Wenger blames split squad for poor Arsenal start
Half the Arsenal dressing room wanted to leave the club in the summer, according to manager Arsene Wenger, a situation that would have caused other clubs to implode.
Arsenal is slowly recovering from a dreadful start to the season that included an 8-2 loss to Manchester United.
In an interview with French radio RTL on Monday night, Wenger said the departures of Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas destabilized the squad.
''I had half of the dressing room that wanted to leave,'' Wenger told French radio. ''You prepare for the season, you go to Asia, but you don't know who's going to come. Players who stay at the club are wondering what kind of earthquake has hit the club. It's extraordinarily difficult.''
''What saved us is that we are an extremely solid and united club. Quite a few clubs would have imploded.''
Arsenal has won four of its last five matches in all competitions, including a 2-1 victory over Sunderland on Sunday, to climb to the middle of the Premiership table.
''There's potential in this team,'' Wenger said. ''I feel there's a good mindset. We're in a rising phase. How far can we go? Our season will tell us.''
The Frenchman believes the pressure will ease off as soon as his team gets back into contention for a Champions League spot.
''It's then that there's less pressure from the environment and that players get more spontaneous on the pitch. The problem is that we can only climb back slowly,'' he said.
Arsenal, which lies six points behind fourth-place Newcastle, has also had to contend with the loss of young midfielder Jack Wilshere to injury.
''We lost Nasri, Fabregas and Wilshere who were the foundation of our midfield last season,'' Wenger said. ''So we had to rebuild our midfield because Wilshere won't be back before January.''
The announcement on Tuesday of a new long-term deal with Belgium defender Thomas Vermaelen will be a relief for Arsenal, which is also trying to extend captain Robin van Persie's contract , which ends in 2013.