It has been a testing spell for the Gunners since the international break, with successive lacklustre defeats at Norwich and then at home to Schalke in the Champions League setting up a heated annual general meeting at the Emirates Stadium on Thursday, where chairman Peter Hill-Wood, chief executive Ivan Gazidis and majority shareholder Stan Kroenke were all heckled.
Wenger used his address to call for a sense of perspective of what the club have achieved up against the limitless spending power of their rivals. The Arsenal manager later told reporters there was no question over the character of his squad, just that they perhaps needed some reassurances, with defender Per Mertesacker admitting confidence had dipped.
“I don’t say that the players are fragile, but you could see against Schalke that we played all right in the first half, but slowly we dropped. Is it physical or confidence? It is difficult to know,” Wenger said.
“Mertesacker is right. This team cares — sometimes you are surprised that they care so much, they do. When you don’t get the result the confidence goes quickly. That is part of the quality you have to show, that we are capable of dealing with that.”
Wenger continued: “The result at Norwich maybe affected them more than they would think. Chelsea was a big disappointment, but we didn’t come out of the game and think that Chelsea were stronger than us — we were stupid as we made mistakes. Norwich was a bit of a different shock because we never created chances and that affected the team.”
Wenger has several first team players recovering from injury, but for England midfielder Jack Wilshere it is now a case of getting match sharpness, with a run-out pencilled in for the Capital One Cup tie at Reading ahead of a trip to Manchester United. “Physically he is at 80 to 85%,” said Wenger.
For his part, QPR manager Mark Hughes believes the Premier League has suffered due to Wilshere’s long injury lay-off. “The league has been a lesser league really because when you take a young player of his ability out for so long then everyone misses watching his talents,” he said.
“From my own selfish point of view as opposition manager I hope he’d have been one week away from returning.”