Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Arsene Wenger at the Olympia – full translation

Arsenal’s ex-manager was on stage at the legendary Parisian venue on Monday night to discuss his career and have a conversation with the audience.

This article originally appeared in Le Figarotranslation by Emma Grenville-Wood (@egeedoubleu)

His childhood in Alsace

“I come from a small Alsatian village where life revolved around religion. The “king” of the village was the parish priest. I was raised in a restaurant which was also the clubhouse for the football team, and nobody talked about anything else. But religion didn’t help us win any matches. Much later, I replaced my prayer book with good players and football became my religion. The game has to be treated like a religion, it alone dictates your decisions.”

Being coach at Nancy at age 33

“Some of the players were older than I was, but I never had any problems with authority, I don’t know why. I used to vomit after defeats, I couldn’t live with defeat. I thought I wasn’t cut-out for this job. But my body got used to it and over time, I changed.

The squirrel metaphor

“The animal is a metaphor for survival. High-level sport is too. It’s me or someone else. But in a team sport, it’s also me AND other people. The squirrel’s body is split between its own mind and the tree-tops. And that’s what football is, it’s controlling things with your brain and with your legs. But if someone doesn’t look up often, they’ll never be a very good footballer.”

Football is a lion’s den

“There’s an unbelievable number of players who don’t make their presence felt in the dressing room. They don’t take that step. A top-level player, when they start, must make their presence known. That starts with coming into the dressing room with a clear message and sometimes simply an attitude that communicates something: “Now you must count on me.” I remember Bojan, who grew up at Barcelona, being too scared to drink from the same bottle as Messi. It’s a small detail, but he never worked out how to reach his full potential.”

His definition of a great player

“They’re quite rare breed focused around three main principles, ball control, decision-making and execution. The great ones are able to anticipate, they’re ahead of everyone else, they’ve understood what is going to happen. But I think that if players watched their games more often, they’d be even better. All the guys who are successful have consistency in their efforts and are capable of objectively analysing their performances. A great player is hard on themselves.”

“Discovering” Weah and Thuram at Monaco

“George had come straight from Cameroon and I never imagined he would be so good. He became the best player in the world (Ballon d’Or in 1995) and now he’s the president of Liberia… It’s extraordinary. This is a kid who had belief, it was like he was on a mission. On the pitch, he was powerful and intelligent and fought for everything. (on Lilian Thuram) I remember he was playing as a midfielder… If you’d told me this guy was going to play 144 games for France, I’d obviously have smiled. But what exceptional mental strength.”

His time in Japan (1994-1996)

“I wanted to test myself and on the spur of the moment, I went over there to a team in Nagoya that wasn’t winning any games. At 47 years old, it changed me on every level. Of the first 10 games, we lost eight and I have a good story about this. The president called me into his office and before I went, I told my assistant to pack his bags because we were going to get sacked.

The direction of the conversation seemed clear

“The results aren’t meeting expectations, and you’re not going to like what I’m going to say to you, but we need to deal with the situation… We’re going to part company with the translator.” I was surprised and I succeeded in ensuring he was able to continue working with us, we saved his job. Incidentally he’s here tonight (Monday). He became a friend. Beyond that, my experience in Japan was one of constant isolation. You only have yourself for company. With the players, something I’d never seen before happened. I forbade them from using the ball during training or before the match as they were already dead. They had been preparing ahead of time to get up to the necessary level, and they were completely exhausted afterwards. Their energy had to be focused.”

His Arsenal debut in 1996

“I knew that football had been invented there. In England, people get tattoos of their children’s names and the name of their football club, but that’s it, nothing else. The English are very into all that. The feeling of belonging is intense. But then when I arrived, nobody rolled out the red carpet (he was known as “Arsène who”). And they threw everything at me. I was told people had some blurry images of my private life. I told them to publish… nothing came of it.”

His dressing-room management

“You’ve got 25 carnivores in front of you. They sense everything, especially weakness. The manager’s job can be summed up in this way: choose 11 players and make 14 unemployed at the weekend. And then do it all over again every weekend. It’s hard to live with, but also hard to manage. You have to be intelligent and you can’t lose impetus. Before games, I only dealt with the players who were going to play, it was pointless to worry about the others. But from Monday to Wednesday, I’d have to focus on the disappointed ones and how to boost morale. By being firm and honest, and sticking to your values. You also have to show respect, compassion and not turn your back on people. There are too many people who suffer from depression in football. A player who isn’t playing feels useless, and it’s up to the manager to fix that, it was part of my job.”

