Monday, August 8, 2022

One night with Arsene Wenger

Arsene Wenger took time out from his busy pre-season schedule to make an appearance at a charity event last night, organised by the Football Writers’ Association, to raise money for the London Fire Relief Fund.

As those who’ve been to an Arsenal’s AGM will testify, Wenger is a captivating public speaker; his delivery is poised, his answers thoughtful and he’s also partial to an amusing anecdote or two. He didn’t disappoint at Soho’s Ham Yard Hotel.

As host Jacqui Oatley remarked, the Frenchman was very much the rock star of the evening with the audience and his fellow panel members at the Q&A event hanging on his every word. He even spent the entire 15-minute interval shooting the breeze with guests and posing for selfies. Even the Sp*rs contingent couldn’t resist his charms.

Before we get to the boss’ best bits, the rest of the panel each deserve a tip of the cap for their contributions.

Les Ferdinand spoke touchingly about growing up in the shadow of Grenfell Tower and the community work he’s helped QPR coordinate in the last few months. Paul Elliott, the former Chelsea player who is now on the FA Inclusion Advisory Board, came armed with a portfolio of stats about the development of England’s young players. The Times’ chief football writer Henry Winter shared thoughts on the state of modern sports journalism and Gary Lineker, who slouched in his chair like the naughty kid at school, garnered the laughs with his dry sense of humour.

And so to Arsene, who looked sharp in his single-breasted navy blue suit, polka dot tie and brand new monk-strap shoes.

Not for the first time, he admitted to feeling guilty for the football bubble he lives in, especially when the disparity between the haves and have nots of our society is brought so sharply into focus by horrific events like Grenfell and the ridiculous money that is thrown about in the transfer window.

Unsurprisingly, Neymar’s move to PSG was a hot topic and in turn, it spurred debate over the development of young players. Wenger, who in the past has happily described himself as an educator, underlined the fine balance between appeasing supporters who demand big name signings and the risk associated with giving first team minutes to Academy talents looking to establish themselves.

“You pay for the education of young players with points,” he remarked.

“I play a young central defender of 20-years-old and I know he will cost me points in the season. I have to stand up for that.

“If I play a 28-year-old centre-back, maybe less talented, he will cost me less points, but then I will not be giving a chance to a young player.

“At some stage, I must say, as a manager sometimes you feel lonely to stand up there and say, ‘No, I want this boy to play because he deserves it.’

“But just to deserve it, I know as well that he will make mistakes, because you learn your job at 23-years of age. 23 to 24 you have a player. Until 23 he will make up and down.”

In the context of Arsenal’s upcoming season, that bodes well for someone like Rob Holding (you know) and not so great for Gabriel who might well end up with a favourite seat on the subs bench. We’ll see.

The pressure of life as a top-level manager was also highlighted by Wenger’s reflections on last season. He’s admitted in pre-season that his dilly-dallying over a new contract probably cost Arsenal their Champions League status, but for the first time (in public anyway), he also confirmed that the first team squad confronted him about it.

“At some stage, the players came to see me and said, ‘What’s going on boss? When do you go?’

“I created, with me not deciding [about my future], a lack of clarity in the dressing room and there’s nothing worse than that in the dressing room, you know. When you’re not completely in or the players feel you’re not completely in, it’s difficult to tell them, ‘We go.’

“At some stage I had to tell them, ‘Look guys, I’m with you but we have to win games.'”

Faced with a question from the floor about his endurance and how long he might stay at Arsenal, Arsene turned to humour, with his take on a witticism first coined by Sir Clement Freud.

I’m paraphrasing at this point, but it went something along the lines of this.

“A manager goes to his doctor for the secret to a longer life. The doctor tells him to give up cigarettes, give up alcohol and to give up being a manager. The doctor then clarifies that he won’t actually live longer, but it will feel like it…”

Wenger signed off with, “At that point I signed a new contract.”

It was only missing the ‘badum-tish’ of a house band drum. I’m not sure I’ve done the gag justice, you had to be there. (UPDATE – you can watch Arsene tell the joke here)

A question about the worst defeat he’s suffered at Arsenal led to a darker tale about a breakfast encounter in a South African hotel when a Kenyan commentator, joining him at his table, promptly revealed that his cousin had recently committed suicide because Arsenal had lost to Manchester United.

I think the point the boss was trying to make is that he carries with him the expectations of so many Arsenal supporters across the globe that there’s no single defeat that burns. Because they all do. Every single one. Without exception.

