Footballistically speaking: Wenger’s addiction

I am addicted to mornings.

It’s the time of day when the earth is just still. Or at the most, barely moving, sort of just stirring. You can hear the wind over the sound of humans.

Every morning I take my dog for a walk through my neighborhood and out to my local pond. Most mornings I don’t see another soul. I do see woodpeckers, crows, ducks, and squirrels. Every squirrel is a big event for Pork Chop and every day she remembers exactly where she saw every squirrel she’s ever seen and we have to stop for a second while she looks for the squirrel again. Some chemical is released in her brain, something powerful, that marks each spot and as we near each spot, I think that same chemical is released again: she gets excited, ready for the hunt.

On these quiet morning walks I don’t hear Harleys farting out their loathsome exhaust – the mating call of the middle-class white male. I do hear bushtits peeping as they flit among the trees and hummingbirds screeching at me when I get too close to their nests.

This morning there was a great black and blue Steller’s Jay, male, with his mohawk bristling, a ripe hazelnut in his beak. He stared at me, I could see his little brown eye, I called to Pork Chop to stop and look at the Jay. She just looked at me. A bullfrog croaked. He flew off to his nest to bring the morsel to his beloved.

There were a lot of people today. A couple that were walking and listening to Mexican music on their phone. An older man and his little dog. A lady who was sitting on a bench. And a woman ran past me, she was playing Wham! “Wake me up (before you go go)”. She was athletic, her pants said “fierce” on the back. She said good morning to me and I swear I could hear the endorphins in her voice, she sounded so happy. They all said good morning. It’s what we do on our morning walks. We are just human to each other.

There’s always the end of the walk though. I walk back through my neighborhood. There’s the man who sleeps rough every night. He sleeps sitting up on a park bench, presumably so that if the cops come and ask him to leave, he can just say he accidentally fell asleep.

And there are the car campers. Everywhere in my town we have car campers now. There’s a UHAUL storage facility next to my house and in that parking lot there are always 20+ dilapidated cars with people sleeping in them. A combination of rising housing prices – my assessed value came in the mail yesterday, my property value went up 32% in one year – thanks to the trickle-down effect of Amazon and the tech boom in Seattle and a heroin/Oxy epidemic that’s hitting hard in the States is causing havoc.

Everywhere I go now there are young people, their arms scabby, asking for money. Two days ago, I saw a young woman passed out on the street. Yesterday a junkie on the nod, doing that amazing thing they do where they are somehow simultaneously falling over and standing up. He was holding a sign asking for money.

I have no hatred for people who have become addicted to heroin or meth, I have an addictive personality. I smoked cigarettes my entire life and I’m an alcoholic, I don’t hate them. I don’t hate myself. I have deep empathy for what they are going through.

I wonder if we aren’t all addicts. My ex didn’t like me drinking. She was right. Me and drinking is like Mario Balotelli and fireworks in a bathroom: stupid, explosive, and sooner or later someone is going to get hurt.

I used alcohol to obliviate my problems but to paraphrase King Buzzo of the Melvins: there isn’t a single problem in the world that can’t be made worse with a fifth of whiskey. If Whiskey solved any problems, they’d market it as “problem solving whiskey.” I have been learning to face my problems head on, or at least at some kind of oblique angle rather than searching for the solution in my dreams.

She was an addict too. Instagram. Sugar. Basically, if you’re hiding something, canceling plans to do this thing that you have to hide, you might want to talk to someone. Or maybe not. Maybe I’m wrong. It’s happened before.

But now instead of booze, I’m addicted to Twitter. I try to get up every morning at 0430 and lately I have been rolling over, grabbing the phone, and turning on twitter. I need those little red dots that tell me I got a mention. Imagine that: a 47 year old man whose brain is paying out in chemicals for little red dots.

These things are just different delivery systems for four drugs that your brains produce: serotonin, endorphins,  oxytocin and dopamine. Those are the four drugs that rule you. Maybe not you, because you’re special, but they rule me.

Even Arsene Wenger is an addict. He said so himself in an incredible and wide-ranging interview with RTL. A lot of people joke around about Wenger being a football addict but seen from a slightly different perspective, it’s actually not funny at all. He is an addict and like any addict there have been negative consequences, regrets.

