Footballistically Speaking – Arsène Wenger: “To be passionate, it’s a selfish job “

(This interview is by Jean-Marc RAFFAELLI for Corse Matin, the Corsican newspaper. It has been translated by Google translate and edited by me, Tim. It is reproduced here with permission of the author.)

After announcing, in the spring, his departure from Arsenal where he spent twenty-two seasons with an exceptional record, including three Premier League titles, Arsene Wenger is recovering in Corsica.

The place, the beach of La Roya in Saint-Florent, is isolated but the phone still rings with proposals that the Alsatian coach receives every day, one of the most recent from the Girondins de Bordeaux.

But the old Gunner put a muffler at the end of his gun …

Four months after your departure from Arsenal, you are still in decompression?
Yes, we can even call it a rehab since it’s the first time, in thirty-five years, that I do not start the championship. That said, it is easier to do the cure in Corsica than anywhere else.

After a life so intense, this truce you live it on the moral plane?
Yes, very good, even better than I thought. When you have been as busy as I have been, you always fear a little emptiness. But I quickly organized myself in this new stage of my life, I do a lot of sport, I eat a lot here with my friends, I talk a lot too, I can spend hours looking at the horizon, I read all days, right now a book by Philip Roth, I married a communist.

How did you experience the World Cup?
I did all the World Cup as a consultant for beIN, and five times the round trip between Paris and Moscow. Before the competition, we were made to fear the worst, we were a little like a person who, when crossing the threshold of the cinema, is told that he is about to see a bad movie. And then, everyone was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the organization and reception, the level of education and culture of Muscovites. As for the competition, unfortunately, the World Cup has become a European Championship with a guest, Brazil. Africa does not have a team that can win, Asia either. The rest of South America is no longer able to compete.

Once Brazil was eliminated, only France remained…
France is perhaps the only team that is on a crescendo. We have seen teams that have started well before their feet dropped from under them, while France has shown steady growth. I also explain the victory by an irreproachable state of mind, but also by the superiority that it displayed in terms of physical power. I had immediately announced that France was a favorite because it offered the best ratio between technical quality and physical power.

When you go back in time, are you proud of your career?
Pride has never been my strong point. Proud, in any case, to have always worked with values ​​that were important to me, respect for people, seriousness, integrity, sense of responsibility. I’m not stupid enough either to think that I have not made mistakes and here we enter the field of some regrets that I have. On the other hand, I have no remorse because I have stayed true to the values ​​that are important in sport, especially in high performance sport.

A bronze statue was erected in your image at the UAE Stadium, it’s still not banal …
I prefer to be alive than a statue, but the idea was benevolent.

Would you have liked to be knighted?
The protocol forbids it. I received the Order of the British Empire, the highest order that can be awarded to a foreigner.

Did you meet the Queen?
Yes, on several occasions, she speaks excellent French. The most memorable meeting for me was in Windsor, where the French government, chaired by Jacques Chirac, was invited to a dinner to seal the Franco-British friendship. I had the feeling of making a trip in history and it was quite moving.

The story for you, this is not the record of longevity as a coach in the Premier League?
It reflects above all the consistency in the effort and the concentration, the fact also that I committed myself thoroughly to this club. Ideally, for me, a coach should have an influence on both individual player improvement, style of play and results, club structure and size. As a general rule, this influence can only be effective through the duration of the presence and the power one can have within the club.

In this volatile environment, duration is the unknown of the equation …
Longevity can also be a form of resistance, but consistency in results is essential.

You were called “The Professor”, is it flattering or does it give lessons?
I have never been a Professor.

Thierry Henry, whom you know very well, was tipped to train the Girondins de Bordeaux, a good idea?
Yes, he wants to do it, he is intelligent and he has the qualities. The existential question that we always ask ourselves is whether we are ready to sacrifice our life for the coaching profession.

Do you feel that you have sacrificed your life?
Yes of course. Being passionate is selfish work. When you are passionate, you steal your time from those whom you love and to whom you could have given much more.

Have you decided on your future?
I decided not to decide. I was intoxicated so long that I made the promise to make no decision until September.

Would you like to radically change direction, for example, archeologist since you like history, or make a career in politics?
For archeology, I’m not stuck enough on the compositions … soil. Politics no more. What I like about coaching is that we have theories, on Saturdays we have to show that they work and the result is immediate. In politics, between theory and proof by demonstration, the time can be much longer …

Yet you have taken a stand in favor of the signing of the charter of minority languages ​​and in Corsica, your place of cure, it is well seen …
That is true. As an individual, I only learned French when I was six years old. Recently, I followed a debate where a neuroscientist explained that learning a second language at a very young age was critical in terms of creativity and flexibility of thinking. He said that the disappearance of regional languages ​​such as Corsican, Alsatian or Occitan, was harmful for the development of the brain of children. Tradition, culture, identity is still a different story.


  1. I found this interview enlightening – Wenger isn’t just relaxing, he’s recovering, like an addict. He speaks in recovery terms as well.

