Comment - Arsene Wenger reveals he came close to quitting Arsenal....and why failing to do so was his biggest mistake
Arsene Wenger has revealed for the first time that he nearly quit as Arsenal manager earlier this year - and now he must be regretting his decision not to follow through on that decision.
Wenger told French television station Telefot on Sunday that his reluctance to sign a new contract with Arsenal last season was due to his uncertainty over whether to continue as Gunners boss, with these comments appearing to confirm he was close to ending his enduring reign at the club.
"Yes, I hesitated to extend for personal reasons," he stated. "I've been at Arsenal for 20 years, and I'm wondering if I should continue to lead the club. We went quite badly during the season."
How Wenger must be wishing he went through with that plan to walk away from the club after he lifted his seventh FA Cup crown at Wembley in May.
After a woeful start to the season that included a defeat at Stoke and then the 4-0 hammering at the hands of Liverpool, Wenger has been forced to launch yet another PR campaign to try and quell the latest uprising against his leadership and this time, he may struggle to keep his sinking ship afloat.
Wenger’s appearance on beIN Sport TV on Friday night saw the Frenchman produce a typically polished performance, as he painted a picture of serenity at Arsenal that he clearly believes is a snapshot of reality.
Despite evidence to the contrary, Wenger denied Arsenal came close to selling Alexis Sanchez to Manchester City on transfer deadline day and did his best to present an image of serenity at Arsenal, but even he must know no-one believes him at this stage.
The truth must be that when he returns to the club’s London Colney training base in the coming days, Wenger will be facing up to a crisis of his own making and this one may well be beyond resolution.
This once great manager’s should have realised that his time was up at Arsenal long ago, with his back-to-back FA Cup successes in 2014 and 2015 providing the ideal opportunity for him to walk away from the game as a winner, but Wenger’s thirst for power encouraged him to cling on for another couple of years.
Then, when it seemed inevitable that he would walk away from the club after another FA Cup success last May, the 67-year-old put his own needs before those of the club as he fended off an internal mutiny of Arsenal officials to sign another two-year contract.
Wenger was only given a new mandate at Arsenal on the understanding that he would instigate change at all levels of the club, as he vowed to revamp his coaching staff, scouting network and transfer policy in what would be his final two years in charge.
Such is the discontent among senior Arsenal players over Wenger’s refusal to accept change that club officials fear this already troubled season could spiral out of control, with an in-tray of woes overflowing just three games into the new season.
Arsenal’s aborted attempt to sell Sanchez to City and sign Monaco’s Thomas Lemar on transfer deadline day was the latest shambolic episode for a manager who appears to be on borrowed time.
Wenger used to be a transfer market master, but those days have long since passed.
This manager no longer has the influence he revelled in during his first decade at Arsenal, with the only power he has left appearing to be over an Arsenal board who buckle under his demands every time he makes a declaration.
So now Arsenal are faced with the prospect of losing Sanchez and Mesut Ozil on free transfers next summer, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain claims he left for Liverpool to ‘further his career’ another slap in the face for Wenger.
With fans calling for a boycott of next Saturday’s game against Bournemouth at Emirates Stadium and former players Ian Wright and Martin Keown joining the chorus declaring Wenger may soon be forced out of office, the most predictable story of this season may soon be played out.
No one wants to see a great man like Wenger backed into a corner where his resignation is the only solution.
Yet with Arsenal’s American owner apparently content with the profits being generated by a club he has no interest in bankrolling, the breaking point that should have been reached years ago is looming large.
Jose Mourinho has often suggested Wenger has a dream job as he is the only manager in world football who operates without the fear of being sacked.
That theory will be tested to the full in the next few weeks.