Arsene Wenger admits doubts surrounding his future have contributed to an “absolutely horrendous” environment at Arsenal after they failed to qualify for the Champions League.
Arsenal defeated Everton 3-1 on Sunday thanks to goals from Hector Bellerin, Alexis Sanchez and Aaron Ramsey but it was enough only to finish fifth as Liverpool beat Middlesbrough and Manchester City thrashed Watford.
Wenger has refused to confirm he will stay on as manager next season and, after missing out on the Premier League’s top four for the first time since 1996, the Frenchman said the uncertainty had not helped.
“Overall I believe that we played since January in a very difficult environment for different reasons,” Wenger said.
“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 the players was absolutely horrendous. I am very proud of what they have done, the way they responded and finished the season.
“Certainly my personal situation has contributed to that. But they should not question it, I am professional, as long as I am somewhere I do my job until the last day.
“You could not question my love or my loyalty to this club, because I said no to every club in the world to stay here with very restricted finances for years. So I don’t understand really why the question over that commitment.”
Finishing fifth means Arsenal will play in the Europa League for the first time next season and missing out on Europe’s premier tournament may not sit well with their star players.
The futures of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, in particular, both remain uncertain and Wenger lamented losing out to Liverpool by just a single point.
“It’s very sad because for 20 years we were in it, and it is the first year we will not be in it,” Wenger said.
“It’s very strange because for 75 points we are one point short and of course you can look everywhere where we did drop points.”
Wenger chose not to join his players on the traditional end-of-season lap of honour after the victory over Everton but it was majority owner Stan Kroenke who took the brunt of the criticism from the fans.
Alisher Usmanov has made a £1billion bid to take control of the club and supporters chanted for Kroenke to leave as their frustration mounted in the second half.
“I respect Stan Kroenke a lot. He is not at fault if we did not reach the Champions League tonight,” Wenger said.
“It is the technical department who is responsible for that. I don’t see what he has to do with that.”
Gabriel had to be carried on a stretcher after sustaining a knee injury and Wenger admitted his chance of playing in the FA Cup final against Chelsea on Saturday “doesn’t look honestly too good”.
Sanchez also limped off clutching his thigh while Koscielny, who was sent off for a lunge on Enner Valencia, will miss the Wembley showdown through suspension.