Aaron Ramsey has accused Arsene Wenger's detractors of aiming "unfair criticism" at the Frenchman and stressed that the club's longest--serving manager retains the complete backing of the Arsenal players.
Wenger was abused by a section of Arsenal fans as he left Stoke on Saturday following the 3-2 defeat and a banner calling for his departure was unveiled the previous week at the win against West Bromwich Albion.
The banner was also taken to Istanbul for the 4-1 Champions League win over Galatasaray and, although it has not been confiscated, it was not unveiled following an intervention by club stewards and police. Arsenal say they are not trying to stop fans making their feelings heard but that they have to judge whether there is a risk to safety by allowing banners that might be deemed provocative.
There is division among Arsenal's fan-base on the issue of Wenger, with many supporters fiercely protective and supportive of a manager who has overseen three Premier League titles, five FA Cup wins and a Champions League final.
Others are deeply frustrated that the club are again virtually out of the Premier League title race, although they can now look forward to being in the draw on Monday for the last 16 of the Cham-pions League for a 15th consecutive season. Where there is no division, according to Ramsey, is among the players. "He has been under some unfair criticism but we are in it together," he said.
"We wanted to get the result for us and for him. Every player here wants to work hard for him, we have proven that again.
"I think whenever we go into a game, he knows our qualities, always believes in us and gives us a great feeling. Every time we go out there we are representing ourselves, our club and our manager."
Ramsey scored twice in the win against Galatasaray - his fifth and sixth goals against Turkish opposition - and also his third in the space of only four days. Immediately after the match, Ramsey had described his second goal - a spectacular left-footed volley from 30 yards - as "up with my best". After watching the replay, he revised his assessment. "It is definitely the best I've scored. As soon as I hit it, I thought it had a chance of going in and thankfully it went into the top corner."
Before Tuesday, Ramsey had rated the volley last season against Norwich City as the best goal of his career.
Ramsey is also confident of being available for the Premier League match against Newcastle United on Saturday after coming off as a precaution at half-time of the Galatasaray match following tightness in his hamstring. "It is OK, a bit tight, but I should be all right," he said.
Mathieu Flamini is also nursing tightness in a calf but Wenger expects him to be available on Saturday, when Alexis Sanchez, Danny Welbeck, Olivier Giroud, Santi Cazorla and Kieran Gibbs should return to the squad. There is doubt about Laurent Koscielny, however, who has a tendonitis problem in a heel.
Arsenal want to add to their central midfield next year but one of their options, Lucas Silva at Cruzeiro, now appears likely to join Real Madrid in January. Arsenal are also ready to bid for the Ipswich Town defender Tyrone Mings next month.
The return on Tuesday of Mathieu Debuchy at right-back has slightly eased Arsenal's recent lack of defensive options, with Calum Chambers now again able to focus on providing centre-back cover to either Koscielny or Per Mertesacker.
With Arsenal sixth in the table, Ramsey knows that the focus until the Champions League resumes again in February must be to produce a consistent sequence of domestic performances. "It was important to bounce back. I feel that I am getting sharper in every game. I have always got into goalscoring positions remember, but maybe now I have found my composure more in front of goal."
Another who showed considerable composure was Lukas Podolski, who also scored twice in what was only his second Arsenal start of the season. "For me it was important to play 90 minutes - it is not always easy to come in and do well," he said.