LONDON - Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey's superb goal in Tuesday's Champions League win could not mask the fact that manager Arsene Wenger is under mounting pressure as the focus returns to their stuttering Premier League campaign.
Club officials blocked unhappy supporters from displaying banners calling for Wenger to be sacked ahead of Arsenal's 4-1 victory at Galatasaray, as the team finished second in their group to qualify for the competition's knockout stages.
Two goals each from Lukas Podolski and Ramsey, whose second was a 30-metre volley that he hailed as his "best" ever goal, secured the win but, with qualification to the last-16 secured before kick off, it is the visit of in-form Newcastle United in the league on Saturday that really matters.
Dissenting voices against Wenger, who has been at the club for 18 years, have become more vociferous as Arsenal have suffered a poor start to their domestic league campaign with the team sixth and level on 23 points with Newcastle after 15 games. "We have to cope with that (criticism), we are professional footballers. I am a competitive person," the 65-year-old Frenchman said. "What is important is the next game and responding in a strong way, to play to win the game." Arsenal ended a nine-year wait for a trophy by winning the FA Cup last season and supporters had hoped their success would be a springboard for more silverware this term.
Having suffered defeats in the Champions League round of 16 in the previous four seasons, qualification for the same stage this year will not be met with high expectations and their Premier League form remains the main focus for supporters.
Wenger was subjected to a torrent of verbal abuse from fans as he boarded the team baus after their 3-2 league defeat at Stoke City on Saturday and he has called for patience from supporters. "You expect that everyone is disappointed after that result (at Stoke), but the Premier League is difficult," Wenger told reporters. "We want to be judged at the end of the season, not after every single game where it is normal that emotion is always very high. So let us get our stability back defensively and see at the end of the season where we are."