“Yes.” he said when asked about his love of watching football “No furniture at home just videos. I did my genotype exam and they told me I had the addictive gene. I just used it entirely in my professional life, it could have been used on something less beneficial for me.”

Addicts will always tell you what they are addicted to and he mentions in an offhand way, when talking about whether he would ever manage the French national team that he doesn’t really want to, because they don’t play often enough. “My drug is the next match, so…” he trails off. He could win the World Cup with this national side but listen to what he says, that’s not what he wants. Ten games a year isn’t enough, he needs 50. He wants more hits.

Wenger also seems like he is at a crossroads. Cut loose from Arsenal, which he said he regretted staying too long, he is mulling over his prospects. But I don’t know if he’s ready to dive back into the world of football management. He expresses a deep regret for the harm that his addiction caused others, especially his family.

“I regret having sacrificed everything I did because I realise I’ve hurt a lot of people around me. I’ve neglected a lot of people. I’ve neglected my family, I’ve neglected many close ones. Deep down though, the obsessed man is selfish in his pursuit of what he loves. He ignores a lot of other things. But it’s a bone to chase at the same time.”

His addiction harmed himself and the others around him, the people he loves, his wife, his daughter. And ultimately that is the problem with addiction. It’s selfish. If love is selflessness and addiction is selfishness it seems like it’s awfully hard for an addict to actually love.

But still, Wenger’s addiction is complicated. It gave us the Invincibles but it also held on too long at the end and gave us last season’s team. He wasn’t a drunk, smashing his way through life like a car with no driver, he was very deliberate and conscious about his addiction. He channeled it into making something extraordinary. Something that is so beautiful it will probably never be bested.

There’s a phrase that drunks sometimes utter “you owe yourself a drink”. They say it if they do something they feel deserves a reward. Drinking is the reward for doing your job. Drinking is the reward for not drinking. Whatever excuse, drinking is the reward.

Wenger hung on to Arsenal too long. When asked what his biggest ever mistake was he admits, “perhaps staying at the same club for 22 years.” I wonder if toward the end there he felt he “owed himself” the gift of those last 5 years at Arsenal. I don’t begrudge him his tipple at the end. I completely understand it.

Wenger is an extraordinary man. Few people are as introspective and honest as he is and even fewer people can channel their demons into making football into art the way that he did. For that and so much more, I will always love Arsene Wenger and wish him the best going forward.

Merci, Arsene.



  1. Great post. Doing what I do, I have met and worked with all kinds of musicians and artists, big names and not so big names.

    We all have one thing in common. Some call it dedication, others single-minded purpose but the essence of the common pursuit of music at the level I’m talking about is just as you’ve written. It’s an obsession, driven by the incapacity to do anything else. It’s one of the reasons I love Wenger. He stayed too long because he’s an artist at heart with no other outlet to express himself.

    1. You’re a studio musician (guitarist), correct? My shameless curiosity wants you to drop some names here in terms of who you’ve done work for. Come on! Brag a little! 😀

      1. Bunburyist, for one. He was big in Toronto but never quite managed to kick on internationally. I hear he’s continuing a stellar indie career somewhere in the northwest US, much admired among his fan base. Heused to kill it at El Mocambo back in the day.

  2. The thing that stood out the most for me when I read that interview was that he thought staying at the same club for 22 mistake was his greatest mistake. Everything else was more or less in line in what I would expect from him, given what I know of him.. but this didn’t fit in with what I know of him. I would have thought that given the chance to do it all over, he would spend another 22 years at Arsenal. It made me think that perhaps he regrets not taking those offers from PSG or Madrid that were rumored to have been made while he was with us. It made me curious when exactly does he think he should have left? Was it right after the move to the Emirates? 5 years ago? 2 years ago? Maybe he wanted to leave but was convinced to stay by someone else? Or maybe he NOW thinks he should have left earlier, after he has had a chance to look back, but all these years he really thought he was doing the right thing for both the club and himself? It raises a lot of questions in my mind.

    1. A lot of have asked those questions. I hope it’s in his autobiography (he should write it himself – he’s more than capable of it).

