Arsene Wenger spoke to Bild in the wake of Per Mertesacker’s testimonial game, and touched about a wide variety of topics, including his time off, when he might return to work and, as he’s very much an Alsatian, what we can learn from dogs.
Lewis Ambrose (@LGAmbrose) provides the translation.
Mr Wenger, after 22 years at Arsenal you’ve found yourself ‘retired’ for three-and-a-half months. How are you holding up?
It’s new for me! Previously everything was hectic, now everything’s peaceful. Except Per Mertesacker’s charity game in Hannover. It’s good to have variety. Football remains my main concern.
During the summer, you implied you’d be back in the game after three months…
It looks like it! I think it’ll be time to get going again on 1st January.
I still don’t know. I’m well rested and ready to work again.
Well you’re forcing us to ask now: is Bayern Munich a possibility? You were in talks with them three times already. In 1994, Franz Beckenbauer and Uli Hoeness even came to Monaco but the club wouldn’t let you go.
They didn’t give up! But I was very loyal to Arsenal, I rejected all of Europe. Real Madrid, Juventus, Bayern. All because my plans at Arsenal were coming to fruition. Amongst other things, building the stadium without any outside investment. We bought the land for £128m and everything has been paid back. The banks wanted me to sign a five-year contract but giving us any money.
Must Bayern get out of their crisis without you?
That’s not the question Bayern have to ask. Uli Hoeness and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge are strong enough to fight against that. They have shown trust in Niko Kovac and must stick with him.
Real Madrid are in a bit of a crisis as well…
It’s not 100 per cent that I’ll go to a club. There are also national teams and associations. It could also be a return to Japan. Thanks to my 22 years at Arsenal I have a lot of experience at so many levels. There are requests all around the world to develop football. What’s beautiful about the game and what’s bad, those things remain, the things I admire and the things I condemn. The development over the last 20 years has been peculiar.
20 years ago, footballers played for the clubs. Now the clubs do everything for the players. Before, when the player was bad, he felt guilty. Nowadays the club feel guilty about the player, they ask what more they can do for him. Society has gone through the same thing. The state is always at fault. The responsibility has moved from the individual to the state. In football, the big players now have a club within the club. They have agents, fitness trainers, physics, social media specialists, video analysts. Fans have also changed.
Nowadays, fans have become international. Local fans do indeed remain local fans. Dortmund fans in the vicinity of Dortmund will always go to Dortmund. But when Ronaldo moves from Real Madrid to Juventus, fans follow him. From an international perspective, players are more interesting than their clubs. That gives the players a lot of power. Neymar is at PSG and he has 170 million followers. He’s stronger than the entire league.
What are the consequences of that?
In the next five years, it could go so far that social media decides which players to change during a match.
How would that work?
At half-time you have a vote on which players would come on and off during the second half. It will happen! The power of the clubs is only reducing. Because of that, the minds leading clubs have to become stronger. There must be a bigger fightback against outside influences.
At Bayern Uli Hoeness (66) and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge (63) will at some point call it a day.
I think they still have a couple of years before they stop. They need to organise the transition. It’s better when the power stays with former players. Only Beckenbauer, Hoeness and Rummenigge know if that will work again. Philipp Lahm has great qualities. Oliver Kahn. It’s very important that they take over. Football is something that lives within your body. You can’t learn that. It’s a mixture of deep knowledge and competitive experience.
What needs to change?
All the big clubs have so many people. People who aren’t efficient. People who don’t understand what competitive football truly is.
Did you experience that at Arsenal?
No, I was very fortunate to lead the club and make the decisions myself. I’ve done over 300 transfers, dealing with all the contracts myself. No manager in England today makes a single transfer.
Not even Pep Guardiola?
No. There’s too much money in play now. When you aren’t experienced, you could lose €10m in the space of 10 minutes. Or win it! (Laughs). The managers now have a team, and a team in the environment of the team. In England now there’s a bus for the players and a bus for the coaches. You have too many coaches, analysts, scientists. It takes up too much time to also govern the team and its problems.
You won the title three times in England, in 2004 without losing a game. Always at the top of the table, seven FA Cups, no Champions League…
The manager has three opportunities to influence something: the individual career of the players; the style of the team; the worth of the club. They are bigger than the results alone. Arsenal is respected all over the world. When I go to Africa or South America, the people love Arsenal. All over.
What about Mesut Ozil? Has he been ‘crap’ the last three years as Uli Hoeness has said?
I don’t want to get myself involved. This is more political than sporting. It’s very sensitive between Turkey and Germany. Ozil is a superb footballer, he wasn’t the worst at the World Cup. I don’t love that he’s retired from the national team. Germans have respect for how he’s performed.
Why should he have carried on?
