Arsenal stars feel guilty after letting Arsene Wenger down in the past decade, according to Per Mertesacker
Club captain Mertesacker reveals that there is a sense of sadness and guilt in the Emirates dressing-room over the manager’s imminent departure.
And he believes that Wenger is leaving at the end of the season because his team have not lived up to expectations.
Mertesacker claimed: “We sit here together and know that we have not been successful over the past couple of years.
“We have won the FA Cup, but in terms of achieving Champions League football every season we have not done it.
“In terms of top four finishes, we are not able to achieve it again this season. There are a lot of people responsible for that, not only the manager.
“It hasn’t sunk in enough to say we are guilty, but we are all responsible for this situation.”
Mertesacker issued an emotional address to the entire squad last Friday morning immediately after Wenger told them that he would be leaving next month.
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He admits: “First of all we were surprised and then we were emotional and sad.
“You can feel that he still has a lot left in him in terms of the power he gives to the team.
“He told us that he wants to win every remaining game and leave in style and we gave him immediate feedback that we feel the responsibility to fight for him every time we step onto the field.
“His story is unique so we want to give him the best possible send-off so I am delighted we gave one answer against West Ham on Sunday.
"But there are more answers to come in the next couple of weeks.”
Mertesacker, 33, is in the final month of his playing career before taking up his new job as head of Arsenal’s youth academy in September.
And he is distraught that he won’t be starting his coaching career under Wenger’s careful guidance.
He says: “The boss has been the major figure at this club for more than 20 years and he was the best possible fit.
“Now we have to find someone who can start a new era and that is going to be really tough.”
The World Cup-winning German international signed for Arsenal in August 2011 the day after the team had been thrashed 8-2 by Manchester United.
He recalls: “The first time we talked on the phone, I was surprised that the boss could speak German so fluently.
“His calmness, especially in that first week after the 8-2 defeat, really struck me.
“I expected a storm of pressure but it was all about him calming everyone down and focusing.
“He trusted people to learn from their mistakes and he made me aware that there is still room in football for honesty and to care about people.
“So now we want to send him off in the way he deserves; with a trophy.”
That desire to end Wenger’s reign in style is shared by the entire squad, with Aaron Ramsey confirming: “He deserves all the plaudits he gets and hopefully we can finish the season off in style.
“We’re not thinking about who’s coming in next – it’s about doing it for Arsene. Winning the Europa League would be a perfect send-off for him."
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