Arsene Wenger admits it was 'painful' to see Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri leave Arsenal in the summer, but insists he is happy with the signings he made before the transfer window closed.
The Gunners saw former captain Fabregas join boyhood club Barcelona and Nasri head to Premier League rivals Manchester City as the heart of Wenger's midfield was ripped out.
With Jack Wilshere and Abou Diaby struggling with injury, Wenger has been without his first choice midfield from last season for much of the current campaign, while he brought in the likes of Yossi Benayoun and Mikel Arteta to boost his options.
Having helped Fabregas and Nasri to flourish, Wenger was hurt to see the duo move on before they had reached their peak, but is satisfied with how he has responded to the setbacks.
"Was last season the worst of my 15 here?" Yes, probably," Wenger told L'Equipe magazine in an interview conducted a couple of weeks ago.
"What is difficult is the feeling that something is finishing. You have a project with boys you signed as 18-year-olds and who left as 23-year-olds. That is not what you dreamt of.
"Added to the players who left, we had injuries. It is very simple, last season our midfield was built around Wilshere, Nasri, Diaby and Fabregas. Now Diaby and Wilshere have been injured for a long time, and Nasri and Fabregas left.
"For the very first time since I have been at Arsenal, it was young players who are reaching the height of their powers who left.
"I suffered with that, because it is painful to part with key players in whom you have invested a lot, it is painful that the results were not equal to expectations."
The Arsenal boss continued: "I know my summer reinforcements have been criticised, but I believe we succeeded beyond expectations.
"I am happy with Gervinho, Mertesacker, Santos, Park, Benayoun and Arteta.
"I must admit not everything has been planned. Above all, what was not planned is the long-term injury to Wilshere and the surgery for Vermaelen.
"It was not forecasted to suffer an 8-2 defeat at Manchester United, and Gibbs to be injured.
"In such a situation you are forced to react quickly and adapt. I bought five players in three days and I am happy with them."