Bernd Leno says he is still happy at Arsenal and insists there are no other players in the dressing room who want to leave the club as they face the prospect of no European football for the first time in 25 years.
Arsenal crashed out of the Europa League at the semi-final stage with a 2-1 aggregate defeat against Villarreal last Thursday, and while a 3-1 win against West Brom on Sunday provided some relief after a disappointing week, the Gunners are ninth in the table, four points behind Tottenham in seventh with three games remaining.
Barring a dramatic turnaround in the Premier League, Arsenal, who are out of Champions League contention, will not have the Europa League or the newly-formed Europa Conference League to fall back on through their league position either.
According to newspaper reports, Germany goalkeeper Leno is supposedly one of the first players who will leave the Emirates part of a summer overhaul, but the 29-year-old says he wants to stay and insists no one else in the dressing room is pushing for a move either.
“I am still happy at Arsenal. Arsenal is still a big club, a big name in the world and in the Premier League,” he told Sky Sports, ahead of Arsenal visit to Champions League and FA Cup finalists Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.
“There is nobody in the dressing room who says ‘I want to leave the club, I am not happy here anymore’.
“We still have a good environment at the club and in the dressing room. Of course, at times it was not easy this season, but this is part of football.
“It’s not good to feel sorry for ourselves, we need to move forward and change it to a positive as soon as possible.”
Leno, who joined the club from Bayer Leverkusen in 2018, is contracted to Arsenal until the summer of 2023.
‘People see footballers as machines’
Leno, who has previously been outspoken about his experiences with social media abuse, says he is a supporter of Mental Health Awareness Week, which runs from May 10-16, and the important work that is done with the campaign.
Leno stressed that footballers are not immune from the mental health issues which can affect the wider society and urged players to be open about their mental health.
The German also highlighted the importance of mental health education and advice from clubs for younger players who are at risk of “losing control” due to the increasing pressures which come with being a professional footballer.
“I think it is important that people speak about their feelings, whether it is in their career or their history. Many people in football don’t see the human behind the player. They just see machines that have to always play 100 per cent,” Leno said.
“Sometimes they don’t see players who don’t have confidence, it can be a young or an experienced player. Maybe with all these campaigns, people can show more humility towards footballers, because everyone can have these bad experiences.
“The problem is getting worse, it worries me a little bit. Especially the young players, they do well and get the hype and when everything is bad, they are struggling. They lose control and maybe sometimes they lose control of their lives. This is not the right way. It is good that clubs are taking control of these things. Football is not everything.
“The Premier League and the clubs see that there is more behind the business of football, we all have to learn. In all parts of life, on social media, no one is showing their problems. It is sad that people cannot be open.”