LONDON — Arsene Wenger was in high spirits after Arsenal beat Chelsea on penalty kicks at Wembley Stadium on Sunday to win the Community Shield.
The Frenchman, 67, has guided Arsenal into a much more positive period following their powerful finish to the 2016-17 Premier League season where they just missed out on a top four finish but managed to win the FA Cup as their switch to a 3-4-3 formation paid off.
Speaking after the game Wenger admitted that the negative atmosphere has dissipated over the past few months, and suggested he made a mistake to delay the announcement over his new two-year contract which only arrived after last season was over.
“It’s down to us to create a positive atmosphere in the team. A lot was created by my situation. Maybe I made a mistake,” Wenger admitted. “Overall I believe it is down to us to have strength and, as always, to come from the team.”
If Wenger had announced in January he was signing a new deal, would Arsenal have finished in the top four and would Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil have signed new deals? Who knows how much difference it would have made but Wenger is obviously thinking about it.
The Gunners boss revealed that Sanchez was left out of the squad due to a lack of match sharpness as he only returned to training on Tuesday, while Mesut Ozil has a swollen ankle and is a considerable doubt for Friday’s Premier League opener against Leicester City at the Emirates Stadium (Watch live, 2:45 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com). Aaron Ramsey is also struggling to be fit for the PL opener after missing out against Chelsea.
Wenger was then pressed on his plans to offload some of his squad with the Gunners now having 33 players in their first team roster.
Amid reports claiming that Jack Wilshere, Olivier Giroud, Kieran Gibbs and others could leave in the final weeks of the transfer window, Arsenal’s manager admitted that he has to do some trimming to his squad and there will be departures.
“To be honest the number is too high and we will let some players go,” Wenger said. “Too much competition for places is detrimental, like a lack of competition for places is difficult as well. I agree with you that 33 is too high.”
Heading into the season there are plenty of positive vibes around Arsenal despite Ozil and Sanchez failing to commit their long term future’s to the club and no UEFA Champions League action.
Maybe finishing outside the top four last season was just the wake-up call Wenger, and everyone at Arsenal, needed.