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Arsene Wenger talks Arsenal 'guilt', Leicester success, criticism and injuries in Sky Sports exclusive

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Geoff Shreeves sits down with Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger to talk about Leicester's remarkable season and where it went wrong for Arsenal

Arsene Wenger has told Sky Sports Arsenal feel "guilty" over their failed Premier League title challenge.

The Gunners head to relegation-threatened Sunderland on Super Sunday hoping to climb back above Manchester City into third place as the pressure to seal a top-four spot increases.

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Wenger admits his side have not been "clinical enough" to challenge for a first league crown since 2004, but reckons they have faced some unfair criticism during a season that has seen Leicester emerge as shock potential champions.

From fan scrutiny and the games he feels were turning points in the season to how he thinks the Premier League is changing, Wenger lifts the lid to reporter Geoff Shreeves...

Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal (R) celebrates with Hector Bellerin as he scores their first goal during the Barclays Premier League match v West Brom
Image: Arsenal eased past West Brom last time out but are currently 10 points behind leaders Leicester

SHREEVES: What do you make of the top-four race and where you sit in it?

WENGER: "It's very simple. We all feel guilty and we are all looked at like it's a shame we are not winning the league because Leicester are at the top.

"But on the other hand, you have to say Leicester have not stolen the points. They have earned them, they have quality. If you look at the PFA Team of the Year, they have many players in there, so they are good players. 

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Image: Leicester have surprised Wenger - but he admits they have been "absolutely efficient"

"I am convinced that all the teams today look at themselves and think 'how could that happen?', but when you win so many times 1-0 like Leicester have done, you see they have been absolutely efficient.

"It is true that technically many teams in the league are better, but many teams have had more problems. Leicester have had no injuries, many teams have had more competitions. Leicester went out of the FA Cup quite early, but you have to give them credit when everybody expected them to drop they didn't and when they had to turn up they did. 

"It will be interesting psychologically to study Leicester because it's a very interesting case. There is a theory that says to go to the absolute utmost of your talent you need to suffer in life. When you look at the Leicester team, not one career of all these players was obvious, like starting on the red carpet at 18 years of age in the Champions League. 

N'Golo Kante of Leicester City in action
Image: Wenger says N'Golo Kante and his Leicester team-mates have shown "top mental qualities"

"Many of the players have been rejected before… it is an interesting case. N'Golo Kante, nobody wanted him in France for a while. That is a good explanation for his character.

"These players had a dream that was not easy to obtain, but when they are in a position to reach it, they are ready for the fight. The lesson of the season is Leicester. Maybe they are not the most prestigious in quality of the passing, but they found a way to be efficient and have shown mental qualities that are absolutely top."

SHREEVES: Are you saying Leicester were hungrier than anyone else, a criticism of your team and everybody else's teams?

WENGER: "That is the difficulty of being honest in the media today. As soon as you come up with a quality it shows that you don't have that quality. They were hungry and efficient. My team is hungry also, but we have to deal with many problems and many competitions as well.

"When you play on Wednesday in Barcelona and then Saturday morning, you go to Crystal Palace or Everton, it changes things. Next year, I predict that Leicester will have more problems.

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Wenger has urged the club's fans to come and support the team

"They have found a good balance, hungry players who have not had obvious careers. We are accused the most, but we beat them twice. So we should be less accused than others for not having beaten them.

"They go to Man City, Tottenham, Man United, Liverpool and have only lost three games. At the end of the day, you have to say well done. Sport is about performance and when the team performs, you have to be big enough and say well done and respect it and respect Claudio Ranieri for what he has done."

On Leicester's style of play, having the least possession and passing accuracy…

WENGER: "You cannot last like that. If they win a title like that, you have to say well done and respect. But in the Champions League, if they don't touch the ball, it will be difficult on Saturday. When you run after the ball on Wednesday against Barcelona and then turn up on Saturday away from home, it becomes more difficult.

"They will have to adapt, but I am not intelligent enough to see what will happen to them. I am just big enough to say well done to them."

Arsene Wenger manager of Arsenal
Image: Wenger believes injuries hampered Arsenal this term

SHREEVES: What did for you and your team was the run of results in March?

WENGER: "There were two turning games - Man United and Swansea. At the end of the day, we had many injuries and it was the first time where we could not do a lot about it.

"We didn't have Welbeck, Wilshere, Cazorla, all traumatic injuries, not muscular. The positive thing is we discovered players like Elneny and Iwobi. But we were not clinical enough. 

"The quality of our game collectively for most of the season was good and in March and April, but we didn't get the points we needed and we were in a position where we had to win every game so it makes it more difficult.

"Then the coincidence of fixtures. Now we play Sunderland, and we could have played a Sunderland on holiday with nothing to go for, in March and April that has a big influence. I have seen games recently where teams didn't turn up. That has changed a bit in the Premier League as well."

Ashley Williams celebrates scoring Swansea's second and match-winning goal against Arsenal
Image: Arsenal suffered a shock home defeat to Swansea in March

SHREEVES: In the Premier League, is the game in terms of effective football, changing?

WENGER: "Yes. The physical levels of teams has gone up and tactical knowledge of defending has gone up. Players who do not contribute to team work are kicked out everywhere.

"Then you go two ways: you say 'look that doesn't work any more so we have to change our style, and I wish you good luck when you kick the ball anywhere after people have seen good football for 10-15 years', or you say 'we have analysed well where we are not efficient enough and we do better with the style we play'.

"We have to go that way. Our passing has to be quicker, our movement has to be sharper and our efficiency in the final third has to be better. We don't have anybody with 20 goals in the league, so that is a handicap."

SHREEVES: Have you ever known a more downbeat atmosphere at the Emirates than against West Brom?

WENGER: "You want your fans to be enthusiastic, and we are not playing to avoid relegation. Ideally, you want fans to be happy and I think they can be very proud of a lot at this club. We want them to be behind the team, to be proud of the club and the values and consistent achievement of the club. It is not enough and we can understand that, but that doesn't stop us from performing. The top level of sport is to master all situations."

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Former Arsenal striker Thierry Henry admits the fans are unhappy with the club but it's vital they keep coming to the matches and supporting the team

SHREEVES: What about the challenge of facing Sunderland?

WENGER: "I think Sam Allardyce has found a settled team that he plays in every game and he has made a decision that it's them or nothing. He knows his team, they know how to behave. The psychological impact of going down or not motivates the players and puts more pressure on this game - on us and them. 

"Both teams are under pressure so the intensity is huge and the psychological impact of the result is huge. Both teams have to deal with that. We expect a very intense game, fighting for survival, players are more ready to give everything.

"I watched them recently, they played good football, they have a good midfield and good variety and Jermain Defoe can score goals form nothing."

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