Not long after, Wenger’s cameo was done and dusted. He waved to the crowd, departed to applause and in my head he was home an hour later, settled in front of a French second division match, eating a bowl of steamed broccoli…

If all of the above sounds like it was written by a fanboy, then yeah, I guess it was. We know he has his faults, he knows them too…but before another football season kicks off it was nice to be reminded that our Arsene is one cool guy.


All proceeds from last night’s FWA event will be doubled by sponsor William Hill with the funds being directed to the victims of the Grenfell Tower disaster. A big high-five to the organisers.

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Wenger in!


No, out, so out. Like 5 yrs ago, even more…


Down with this sort of thing


Why the he’ll are you even here commenting? ? Didn’t you say you were done with Arsenal and blogs even bid you adieu?? Wanker!


Thanks for the insult. I did say that, that’s true, but I’m not done with Arsenal, can’t be, because I love the club I am here, until it gets rid of the cancer that is Wenger I will voice my opinion. I have a right to do so.


When you call the manager a ‘cancer’ you don’t do yourself any favours.


One more thing, thanks for letting me know that even blogs “bid me adieu”, didn’t see that. I don’t want to rain on your parade guys and blogs. I see I am being moderated again as well. Guess my current view on the club does not resonate with you guys here as well as blogs, so I don’t feel at home here anymore. Will do my best to steer clear of the site, although I’ll miss it and the podcasts as well. See you all, maybe in some other/better times.

Eddie McGoldrick

This is an example of what is known in Australia as a s**tc**t (yes it’s one word)

Ben Rivers

Haha I cant believe its literally like a regretful breakup. Honestly, wenger isnt perfect, but no manager is. Would you take conte? He lost the fa cup and charity shield (most competitive friendly ever) to “The Cancer” mourinho has finished outside the top 4 for two seasons, pep hasnt exactly set the world alight at city, they might this season but who wants a manager whos spending 50 mill for walker and god knows how much else on who. Seriously, and its not like its one thing that has stopped us winning the league, we didnt have the players or… Read more »

Kostas Greek Gooner

Wenger before you go bring us the Champions league!!!

nacho man

that would be poetic


Good one Kostas! I’d like what you’re having buddy.


Natural deserved admiration @Domi, come off that ‘mock’ haze you are in buddy.


There is only one arsene wenger


Certainly the downvotes here came from highly specialised scientists who are creating a Monsieur Wenger clone so that Arsenal can re-sign the classiest clone after the classiest original decides to call it a day?


Yeah, and he is not worth much these days…

Isaiah Rankin

I don’t think Arsene the human is someone any of us really have the capacity to question.


“Arsene the Human”
I imagine I was the only one thinking of a version of Adventure Time (or Arsenal Time if you will) with Arsene playing the part of Finn. Left wondering who would play Jake the Dog now. 🙁

love and hate

Atom could do it?

Isaiah Rankin

John DiMaggio and Sean Dyche actually sound pretty similar…

I\'m Professor Ignorance, on this subject

Per, maybe? All I know is Jens would be the king of the Fire Kingdom and Theo would be Lemongrab.


One of the rare public figures that you don’t know personally but still feel a tremendous affection for.

Isaiah Rankin

Well I think the broccoli was not as fresh as it could have been, it was a little bit lacking sharpness…


Yes but of course always the broccoli has the quality

Isaiah Rankin

The handbrake is a little bit on and we never got past gas mark two

David C

Broccoli?!? I didn’t see it!

justin ashbee

And the desire too I must say


Love/hate relationships are the best kind.
Arsene drives me nuts sometimes, but he’s also given me some of my most enjoyable moments.
He’s a brilliant football manager, but I don’t think he’s ruthless enough in his decision making and there are better tacticians.
Hopefully he shoves my words back down my throat by delivering us the league title this season.


I’m belatedly reading Amy Lawrence’s book on the Invincibles and there’s an interesting part from Lee Dixon about how Arsene is not at all great at the mano-e-mano part of managership, where for example he needs to inform a player that he to be dropped / sold etc. The awkwardness and difficulty to look the player in the eye when informing him, was for me a massive line of sight into where his weakness in this modern day dog eat dog world of managers is at. Mourinho or Conte would apparently not hesitate to tell someone they’re being dropped. Billy… Read more »


Yes Conte fired Costa by text. Also I can totally imagine Mourinho confronting a player when he gets pushed over by a 65 years old… thanks for your input.