The 49-game unbeaten run with Arsenal from 2003 to 2004

“We lost our status as Invincibles against Manchester United in a game where referees shared some of the responsibility. It wasn’t deserved. And actually, when I die, I’m going to ask God where the referees are before I choose between Heaven and Hell. I remember that the season before, we had ended unbeaten away from home and we lost the title due to our record at home. And all the players had a go at me because I had said that we could finish a season without a defeat. And during that title-winning season, we won the league with 5 games to go. I remember having said to them, “it’s up to you if you want to become immortal or not.” And they did it. Premier League winners without a single defeat.”

His definition of a great manager

“They’re a guide with a kind of confidence, clarity and humility. They have faith in humanity. A good coach must never close the door on anybody. It’s important and crucial to always remain hopeful. People can often surprise you, in a good way, and that’s where you can harvest the fruits of your patience and your labours. In my view, a great manager has three significant types of influence: influence on the club, on the results, and on the players’ performance. At Arsenal, I was able to build a club by defining its values. We respected the traditions of a workers’ club, but we also innovated and we behaved with integrity and class. Nobody could accept being mediocre.

“From the players to the groundsmen, the whole club… That’s the first step, a common goal. A detail? Flowers in the Director’s Box were in the visiting team’s colours. In a more general way, a great manager has an impact on the style of play and on their team’s results. At a big club, you have to want to win with class, so that fans can wake up with a smile on their faces before going to the match. It’s essential to be purveyors of emotion, to have a clear identity. A coach is someone who identifies with completely with their club. They have to behave as though they’re going to be there forever. They have to be loyal. Every year, we had a photo taken of everybody (groundsmen, cooks) and I put it up with the caption, “everybody counts at this club.” There has to be a sense of unity between the employees and the players.”

The cost of the Emirates Stadium

It cost 430 million pounds (opened in 2006) … We put ourselves in the banks’ hands. After that, we had to sell our players. That was undoubtedly the most difficult period during my time at Arsenal. I remember the time I spent with the architects to build the stadium… I learned a lot. Today the club is worth 2 billion pounds, and at the time it was 40-50 million. Of course I’m proud of that too. It’s the most cheerless part of the job, but it’s a huge task. I turned down lots of clubs, the banks required me to sign a five-year contract as they wanted me to stay at Arsenal. I was the last manager in that style, in today’s football world it’s not possible for a single person to handle everything. The financial stakes are too high.”

His criticisms of himself

“A good manager is someone who looks after themselves. That’s what I reproach myself for now. I neglected myself. You need the strength of a tiger to be successful, but little by little you get worn out. I had loads of meetings every day. Just to give you an idea, the guy who wanted to buy a lawnmower would come to see me. I handled everything. It’s a job that takes over your life. And when you’re with other people, spending time with your family, you’re not fully present. I neglected those around me. I devoted my life to one thing only: winning the next game.”

His regrets at Arsenal

“When you’re a manager, it’s only about the things you haven’t done. When I speak to other high-level sportspeople, they only talk about the things they haven’t won. You don’t remember what you have achieved, but rather things you haven’t done or your failures. Personally, I can live with that. I’ve had a much better life than I could ever have dreamed of. If you’d told me all this when I was 19 in Alsace, I’d have told you to get out of here.”

His farewell to Arsenal

“I felt like I was at my own first-class funeral. People were unbelievable. They showed their gratitude. England has that ability. I didn’t cry or flinch, as I’ve learned to steel myself. If I hadn’t been able to control my emotions, I wouldn’t have been able to survive. I learned to keep them in check.”

How to handle the pressure

“Being professional is about performing well under stress. Without confidence. When I hear a player explain poor results by lack of confidence, I disagree. And that’s when you see the big players stand out from everyone else. Imagine if you were going to have heart surgery, the surgeon comes into the room and says to you, “I’m not feeling fully confident at the moment, but I’ll do my best.” Is that something you’d want to hear? No.”

