Arsene Wenger says he has feelings of regret and guilt after Arsenal missed out on the Premier League title to Leicester City.
Arsenal finished second last season, their best finish since 2004-05, but Wenger felt the campaign represented a missed opportunity given Leicester’s shock success.
“Certainly, all the big clubs, we experienced that season regret and a feel of guilt,” he told Sky Sports News.
“Guilt because you want to predict who would win the league and you would not have included Leicester so everybody else would say we should have come in front of Leicester.”
He said it was only considered acceptable to lose to “big clubs” but stressed that Claudio Ranieri’s side, who finished 10 points clear of Arsenal and lost only three games all season, had achieved something “absolutely exceptional.”
“They had an exceptional season and exceptional quality,” he added. “They were absolutely, remarkably consistent.”
Wenger’s contract is due to expire at the end of the season and he said he was unsure if he would prolong his stay.
“You never know,” he said. “You have to do it as if it is your whole life but know as well that you can stop at any moment. What I will do is work as long as I have the physical potential to work.”
The FA had expressed some interest in Wenger as they sought a replacement for Roy Hodgson after England’s Euro 2016 exit.
When it was put to Wenger that he might have taken the England job, he said: “Yes, but I think I have shown that I respect my contracts and I respect highly loyalty. I did always that with Arsenal.”
If this is to be the Frenchman’s final campaign with the Gunners, he will hope to lead the club to a first Premier League title since 2003-04, but he acknowledges it may be more difficult than ever.
“It looks like that. The expectation level everywhere is very high. Maybe the Premier League is more even than ever,” he said.
“Today you have to take into account seven or eight teams that can win it.”
He repeated his line that the new Premier League season appears to be a “world championship of managers,” with Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho, Antonio Conte and Jurgen Klopp all vying for success.
Asked why the world’s top managers were attracted to English football, Wenger said: “Let’s not be naive. The economical power of the Premier League attracts the best players and the best managers.”
That financial strength — enhanced this season through the Premier League’s lucrative new TV deal — allowed Manchester United to break the world transfer record in signing Paul Pogba from Juventus this week.
Wenger has already described the deal as “completely crazy,” prompting a riposte from Jose Mourinho, but the Gunners boss feels such transfers cause issues for other clubs.
“We have to follow the prices paid by other people,” he said. “That’s why maybe it’s crossed the €100 million bar for the first time. It makes the market more unpredictable.”
Former Valencia boss Gary Neville has said La Liga clubs see the English as “easy meat when it comes to transfers,” and Wenger added: “If you go to Spain and you’re an English club, straight away the inflation comes in.
“In France, among themselves the prices are very reasonable, but if an English club comes in they know there’s money.”
Wenger is under pressure to spend this summer, with Switzerland midfielder Granit Xhaka the only major deal completed so far and the club now facing a defensive injury crisis ahead of the Premier League opener against Liverpool on Sunday.
However, he will not be rushed into making further additions, saying: “What we respect still is that we spend the money we have. What we have to do is to find the quality of the players who are available.”