message for the fans who had stayed away, Wenger told his post-match press conference: “Come and support the team. If you love football, I think you’ll see quality football.
“That’s what we try to give to our people. It is a special (unusual) night as well, Thursday night.
“I don’t know that you are intelligent enough, nor am I, to detect exactly why everybody who did not turn up tonight did not turn up.”
Arsenal’s bid to nail down a top-four place has been aided by the timely return to form of Sanchez, who has scored five times in his last four appearances.
The Chile international opened the scoring in the sixth minute, spinning away from Sandro in midfield and drilling home from outside the box, before adding a neat free-kick seven minutes prior to half-time.