Managing egos in a dressing room

“If the star has a great performance, everyone accepts it. If they’re not at the right level, the dressing room sees that right away. The problem with a star is that they can take up too much space. During games, and the rest of the time, you have to find the right balance. I remember with Thierry Henry, nobody ever refused to pass to him because he had such immense stature. It could become a handicap.”

His relationship with Henry

“I never call my former players when things are going well, but I did call him, and I did encourage him not to give up when things were rough at Monaco. I tried to call him when he was let go. At the moment he’s still grieving, and I’ve suggested to his agent that we organise dinner. We’re going to do that.”

henry wenger interviewThe transition at Arsenal with Emery

“I’m going to tell the truth, he never called me. I’ll be an Arsenal fan until I die. I’m a supporter and I want things to go well. For the moment, everything’s fine.”

The rumours of him going to PSG

“I’m not a candidate for any job. I am someone who follows his intuitions and inspirations. PSG have a great team, there’s a sort of curse in relation to the Champion’s League, but you mustn’t forget everything else (the titles in France). They’ll succeed in overcoming the final obstacle. The impatience is real and intense around this club. The national team? Maybe, but if it happens, it would be before the World Cup (2022 in Qatar). I have to make a decision between better sharing of my time, I did 35 years without stopping… I’d like to find a compromise by sharing my knowledge and at the same time, having time for myself with the people that I’ve neglected my whole life.”

His views on Ligue 1

“I think that the Premier League is the most enjoyable in the world. L1 is very unequal. Sometimes I watch great teams, and then they’re unrecognisable a week later. PSG could go on their holidays now and they would still be champions. For L1 to become exciting again, there needs to be a challenge for the title, a fight amongst several teams. But the future TV rights and French-style training keeps the dream alive.”

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We should offer Arsene a position on the board.

I’m not suggesting offering him a job on a technical level, because Arsene Wenger derangement syndrome is a very real thing, but having Arsene’s level of knowledge and contact list as a voice in our boardroom would surely be a positive thing?

And I don’t say this with any sentiment attached, if any of the other 19 PL clubs convinced Arsene to join their board of directors? Then it would be seen as a major coup


Quaint idea, but I don’t think so. A former manager looking over the shoulder of his replacement … really? No. That’s one reason why Emery hasn’t called him, the new man must be his own man. Another reason is that the club didn’t invite him on the board. Why? Well if you look at Manchester United when Sir Matt Busby resigned, he stayed on as a board member and his successors just couldn’t function properly. That’s why Sir Alex isn’t on their board now. Wenger has had his day, a lot good, some not so good (but we won’t go… Read more »


Not a good idea. A former manager potentially looking over the shoulder of his successor? I don’t think so. Look at the two longest serving managers – at Utd and Arsenal – neither are on the respective boards. That’s the clue. Wenger has gone, we’ve thanked him for his service (as they say) and he’s moved on – and so should Gooners.


I agree. Not a good idea.

Wait till Flamini makes his fortune with Levonic acid and buys the club off of Kroenke.


Fergie is a Director at Utd mate


Yeah, and look how well that’s gone..

Bould's Eyeliner

If he has a ‘derangement syndrome’, then how would his knowledge and rolodex help us in the boardroom? Having an economist on board is very different from asking Arsene Wenger (a footballing manager, through and through) to sit on the board, but essentially to think that he would simply be better on the board than he is as a manager is a foolish notion. I don’t think he has boardroom ambitions anyway–it’s not his style to sit back and watch people work. And Arsene would not join the board of any other EPL team–this is obvious. He will either stick… Read more »



Kamapla Goober

What can I say that hasn’t been said already. Hes just an encyclopedia for one to make oneself better. There will always be one Arsene


I think you mean there will always be “only” one Arsene.
Though what you said is technically also true


Great guy, intelligent, dedicated and invincible (one season at least).

We should be proud we had him.


Probably not possible in this era where money and sponsors means everything, but I hope to live untill the day the stadium is renamed after Arsene Wenger. The greatest servant our club has ever had…


I second that.

Hate these sponsorship names. I don’t mid them emblazoned on the stadium but I wish the names carried more meaning and tradition for the teams.

This is not just at Arsenal but for ALL football clubs…except maybe Spurts.


