Arsene Wenger says Arsenal finishing as runners-up in the Premier League is a reward for his players’ spirit and quality over the final stages of the season.
A dramatic final-day turnaround saw Arsenal finish second – their best placing since 2004-05 – after Tottenham’s 5-1 defeat at relegated Newcastle United allowed them to pounce with their 4-0 win over an Aston Villa side who are also dropping to the Championship.
Olivier Giroud’s hat-trick and an own goal from Villa goalkeeper Mark Bunn gave Wenger’s men victory and ensured Spurs did not finish above them for what would have been the first time since Wenger took the helm.
“It was difficult to predict that, especially a few weeks ago, but we kept our togetherness and spirit,” Wenger told Sky Sports.
“I think it is now nine games without losing and overall I think it is a reward for our spirit, mentality and also our quality.
“Overall we finished second in the league and we have to congratulate Leicester as well. They have done exceptionally. They have only lost three games and two of those were against us.
“Even Barcelona and Real Madrid lost more games than Leicester. It is difficult to explain that in Europe, but it is a fact.”
Wenger still holds some frustration at Arsenal’s failure to maintain their title challenge during a run of just two league wins from nine between January and March.
“We have recently had some players coming back from injury and that helps, but we had a difficult second part of season,” he said.
“We had many difficult away games we had to go to Tottenham, Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool – so I knew that our position in December was a bit artificial.
“We needed an exceptional second half of the season and we didn’t deliver that.”