No matter what happens in the last two weeks of the season, Arsene Wenger says Arsenal’s failure to win the Premier League this year represents another failure in his eyes.
After defeat on the opening day of the campaign, the Gunners rallied well in the autumn and briefly flirted with top spot before the wheels came off in December.
With three games remaining Arsenal could still hit 75 points – four more than last season’s total – achieve a top four finish in the Premier League, and win the FA Cup but those feats still fall short of the boss’ pre-season aims.
“It would mean that the season has not gone as well as I hoped at the start of the season,” noted Wenger when presented with the optimistic hypothetical scenario.
“Not as well as I hoped at the start of the season because I started the season to win the Premier League and when you don’t do it, you’re never completely satisfied, like everybody else.
“But as well, it’s not disastrous. I think what’s encouraging is the way the team develops recently and the way the ambition of the team is back. Overall I think it’s difficult to get points in this league, it’s difficult for everybody.”
Expanding on the regret of exiting the Champions League to Bayern Munich and the knock-on effect it had on his squad’s confidence, Wenger added:
“Every team suffers at a moment in the season and when we suffered, I think we suffered a lot.
“After we went out of the Champions League, in very special circumstances, because you look at these two games and you take the first halves, we would have qualified.
“So it was very difficult to swallow for the team, the way it happened and it took us some time to recover. When you’re in a difficult period you can be divided or united and I think we responded in a united way.”
There was also more on the issue of ‘character’ and whether his team lacked it at certain times this season. Something the boss, unsurprisingly, refuted.
“I believe that the players have character, the players have spirit. When you have gone through the period we have gone through with such a hostile environment, you don’t recover if you’re not strong.
“The players have been extremely strong to respond well in the way that we did. We lacked defensive stability in some important games this season, and we had to completely rethink the system. I had to make some changes and now we look more stable at the moment.”