(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.