This may turn out to be Arsène Wenger’s proudest campaign as Arsenal manager.
The Frenchman has won seven major trophies and two ‘doubles’ in his 12 years in North London. He has also led his side to the first unbeaten top-flight campaign for more than a century.
However, given the flak thrown at his side earlier this season, Wenger believes the current campaign could be more satisfying than any of those.
“It was a year when I probably went against the flow of things,” he said. “But I think this could be the year I am the proudest of because everyone doubted this team, everyone criticised it.
“I was strong, I was very supportive, I always had this belief in them and I knew that it was a difficult period to go through. When you want to produce young talents, you have to stick your neck out at some point and take a few knocks as well.
“One should remember what everyone seems to forget - we play against people who have unlimited funds, they can buy the best players in the world. You produce young talent with your limited funds, but still everyone is asking you to always beat these teams.
Speaking to Tuesday’s L’Equipe, the 59-year-old went on: “I remember winning at Chelsea this year. When I left the stadium, this bloke came to me at the end and said ‘I am an Arsenal fan, good game, but I don’t think we are going to win the league with such a team!’
“I told him: ‘You are not an Arsenal fan. You have just seen some 20-21-year-old kids in midfield beating the likes of Ballack, Lampard, Drogba and Anelka! Haven’t you got anything less negative to say?’
“It is unbelievable that, nowadays, you can’t cheat people on the quality of football but you can manipulate their opinion.
“Despite this, the critics I received did not hurt me. The thing which worried me and which was my greatest worry was the influence these critics had on the team.
“No matter what is said, the environment you are in will always influence you. The players open the newspapers to read ‘Disastrous Arsenal’, ‘Arsenal Useless’.
“Keep in mind that my team was very young and that the atmosphere was very negative. Therefore I asked myself the question: how do I reduce this negative impact on the team?
“You cannot play well if you think you are not good enough. I have had my share of criticism and I know that if we lose tomorrow, the critics are going to start all over again.
“But the most important thing is that the team is now on the right path and it has hope.”Copyright 2013 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 14 Apr 2009