Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has revealed how uncertainty over his future last season created a “lack of clarity in the dressing room” and saw players asking him what was going on.
Wenger eventually signed a new two-year contract extension following an end to a campaign which finished on a high with victory in the FA Cup final after failing to secure Champions League qualification for the first time under his long tenure.
The 67-year-old Frenchman was in central London on Wednesday night attending a Football Writers’ Association Live event which raised money for the London Fire Relief Fund, set up in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire.
During a wide-ranging panel discussion, Wenger took questions from the audience and was asked directly if the negativity from some sections of Arsenal fans over his future had filtered through to the team’s performances on the pitch.
The Gunners boss replied: “I had an impact on the season, 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’.”
Pressed by fellow panellist and BBC Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker whether he genuinely did not know until the latter stage of the season whether he knew he would be staying or not, Wenger said: “No. I had not decided to stay or to go.
“It created uncertainty in the dressing room and then when you don’t win the game, you know… there were some other problems.”
The Arsenal manager added: “It was linked to the fact that you always wonder am I the right man to continue to do the job?
“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.”
Wenger was also asked about his eventual successor at the Emirates Stadium. The Frenchman replied: “I would like (if) somebody who comes in gets the club to the next level.
“I just want to make sure that the guy that comes in after me is in a condition that he could work well.”
Former players Les Ferdinand and Paul Elliott as well football journalist Henry Winter were also on the FWA Live panel, with the association’s sponsors William Hill matching the amount raised to be donated to the London Fire Relief Fund.
Wenger said: “I have a big respect for the football clubs, they do a lot (for the community), we did a lot as well for Grenfell Tower, but on the other hand we live in a privileged world in football, a little bit in our bubble, and sometimes you feel guilty that you do not do enough for people who are in real need.”
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