Under-fire Wenger admits he nearly quit after last season

LONDON • Arsene Wenger was close to leaving Arsenal at the end of last season, he admitted for the first time on Sunday.

The Frenchman signed a two-year deal after lifting the FA Cup in May but many supporters remain disgruntled after the team lost two of the opening three Premier League games this season.

"Yes, I hesitated to extend for personal reasons," Wenger told French television. "I've been at Arsenal for 20 years, and I'm always wondering if I should continue to lead the club. We went quite badly during the season."

When asked which team had spoken to him, he claimed there was contact with Paris Saint-Germain.

Wenger also said forward Alexis Sanchez was not close to leaving Arsenal despite Manchester City's offer of £60 million (S$105.5 million) on Thursday. The transfer was dependent on Arsenal signing Thomas Lemar and it did not take place.

"He was not so close to leaving and it is very difficult for me to talk about it because what I want from the player is that he is now concentrating on the season, his career and Arsenal," the 67-year-old said.

Wenger has said that he will try again for Lemar after Arsenal offered £92 million for the Monaco player on deadline day, hours before he scored a brilliant goal for France against the Netherlands.

Arsenal claimed that they ran out of time but reports in France said that he rejected a move.

"The player wanted to stay in Monaco," Wenger said. "We'll come back in for him. When you let go of a player of that calibre, you have to have a substitute, otherwise no one would understand the choice."

Speaking in an interview in Russia, Monaco vice-president Vadim Vasilyev said that Lemar was happy to move to Arsenal or Liverpool, who also made an offer.

"It was not easy, Thomas wanted to go to Arsenal and to Liverpool, but we had discussions and we took a communal decision so that he could stay here," he said.

Wenger said that he also wanted Kylian Mbappe but could not afford the France striker, who moved to Paris Saint-Germain on loan. The deal will be made permanent next year for a fee of up to £165.1 million.

"I wanted Mbappe too, but he costs too much. But he is a guy who makes a difference," he said.

"Ninety per cent of the players depend on the team, but he falls in the other 10 per cent. He can be the new Pele."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 05, 2017, with the headline 'Under-fire Wenger admits he nearly quit after last season'. Print Edition | Subscribe