Emery needs to definitely give Arsene a call..not for team management, tactics or anything to do with football. But ‘to learn how to speak’ to the media and fans. I do miss Arsene’s press conferences and post-match interviews…even during the lean periods.




I like Emery’s interviews. He’s very intense and I rarely understand a thing he says and it’s so passionate and funny at the same time. He’s not Wenger, no one is, he’s his own man.


When’s the spuds new ground going to be sponseeed by Armitage Shanks?
That toilet is a perfect match for that company


Particularly when it’s full.


“And actually, when I die, I’m going to ask God where the referees are before I choose between Heaven and Hell.”


A Different George

Imagine having to spend eternity with Mike Dean.

Mayor McCheese

Yes, I believe that is in fact the very definition of hell.

Teryima Adi



Gotta hand it to Dean for preventing Man U from winning yesterday though. That sending off was a godsend for us.

Wilsheres Middle Finger

When Arsene Wenger speaks, the world listens. Opinions on his latter Arsenal career and decisions taken out of the equation, what a wonderful human being he is. He has nothing but my upmost respect and admiration.

Eternal Titi Berg Pat Nostalgia

I Hope Henry becomes a great manager one day. His link with Monaco trapped him into a very bad situation. Plus he was in a situation where he had to be a motivator but he saw it as having to be a tactician.


Possibly, but overall there’s little evidence that great players make great managers. There are some of course, but many of the most successful managers were average (Sir Alex) or very average (Arsene) players. Henry may get another chance but he was, for various reasons, a disaster at Monaco. He presumably decided to take the job on particular terms so I don’t know why any confusion occurred (if it did) so soon into his time there. I’m not sure top clubs will be willing to take him anytime soon as No. 1. An assistant position would probably be better for him… Read more »

Eternal Titi Berg Pat Nostalgia

I watched an old video of the french national team at half time in the locker room. Deschamps told Thuram he had to go forward to support the attack and not be alone behind. Thuram listened and scored the two goals that sent them to the final game of WC which they won. Zidane was silent not interacting with other players, head down then searching in his locker. He won three CL in a row with Real Madrid. Deschamps showed the skills required to be a coach early on. Zidane had none of those skills so you can’t say who… Read more »


Possibly, but great players don’t often make great managers. I don’t know how the Monaco job was sold to him of course, but he certainly wasn’t a success there. I’m not sure how many top clubs would offer him the No. 1 position at this time. He may be better off taking an assistant role and working his way up if he can.


He was too full of himself.

Not that easy managing players. He sniped from the sidelines, was over critical when it came to Arsenal, pontificated about tactics like all the other pundits.

But as Wenger mentioned, football managers have to manage a less quantifiable soft asset in the players themselves. Is not so easy as Gary Neville found out.

To Henry and Neville’s credit, at least they took the plunge.

Hopefully it humbles Henry a little.

Danger Mouse

Can’t see Henry ever being a great manager. When I listen to him on Sky he waffles a lot without saying much of note. Also I’d suspect that that arrogance that served him so well on the pitch may not go down so well as a boss in the dressing room. Viera seems to have more of the qualities required.


I miss this guy


Genuinely, we were lucky to him.


Legend is used too loosely these days but I think AW is one indeed. Hope that he can be remembered fondly and his legacy isn’t tarnished by the underachieving later years. Will his autobiography ever be written? ?


I don’t think he will, he’s not that kind of man, he rarely likes to focus on himself and even less to write about his life, I’m one of those who thinks he’ll die with all the secrets we all wanted to hear and there are so many some will pay whatever it costs to know them.


Absolutely gobsmacked Emery did not try to contact Wenger! Surely he would have been the first person to ask about the job.


Goodness, no! Wenger did things his way, Emery must do things in his own way. Given Wenger had to leave because the club had hit a brick wall under him, why would Emery call him? If it clearly wasn’t working under Wenger, you need to try something different, which Emery is doing. Time will tell if it works but, all things considered, he’s off to a pretty good start, isn’t he.


you’ve been insisting this throughout these comments and it’s absurd. clearly emery has to do things his own way, but *talking* with the man who managed the club for decades prior to his arrival just as clearly wouldn’t constitute emery necessarily doing things arsene’s way. if emery was so weak-minded as to completely lose his sense of self just from talking to wenger then he wouldn’t be strong-minded enough for the job in the first place.

and i say this as someone who has been relatively happy with how emery has done so far.