      I wish him well, I miss complaining about him, I miss being amazed by his interviews but I am so happy we have for better or worse, finally turned the page and moved on.

  3. “Wenger is an extraordinary man. Few people are as introspective and honest as he is ….”

    I can think of someone else who fits that bill.
    Great piece of writing ,Tim.

          1. Obviously, NYC 🤥

            You know, one of the reasons I support Arsenal, and I suspect many others here do too, is our values. It’s difficult to pit into words what that is, and Im not even going to try. But Arsene was the perfect fit. Emery, with his thoughtfulness and philosophy, seems to as well.

            I could never see us with a Mourinho, no matter how many trophies he has won.

  4. Dang it! I was all set to leave some flippant remark about loving mornings when leaving the pub at 10am, and then you went and wrote something stirring, thoughtful, and beautiful. Curses!

  5. Fantastic read, Tim. It’s always kind of amazed me how often great art comes from a place of brokenness, addiction, or loss. I’ve been re-listening to Jimi Hendrix lately in thinking nostalgically about what got me into playing guitar when I was a teenager, and man, that guy made the guitar SING… Still gives me goosebumps after all these years.

    I’ve also been re-reading “Paradise Lost” this summer (with a Hendrix soundtrack!), and Milton’s loss of sight, the deaths of a wife and child, and the failure of his political and vocational ambitions, are all woven into the story of humanity’s ultimate loss, one whose hoped eventual redemption is figured in the beauty of the poetry that redeems language itself. At least, that was Milton’s view, and whatever you think of his theism and theology, he certainly seemed to succeed at the level of poetry, which at times makes you close your eyes and hold everything in suspension for a moment.

    And Wenger, yes, his addiction created the Invincibles and beautiful football, and it also led to the breakdown of his marriage, and his blindness to certain things in recent years. Wenger’s appeal to me has always been his art, his humanity, and that each informs the other. I wish him all the best, always.

    1. Did you see that Wenger loves Bob Marley?

      “I love Bob Marley. He’s pure class, in a chill kind of way.”

      I never pegged him for a trustafarian!

      1. Wenger has talked about his love of Bob Marley before! Apparently that’s what he listens to on his drives into training. From a 2015 interview with Le Parisien:

        “Yes, I love his music and the man that he was. He was not fabricated. He was real. I love people who do not have conventional paths and who stand out because of their talent.”

        1. Hate to spoil this, because I love Wenger and I love Marley, but was the latter really ‘not fabricated’? I seem to remember reading otherwise.

          1. Zed, I get your point and it’s a good one. Very few people know about the early part of his career navigating the music industry grinder before becoming “Bob Marley”.

  6. Trustafarian. Ha! Somehow, though, I don’t remember him ever growing dreadlocks, but if you could photoshop a Wenger with gray dreads, striped tam, and a Lion of Judah tank top, I’d be eternally grateful.

    1. Google Rasta Wenger images. There’s a couple, and they could use some improvement, but still…

  7. Just got off the phone with a dear friend struggling with alcoholism – separated from his wife and family. Your writing is eloquent and touching. Merci, Tim.

    Yes, clearly Arsene nostalgia is already setting in for me. I got wistful hearing him say Ozil played a little bit with the handbrake on during the world cup. The world will not be right without my regular dose of Wengerisms.

    You get the sense AW was trapped by not just by his addiction, but by the proverbial prison of his own making. He was so involved in every aspect of Arsenal, from the players to the stadium to the staff, etc. that he couldn’t separate himself from it. I hope he finds another outlet for his passion/addiction. And finds peace with himself and those he loves.

  8. Nicely said, Tim. Wenger talks frankly about his addiction to football, but as a human being, he’s very rounded. That’s why gooners have a deep and lasting love of him. His liking of Marley doesn’t surprise me.

    I go back to this, with him and Per, now and again.

    Shows his soul. One of a kind.

    1. I enjoyed that way too much. Thanks for sharing, Claude.

      His response to “Guinea Pig” had me in stitches. What a great guy.

        1. Wait, he was asked who he’d play in a movie and said… Zorro??

          Can’t believe I’ve never seen this.

