Former Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker has opened up about the last years under Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, admitting that the players let the Gunners long-serving manager down.
Mertesacker, who is now the academy manager at Arsenal has penned an autobiography titled ‘Per Mertesacker: Big Friendly German’ and in extracts from the book the German world winner revealed that Wenger was probably far too loyal to his players, that he was too lenient, that there was a failure to overcome defeats and much more.
It is a little bit of an eye-opener but at the same time not really surprising, there clearly was an issue in the final years and a lot of what Mertesacker says makes complete sense.
Here is the extract as published by the Evening Standard.
“Every team has its poor phases over the season, the trick is minimising them. You have to draw quick lessons from defeats and immediately remind yourself of your own strengths. Other teams were better at that. They managed setbacks better, not letting themselves be intimidated by those first negative waves and ignoring what people on the outside were saying. We didn’t have the ability to shift quickly and keep our faith after a disappointment.
“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 he too lenient with us is, in my opinion, a little too simplistic. If the fans had got their way, there would have been five new top signings every year. ‘Spend some f***ing money!’ they would chorus from the stands after defeats. But Wenger trusted the players he had. I never met another manager who believed more strongly in his squad’s ability.
“In 2015-16, he didn’t buy a single outfield player, just a new keeper – Petr Cech – because he was convinced that the squad was good enough to win the title. People were beside themselves, but Wenger was thinking on a deeper level: ‘What happens to my starting forward if I add a new one? Is that really going to improve the team, or would I be unsettling my best man? Is five people fighting for the same position a good thing?’
“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.”
Hindsight is a beautiful thing but in truth, many fans could see what was going wrong at the time and that contributed to a lot of the ill-feeling towards Wenger from the fan base and it seems to me that he failed to evolve with his thinking, the days of thinking on a deeper level and keeping faith in players that clearly were not up to the job had long since passed.
It looks like an interesting book from Mertesacker and one I am sure to read in full.