Gilberto Silva admits Arsenal have wasted best opportunity but issues plea to fans over Wenger

The former Gunners star says that despite blowing their chance to win the title, fans should not be too critical of the long-serving manager.

Former Arsenal midfielder Gilberto Silva has told Goal that even though the club has likely blown its best chance of winning the Premier League title in many years, fans need to show Arsene Wenger some more appreciation.

The Gunners were within two points of the top of the table last month after beating Leicester City at the Emirates Stadium, but have since gone three games within victory in the league and slipped to 11 points off the summit, albeit with a game in hand.

If that was not enough of a collapse, the North London side were also knocked out of the FA Cup at the quarter-final stage with a 2-1 home defeat to Watford earlier this month, and have crashed out of the Champions League at the first knockout round for the sixth year in a row.

The slump in form saw a banner emblazoned with the words "Arsene: Thanks for the memories but it's time to say goodbye" displayed the FA Cup fifth-round replay win at Hull City.

That move has been criticised by many including Gilberto's former captain Patrick Vieira, and the Brazilian World Cup-winner, who was an integral part of the club's 'Invincibles' league title win in 2003-04, insists that is not the way that Wenger should be treated.

The 39-year-old told Goal: "This season represented a very good opportunity for Arsenal to become champions [but] they have lost their chance because they lost so many important points. Arsenal are too far behind to win the league. It's very hard for both the players and the fans to see this opportunity fade away.

"Wenger is very careful about what he does for the team and the club in general. You can't say he is not innovative enough. Every time, I get asked how it was to work with him. I know his capacity and his ability to manage Arsenal and his job.

"Sometimes people are too hard on him. They forget what he has done over the last, almost, 20 years for the club. They should think a bit more. We all accept criticism but you shouldn't go over the top. Wenger is a very intelligent and capable man. He knows how to deal with this pressure."

Wenger is the longest-serving manager in a major European league, having been in charge of the Premier League side for two decades, winning three Premier League titles and six FA Cups.

However, he faces an uphill battle to salvage what was a month ago a hugely promising season, with the club hoping to make up ground on Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur with a win at Everton this weekend.

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