    2. AW: Who was your celebrity crush growing up
      PM: Anna Kournakova. You know her?
      AW: Yeah, I know her
      PM: She was pretty
      AW (with that pure Wengerian twinkle): She still is.


  9. Of course we are all addicts!

    There was a lovely podcast I was listening to about this the other day. Any behaviour that we do out of compulsion triggered by a certain situation rather than actual desire to do that thing is an addiction. So, by that definition, I am a 7amkickoff addict. I can change that addiction by refusing the compulsion to check the blog every time I am on my computer. I can change that context by being on my computer less often, which is its own addiction. I can be on the computer less often by finding other habits to occupy my time.

    Addictions are so tough. Having said that, I also think we live in a society where the pendulum has swung too far to the side of not holding people accountable for the things that they are doing to themselves. Most ordinary people still get it that at the end of the day they are the ones picking up the needle or joystick or scratch ticket, but there is a growing trend to chastise healthcare providers who are asking these patients to have more agency over their own troubles instead of simply blaming their surroundings. Each case is unique and everyone is a victim in some sense, but that doesn’t mean you’ve lost all control over your ability to change your context and come to grips with your addiction. We should be compassionate, we should provide way more support than is currently generally given, and I am a huge fan of things like needle exchange, narcan kits and the rest of it, but at the end of the day the patient is the only one with the power to act in a definitive way.

    1. The power dynamic with addiction is fascinating to me. In AA you are told to give yourself over to a higher power, that you are powerless over alcohol. And yet, if you were truly powerless you couldn’t even make the decision to go to AA or to give away your power. I think it’s slightly more complicated than and others make it: you’re not 100% powerless but at the same time we aren’t taught to recognize triggers and learn strategies to overcome our addictions so it actually feels like powerlessness.

  10. As someone with an addictive personality this columns rang some loud bells. It has been destructive but I’ve also channeled it into the creative side of my work and done things I never thought I’d be able to do.

    The point about serotonin, endorphins, oxytocin and dopamine ruling us is so true. Apart from football and social media, another delivery system for two of those (serotonin and dopamine) is ecstasy or MDMA. Which explains why even Tibetan Buddhists have used what’s thought of as a “party drug” in aiding their meditation rituals.

    I sympathise with Wenger, but I’m not as generous as Tim; I do begrudge him staying too long. It’s actually galling to hear him admit what some of us were viciously attacked for saying over the last 6 or 7 years. But then I remember that just as love of football was his own addiction, many Arsenal fans were addicted to Arsene Wenger the man.

    As far as addictions go, that’s not a bad one to have.

    1. “over the last 6 or 7 years”? That’s very harsh. In 2011-12, the Arsenal board still gave Wenger no money in the transfer market. Remember, it’s only in 2013 that the club finally spent a fortune to sign Ozil. For me, it’s when it became obvious that the Ozil-Sanchez project wasn’t working that Wenger should have left. Definitely by the end of the 2016-17 season.

      1. I think for a lot of people the demarcation line for when Wenger should have retired was the season that Fabregas and Nasri left or at least the season after.

        1. Wenger’s comments a few months before those two were sold are still so poignant:

          “Imagine the worst situation, that we lose Fábregas and Nasri; you cannot convince people that you are ambitious after that.”

    2. I’m not sure it’s fair to present things as if a significant portion of the fans that wanted Wenger out weren’t completely and utterly vicious and abusive about it.

      There was plenty of abuse flying around from both sides, which often made having any sort of reasonable or rational discussion or disagreement incredibly difficult.

      1. You’re right mate.

        Social media’s propensity for pushing the extremes of any debate to the front didn’t help, and the nutcases on my side of that argument still owe some apologies for unironically referring to Wenger as a “dictator”.

  11. I only bring it up again because I think it’s important. Please go to DemocracyNow on youtube and watch Joe Ciricione and Glenn Greenwald’s 2 part discussion. My position on the whole US-Russia issue is basically what Greenwald is saying. And that’s the last I’ll say on that.

    1. Funny you should mention that discussion. I watched it only last night. What part of what GG said are you citing in support of your argument?

