Arsene Wenger claims to feel “responsible” for the injury struggles that have blighted the careers of Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey, with two promising midfielders first experiencing fitness problems during their time at Arsenal.
The legendary French coach was calling the shots back then, but there was no VAR to rein in the physicality of English football that inevitably led to the odd bad tackle and untimely knock.
Gunners academy graduate Wilshere, who is now a free agent, and current Juventus star Ramsey, who was snapped up as a teenager from Cardiff, were among those to find themselves on the receiving end of challenges that set an unfortunate tone when it comes to frequent spells on the sidelines.
Wenger told The Telegraph of recent changes that will benefit the British game: “I see more positivity. Before there was more kicking and I must say the media allowed that. The VAR has brought more respect for the offensive game.
“Sometimes the more technical guys were kicked. Why? It was not very encouraging. We have moved forward from that.
“We always tried. It was frustrating sometimes. When I look back at players like Wilshere, Ramsey who have been injured early in their career and when you are a manager you feel very responsible for that.”
Wenger spent 22 years in charge of Arsenal, delivering three Premier League titles and seven FA Cup triumphs during a memorable tenure.
He did, however, lose the trust of some supporters towards the end of his reign, as the Gunners began to slip out of top-four contention, and a rebuilding project at Emirates Stadium remains ongoing.
Wenger feels he was treated unfairly when being ushered towards the exits, with his record deserving of greater respect given all that he had achieved.
The 71-year-old, who is now FIFA’s chief of global football development, added on the end of his spell in north London: “I think people are quite harsh about the last years.
“In 2016 we finished second in the league. Leicester won but other teams were behind Leicester as well, and Leicester only lost three games. In 2017 we did not qualify for the top four for the first time in 20 years but we got 75 points.
“People don’t realise. We won the [FA] cup against Chelsea who had just won the championship and had the chance of winning the double.
“And after in 2018, we lost the League Cup final against (Manchester) City, we lost in the semi-final of the Europa League against Atletico Madrid but by just one goal.
“But look, I gave the best years of my career to develop what I think is important – the stadium and pay it back and put the club in a position where it was capable of facing the future and had the potential to do well.
“At the end of the day, above all, we won and what I am most proud about is putting the club in that position.”