Wenger claims ‘hor­ren­dous at­mos­phere’ rocked Arse­nal’s sea­son

New Straits Times - - Sport -

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, Wenger ac­cepted that un­cer­tainty over his fu­ture as man­ager, which has di­vided fans, had pol­luted the air at the Emi­rates Sta­dium.

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,” Wenger told re­porters at the Emi­rates on Sun­day.

“Some ob­vi­ously that you know about and that is very dif­fi­cult for the group of play­ers to cope with that. Some other rea­sons, where 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.”

He added: “It has been dif­fi­cult. Cer­tainly my per­sonal sit­u­a­tion has con­trib­uted to that.”

Wenger said ear­lier this year that 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, he said: “It’s a good ques­tion. I can­not give you the an­swer to­day. I will give you an an­swer one day. But not to­day.”

The 67-year-old would only say his fu­ture would be sorted out “soon.”

With Arse­nal hav­ing fin­ished fifth in the league, at­ten­tion now turns to Satur­day’s FA Cup fi­nal against Chelsea, when vic­tory would give Wenger a record sev­enth suc­cess in the com­pe­ti­tion.

But he will be miss­ing Lau­rent Ko­scielny af­ter the French cen­tre-back was sent off for a rash chal­lenge on En­ner Va­len­cia and also ex­pects to be with­out Gabriel, who was stretchered off with a knee in­jury.

Wenger sug­gested his de­ci­sion not to take part in the post­match lap of ap­pre­ci­a­tion had been in­flu­enced by fears of a nega­tive re­ac­tion from fans.

“The play­ers, they have been dis­turbed enough,” he said. “I was out there, to show re­spect, but I wanted the play­ers to have the quiet lap of hon­our they de­served.”

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.

“I think you re­spect ev­ery­body in life. I re­spect Stan Kroenke a lot,” Wenger said.

“He is not at fault if we did not reach the Cham­pi­ons League tonight. It is the tech­ni­cal depart­ment who is re­spon­si­ble for that. I don’t see what he has to do with that.”

Mean­while, Kroenke’s KSE (Kroenke Sports & En­ter­tain­ment) UK Inc said yes­ter­day its shares in the Premier League club were not for sale af­ter me­dia re­ports that the club’s sec­ond­largest in­vestor had made an of­fer to buy out Kroenke.

“KSE is a com­mit­ted, long-term in­vestor in Arse­nal and will re­main so,” KSE UK said in a state­ment, adding that its shares in the club have never been for sale.

Alisher Us­manov, a Rus­sian bil­lion­aire who owns 30 per cent of Arse­nal, made the US$1.3 bil­lion (RM5.6 bil­lion) of­fer in a let­ter to Kroenke, who con­trols 67 per cent of the club, the Fi­nan­cial Times re­ported on Fri­day. Agen­cies

REUTERS PIC

Ever­ton’s Romelu Lukaku (left) bat­tles for the ball with Arse­nal’s Rob Hold­ing at the Emi­rates Sta­dium on Sun­day.

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