LONDON – Arsene Wenger pleaded with Arsenal fans to stay united after his side made a statement of intent with their Community Shield victory over Chelsea on Sunday.
After spending much of last season under fire from supporters frustrated by Arsenal’s travails, Gunners boss Wenger hopes the new campaign is a far less turbulent affair.
Despite winning the FA Cup at the end of last term, Wenger’s decision to sign a new contract proved a polarising move among the Arsenal faithful, who remain angered by their team’s failure to qualify for this season’s Champions League.
Wenger has already been subjected to a fan invading the pitch in an attempt to abuse him during a pre-season friendly and, against that troubled back-drop, the Frenchman was relieved to start the new season with a morale-boosting win over champions Chelsea at Wembley.
A 4-1 penalty shoot-out victory rewarded Arsenal for an encouraging display in the 1-1 draw, and Wenger was quick to call for unity in the stands ahead of Friday’s Premier League opener against Leicester.
“I would like they stand behind the team as we might go through some very good periods and some not-so-good periods,” he said.
“We want to be united and together throughout the season.
“Every game is a battle in the Premier League, like today. It is a dream to make the fans happy, a difficult dream, but we try hard.”
Wenger has now won the Community Shield seven times, but it is seven years since Manchester United became the last winners of the prestigious friendly to go on to lift the Premier League trophy.
After a strong first half, Arsenal fell behind to a Victor Moses goal in the 46th minute.
But Chelsea had Pedro sent off in the closing stages, and Arsenal equalised through new signing Sead Kolasinac’s 82nd-minute header.
“Well, I don’t know if it was a sending off or not, but at that moment, we were dominating,” Wenger said.
“We had some difficult moments at the start of the second half, but after that we dominated. We always looked dangerous.”
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte was unhappy with referee Bobby Madley after seeing his side reduced to 10 men against Arsenal at Wembley yet again.
Moses was sent off for diving in the Blues’ FA Cup final loss to the Gunners in May, and Pedro saw red for a lunge on Mohamed Elneny.
“This is the second game, after the FA Cup, that we finish with 10 men,” Conte fumed. “I didn’t see the situation. For me for this reason, it is very difficult for me to say something about this decision.
“I heard there was clearly a penalty, but I did not see. We are working, we are trying to do our best.
“We had a tough pre-season, between the six days until we start the league, it is important to be focused on the next game.”