Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger vowed his focus would remain on his side’s push for Champions League football and not the protests against him after a 4-1 win at Stoke.
The gap between the fifth-placed Gunners and fourth-placed Liverpool was reduced to a point, with both teams having two games to go, as Wenger’s men recorded only their second Premier League away victory over the Potters in nine attempts.
There have been several recent instances of Arsenal fans calling for the manager to leave at the end of this season, and early on during the match at the bet365 Stadium a plane flew over the ground with a banner on display that read “WENGER – OUT MEANS OUT!!”
When asked about that following the game, Wenger – who is still yet to announce whether he intends to stay on at the club after this term – said: “Look, I am paid to do my job for a club I love. I will do that as long as I am here, with full commitment, and I am not influenced by that at all.
“All I can do is give my best. We have 69 points today – let’s make it 72 on Tuesday [when Arsenal host Sunderland], and after that I will give my best as long as I am here for the values of this club.
“I want to focus on football and all the rest is, for me, less important.
“I am not in politics, I am in sport. I love sport, I give 24 hours a day for what I love and all the rest – I am in a public job, some agree with me, some do not. But I have no special opinion on that.”
When it was put to him that reports in France had suggested he will extend his time at Arsenal past the end of the season by signing a new one-year deal, Wenger said: “There is no information about that, nothing.”
Liverpool play at West Ham on Sunday knowing that anything other than a win will open the door for Arsenal to overtake them when they face Sunderland.
Wenger replied, “Yes,” with a smile when asked if he would be a West Ham fan for 24 hours, and said: “I think one of the qualities of the Premier League is that, historically, there is a pride in every team to give their best until the end of the season.
“I think I saw West Ham do that against Tottenham [when they beat them 1-0 at home last week].
“You just expect two teams to play with full power – if the other teams are better, they are better.”
Wenger’s season has been blighted by protests demanding he end his long association with the club, repeated questions over whether he will sign an extension to his contract, which runs out at the end of the season, and uncertainty over the futures of key players Sanchez and Ozil.
But he will be pleased with the way his players have responded with the campaign coming to a close, taking five wins from their past six league games – the only blemish a weak display in their defeat by Tottenham.
He was even afforded a standing ovation at full-time and will be particularly satisfied at triumphing at a venue where his side have struggled in the past, claiming their first win there since 2010.
Wenger jumped off his seat and jogged in delight at Sanchez’s goal, which gave his team a cushion.
The Chilean, who has been linked with a move away, hobbled off with a leg injury after scoring and fans will be hoping it is not the last time they see him in an Arsenal shirt.
A season that promised so little at one stage could actually turn into a celebratory one. Their late charge sees them maintain optimism of extending their Champions League participation to 22 consecutive seasons, and they have an FA Cup final against newly crowned Premier League champions Chelsea to look forward to.