Arsenal’s French manager Arsene Wenger / AFP PHOTO / Justin TALLIS /
Arsene Wenger came out swinging aware that all eyes were on him during one of his most memorable press conferences because it signalled the beginning of the end for one of the managerial greats.
Wenger knows the end is close after 20 years at Arsenal but he delivered a masterclass in front of the cameras to prove the old magic is there despite the bad results.
There was a reminder that the grass is not always greener, a history lesson on Arsenal’s European record and a warning for the club’s future.
Wenger, 67, was in a defiant mood, reminding the dissenting voices among the fed-up supporters that changing the manager will not necessarily guarantee success.
You could not escape the feeling that Wenger would deny he was leaving if it was not in his mind. Instead, Wenger set out to remind a few people that he has gone a long way to making the club what it is today.
Wenger said: “Even if I go, Arsenal will not win every single game in the future, that is part of it, you have to accept that as much as it hurts to lose games.
“If you look at the history of Arsenal, Arsenal had less Champions League games when I arrived than I had in my career already, and since then we have done a few, so I hope in the future we can win this trophy, or Arsenal can win this trophy.
“But it is not like I arrived when Arsenal had already won the European Cup five times – they had never won the European Cup. They played maybe 10 games in the history of the club so you have to take some perspective on some of the demands.
“In the last 20 years in Europe only three clubs have managed to play every year in the Champions League. Arsenal, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid and nobody else. That means if everything is not perfect, not all is wrong. We have to accept that.
“It will be difficult this year because it is a fight at the top level where we have to focus on what is really important now, which is the quality of our performances and the quality of our games.”
The inquest and judgments after Arsenal’s thrashing in Munich have been brutal as the manner of the defeat and suggest that Wenger is further away than ever from turning the club back into genuine European contenders.
Wenger said: “I am used to it. I have been here for 20 years and I think in life it is important that you do what you think is right. All the rest of it is judgment and I am in a public job and I have to accept that.“I have to behave with my values and with the way that I see my job and accept that everybody can have an opinion on it.”