Wenger ‘sorry’ for Arsenal slump as players grovel

May 17, 2011
Bill Mann

Gunners stars line up to apologise after another season without silverware comes to an end

Arsene Wenger might be finding it hard to hold up his hands and apologise to the Arsenal faithful for the disastrous season they've endured but some of his players appear more ready to accept they haven't performed when it mattered.

The best the Arsenal manager could come up with by way of an apology was a half-hearted act of contrition in the presence of Arsenal TV online. "We are sorry for the supporters not to give them what they expect from us," said Wenger on Monday, adding: "We want to make our fans happy, so when we do not manage to do it, of course we are not happy."

That was as far as the Frenchman went, however, in addressing what has been the most dismal season in his 16-year tenure at Arsenal. Less than three months ago the Gunners were going strong in four trophies but they will finish the season probably in fourth spot, an extraordinary slump in form that began with defeat to Birmingham in February's Carling Cup final.

One of the men most to blame for Arsenal's 2-1 defeat that day was goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, who has at least had the courage to do what his manager hasn't, and issue a grovelling apology to the Gunners' long-suffering supporters. "I totally understand the frustration of the fans, and we apologise for our lack of trophies this season," Szczesny said, adding: "This is one of the biggest clubs in the world and we should be winning trophies every year."

The 21-year-old Pole, whose mix up with centre-half Laurent Koscielny allowed Birmingham's Obafemi Martins to score the last-gasp winner at Wembley, also begged fans to bear with the squad over the summer.

"We will have much more desire next season as we know how close we were this season to winning the Carling Cup and Premier League," said  Szczesny. "That gives us more motivation and desire to go for it next year, and obviously we will be one year more experienced compared to what we were this year."

Despite his blunder against Birmingham, Szczesny is one of the few Arsenal players who can look back on the season with any sense of pride, along with striker Robin Van Persie. The Dutchman missed the first three months of the season with injury but returned in November and has since scored 21 goals.

In an interview with Arsenal TV online Van Persie was asked what had gone wrong at the Emirates this season. "There were lots of things," he replied. "We were not consistent enough. It is difficult to talk about it now... [but] next season we have to try [to come back stronger]. Everyone starts from scratch and we have a chance, it is up to us to prove it."

And centre-back Thomas Vermaelen, who made his long-awaited return to Arsenal colours in Sunday's 2-1 defeat to Aston Villa, expressed his shock at the apathy around him.

"I'm happy to be on the pitch again but the game was awful," said Vermaelen, who spent eight months sidelined by an Achilles problem. "Our mentality was not good enough... I don't think we can accept that as an Arsenal side. We should work on that because, otherwise, it's not good enough."

Some are now openly questioning whether Wenger will still be at Arsenal next season. With just one league victory in their last ten games (a 1-0 defeat of champions Manchester United), not to mention the Carling Cup humiliation and defeats to Barcelona and United in the Champions League and FA Cup respectively, the Arsenal board would be justified in sacking their manager and replacing him with a man who will bring fresh ideas and impetus to the Gunners.

Just a few weeks ago such a scenario would have been unthinkable but one bookmakers, William Hill, is now offering odds of 4/1 that the Frenchman won't be back at the Emirates in August. That's one adieu that might be worth a flutter.

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