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Arsenal Head of Academy Per Mertesacker has pointed his finger at the players for the part they played in Arsene Wenger’s departure over the summer.
The long-serving Gunners boss stepped down as manager with one year remaining on his contract, after Arsenal finished outside of the top-four for the second consecutive campaign, and Mertesacker believes his former teammates should hold their hands up for their poor form contributing.
As per ESPN, he said in an interview with German outlet Spox: “It was a bit surprising for us. He came into the meeting and said that he had decided together with the bosses to leave at the end of the season.
“It was a sad moment because I had the feeling I contributed my share to it. His farewell was also the players’ fault because we had many chances to get better results.
“We failed while he backed us all the time. I was the first who felt the need to say something and said I deeply regretted it. It was important for him to see that we had something to say as a team and that we stood by his side.”
Mertesacker made 221 appearances in all competitions for Arsenal after joining the club from Werder Bremen in 2011. In the last two seasons, the ex-German international has hardly featured for the first-team, making only 14 appearances in 2016/17 and 2017/18.
Arsenal finished fifth in 2016/17 just one point behind Liverpool in fourth but greatly struggled the following campaign – sixth with 63 points, 12 points off the top-four. A lot of players underperformed last season, and Wenger stepping down wouldn’t have happened if they’d achieved their goals.
Mertesacker isn’t wrong that the players should share the blame, as Wenger still had 12 months remaining on his contract and didn’t appear to be considering stepping down until the board somewhat forced his hand. It wasn’t the way he would have wanted to go, but Arsenal’s demise dictated the situation, and now Emery has been tasked with the job of fixing it.
Stats from Transfermarkt.