    He’s not just a man eating breakfasts on the beach. He’s a man trying to repair his love, his life, after a lifetime of addiction to football.

    I wonder if he will never coach again.

    1. For his sake I hope not. Stripping any sentimentality for the man out of my assessment, I don’t think he can manage at the top level any longer. Maybe as a caretaker for a few months (Man Utd?), but not for any long term projects where his age, recruitment and tactical vision would come into play.

      1. I bet he would win the title at a club like PSG. Maybe even win the CL. He would have all the experience he needs to organize and play defense and then his greatest strength is turning players loose and creating a system that gives them plenty of chances to shine. Imagine Wenger with Neymar. I think Wenger would win the title at Man U as well.

        1. I wanted him to go to PSG for just this reason, but it seems that it wasn’t something either of the parties looked at this summer. I agree about Wenger with Neymar. A player he said he wanted if he could afford him, many years ago. And then Mbappe who Arsenal were really close to signing (and he’s expressed his admiration for Wenger too)

          I also voted yes on your Twitter poll about ManU. Some doubts about their defense, especially at fullback, but their midfield and forward line is insanely strong and criminally under-utilised by Mourinho.

        2. A) Man Utd has Sanchez. I don’t think Sanchez has much respect for Wenger.
          B) Man Utd has a brutal back line. That is NOT something Wenger knows how to fix
          C) He’d make Pogba, Martial, Lukaku et al happier players, no doubt.

          And sure, even Sam Allardyci could manage PSG to the Ligue Un title, but Champions League? That’s the playground for tacticians and builders of one-off game plans. Zidane, Guardiola, Simeone, Ancelotti, Enrique… Wenger is not in that class. Emery is (in my opinion) an accomplished tactician and even he couldn’t get it done at PSG.

    2. I think he can. Least I hope so. I’d love to see him manage a club that doesn’t have financial shackles. Like Paris St. Germain. Bigger budgets, bigger egos, bigger expectations. But less time and patience. We’d get a complete picture of his measure as a manager.

      1. That would be a betrayal of everything he stands for ( managing a club without financial shackles) unless he chose not to spend the money available to him………. oh wait, that sounds eerily familiar.

  2. It’s nice to be able to appreciate him fully now he’s left.
    He was unique – very intelligent, very articulate, very funny – a manager who transcended football.
    Notwithstanding hisfaults and his blind spots, we were very lucky to have had him for so long and I hope he remains in the game in some capacity.

  3. I wish him the best of happiness outside of coaching, and hope he is able to give back some of the time he stole from those he loves and whom he could have given so much more.

  4. A truly great man. What I won’t give to have a one on one lengthy conversation with Arsene. We were blessed to have him for so long.

  5. I’ve suggested this before, but if I were in charge of the sports development of a nation, I would offer Arsene a long term contract with carte blanche to make any changes in the football structure of the country and develop a system of bringing through talent. It seems like he’s ready for a less intense approach to football.

    However, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him turn up at a big club in crisis at some future date. At worst he’s a stabilising force. At best, given the right tools, he can unleash the previously unlocked belief and potential of a squad towards a great output. Take away the emotional context of his time at Arsenal and I think his stature in world football remains large. He might even be more aggressive in a new environment.

  6. I like Shard’s idea of an ambassadorial role for him, perhaps in a place like Liberia where he’s obviously already had a tremendous impact and he would have so much good will. He could certainly raise the visibility of grassroots programs in an under-served place like that and be part of whatever solutions president Weah proposes.

    Obviously I’ve always been a huge admirer of him. What else can you say but that his has been a life well lived, and that we all have so much we could learn from him? I don’t really care what he does next but I hope it brings him personal fulfillment and some measure of redemption for the sacrifices he made while managing Arsenal.

  7. I would love to see Wenger travel to Asia or Africa and help setup a football structure for a nation or for a club. His wealth of knowledge could be put to good use but it will be asking him too much again to leave the country or people he loves. Whatever you decide Mr. Wenger!

  8. @Dino…It doesn’t even need to be in Africa or Asia. The US or Canada, two countries with football limitations, would benefit from his vision.

  9. Thanks for doing this. Always brilliant, often insightful and sometimes heartbreakingly articulate, Arsene Wenger deserves a life of peace, rest and our eternal gratitude.

    1. And he should never manage again. I hope Arsenal, the club he made his own and brought into the 21st century is his last managerial job.

  10. There’s no chance that Arsene is done with competitive football management. None. If you think so, you really haven’t been paying attention to the guy all these years. The hunger will be rekindled, and the right offer will come along. And he’ll grab it with both hands. Arsene, Bobby Robson and fellows like that eat, sleep, breathe competitive football. He has no interest in building football nurseries in Sierra Leone.

    1. Despite my wishful comments, I agree completely with this. One the characteristics that endeared him to me is that singular obsession for our jobs for better and for worse, that I have in common with him. Was I also as good at what I do as he was doing what he did Not so much.

