Arsene Wenger has admitted that speculation over his future damaged his side’s push for the Champions League and claimed the ‘psychological environment’ for his players became ‘horrendous’.
During a tense post-match press conference, Wenger conceded that uncertainty over his future has contributed to Arsenal’s fifth-place finish, with the manager still to announce whether he will remain at the club next season.
Asked whether he accepts responsibility, Wenger said:
‘Yes. Of course.’ The Frenchman added: ‘We played since January in a very difficult environment for different reasons.
That is very difficult for the players to cope with. There are some other reasons we will talk about another day. But the psychological environment for the group of the players was absolutely horrendous.
‘Certainly my personal situation has contributed to that. But they should not question, I am professional, as long as I am somewhere I do my job until the last day.
You could not question my love or my loyalty to this club, because I said no to every club in the world to stay here with very restricted finances for years. So I don’t understand really why they question that commitment.
‘You have been at the games, and you cannot say that the environment for the players was especially positive.’
Arsenal’s victory was played against a backdrop of hostile chants towards club majority shareholder Stan Kroenke after the American resisted an offer from Uzbek investor Alisher Usmanov.
Arsenal supporters chanted for Kroenke to ‘get out of our club’ in the second half and after the full-time whistle.
Wenger defended Kroenke, saying:
‘I respect Stan Kroenke a lot. He is not at fault if we did not reach the Champions League. It is the technical department who is responsible for that. I don’t see what he has to do with that.’
His captain Laurent Koscielny was dismissed for a reckless lunge on Everton’s Enner Valencia inside 14 minutes and will be suspended, while Brazilian defender Gabriel Paulista was carried off on a stretcher in the second half.