Per Mertesacker believes Arsenal players need to assume more responsibility for failing Arsene Wenger during his final season at the club. The Frenchman left the club after a 22-year reign as manager, having won three Premier League titles and seven FA Cups including the double in 1998 and 2002.
A reign filled with managerial excellence and exciting, expressive football, Wenger’s final year at the club was tarnished by factions of club supporters protesting ‘Wenger Out’ following another disappointing campaign in which they finished sixth in the table.
Such scenes left a sour taste given the 69-year-old’s multitude of achievements, but former-defender Mertesacker believes the players should have taken more responsibility, feeling that Wenger wasn’t the sole culprit of the club’s struggles. The German argued that a lack of consistency from the players was also at fault, with the players never fighting for the three-time Premier League winner in the way he did for them.
Arsene Wenger: A man who stuck with his convictions and players
One of the biggest criticisms levelled at Wenger during his last few years at the club was an unwavering confidence in the players he had at his disposal. Opting to not make high-profile signings when they appeared necessary, the Frenchman trusted his resources in the face of adversity – something he wasn’t afforded in return.
Writing in his autobiography, Mertesacker wrote: “When we lost one game, we often lost a few in a row. We could show off our class across six FA Cup games, but 38 league matches in 10 months were a different matter.”
“We simply lacked the consistency all top teams need. You couldn’t win the league on eight defeats a year.”
“Arsene Wenger was always the kind of manager whose belief in his team’s qualities was steady as a rock and who approached matters with never-ending patience. He didn’t lose his nerve during losing streaks, either.”
“He stuck with his convictions and his players, no matter how strong the wind was blowing. It was his greatest strength. Wondering whether it was also his greatest weakness and whether he was too lenient with us is, in my opinion, a little too simplistic.”
Mertesacker says players need to assume more responsibility for Wenger’s final season
In addition, Mertesacker suggested that the players didn’t do enough to earn the respect, trust and admiration of their manager to the level he gave them.
As such, the squad needed to assume more responsibility for Wenger’s final season at the club rather than placing blame solely on the shoulders of a manager who had done so much for them.
“If the fans had got their way, there would have been five new top signings every year. But Wenger trusted the players he had. I never met another manager who believed more strongly in his squad’s ability.”
“First and foremost, Wenger saw us as human beings and he had a lot of faith in us, which is why he stood by us. Ultimately, we as players need to ask ourselves whether we did everything possible to justify his trust.”
“Did we implement his instructions perfectly? Were we pulling together? Did we learn from our mistakes? No.”
“Wenger has won three Premier League titles, which is proof enough of his standing as a manager. The team, on the other hand, had fallen short since 2004.”