Blame me for Arsenal's failure this season, says Wenger

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger says he is to blame for the team's failures this season after a 2-1 loss at Bolton all but ended their title bid.

The Gunners now trail league leaders Manchester United by nine points with four games left to play.

A United win at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday will ensure Arsenal's trophyless run is extended to six seasons.

"The players have been outstanding all season. If there is somebody to blame, it is me," said Wenger.

Wenger admitted after the defeat at the Reebok Stadium that his side's chances of winning the title had all but gone.

"We have to give as much as we can until the last game but of course the chances are minimal now," he added.

Wenger's side were ultimately undone by a last-minute header from a corner from Bolton substitute Tamir Cohen, after Robin van Persie had cancelled out Daniel Sturridge's first-half opener - also following a corner - and keeper Wojciech Szczesny had saved a Kevin Davies penalty.

The Gunners, though, had plenty of opportunities in the second half to win the game, most notably through Samir Nasri, who twice failed to convert when well positioned.

"It is difficult to swallow the way we lost the game," said Wenger. "We gave everything we had left today and the way we lost is difficult to accept.

"We had the chances to win it. We didn't take them and we were very frail on corners.

"The players have given a lot. The week we just had sums up our season: a lot of quality in our game but not enough reward for the effort we produced."

The defeat at Bolton comes at the end of a week in which Arsenal have thrown away points by drawing games they could have won.

Last Sunday, after taking a 98th-minute lead against Liverpool, they allowed Kenny Dalglish's side to equalise from the penalty spot with the last kick of the game, and then on Wednesday north London rivals Tottenham came back from 3-1 down to earn a draw at White Hart Lane.

While these results appear to have ultimately ended Arsenal's title bid, Wenger charts their demise to the 2-1 League Cup final defeat by Birmingham, where a last-minute goal again cost the Gunners.

In the following month, they were also eliminated in the first knock-out stage of the Champions League by Barcelona, had their FA Cup challenge ended by Manchester United and dropped vital points in the league courtesy of draws against teams they were expected to beat.

"It [the League Cup final] had a big impact on the players' minds, the last-minute mistake, but it has happened to us many times this season," said Wenger.

While Sunday's defeat ends a run of 16 games unbeaten for Arsenal, eight of those have been draws, and Wenger admitted he was frustrated his side could not make more of the opportunity presented to them.

"It's very unsatisfactory because it's one of the easiest run-ins we've had for a long time and we didn't take our chances many times. That's frustrating because you feel the potential is there but you have to take your chances," he added.

"We still lack maturity, experience and calm in important situations."

In the aftermath of Wednesday's draw at Tottenham, former Arsenal defender Lee Dixon told BBC Sport that their failure this season could lead Wenger to break away from his focus on developing young players and spend money on more experienced individuals.

"They're not a million miles away, but the pressure from outside and also from within Arsene himself, because he hasn't achieved want he wants to achieve, will lead him to maybe change his philosophy," said Dixon.

"The timing of the new ownership will put more pressure on him in the summer to spend more money and make a couple of big signings.

"I think he'll still want to keep a policy where he doesn't smash the wage structure, but I still think they need one or two leaders, big personalities."

Dixon's comments were echoed by former Arsenal goalkeeper and BBC Sport pundit Bob Wilson, who told BBC Radio 5 live: "Arsene has a complete aversion to paying double the price for British players but he has to swallow his pride on that, there has to be a more British feel to the team.

"He is not fireproof, nobody is, but Arsene is an intelligent man and he will say when he has taken them as far as he can.

"I don't think the board will ever sack Arsene, unless there is a dramatic slump in the manner they play."

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