‘Herbert Chapman smiled at me’ – Wenger savours farewell match at Huddersfield
Arsenal manager signed off his 22-year reign with victory at the former home of one of the club’s greatest managers.
Arsene Wenger said it had “special meaning” to bow out as Arsenal manager at Huddersfield, the club where legendary boss Herbert Chapman made his name.
Chapman led Huddersfield to two successive league titles in the 1920s before repeating the feat at Arsenal, who went on to dominate English football in the 1930s.
Wenger signed off his 22-year reign at Arsenal on a high as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s first-half strike sealed a 1-0 win at the John Smith’s Stadium on the final day of the Premier League season.
The 68-year-old Frenchman had taken a quiet moment to himself in the pitch-side dug-out an hour before kick-off and took time to reflect.
“I wanted to get a bit of oxygen, my last day, nice weather, people were nice, Huddersfield were happy, they gave me a nice present,” he said after his side had won for the first time on the road in the league this year.
“Herbert Chapman came from here. For me to come here on the last day was a special meaning when you know the history of our club.
“Chapman smiled at me as he was on the photo just outside the dressing room.”
Chapman was tempted into leaving Huddersfield to take charge of Arsenal in 1925 after setting the West Yorkshire club on their way to a historic hat-trick of league titles.
But while Wenger revealed he had already had offers from rival Premier League clubs, it was unlikely he would take another job in England so as not to face Arsenal.
“I’m not ready for that at the moment,” he said. “That would be very difficult, I’d stay at home that day. Maybe I don’t envisage that at the moment.
“Yes I had offers, yes, of course. I had many offers. But at the moment, I have not said anything to anybody.
“I came out of a long process and you cannot just the next morning go somewhere else. It’s impossible.”
Asked if he will take another job in England, he said: “I don’t know. Maybe it’s better I go somewhere else.”
Wenger won three Premier League titles and seven FA Cups, including the double in 1998 and 2002 and an unbeaten league season in 2003-04.
He had become a divisive figure at the Emirates Stadium but he felt the fans’ love in his final match.
“I feel that I got a lot of respect not only from our fans, but from England,” he said. “I would reiterate I loved English football, but I also learned to love England.
“You do not stay 22 years if you don’t like it. That’s a good return from people who love football here. It’s a special country, especially for football and that’s why I stayed a long time.”
Huddersfield boss David Wagner, who made a special presentation to Wenger in the players’ tunnel before kick-off, had spoken earlier in the week of his admiration for him.
Wagner admitted his players’ job had already been done after Wednesday’s draw at Chelsea had guaranteed their improbable survival.
Terriers fans’ celebrations made for a carnival atmosphere in the sun and Wagner was delighted his club had played a part in Wenger’s send-off.
“It was great we were able to show him all the honour and respect that we have. We were very happy to be a part of his special day,” Wagner said.
Speculation continues over Wagner’s own future. He will sit down with club owner Dean Hoyle next week to discuss the future.
When quizzed about Hoyle telling fans that the manager would be going nowhere in the summer, Wagner joked: “Well he’s put himself under a lot of pressure hasn’t he?”