Arsene Wenger has urged Arsenal fans to return to the Emirates Stadium to watch “quality football” after plenty stayed away for their win over West Brom.
While official figures for tickets sold put the attendance at 59,563, in reality there were far fewer supporters inside the Emirates Stadium to watch Alexis Sanchez score twice in a comfortable 2-0 victory.
The result sees Arsenal move up to third and strengthen their position in the Barclays Premier League as they look to secure a 20th consecutive season of Champions League football.
But there were plenty of noticeable gaps in the crowd, with reports leading into the game suggesting as many as 2,500 season-ticket holders had returned their tickets due to disillusionment at another season where a title bid faded away.
There were also banners unveiled at full-time calling for an end to Wenger’s near-20 year reign, but the Frenchman said afterwards he wants the stay-away supporters to come back and get behind the side.
Asked for a message to the fans who opted against attending, Wenger replied: “To come and support the team. If you love football, you go out there and I think you see quality football.
“That’s what we try to give to our people. It was a special night as well, Thursday night, and I don’t know if you are intelligent enough, nor am I, to detect exactly why everybody that did not turn up tonight did not turn up.
“I believe we dominated from the start to the last minute and in fact, was what we did against Crystal Palace. Overall I believe the quality of our game was very good. Maybe, we could have scored more goals.
“That is the only thing you could say tonight. We didn’t concede and couldn’t finish the game off the way we wanted.”
While many are declaring it is now a two-horse race for the title between Leicester and Tottenham, for the moment Arsenal remain in the hunt and Wenger insists his side are looking up rather than casting a wary eye over their shoulder at other clubs hoping to finish in the top four.
“We want to finish as high as possible. You never know what happens in front of you,” he added.
“There can still be twists and turns but we want to win our games. We came out of West Ham and Crystal Palace thinking we had produced the quality and didn’t get the points.
“The regret we have is being in the lead against West Ham and being in the lead against Crystal Palace and not getting the points. I don’t know where we’ll finish but we have to give everything in every game.
“We go to Sunderland (on Sunday), Sunderland fight not to go down. That will be a battle and we have to prepare for that.”
Meanwhile, Baggies boss Tony Pulis was left questioning the way he prepared his side for the Thursday night clash.
The visitors were largely second best but did hit the crossbar through Gareth McAuley with the score at 1-0.
Sanchez opened the scoring after just six minutes against a team set-up to frustrate their hosts and Pulis admits he will look at his own preparations as a result.
“We were off it tonight. The players have given me everything this year,” he said.
“We have played well at all of the big teams this year but not tonight. Sometimes you have to take defeat on the chin.
“This is the first time we have played on a Thursday night so we will look at the preparation. It’s the first time as a manager I’ve had to play on a Thursday.
“We never played as well as we can. We had too many players off it which you can’t do at Arsenal. It is the first time as a manager I have managed on a Thursday night.”