December 4, 2022

Arsene Wenger Q&A: Arsenal boss on his 20 years in charge and what the future holds for Gunners

September 22, 2016

The Frenchman has been at the helm for two decades, winning three Premier League titles and six FA Cups during his time in north London.

Arsene Wenger celebrates 20 years in charge at Arsenal on October 1.

The Frenchman has helped the Gunners win three Premier League titles, six FA Cups and the same number of Community Shields during his time at the helm in north London.

Wenger also led Arsenal to the Champions League final in 2006, suffering a heartbreaking loss to Barcelona.

In a fascinating Q&A with BeIN Sports, Wenger reveals how his job has changed, moving to the Emirates and the pressure.

How does it feel to be in charge of Arsenal for 20 years?
It is very difficult to express. The time has gone ‘like that’. I do a job where the future is the most important. The next game is always the most important so you never look behind you. Today I look like a dinosaur, who has stayed at Arsenal for such a long time, but for me I just take it game after game and the time has flown by.

I have managed over 1,000 games for Arsenal and someone told me after the Watford match that I had won my 650th match for the club. I have been committed and tried to be competent and brave — you need that [quality] in this job. I have tried to be loyal and move the club forwards.

I think Arsenal is a club that needs to be respected and that is why I have been able to stay here for this long. The club during the good and bad times kept faith in me and I have given myself to them. I have been completely committed and loyal for the 20 years and turned many offers down during this time.

How has the club changed?
When I arrived we had 80 people. Today we are 600. We have become a modern company with HR and a well organised hiercachy. I don’t know everybody anymore. When I arrived you could greet everyone every day. We had no training ground back then either, just a university pitch and we got kicked out on Wednesday at 12 due to student games. Things have changed. Back then we were a traditional old-fashioned organisation, now we are a modern one.

Will another top manager ever stay at one club for 20 years?
I can imagine another manager staying for 20 years, but it is very unlikely. Football is changing very quickly. Society has changed and people are now very demanding. People are more opinionated and want to be more involved in the current affairs of a club.

They want to decide much more. But there’s nothng more dangerous than superficial knowledge and inside a club now you need to be stronger than ever and not make stupid decisions. You have to respect a club’s guidelines and have strong personalities inside.

Are you aware of your critics?
I hear my critics, of course. I believe when you have been at a club for a long time it would be very dangerous not to listen to critics at all. You have to take a step back, look at things from a distance and analyse things objectively.

Perspective is so important. Sometimes the critics are right and you have to try and analyse what is wrong. But the thing about modern society is out of 100 people 95 don’t criticise and five do and only the five are heard. The media give importance to them. I just try and do my job as well as I can with full commitment. I can look in the mirror after and say I have done my best.

What will happen when you leave?
There will be no financial scandal when I leave. The club is on a good footing. It has good players and a strong team. The club has moved forwards a lot during my time and hopefully the next manager can come in and do even better than I did — that’s all I wish.

Of those 650 wins what stands out?
The first time I won the championship against Everton at Highbury will remain in my mind. Some victories are sweeter than others, but overall a good weekend is when you play at three o’clock on a Saturday, win your game and then go home and watch the rest of the football.

That is the ideal weekend. A miserable weekend is playing first, losing and then watching everyone else win. That is absolutely terrible.

What is the Arsenal culture?
When I go to the games I always see people wearing Arsenal shirts and I try to imagine what the story is behind them and what links them to the club. I see the red and white shirts and I wonder what the emotional connection is [of the fans with the club].

Did they go to the first game via their father or grandfather? Then the fear comes in, that I might let these people down. They are my family. The longer I stay the greater the fear of disappointing people becomes.

There’s something magical about the club. People come together and support the team, basically for the purpose of being happy and my job is to make them so. I believe the human being today is still at the centre of the values of Arsenal football club. I have tried very hard to maintain that.

How did moving from Highbury to the Emirates Stadium change the club?
I believe that this move helped the club move forwards without damaging the club’s tradition. There is nothing bigger than Highbury. It is the soul of the club. When I go to the Emirates I often pass in front of Highbury because I want to feel it’s power. It was a very old-fashioned staidum but it had something special and is part of the history of the club.

The Emirates marks a modern era. There are some regrets about the move, though. For instance, the distance between the first row of supporters and the pitch [at the Emirates] is bigger for security reasons, but we have to respect that. But it is more comfortable and modern.

I was very much involved [in the move]. I probably had 50 or 100 meetings relating to all the detail. I was in the first ever photo in the stands of the Emirates and when it was taken lorries were still delivering rubbish behind me. The site was still the home of Islington’s rubbish centre. The lorries were driving behind me when the photo was being taken. They would park up exactly where the centre circle now is.

We started [building the Emirates] with a budget of 250 million. That was all we could affort. It was a nightmare of my life for years, because we finished spending something like 428 million and the board said just keep going. I was looking at them and thought they are either super brave or completely mad. I had huge pressure on me in the first years at the Emirates. We needed 55,000 gates and Champions League football in order to make the money back.

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