Everywhere you look at Arsenal these days, you find a scapegoat.
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Arsene Wenger is clearly public enemy no. 1 in the eyes of most Arsenal supporters, but a handful of the club’s high-profile players come under scrutiny during the Gunners’ 3-0 loss to Crystal Palace last Monday. Notably, right back Hector Bellerin was jeered by away fans, who even refused to return the ball to him after it wound up in the stands in one corner of Selhurst Park.
That, according to Wenger, was unfair and a step too far. The legendary manager, who may or may not stick around for another season (or two) after the disastrous 2016-17 campaign comes to an end, has spoken out in defense of the 22-year-old Spaniard — quotes from the Guardian:
“Was the fans turning on Bellerin unfair? I think yes, as he is a guy who is genuinely Arsenal and wants to do well. He is ready to play with pain and I think it is [unfair], yes.”
“He has not come back to his best level since he has been injured [in November]. I think for a while he was feeling the ankle. You get bad habits and you forget that your job is, first, to defend and win challenges because you protect yourself a little bit.
“Then you realize you have to come back and I think now he is trying to focus again on what is important – to defend well. After, he can give us that extra bit that is important as well. I agree that, for a while, he was not the Hector Bellerri we had seen at the start of the season.”
Arsenal have just two wins in their last eight Premier League games and have fallen from a serious contender in the race for a top-four finish, to 10 points back of current fourth-place dwellers Manchester City. On Monday, the Gunners visit 19th-place Middlesbrough (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with a chance to move past Everton for sixth place in the league table.