Sometimes probably better to have a bit of seperation.

Unai has to be his own man and frankly he won’t learn that much from Wenger. he would have to make his own judgments of players and issues anyway. Had he had a word with Wenger, it may have coloured his opinion in this process.

Its fully understandable.


You don’t call the ex of your new girlfriend/boyfriend, do you though.


I was glad to read he didn’t call him. And why would he?
He’s a top coach in his own right, and he’ll do his own thing.


It is not his obligation or his duty either. It is not necessary as I’m sure Emery thinks he’s managed enough years to know how to that at another club, sure, this is a special one after so many years with the same guy as a manager but not as head coach as Unai is, he just needs to focus on one thing… but surely one day they will speak.

Wilsheres Middle Finger

I think it’s fair to say that Wenger’s biggest mistake was his willingness to take on so much responsibility and not delegate tasks accordingly, hence the meeting with the lawn mower guy example. He was clearly so consumed by all of the various facets of the club that he lost sight of the bigger picture in the latter years, and did not adjust to the modern model of executive boards and ‘football directors’ like other clubs did. That’s why it was so easy for the fan and outsiders to point out where it was going wrong, but Arsene was so… Read more »

Sànde Class

“never see that as a stick to beat him when”, why not? Bear in a mind, I actually consider Arsene as (one of) my role model(s) — one, ofcourse, AFTER the male specimen who created me obviously — but I seriously think emotions got the better of him in his latter years (post his 50s) since it’s downright stupid, if not egomaniacal, to think that ONE alone can take on ALL the responsibilities! :/
Regardless of the ‘rewards’ on offer really. And we/I know that Le(gend) Prof ain’t stupid, all said and done. 🙂

Okechukwu Jude

Pure class. I wish he writes a book someday. Emery sure has a problem dealing with big egos and that explains why he didn’t call Arsene.


Emery took Steve Bould and retained a number of club presences to keep in line with values. I don’t think leaning on a manager who’s job you are taking after 20+ years is particularly useful, especially when you are trying to create your own identity.


I don’t think Wenger dealt with big egos particularly well, did he? I recall that most of them left for other clubs, very often to win more trophies there and for more money. I suspect Emery hasn’t called Wenger because Emery is the man in charge now. He’s got to do things his way, with his ideas – not taking ideas from a former manager, particularly as many of those ideas clearly weren’t working towards the end of his time at the club.

Gutbukkit Deffrolla

Many of those “big egos” you say he didn’t deal with well actually became big egos because of his management and nurturing of his players. There’s a reason it was Barcelona rather than Oldham Athletic who were always after our players.


Emery managed Neymar and plenty of big egos at PSG.

He managed Ozil well.

Not sure I agree.


Or maybe Emery has had a shitload to deal (with all the ins and outs behind the scenes too) and wanted to make his own mark on the team first? It’s his first season. Him not calling Wenger could have nothing to do with his “problem dealing with big egos”


This is some royal ridiculous nonesense. We seem to read a lot of that whenever there’s some news about the former manager.
At least respect the new coach. He’s doing his best to clean the mess he inherited.


What mess? Aubameyang, Lacazette, Ramsey, Bellerin, Monreal, Xhaka, Kolasanic, Holding, Ozil, Iwobi, promising players such as AMN, Rowe-Smith and Nelson.


I think if Wenger stayed, we would actually be in a better position than we are now. Mislintat still would signed Guendouzi, Torreira, Papadopoulos, Leno, and Leitchsteiner, so the squad still would be the same as it is now. And let’s not forget, Wenger only got to work with Aubameyang for 3 or 4 months, didn’t even have a preseason together. But if Wenger stayed, there would have been no messing around with dropping Ozil and Ramsey, so we likely would have more points in the league. And Ramsey would have signed his new Arsenal contract, saving us a wad… Read more »


Alternatively the slide would have continued, with a continued refusal to accept that defending is a worthwhile part of the game and loss of ability to motivate. Sorry, I just don’t buy the rose tinted view. We can all still love Arsene, but was time to go.

SB Still

Strangely I agree with both Richie and ClockEndRider’s comments!

