The Gunners' 1-0 away win over Middlesbrough in English Premier League football yesterday means Arsene Wenger will probably keep his job as Arsenal manager, but he is unlikely ever to sit comfortably at the Emirates Stadium again.

If he does stay on this (northern) summer, the role will never be the same for Wenger. Things have changed, opinions have altered, opposition has hardened.

The tide has shifted and Wenger will find he is constantly swimming against it. He has been criticised, but it has never been as widespread as this. He has provoked anger at times, but never with this level of sustained ferocity.

There have been doubts before, but he has always managed to dispel them with a top-four finish to keep Arsenal's major shareholders happy and silence all but his most rabid detractors. Yet Arsenal's pursuit of that trophy-less prize looks flimsy this time, their chances of remaining a Champions League club slight. Wenger knows it and admitted he would have conceded the chase was over if his side had lost on Teesside.


With that in mind, this was an important win, their first three points on the road since January, but in the wider scheme of things, it felt largely pointless because, if Wenger stays, he will still defy rather than quell the rebellion.

A victory over a Middlesbrough team without a league win since before Christmas, will not silence any critics for long. Boro are a club who give the impression relegation will not be a disaster. They are a team under Steve Agnew, given a short-term contract following the departure of Aitor Karanka last month, who have slipped quietly into the drop zone and appear to be heading back to the Championship with a shrug. Arsenal should win games like this.

"It was a committed game we needed to win," said Wenger. "We need to win every game to have a chance of finishing in the top four and that started tonight. The win will make the team a bit more serene, it will give us a bit more confidence. We had a bit of luck but overall I thought we were more solid defensively. We switched to the back three to cope with a direct game and I think it worked well in the first half. It shows that, even at my age, you can change."

That could have been perceived as a dig at Ivan Gazidis, the Arsenal chief executive, who said Wenger must be a "catalyst for change" if he is going to stay on, although Gunners winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain insisted it was not just the shape of the backline that altered.

"What we've done previously has not been good enough," he said.

"We need to take responsibility for that. We had to go back to the basics and it didn't matter how we won," he said.

"That's by making sure the commitment levels were right. Maybe that had been slipping. That was the first thing we needed."