      Glenn is a problematic intellectual witness, because he argues much like you do. Which is that because the US has been a bad actor in the past, we shouldn’t be questioning Putin on his actions today. Hypocrisy is an argument in itself, but it not a rebuttal against a set of facts.

      Let me say this too. Glenn has done a U-turn on everything he’s ever stood for over the years. So why has he done a pivot on Trump? Join the dots. Glenn has a close association with Snowden, Guccifer II, and most of all, Julian Assange, who was rumbled talking to Donald Trump Junior.

      1. Greenwald and The Intercept are vocal critics of Trump. They’re also vocal critics of Russia. But they’re ALSO vocal critics of the intelligence community and the – I had this phrase, but so be it – military-industrial complex. Sometimes the fact that they don’t focus on the issues in the headlines makes it look like they’re skirting them. I have certain issues with Greenwald – he’s arrogant and abrasive, and unnecessarily so – but I don’t think he’s a hypocrite or has a blind spot towards Russia.

        Also, what has he done a U-turn on in the past?

        He has an association with Snowden and Guccifer because of the leaks (although I don’t know much about the latter and clearly those leaks seem to be state-sponsored). The Intercept did an Interview with Assange where he came across as unhinged, and was definitely critically examined (that was an Intercepted podcast about a year ago).

        A lot of people hate Greenwald because he is vicious towards both the right and the left. He directs a lot of it towards the center-left and the US for the same reason Chomsky does – he calls out the hypocrisy of the side he is closest to. I think that is fair and reasonable – and also essential.

  12. This is one of your best articles, Tim. The connection with Pork Chop’s brain, our addictions and Wenger was brilliant.

    Do people playing music without their headphones on your morning walks not bother you? It annoys me because it breaks the quiet, which is so rare these days.

    1. I can’t let everything bother me Shard, or I’d be hitting the bottle 24/7.

      Still, yes, it drives me bonkers. But the woman playing Wham! was just so, happy, that it took me out of my angry fugue state.

      Maybe I should write them all out here, all the things that bother me, as a form of therapy. To let them go!

  13. I know it was a translation, but I never thought Wenger would use the word ‘chill’ like that.

  14. Great work mate. But, we miss the point. The addiction is not self-standing. It is different to addiction to alcohol or drugs or Twitter. This addiction is just a facet of his genius. There can be no genius without an addictive component to a person’s personality. Genius really is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. Only the addicted can attain 99% perspiration. As you said this genius/addiction gives us the Invincibles. The same addiction gives Ronaldo his ability and appearance at his age. He is addicted to being the best but this is just a facet of his genius. Einstein/Galileo/Darwin all addicted to their cause but just a necessary facet of their genius on a grander scale.

    1. I think Ronaldo’s appearance is down to an addiction all right.

      But the larger point here is that addiction is only a problem when it causes harm. Wenger’s addiction to football is haunting. He has no furniture. He lost his wife. He lost his child. And then he lost Arsenal. And he knows it. He knows his addiction has hurt these people around him and even stunted him as a human. He know it. He tells us.

      And you know what? I think he also tells us his rock bottom: coaching a national team. I don’t think he’s there yet. I think he’s going to take over a “project” and when they let him go (in a few years) he will be left with either retiring or coaching a national side.

    2. “Genius really is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”

      This is not even remotely true.

      However, the following quote attributed to Calvin Coolidge (and other authors) is probably closer to what you have in mind (Although, I have qualms with this perspective as well – he was elected president which is more than I have ever done):

      “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

  15. Okay I understand. The addictive component of his genius/personality..potentially causing harm..

  16. Hey Tim

    Being reading your articles a long time now but this is my first comment , can relate to the addiction part perfectly , thank you for putting it perfectly , nice 👍

  17. Great comments on addiction.

    It’s slow progress but at least more people are starting to recognise addicts as people who need help as opposed to seeing them as just criminals.

    I do the same thing with drinking myself.
    ‘Hey Jeremy, you’ve been really good and really cut down on the old alcohol intake…….well done have a drink!’

  18. Tim, mate, I will pay to read just about anything you write. Your prose development, the twists, turns, and callbacks, is truly a privilege to witness. Not bad, for an old Army guy…not bad at all.

    Keep it up.

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