Arsene Wenger has admitted that Arsenal supporters campaigning for the manager’s removal had created a “hurtful” atmosphere that was damaging the club’s reputation on a worldwide scale.
Arsene Wenger announced on Friday that he would step down as Gunners manager at the end of the season after almost 22 years in charge.
Arsenal finished outside the Premier League’s top four last term for the first time since Wenger arrived at the club, and are now 11 points behind fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur with four matches remaining.
Supporters of the club have been increasingly vocal in their criticism of Wenger in recent years and, speaking after Sunday’s 4-1 win over West Ham United, the veteran coach made his feelings heard.
“I was not tired,” Wenger told BBC Sport when asked about his decision to quit.
“Personally I believe this club is respected all over the world, much more than in England. The fans did not give me the image of unity I want all over the world and that was hurtful because I think the club is respected.
“I’m not resentful and I do not want to make stupid headlines. I’m not resentful with the fans, I just feel if my personality is in the way of what I think our club is, for me that is more important than me.
“That is what I want to say, it is nothing to do with the fans. The fans were not happy – I can understand that. That is my job and I have to live with that, I can accept that.”
Asked how damaging it had been for the club, he said: “I don’t know if it was damaging but it was not corresponding to how I feel our club is perceived – and has to be perceived – all over the world. If you travel with us – and I travel a lot – this club is respected all over the world and that is down to work, the way we play football, the way we behave and the way we treat people. I want that to go on, to be respected and to give the image I think is right. It is more than the money, more than the result. It is the way the club is received and the impression it leaves all over the world.”