As Arsenal finish outside of the top-four for the first time in 21 years, Arsene Wenger admits his side have been hampered by uncertainty this season.
To secure a fourth-place finish on the final day of the season, the Gunners needed to beat Everton and hope Liverpool slipped up at home to Middlesbrough. And although they recorded a 3-1 win at the Emirates Stadium, with goals from Hector Bellerin, Alexis Sanchez and Aaron Ramsey, Jurgen Klopp’s sie overcome a nervous opening to ease to a 3-0 triumph at Anfield.
So instead of taking on Europe’s elite in the UEFA Champions League next season, Arsenal will have to acclimatise to a pattern of Thursday night and Sunday afternoon football to accommodate the demands of the UEFA Europa League. Wenger admits uncertainty over his own future has hindered their season, as well as the doubts about star players Sanchez and Mesut Ozil.
“It has been difficult, yes,” said the French coach. “Certainly my personal situation has contributed to that. But they should not question that 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.”
Whilst it looks likely that Wenger will still be in the dugout next season, it is increasingly unlikely he will have the luxury of selecting top goalscorer Sanchez. The Chilean international is in the final 12 months of his contract, and has been heavily linked with a host of clubs including Chelsea. As for Ozil, as talented as he is, there is a growing feeling amongst the fans that his departure would not be as costly.
Meanwhile, the Gunners must prepare for their FA Cup final next weekend without their key defender Laurent Koscielny. The France international was shown a red card against Everton on 14 minutes for a bad challenge on Enner Valencia, and as a result he will miss the showpiece against Antonio Conte’s Premier League champions as well as the first two games of next season.