Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger admits that 2011 was one of the most difficult years he has ever endured in football management.
The Gunners boss was forced to sell prized assets Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri in the summer before witnessing his under-strength team make a disastrous start to the season, culminating in a humiliating 8-2 mauling at the hands of Manchester United at Old Trafford.
But in recent months the north Londoners have regrouped, and victory over QPR on Saturday ensured they saw out the year in fourth place in the Premier League – a position Wenger admits he was unsure his side would reach after some terrible early setbacks.
"I didn't know that we would be in the top four at the end of the year," the Frenchman told reporters. "I felt, first of all, to stop the crisis. By crisis, I mean the confidence level had dropped too much and you play with fear. But I was confident because we had a good spirit.
“I knew as well that we had the Champions League to play so we had something to focus on and that's why, slowly, we came back. When I look back, it was not the easiest year of my career. I had a few hard years but this one was difficult."
But despite plumbing new depths at the start of the season, Wenger insists the end of the previous campaign was actually more devastating, as it left his team with nothing to fight for.
"The end of last season was, I think, more difficult than even the rocky time we had at the beginning of the season because it was all doom and gloom and only negatives," Wenger said.
"The last two months of last season … you will not win the Champions League, you will not win the Premier League, you will not win the FA Cup. You just have to get over the line as well as you can. That was difficult.
“This season, we had a hard, tough time but we had something in front of us. We could still fight for something."
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