Wenger accepts culpability for 'horrendous environment'

Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey watching some of his team-mates' children play on the Emirates pitch during the traditional end-of-season lap of appreciation with players and their family. The Emirates supporters will have to get used to navigating the unchar
Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey watching some of his team-mates' children play on the Emirates pitch during the traditional end-of-season lap of appreciation with players and their family. The Emirates supporters will have to get used to navigating the uncharted waters of the Europa League next season, after failing to qualify for the Champions League for the first time since the 1996-97 season.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said an "absolutely horrendous" atmosphere had been partly responsible for his club's failure to secure a Champions League place for the first time in 20 years.

Speaking after a 3-1 victory over Everton on the final day of the Premier League season on Sunday, Wenger accepted that uncertainty over his future as manager, which has divided fans, had polluted the air at the Emirates.

He said there were other explanatory factors behind the club's difficulties, but refused to go into greater detail.

"Overall I believe that we played since January in a very difficult environment for different reasons," he said. "Some obviously that you know about and that is very difficult for the group of players to cope with that. Some other reasons we will talk about another day.

"But the psychological environment for the group of players was absolutely horrendous. I am very proud of what they have done, the way they responded and finished the season. It has been difficult. Certainly my personal situation has contributed to that."

Wenger, 67, said earlier this year he would make an announcement about his future before the end of the season, but he has repeatedly ducked opportunities to reveal his intentions.

Asked why his personal situation had not been resolved, he replied: "I don't know." Pressed as to when exactly he felt the uncertainty about his future had affected his players, the Frenchman said: "It's a good question. I cannot give you the answer today. I will give you an answer one day."

He would only say say his future will be sorted out "soon".

Wenger also said Arsenal's supporters' protests against shareholder Stan Kroenke - who was loudly and repeatedly told to "get out of our club" - were misplaced.

It emerged on Friday that Kroenke had turned down a £1 billion (S$1.8 billion) takeover bid from Alisher Usmanov, who holds a 30 per cent stake in the club and has suggested he would like to shake things up.

"I respect Stan Kroenke a lot," Wenger said.

"He is not at fault if we did not reach the Champions League. It is the technical department who is responsible for that."

With Arsenal having finished fifth in the Premier League, attention now turns to Saturday's FA Cup final against Chelsea. Victory would give Wenger a record seventh success in the competition.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 23, 2017, with the headline 'Wenger accepts culpability for 'horrendous environment''. Print Edition | Subscribe