MIKEL ARTETA has apologised to Arsenal supporters for their poor season while defiantly insisting he is still the right man to lead the club.
Arsenal will be without European football for the first time in 25 years next season following their humiliating Europa League semi-final exit against Villarreal and coach Unai Emery – the man sacked so Arteta could take charge.
They host West Brom this Sunday, languishing in mid table and also likely to record their lowest league finish in over quarter of a century.
Arteta is not hiding, though, and said the parlous state of the club has been years in the making.
“I understand those concerns around the club because when you are out of the Champions League for five years it is not just a casualty, it’s a trend and there are facts to support that.
“So, there are things to change, that’s for sure because no one is going to accept that at this football club. I am not going to accept that and the fans are not going to accept that. So we all have to push together to achieve something very different.”
Arteta is now the betting favourite to be the next Premier League manager to lose his job.
He commented: “I repeat myself, last night that ball goes from Auba’s header and we win 1-0. You are in the final and it is a different world. But today that world doesn’t look very nice.
“What I feel is a deep pain because the moment the club is in and has been through the last few months.
“I had a feeling that if we could take the team to the final, it could be a great turning point. I felt that responsibility and I was so eager to achieve that because I knew it could be a defining moment.”
“Not being able to achieve it, has been really tough personally obviously.
“I know that we have disappointed a lot of people as well, and that really hurts because we want to give the best to everybody but one thing I made clear is that to do what we want to do, I have no doubts that we are going to achieve it. If not, I wouldn’t be sat here.”
Talking about the attitude in the Arsenal dressing room at a time when most of the players are being criticised for a succession of below par performances and poor results, he added: “They feel the pain.
“When you look at the state of that dressing room last night it was sad because they put so much into it.
“This is a results based sport and an inch can define success or failure, and it happened.”
Arteta’s immediate concern is to stop the players and his staff feeling sorry for themselves.
He explained: “We have no time because we have a game on Sunday, we have a training session this morning and it has to be by today when you leave the training ground, most of it has to be out of the system.
“I think you have to leave some of it in some of your system, and use some of it in the right way as an energy driver in the game on Sunday.