Because a little bit of the motivation disappears when you know you don’t have to be ready for the Euros or for a World Cup. I love it when a player is as good as possible. When he’s not playing internationally, a little something is lost.
What were Germany missing at the World Cup?
It’s happened to all of the world champions. France 2002, Italy 2010, Spain 2014, Germany 2018. It’s difficult to retain the hunger. World champions think, for four years, they are the best in the world. That’s not the case. Maybe you play just iz weeks later and you’re no longer the best team in the world. In tennis you can be number one in August and number 50 in November. Football’s the same.
And when a player – according to you – shouldn’t retire, who can tell him that he should continue?
The manager. The manager! I believe, Germany need Özil. I hope Löw can convince him to come back.
You said the following: I’m glad for every free day. Then I can watch football on TV the whole day. And the dog can watch me.
My life as someone from Alsace has built me up in an organised way, as if I was in German company. In a village you have a football club that come up in conversation every single week. I was raised in a small pub, it was like the clubhouse. Since I was 2 I only watched football and I believed it was the only important thing in life.
However, you read intelligent books and it brought you to a diploma in economics.
And I wouldn’t change that. In my years as a kid, football wasn’t that popular. When I went out with a girl, I wouldn’t say I played football. Instead I said “I’m a student”.
Some people get ill when from one day to the next they suddenly have no stress.
I’ve worked for 35 years. I’ve come through it well. Maybe because I started young, at 33, I managed to adjust to the stress. When you start this job too late, the stress is too much.
Well that means it looks pretty good for Hoffenheim’s Julian Nagelsmann (31), Schalke’s Domenico Tedesco (33), Werder Bremen’s Florian Kohfeldt (36).
Yes, it’s better when they start earlier. Then they know if they’re made for the job or not. If they like it, if they’re good enough. That’s a good trend. Especially when experience can be important in this job.
So when does someone reach the point where they’re allowed to say: ‘I’m done with this!’?
At 45, I believe.
So was it right that Bayern went for Kovac (47), not a younger manager like Nagelsmann?
Experience plays a big part if you are able to handle a big club. Respect comes hand in hand with experience. The players need to see that you’ve already proven that you can work at that level.
A world class player like James Rodriguez feels uneasy at Bayern, because he thinks he’s at a disadvantage. Then he scores one of his typical wonder goals for Colombia against the USA…
Players very quickly start to believe they aren’t loved enough. That has nothing to do with love, but with balance in the team. I’ve had a lot of big players who I didn’t always play from the beginning [after arriving at the club], sometimes for six months. They still went on to have great careers. For instance, Thierry Henry or Robin van Persie. There are others. They were either just young or lacking the defensive quality to play.
Can a manager sleep peacefully when he has to do things which hurt players?
The manager has to feel that everything makes sense. When he has to put together a team for the weekend on a Friday night, it all has to fit right before he can close his eyes. That often has nothing to do with the quality or the character of the players.
You’ve stayed very slim through all the stress, now the same when things are peaceful. How have you managed that?
In England, people don’t eat too well (laughs). I’m Alsatian, I love pastries, sweets, apple pie, ice cream. I guess it’s just down to my genes. At the moment I also have the time to do sports. I weigh 75kg and I’m 1.89m tall.
What about the passion for football in England impressed you most?
If you get a tattoo in England, it’s either the name of your children or your club. Everything else can change but [your club] never does.
If you sign a contract elsewhere, will you say goodbye to England?
London will always be my home. I have a 21-year-old daughter. She studies at Cambridge.
Do you still have a dog?
Yes, the dog sets a great example. It doesn’t matter to him whether you win or lose (laughs).
Glad he has retained his love of dogs, his sense of humour, his intelligence (interesting about the role of the state) and isn’t b*tching at all.
Arsene is a very intelligent man. He handles his interviews well and has a kind of general knowledge of things even though football eats a lot of his time. Great sense of humor too. I ll always remember him as not just a great coach but also a good man.
What a great interview. Arsene’s humanity really shines through. Pretty sure some of the things he said shall come to pass in time. A visionary if I may say so.
What sort of supporter would give that a down vote?
None with any sense, if that makes it any better
The one that wants Ozil subbed out because he is not running enough
Jesus Christ, I miss him just talking. Every answer he gives to every question has actual thought behind it. When he’s asked to elaborate on something, he says things that make so much sense you almost start to think he was given the questions beforehand.
I didn’t read the news but I heard they are saying, I don’t know where, I didn’t let Mesut meet him. It’s not true. It’s easy to say that here. I have no problem. It’s not true. It’s not true. It’s not true that I didn’t let Mesut meet with Loew. It isn’t true. It is not true. Ok. It’s very easy. It’s very easy for me to say that to you.
I know. Thinking of the fellow on Arsecast Extra looking for 18 hours of entertainment, an 18 hour playlist of Wenger interviews wouldn’t be dull!
