When it was announced in 2018 that he would be leaving the club, Arsene Wenger issued a short statement that ended:
“To all the Arsenal lovers take care of the values of the club. My love and support forever.”
In the immediate aftermath of his departure, it felt like the message fell on deaf ears; certainly when it came to the owners and arguably with several individuals, both on and off the pitch, who’ve since departed the club.
While Wenger continues to keep his distance from N5, it’s no secret that manager Mikel Arteta, the man he signed from Everton in 2011, is keen for him to return in some capacity, even if it’s just to take in a match at the Emirates or to meet the current players at London Colney.
It remains to be seen whether that will happen but from afar he continues to act as his protégé’s cheerleader, who he believes was quick to grasp what Arsenal stands for.
Asked by Sky Sports what the Spaniard has done to change the culture at Emirates Stadium, Wenger said:
“I would say you need to identify the values of the club and I personally think that Mikel Arteta was very conscious of the values of the club because he’s been educated as well at Arsenal, he was captain of my teams and he wanted to restore values of the club.
“Overall, I think he has done that well. After that you need to create a belief and a sense of belonging, that you belong to something special, something that is bigger than you, that you want to serve. On that front, he’s done well.
“I’m still in touch with them and overall I believe they are going the right way. Arsenal is a special club and has special values; a good balance between tradition and forward-thinking. They do that well again now.”
Given Arsenal’s recent track record in the Premier League, there were few, if any, supporters who predicted a title challenge this season.
While it’s early days, the fact Arteta’s squad sits top of the table after seven games serves as enough evidence for Wenger to suggest his old side can go all the way.
“I would say that they have a good chance this season [to challenge for the title] because I don’t see any super-dominating team,” he noted.
“I believe that there’s a good opportunity this season to do it. Of course, it’s a little bit a special season because you have a World Cup in the middle and you don’t know how much that will affect the performances of individuals and the teams. Overall, I believe there’s a good opportunity there this year.”
Here’s hoping so, Arsene.