Theo Walcott has urged his Arsenal team to unite and save Arsene Wenger
In a remarkably frank assessment of the situation following the humiliating 10-2 aggregate defeat inflicted by Bayern Munich in the first knockout round of the Champions League, Theo Walcott insisted the in-fighting must stop and the players pull together if Arsene Wenger is to keep his job.
Previously, the under-fire Arsenal manager had denied rifts in the camp despite reports of a row involving Laurent Koscielny and Aaron Ramsey with contract-rebel Alexis Sanchez.
But Walcott was pulling no punches as he prepared his fellow players for what he described as "probably the biggest challenge we have faced in a very long time".
"Things get taken out of proportion, we all know this and there are certain things that happen at training grounds," said Walcott. "I'm sure it happens at every other training ground, most of the time, really.
Alexis Sanchez was reportedly involved in a bust-up with fellow Arsenal stars
"But you don't see it often at Arsenal.
"Things have happened. They need to stay in the dressing room and the players and staff needs to sort it out. We are in it together here. We can't be fighting each other."
Contrary to reports, the players have no idea what Wenger's long-term plans involve but Walcott feels they can help shape them by an improvement in performances.
"The players are like everybody else – we don't really know what's going on," he said. "We just want to try to focus on the football.
Arsenal fans stage protest over manager Arsene Wenger
Tue, March 7, 2017
Disgruntled Arsenal fans have staged a protest over struggling manager Arsene Wenger
Get Quotes on Home Insurance
1 of 7
Arsenal fans a stage protest over manager Arsene Wenger
"The manager is focused on us. You can see how passionate he is with us from the way he talks to us in the meetings.
"He will take this on himself but us players need to look at ourselves. The manager has been taking a lot of flak in recent weeks and us players have been accepting it, but we can't.
"We need to take the pressure off the manager and that will happen by performances. Who knows what the manager will do? Players just want to play football for this club and do well for the manager."
A march involving around 200 fans before the second leg with Bayern on Tuesday and banners displayed on the final whistle demanding Wenger leave are doing nothing to improve stability as the Gunners prepare to face Lincoln in the FA Cup, a match where Alexis Sanchez will be left out, ostensibly to be rested.
"The 5-1 scoreline looks like we have given up and that's the disappointing thing because we know as players we don't give up," Walcott continued to tell the Evening Standard.
Theo Walcott celebrates scoring in the 5-1 defeat to Bayern Munich at the Emirates
"We hurt every day. It could stay in a lot of players' heads for a long time but we need to make sure it doesn't because in the league, it is very tight and we have Lincoln at the weekend. We are obviously favourites for that game and it is a good opportunity to go to Wembley.
"We need to think of the positives now. We have a great team and we can't forget that. Some of the players will be beating themselves up and doubting themselves but that's the worst thing we could do at this moment in time when things are going badly.
"We are playing for Arsenal, one of the biggest clubs in the world. It is as simple as that.
"I'm sure the manager will be bedding that into us towards the weekend because we are representing this club and we want to do well.
"We'll make sure we turn this around because I know we are ready to."