\'desi\'gner gooner

Thank God he wasn’t ruthless with the ‘BFG’ and sold him otherwise we wouldn’t have won the FA Cup and a man who would be loyal to the club for life. I hope Santi too comes back and delivers big and ultimately bows out at Arsenal. And thank God he is unlike Mourinho. Remember he was ruthless with Mata and Lukaku and eventually ended up praising the former unequivocally and buying the latter at a very expensive price. And who can forget his ruthlessness with Kevin De Bruyne? The player became a worldie the very next season. So all this… Read more »


Is it possible to want a change of manager and still love the man?


Replacing Arsene won’t be easy though, there are better managers but there certainly aren’t a massive amount of them.


Undoubtedly. Believing it’s time for a change doesn’t mean I’m not aware of how much he has done for a club and what a challenge it will be to replace him. But anyway – this is probably not a conversation for the start of the season, for now I’m just going to get behind the club and hope for the best !


It’s true that the characteristic of “being a nice guy” doesn’t win you trophies. But sometimes I ask myself, what aspects of my football club do I value most? Is it all just about trophies and success? Or is it something more sentimental – to give young players a chance, to do things in not a totally ruthless way but with compassion at the core of it. To be a respectful club with good values. And if we win great, if not at least we’ve done things how I would like them to be done. Class is more important than… Read more »


I don’t disagree with you entirely. AW with a motivated team (such as The Invincibles) is football at its most beautiful, a team we can love. Alternatively, if he’s giving chances to players like Iwobi and Holding, I can swallow a few defeats and falling short of a title charge. The problem is the culture of mediocrity that’s developed at AFC – too many average players paid too much money – and while I don’t think it’s his fault alone, something has to change before we lose the few outstanding and motivated players we have. But there you go, I’m… Read more »


I get the sentiment.
But I’m distraught that I can only thumbs this down once, because
Football is about winning.
Morals, values and ethics are simply restrictions and restrictions are lost possibilities.


Why can’t I thumbs up my own comment? Football is ultimately about winning. The theory that young players who you give a chance too will be loyal, simply isn’t true. If players can further their careers they will. If Bellerin could have gone to Barca this summer he’d have left. Cesc went to Barca Nasri went to City Cole went to Chelsea FFS We stuck with RVP through injury after injury only for him to leave after one good season. When Theo thought he had leverage he threatened to leave if he didn’t get to play as a central striker,… Read more »


Give this man a Bells, well said Rich…..

John C

You’re 100% right and Wenger displays a worrying naivety that will see us slip further and further away and actually runs against the best interests of the club.

But he doesn’t care because it isn’t about winning for him and the mess he eventually leaves won’t be his problem. As he said, he lives in a bubble.

It’s horrible that his principals are causing so much damage to the club.

Danaery\'s pet dragon

As you can see from down votes most people’s opinion is that they think Arsene cares deeply about ‘ the club’


I’m not sure that we are in “football purgatory”

FFS the season hasn’t even started yet….


Elite mediocrity
Football purgatory
Groundhog Day….

Whatever you want to call it…. we’ve been knocked out in the last 16 of the CL every year since 2010/11

We haven’t put in a decent title challenge since 2007/08

This season there is a change, but not the type of change you want as we’re now playing on Thursday nights.

We’ve accepted that fighting for a top4 spot is our level.

Either that or we’re rewarding a manager and players who aren’t hitting their targets.


Would you be happy with Mourinho as manager if it won us the league?

I\'m Professor Ignorance, on this subject

“Morals, values and ethics are simply restrictions and restrictions are lost possibilities.”

I really can’t say anything to this, as it speaks for itself.


Couldn’t agree more, I’ve been fortunate enough to see all of Arsene’s time at the club and whilst there have been more successful managers, I don’t think that there’s been one who could have better embodied the qualities of the club that I most appreciate.

Kwame Ampadu Down

eternalflamini, I think it’s really sad that (as of now) you got nearly as many down votes as up for what is a perfectly reasonable comment. It just shows the extremists at the ‘positive’ end of the spectrum are no less extreme than the hardcore Wenger Out element.


Thanks for the moral support! I can take the down votes though – I’m here to express my opinion, and if you don’t agree, I’m cool with that. They’re all just opinions!

justin ashbee

Is it possible to still love your wife but want a change of wife? I think not!

Mustrum Ridcully

A gentleman and a scholar. If he only made his mind up before Christmas last year, I am sure Arsenal would have done better.


