Arsene Wenger says it’s a great satisfaction for him to experience the vibrant atmosphere at Emirates Stadium even if the move from Highbury and the subsequent trophyless years caused him many sleepless nights.
It took the Frenchman nearly five years to return to the club after he stepped down as manager in 2018, but with the pain of that departure finally subsiding it looks as though he might become a more regular visitor.
Wenger was the guest of honour for yesterday’s Emirates Cup friendly against Monaco, another of his former clubs, and returned on Thursday afternoon for a special lunch in the Diamond Club hospitality suite to celebrate the unveiling of his long-awaited statue.
Josh Kroenke flew in from the US, the club’s senior executives were present, as were a number of Wenger’s former staff and players, including Boro Primorac, Steve Morrow, Jack Wilshere, Ray Parlour, Per Mertesacker, Gilberto, Theo Walcott and Martin Keown. We’re sure there were plenty more.
When the time came to visit his statue, the 73-year-old flew solo – a few members of the club’s media team aside – before signing autographs for some of the lucky locals who’d got wind of the visit. All in all, he seems to have enjoyed himself.
“It looks a bit strange to look at yourself not moving!” he told Arsenal.com.
“But it’s emotional because it’s an honour and overall, I always wanted to be part of this club, and somewhere I feel I’m part of this club forever and that’s where I want to be. So, I’m happy because I’m where I want to be.
“I was always animated by the energy of working for something that’s bigger than me. Overall, I feel that my contribution was to make this club what it deserves to be: one of the biggest clubs in the world.
“So, when I come now and I see the stadium, I see my work was worth it because I feel that this stadium made me suffer. I’m happy to stand in the shade of this stadium because I had some sleepless nights because of it!
“But overall, it’s great to see it and come back to see such a fantastic atmosphere now, with our fans and with the team doing well. For me, it’s a great satisfaction.”
We don’t know for sure, but we’re guessing Mikel Arteta was present at today’s lunch. The Spaniard has been pushing hard for his former manager to be reintegrated into the club and he’ll surely have felt great pride at seeing the smile on Wenger’s face.