Arsene Wenger has admitted Arsenal feel “guilty” over their failed Premier League title challenge – but believes criticism of his side has been unfair.
The Gunners head to relegation-threatened Sunderland on Sunday hoping to climb back above Manchester City into third place as the pressure to seal a top-four spot increases.
Wenger admits his side have not been “clinical enough” to challenge for a first league crown since 2004, but reckons they have faced some unfair criticism during a season that has seen Leicester emerge as shock potential champions.
“It’s very simple. We all feel guilty and we are all looked at like it’s a shame we are not winning the league because Leicester are at the top,” Wenger told Sky Sports.
“But on the other hand, you have to say Leicester have not stolen the points. They have earned them, they have quality. If you look at the PFA Team of the Year, they have many players in there, so they are good players.
“I am convinced that all the teams today look at themselves and think ‘how could that happen?’, but when you win so many times 1-0 like Leicester have done, you see they have been absolutely efficient.
“It is true that technically many teams in the league are better, but many teams have had more problems. Leicester have had no injuries, many teams have had more competitions. Leicester went out of the FA Cup quite early, but you have to give them credit when everybody expected them to drop they didn’t and when they had to turn up they did.
“It will be interesting psychologically to study Leicester because it’s a very interesting case. There is a theory that says to go to the absolute utmost of your talent you need to suffer in life. When you look at the Leicester team, not one career of all these players was obvious, like starting on the red carpet at 18 years of age in the Champions League.
“Many of the players have been rejected before… it is an interesting case. N’Golo Kante, nobody wanted him in France for a while. That is a good explanation for his character.
“These players had a dream that was not easy to obtain, but when they are in a position to reach it, they are ready for the fight. The lesson of the season is Leicester. Maybe they are not the most prestigious in quality of the passing, but they found a way to be efficient and have shown mental qualities that are absolutely top.”
Wenger on Arsenal injuries
Wenger, however, insists his side have tried their best this season but have been forced to endure more injuries to key personnel than their rivals with Jack Wilshere, Olivier Giroud, Alexis Sanchez, Santi Cazorla and Danny Welbeck all missing chunks of the season.
“There were two turning games – Man United and Swansea. At the end of the day, we had many injuries and it was the first time where we could not do a lot about it.
“We didn’t have Welbeck, Wilshere, Cazorla, all traumatic injuries, not muscular. The positive thing is we discovered players like Elneny and Iwobi. But we were not clinical enough.
“The quality of our game collectively for most of the season was good and in March and April, but we didn’t get the points we needed and we were in a position where we had to win every game so it makes it more difficult.
“That is the difficulty of being honest in the media today. As soon as you come up with a quality it shows that you don’t have that quality. They were hungry and efficient. My team is hungry also, but we have to deal with many problems and many competitions as well.”
Wenger on Arsenal protests
On the stay-away fans against West Brom on Thursday, Wenger added: “You want your fans to be enthusiastic, and we are not playing to avoid relegation. Ideally, you want fans to be happy and I think they can be very proud of a lot at this club. We want them to be behind the team, to be proud of the club and the values and consistent achievement of the club.
“It is not enough and we can understand that, but that doesn’t stop us from performing. The top level of sport is to master all situations.”