So much for respect for AW. He possesses class on so many levels – not only on the pitch winning games with beautiful, effective football, but also in developing and preserving the values of the club, which go so much deeper. I’m proud to be a Gooner not only because of the football, but because of what our club represents, giving chances to youth, playing beautiful football as art, bringing people of different nations and backgrounds together, pioneering sports science and analytics – all of which have so much to do with Arsène. I would love to win more trophies… Read more »


Giroud the man agrees and Giroud the footballer agrees.

*Proceeds to re-watch the crystal palace and Norwich goals*


Written by someone keen to spend one night with Arsene Wenger.

But, more seriously, good write up and a great man.

Isaiah Rankin

one night is all you need



Bruce Lee



Sometimes I think I hate AW, but things like this just remind me how much I love him. What a guy. He might no longer be a world class coach in these times, but he’s an incredible human being.

Andy Mack

Pretty much every recognised ‘World Class Coach’ looks up to Arsene Wenger and still calls him a ‘World Class Coach’, but not you…


Class is permanent.


I remember how Ferguson’s dilly dallying on a contract was affecting United. He signed up and they became a formidable force again. All the analysts are talking about signings, but I feel that our settling into a very effective new system, coupled with a strong finish, along with a new focus point in attack will give us as good a chance as any to win the league. Xhaka is settled, we have a very pacy frontline with the option of switching to an aerial threat with Giroud off the bench. We have no obvious weaknesses in our squad, a strong… Read more »


Let’s hope Phil mcnulty et all are eating truckloads of humble pie come May.

Andy Mack

They usually get it all wrong but never eat any humble pie, so why would they start this season.
The only thing we can do is thank McNulty for predicting $iteh as champions, as it’s now almost impossible that they’ll succeed…

justin ashbee

Let’s hope Phil Mcunty is out of a job well before Christmas – how unutterably crap do you have to be before you get the sack at the BBC!


hope springs eternal… I hope you are right


And no champions lge distractions. It’s our best opportunity for a good few years to have a real go at the title COYG


when Arsene will put an end to managing role…we will certainly realise his absence no matter what…i have always been seeing him alongside arsenal since ive been an arsenal fan…


Argues the case of giving young players an opportunity over more experienced players yet drags on at 67 years old, preventing opportunities for gifted young managers and preventing a club bereft of ideas from moving in a new direction. His take on disparity is good but for me he came out of that as a bit of a hypocrite.


You’re right. How dare he stand in the way of Theo’s dream to manage Arsenal.



Spot on Leon! Damaging the club but staying on, board should have recalled the contract offer after the shitshow with Bayern and Jan-Apr form. Now he also has one more excuse why the season went that way – because he did not sign the contract early enough.. used to love the man, enjoyed the interviews with him, now I think he’s just full of shit.


I can get you a cheap Chelsea season ticket?


Leon…………Fuck off mate!!

John C

Self awareness isn’t one of Wenger’s strong points but he’s always been a hypocrite


Oh dear….give it a rest chum. I wonder if you’re that bloke who sits about 5 seats along from me #clueless

DB10\'s Air Miles

Wow, you’ll use anything to support your silly cause!
Shouldn’t you be in the garden pulling the legs off spiders or something?


“We know he has his faults, he knows them too…but before another football season kicks off it was nice to be reminded that our Arsene is one cool guy”. THIS


I would not agree that he “knows his faults”…

Terry Henry

Nice read. Thank you

Tom Walsh

A class act!

Kwame Arsenal

In Arsene We Trust. Take a bow Arsene!!!



ozil gummidge

Say what you like about Big Weng but the man is a class act!

Claudio Mutua

I’m a Kenyan. And we don’t commit suicide after Arsenal lose. Poor guy, mental health issues are a bit of stigma over here, and of course some people suffer in the dark, waiting for a trigger.

Burt Macklin FBI

I’m going to cry when we win the league


Arsene’s Arsenal has always been somewhat of a development project. I suggest if people prefer ready made, they need to look elsewhere. Wenger has always struggled to get the balance right. He blodded Ramsey and Walcott which cost us a long the way but when it bore dividend (admitedly for a short period only again thanks more to injuries), it was the fruit of the ‘sacrifice earlier. But now in the DEEP autumn of his career, Wenger needs to consider a bit of ready made steel/experience again. This is not to neglect the projects be it little Britain or otherwise… Read more »

Laughing Stock

Nice piece News Hound

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