Arsene Wenger has taken the blame for Arsenal’s fifth-placed finish last season, admitting that uncertainty in the dressing room contributed to the team’s poor form.
Wenger eventually signed a new two-year contract extension at the end of the season, but the damage had been done with the Gunners missing out on top four for the first time in 20 years.
And now, three months on, Wenger has admitted that he created a difficult atmosphere in the dressing room with his contract situation.
‘I had an impact on the season,’ the Frenchman said at a Football Writers’ Association event to raise money for the Grenfell Fire victims, ‘because at some stage the players came to see me and said, “What’s going on boss? Where do you go?”
‘I created, with me not deciding, a lack of clarity in the dressing room and there is nothing worse than that in the dressing room.
‘When you are not completely in or the players feel you are not completely in, it is difficult to tell them we go [out to win].
‘At some stage, I had to tell them, “Look guys, I am with you, but we have to win games”.’
A sizeable number of Arsenal fans turned on the veteran boss midway through the campaign, with planes being flown over the Emirates and banners unfurled in the stands.
Wenger stayed quiet throughout, not reacting to any abuse, but he admits the criticism did put some doubt into his mind.
‘You always wonder, “am I the right man to continue to do the job?”, he continued.
‘Always when I have faced opposition or unhappiness, I try to focus on what I think is important in the game, work harder and question myself, “what can I improve?” And move on from there.
‘I cannot say I am immune to criticism – everybody wants to be loved, everybody wants to be loved by the fans.
‘But when it doesn’t happen, you still have to fight and manage to keep your motivation at the highest level.’