I do miss AW and his wisdom – never a dull moment when he speaks.
Would love to read a book of quotes from Wenger compiled from his years of interviews/press conferences
It’s really amazing to think Bayern Munich were after him in 1994, and yet none of us even knew who he was until we took him two years later.
Times changed a lot since then. In 1996 I had 4 tv channels and the internet wasn’t even a concept in my mind. Football Itallia was there on Sunday afternoon but I don’t recal any source of info on French football beyond an occasional meeting in European competition. I don’t think many outside the world of Football knew much about him.
Of course he compounded that by jetting off to Japan before coming to us
His intelligence shines through. It will never be the same again. Would we have traded him for the Mourinho way (in winning more trophies?) and all the nonsense that follows M around? I think we have been very lucky to have had Arsene and I for one hope he returns to the Premier League.
I really cannot see him returning to the Premier League as I cannot think his loyalty to Arsenal would allow it
Plus we all know how it’s ending up for Mourinho now. The twat. Not fit to tie Wenger’s shoe lace.
Arsene is a class act, the best investment Sky could make is getting him on as a pundit
He’s waaaaay beyond punditry. He will stay in the upper echelons of the game.
In football, the big players now have a club within the club. They have physics….
…back in the day they had chemistry.
In my days we had a mango and a stick
I hope this explains the scope of Arsene’s power and accountability, rather than throwing shade at Ivan. Arsene is and will always be our greatest manager. I wish he had not left, but rather embraced change earlier and allowed Ivan to bring in people like Sven and Raul to take pressure off him.
You reap what you sow, so lets not try to include Ivan in problems he didn’t make and wasn’t allowed to fix. Arsene needed help and declined it. It’s not Ivan’s fault that the manager had more power than him.
Alright Ivan 😉
I miss Arsene for his interviews and press conferences but every man and his dog knew it was time for him to exit.. He will always be loved by so many but to be honest not every arsenal fan will give so much love after those last years…they still feel he cost them so much pain…well that’s just life
I’m kinda disappointed this is the only article with the “Arsene Wenger Dog” tag tbf 🙁
Blogs, thank you so much for continuing to post this stuff about the boss. Always puts a smile on my face and makes me proud he was our manager for so many years.
Can’t wait for his autobiography
Will be the book of the century. Is it me or he’s giving bolder answers each interview? Some of the statements literally made me check halfway through if this one wasn’t one of blogs fake interview gags.
I haven’t read a book in 5 years but the Wenger autobiography will break that drought. It won’t be sensationalist – just at an honest, intelligent man sharing his experience and wisdom
It must be easier to say what you really think when you arent having to think about representing a particular club, he is truly one of the greatest minds in football, and we were so lucky to have him at arsenal, even as he lost the revolutionary edge of his early years he still did so much for this club, I feel like weve gone for another manager in the same mould as that young revolutionary wenger who changed the english game, but whatever he achieves i dont think emery will ever be remembered in quite the same way
“They have agents, fitness trainers, physics, social media specialists.”
I know players like to control everything around them, but even matter and the laws of nature?
I remember when my then 7yr old daughter asked me if Arsene was the owner of Arsenal.
I love this man. Always Le Boss to me.
Hope it all goes well for him
I remember hearing one young fan (well, in his early 20s) saying he actually believed for a while that Arsenal was named after its manager…
Back in the 90 through early 2000, a lot of Nigerians thought the team was named after Arsene!
Well read. I missed Wenger. Looking forward meeting him one day. Remain healthy and strong. COYG
Arsene watches football while the dog watches him. If i were an artist, I’d paint that. Lol
Almost worthy of a request to Jim’ll paint it
love that guy
What a man of knowledge and wisdom I’d name my son after him. Any club he coaches will be my second club after arsenal.
Amen to that
Except the spuds. The thought of it alone, arrrrrrrg!!!!!! Makes me throw up. I know know right, noway classy Wenger will allow his dog sniff around that classless club.
The debilitating influence of social media…not necessarily for good. Fans are fickle. They think they are in the know. Kroneke’s the problem. Gazidis is the problem, Wenger is the problem, Mustafi is the problem. Truth is most are simply reactionary and looking for what they wish to see. The club was built on Wenger’s back. His early wins and the consistency of CL qualifications year in year out afforded the confidence that allowed the banks to bankroll the stadium. There were lost years thereafter when we seemingly threatened to come back into the limelight with those FA cup wins only… Read more »
So many layers to everything he says! Legend!
I love Arsene
i’m dreading the day when substitutions are decided by votes on teh twitter
I miss the guy 🙁
His response to the Real Madrid is kinda like when he responded to transfer questions before he pulled a Mesut on us… or maybe I’m just reading too much into every little thing haha. Long Live Le Prof! Long Live Arsene Wenger!