Arsenal legend Thierry Henry has stated his belief that the current crop of first-team players must take responsibility for their failure to qualify for the UEFA Champions League, not Arsene Wenger.
Arsenal’s 3-1 win over Everton on Sunday wasn’t enough to secure them an unlikely spot in the top-four places, after both Liverpool and Manchester City recorded convincing victories elsewhere on the final day of the league campaign.
As a result, Arsenal will be playing in the Europa League for the first time in two decades and Wenger himself said that continuous speculation over his future was a contributing factor to how his side were under-performing during the early months of 2017.
With that being said though, Henry feels as though his former boss is merely taking the blame for a squad of players that failed to live up to expectations, especially after a promising start to the season across all competitions.
“What would have helped would be the team playing better and then people would not complain,” Henry stated.
“It is not down to the boss, the team or the club only, it is down to everybody at the club. If the team were getting results, nobody would have complained and even asked if Wenger was going to stay or not.
“It is not the first time that Wenger has been in that situation where his contract was going to be renewed or not. When I left the club, it was the same thing. Arsene didn’t know if he was going to stay. People didn’t really call for his head or anything like that or thought that he was disturbing the team.”
Henry left in the summer of 2007 for La Liga giants Barcelona and although there was uncertainty around Wenger’s future given stadium improvements and maintaining stability in the long-term then, it’s clear that supporters’ overall level of discontent has reached an all-time high with Wenger at the helm.
Consistently starting the season well, before having a drastic change in fortunes at some stage between Christmas and February, has become so much of a routine in recent seasons that rival supporters have quickly made Arsenal laughing stock.
With all of the club’s direct rivals improving, the Gunners themselves have gradually attempted to sign world-class players but one every season isn’t good enough for the levels of success that Arsenal are aspiring to achieve. Being shrewd in the transfer market and not taking too many calculated risks have meant plenty of rumoured targets have often joined rivals, where they’ve gone on to flourish.
Henry was adamant that Wenger’s future should’ve had little or no impact on the players he fielded every week, especially as that’s what they are being paid for after all, to perform at a consistently high level regardless of internal matters.
“I don’t think that’s why the team didn’t perform,” Henry continued.
“The guys came out and said they didn’t know where the boss was going to be next year, but that doesn’t mean they should play the way they did for a little while. I don’t think that is an excuse. At the end of the day, you need to perform no matter what is happening at the club and they didn’t. That’s the bottom line.”
Henry has a genuine point here with his comments and it raises serious questions of the players that they could be significantly influenced in a negative manner on the pitch with regards to matters which didn’t actually concern them.