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10th Nov 2015

Arsene Wenger gets philosophical in interview with L’Équipe

"If you ask me where my last FA Cup medal is, I don't know"

Kevin Beirne

Arsene Wenger was the talk of social media last week when he apparently launched a new modelling career.

The 66-year-old posed for some pensive pics during an interview with French magazine L’Équipe following Arsenal’s up and down start to the season.

The Gunners’ boss was in a philosophical mood as he gave readers a fascinating insight into the mind of the man who has led the charge at Arsenal for almost two decades.

Although the interview was conducted in French, Arseblog have helpfully translated it for Anglophiles. Here are the bits that stood out to us:

On staying at Arsenal…

“I haven’t decided yet. One thing is for sure; my link to Arsenal will remain until the end of my days. I’ve had opportunities that I’ve always refused. I don’t see myself as a manager anywhere else.

“I completely ignore that question [of retirement]. I’m kind of like the 34-year-old guy who’s still playing. He has a bad game and everybody says ‘Time to hang them up mate!’ I don’t even ask myself the question of what I will do after because it will be a big shock. Much harder than switching from player to coach.

“Because this time, it will be about switching from hyperactivity to emptiness. That’s why I refuse to consider that question. I’m like a guy who’s not far from his goal, who keeps going and ignores the wall.”

On why he avoids the media…

“Do you know someone who wakes up in the morning and says: ‘Hey, I’d like to get fifty whiplashes’?”

Manchester City v Arsenal - Premier League

On his relationship with time…

“I always live in the future. It’s planned. Tight. My relationship with time is filled with anxiety. I’m always fighting against it. That’s why I ignore what’s in the past.

“The only possible moment of happiness is the present. The past gives you regrets. And the future uncertainties. Man understood this very fast and created religion.

“It absolves you of what you’ve done wrong in the past and tells him not to worry about the future, because he’ll go to paradise. It means make the most of the present. Man ‘self psychoanalysed’ himself very quickly through faith.”

On looking back at his success…

“If you come to my place, you could never guess I’m a football manager. If you ask me where my last FA Cup medal is, I don’t know. I think I gave it to the team doctor or the kit man.

“I give myself credit for one thing: I always treated Arsenal as if it belonged to me. I’ve been criticised for it. Because I don’t spend enough. I’m not carefree enough. I give myself credit for having the courage to apply my ideas and to fight for them.

“I can understand that people don’t agree. My great pride will be, the day I leave, that I’m leaving a good squad, a healthy situation and a club capable of performing in the future. I could have thought: I’m here for four or five years, we win everything, I leave and leave the club on the verge of bankruptcy.

“For me, consistency at the highest level is the true sign of a great club. Real Madrid didn’t win the title for 21 years before Di Stefano’s arrival in 1953, after all.

On getting the best out of players…

“I am only a guide. I enable others to express what they have within them. I didn’t create anything. I am a facilitator of what is beautiful in man. I define myself as an optimist.

“My never ending struggle in this business is to release what is beautiful in man. I can be described as naïve in that sense. But it allows me to believe, and I am often proven right.

“Sometimes, I can’t generate the best that man has in him. It gives me the opportunity to analyse where I’ve failed… I don’t deny that I’m first and foremost an educator… I try to be faithful to the values that I believe to be important in life and to pass them on to others.

“You and me have been lucky enough to meet people who believed in us and led us forward. The streets are full of talented people but who didn’t have the luck of finding someone who placed their faith in them. I can be the one that facilitates life, that give an opportunity.”

Patrick Vieira, Robert Pires, Thierry Henry

On playing fair…

“I haven’t always been fair play. In each and every one of use there is the desire to win and hatred for defeat. It was very difficult for me to be fair play because of my aversion for defeat. Speaking of which, I still am the only manager to have won the league without losing a single game.

“But the English have something more when it comes to fair play. Look at the rugby team, knocked out in the group stages at home and they clapped the Australians off the field. That deserves respect! You know how much they suffer. How they are humiliated. It’s good for the image of sport.

“What I enjoyed about sumo in Japan is that at the end of the fight, the winner never celebrates so as to not humiliate the loser. I’ve greatly suffered in defeat. When I see the behaviour and the excesses in some countries, I think the values the Japanese culture conveys or the English sense of values are remarkable.”

On performance enhancing drugs and cheating…

“In thirty years as a manager, I’ve never had my players injected to make them better. I never gave them any product that would help enhance their performance. I’m proud of that. I’ve played against many teams that weren’t in that frame of mind.

“For me, the beauty of sport is that everyone wants to win, but there will only be one winner. If you put 20 billionaires at the end of the twenty English clubs, there will only be one champion and nineteen disappointments. My grandfather used to say ‘I don’t understand, at the 100 metres, one runs in 10.1 seconds and the other one in 10.2 seconds, both are very fast. What’s the point?’

“Today, we glorify the one that ran in 10.1 seconds, and say the one that ran 10.2 seconds. But both of them are very fast. That’s dangerous for sports. We have reached an era in which we glorify the winner, without looking at the means or the method.

“And ten years later we realise the guy was a cheat. And during that time, the one that came second suffered. He didn’t get recognition. And with all that’s been said about them…they can be very unhappy.”

 On his undying love of football…

“Sometimes, when I was 24-25 years old I thought: shit if I can’t play football anymore I’ll commit suicide! I was thinking: what is the point of life after it? Seriously. I tried for a long time to understand how you could be that stupid.”

Arsenal v Hull City - FA Cup Final