In an ideal world, Wenger would have won the league title in 2008 or 2016 and retired in 2017, on the back of the FA Cup victory!

A Different George

Whatever the underlying problems, the issue last year was ONLY our away form. We would have been close challengers to Man City if only home results mattered; we would have been in the bottom half of the table if only away points were counted. So far, we are a little better away; we will find out in the next few weeks whether we have improved enough in that respect.


“I think if Wenger stayed, we would actually be in a better position than we are now.”



Several take aways. 1) Wenger transformed Arsenal not just in aesthetics but he grew the club from humble finances to the massive strength we have today. Truly incredible. 2) That transformation was built on the back of his early success plus brand of football. BUT ALSO in order to secure the loans (FROM BANKS), he had to ensure we were solvent year round competing in the CL (top table) without interruption for 2 decades almost. Cheap pundits sniped at his 4th place pot now champion Spurts for theirs. Some fans wante us out of the CL. Fools. 3) Football management… Read more »


Oh and the humility and class…something many former players now turned pundits can learn from.

A Different George

Mike Dean forced to watch the 49-match unbeaten run for eternity–perfect. if only it weren’t buried in another endless post.


Love that this is listed under FORMER MANAGERS – Genius!


Interesting that he recognizes that his Arsenal situation (overseeing almost everything) would be untenable in the current game – “I was the last manager in that style”.


Maybe a sad thing to admit but through my day to day life, making tough decisions, thinking things through and handling my day to day business I often wonder what would Wenger do.. I’m 29 so most of my years as an Arsenal fan consisted of watching and learning how to be a structured young adult and learning from him. I will always be greatful for his work and ethics.

Wilsheres Middle Finger

As a fellow 29 yo, I’m am the exact same. This man has instlled wisdom in me that I am never likley to take from football again. Honestly, deep shit like. Fatherly stuff. The values that he has instilled in this club and it’s fans will live on for a long long time.


Yes… I’m 42 now, and was 20 when he joined. I remember having the newspaper cut outs of him and Henry on my bedroom wall.

I’d gone off football at that point – perhaps just an age thing… more interested in beer and going out than I was with football… But Arsene epitomised what I valued the most in life at that age… Honour and integrity. That’s probably why I love the club as much as I do now.

Well…. that, and whipping T*ttenhams arse repeatedly. I’ve loved that a lot….

Cliff Bastin

“And actually, when I die, I’m going to ask God where the referees are before I choose between Heaven and Hell.”


Ant Lester

I’d love to see the club do a close-season media/interview thing, where Arsene comes back London Colney to meet and talk with Unai. Opportunity for everyone to show there’s no hard feelings. Hear what he’s been up to, congratulate Unai on his first season. Explain the importance of keeping out of the spotlight. AW and UE share thoughts on the modern game. Hosted by Martin Keown or something. It would be a nice touch.


“But religion did not help us win any matches”
Amen. Ain’t that the truth?

Gutbukkit Deffrolla

What I would really like to see is, firstly, Emery making the team his own and bringing us back to CL and perhaps winning a cup or two. Once he’s established beyond question that this is now HIS team, then I would like to see him invite Wenger to the stadium to watch a few games. I’m guessing Wenger must feel a bit sad for the sudden ejection from the job, and I don’t feel like there has been any closure for anybody really. It’s pretty clear that he always tried to do his best for the Club even while… Read more »



In other news, let’s vote arseblog for best overall content creator.


Not a big deal at all, but I do find it a bit strange that Wenger says Emery never called him. I could see where Emery wants to forge entirely his own path at the club, but to not even reach out to such a legend?


I started following Arsenal because of this man. It’s silly because the players should be the focus, always, but it was his style and unwavering hope that impressed me so much. Maybe because he’s my dad’s age, I see something fatherly about him. Anyway, players come and go, some may become legends, some may kiss the badge to show appreciation, but Arsene will forever be a part of what makes Arsenal a truly great club.


And during that title-winning season, we won the league with 5 games to go. I remember having said to them, “it’s up to you if you want to become immortal or not.” And they did it. Premier League winners without a single defeat.”


They need to get this guy on Sky so he can dismantle all the fools on their bar neville caragher and our own Alex Scott.

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