When you look at the mega football clubs like Manchester City and PSG and Real Madrid, they have unlimited money to spend on players and resources, but when you also consider how much money is now being shared, even among the smaller clubs, through the investment of billions on broadcasting rights, it is easy to forget what the game used to be like.
Arsene Wenger feels that the most important thing about the beautiful game should be the values that the club can share with the millions of Arsenal supporters, and he believes that he has earned the respect for the way he has kept that philosophy through his 22 years at Arsenal. “I’m very thankful for that – that I have some respect in the game! I think that despite all that, football, the modern game has gone to money.
“But football for me is first about values so if I can leave behind me that fact that it’s as well that. Maybe, somewhere, people who respect a little bit that Arsenal is about winning or losing of course, it’s vital – but it’s also about what’s important in the game, what is important in football. My regret personally is that, today, that has completely gone underwater. We don’t speak about that at all now. It’s all about only the side of the game that’s important but is not essential.”
He was also asked if he felt the full force of fan’s feelings against him personally when Arsenal are going through a bad patch, and he said: “Honestly I can take a distance with that because it’s not the person they hate, they hate the manager who doesn’t deliver performance. I can make the difference but I’m just unhappy that we lose games. I want to win. My whole life is guided towards that. I want to win with style, so it’s very ambitious and when we don’t do it I suffer like everyone else. But what is taken into account is Arsenal today is 30 million people – it’s not the suffering of one person. You want to make 30 million people happy and that’s what you care about.
“I have people around me – people should not think that Arsenal Football Club is just me – I have a huge staff around me. The difference between when I arrived and today is that I now have a staff around me of maybe 20 people who I talk with, I ask their opinion and after I make the decision of course. But I’m surrounded by very talented people who dedicate their life to Arsenal Football Club. But, at the end of the day, I have to stand up for what is important for the club and that means the results and the way we play football.”
So does he still take it personally when the Gunners lose? As that is the most important thing for Arsenal fans everywhere around the world, and he admits it takes a toll on him as well. “Difficult because I want to do well for the club. I want to do well for the fans and want them to go home happy and when I can’t give them that satisfaction I’m unhappy of course. First of all, I dedicated my whole life to winning football matches so when I lose I’m in disastrous shape.”
So does all the pressure get to him so much that he can’t sleep? “Every manager will tell you that. When you don’t get the results, the first thing affected is the mood and the lack of sleep and the desire to find solutions. Overall it’s part of the job. When you’re a young manager, you dream of taking a job and winning every game but it’s not that. It is about surviving through disappointments, finding solutions and that’s interesting as well because it can make you a better manager to face a crisis.”
So in reality perhaps Arsene is the right man to get Arsenal out of a crisis, like he did in Milan on Thursday, taking us out of an incredible four-game losing streak. Will his experience be the difference between falling further into the mire, and will his values carry on sustaining the club when the going gets tough?