  11. Impressive from Wolves against City getting a draw.

    Klopp seemed to know what he was doing voting against VAR being introduced to the PL this season.
    That decision just cost City two points today 🙂

    I wonder what other clubs voted against it as well but it’s just so silly at this point.

  12. Interesting starting line-up. No real cover for the defense again, and I worry that West Ham will take advantage of our high line, Xhaka’s lack of pace and concentration, and Ramsey playing as a striker… That said, Ramsey, I’ve felt, always plays better when Ozil’s not in the team. Is that weird?

    1. Having watched the 1st half and then seen this comment, you are a prophet! Although it’s not exactly a revelation that Arsenal would struggle in those ways. Ramsey appears to be playing as the #10 in what would be Mesut’s role, but he is missing from the squad entirely this week for some reason.

      Overall, both teams are vulnerable defensively and playing without much confidence. That it has been even thus far is a slight on the home team and you have to say it hasn’t been good enough in either phase for Arsenal. In possession, cheap losses of possession in central areas harken back to the worst of the defending from last season and exacerbate the issues with a lack of mobility throughout the side, especially defensively. Meanwhile, the defensive unit’s cohesion has consistently allowed good opportunities for West Ham with failed offside traps and the inability to win duels both showing up.

      I do feel if Arsenal score and start to play with confidence they’ll carve this lot up. But right now they are very frail and could easily lose this game. The next goal will be massive.

      1. I misspelled Hearken and obviously didn’t proofread that. Hopefully it still makes sense. More coffee, I think. Or perhaps less.

  13. Classic comedy defending from Mustafi, and of course it’s Arnautovic. Great response from our fullbacks, both of whom (with a great pass from Mkhitaryan) were responsible for the equalizer.

    But overall so far, we’ve been atrocious in attack. Passing behind the run, heavy touches, Alex Hleb Iwobi working his ‘magic’, Guendouzi passing to Fabianski, Ramsey hospital passing to Monreal. It’s kind of surreal. You add that to Mustafi at the back, and you get the feeling West Ham could get a result today.

  14. I thought their goal was good offensive play between Arnautovic and Felipe rather than a defensive lapse. We had plenty of bodies around but they played a really terrific 1-2 in fairness and then I did think Cech was slow to get down to that shot. It’s the strangest thing, he got way more on Arnautovic’s point blank shot (from a marginal offside call) and saved from Snodgrass much closer to goal as well than that daisy cutter from the edge of the D that I think a more spry keeper just about saves.

  15. Ha! Love that Diop of all people scores the own goal after what he did to Aubameyang in the first half.

    1. Yeah, Auba didn’t look like himself after that tackle, I hope he’s OK. We sure made hard work of that win but the second half improvement was encouraging. Lacazette’s ability to knit things together was important and I thought Xhaka looked like a different player with Torreira next to him. It also helped that West Ham tired and looked kind of ragged and we saw exactly what we’re not missing with poor Jack Wilshere.

  16. We won because we were less terrible than West Ham, basically. Ramsey was really poor. Mkhitaryan had two really nice passes, but apart from that was also poor. Xhaka was ok, though, which is a relief, and Sokratis had a decent game.

    Among other things, this game illustrated our need for a forward who can beat his man. Sometimes the passing triangles and pass-and-run combinations don’t amount to much, as we saw today, and pretty much every time we tried to dribble past them, it resulted in a turnover.

    Anyway, not a fun game to watch. Sloppy sloppy sloppy.

  17. Nailed it!! How is it that we can’t squeeze a work permit for asano? WE NEED A WINGER!!

  18. Cant comment on the game, having watched only the last 10 minutes (enough time to see Ramsey in the 86th try a careless flick to Monreal, turn the ball over, Arsenal not see it back for 3 minutes, and watch WHU create a good chance). Emery is caught between his system and players who are not his. There is obviously a disconnect. But in the new tactical shakeup, players have an opportunity to stake claims. Iwobi, for example, looks like someone who has put his hand up. We’ll see.

    Funny enough, the thing that’s working best is our attacking down our right, and Bellerin is at the heart of that. As I said before, when Bellerin leans to defend like he attacks, he’ll be some player. Emery said in that long, illuminating interview that he’s forgiving of defensive shortcomings, if a play offers a lot on offense. We read that at the time to mean Xhaka, but on the evidence of these 3 games, it’s clearly Bellerin who’s showing that more clearly.

    Our attack is a gathering concern. Both of our top 2 strikers are goalless 3 games in. Richarlison (who was sent off today) has 3 more goals than them combined. his teammate Theo has 2. Welbeck has more goals than them put together (yeah, Im being naughty). Yes, all strikers miss big chances, but Laca and primarily Aubameyang have to do better offensively than they have so far. Not good enough. It’s probably time for Auba to drop to the bench (but having said that, he’ll make me look a fool by going out next week and hitting a hattrick).

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