Friday 23 March 2018

'I have desire. I love my job. I love to win, I love to build, I love to get people going and I love what I do. It's as simple as that'

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger raises the FA Cup to the fans in Wembley on Saturday. Photo: Lee Smith/Action Images via Reuters
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger raises the FA Cup to the fans in Wembley on Saturday. Photo: Lee Smith/Action Images via Reuters

Miguel Delaney

Arsene Wenger has told the Arsenal board to simply "watch the game" in their meeting this week after Saturday's 2-1 FA Cup final win over Chelsea, as there will then be "no doubt" he is the right man for the job.

The words represent the 67-year-old's strongest statement yet on his future, a situation that remains up in the air after a season that ended with Arsenal finishing in fifth, but still winning the FA Cup with a supreme display, in a match that is the last of his current contract.

It is understood that there has been a shift in mood after a good run towards the end of the campaign and that the club hierarchy now want Wenger to stay and sign a new two-year deal.

Wenger wishes to remain, but there is still a political stand-off over the situation and elements of the role, as the board understandably want to prepare for the future.

With the stance at Arsenal over the last few months that any decision would be "mutual", those close to the French boss say he does not want to be offered a new deal on the basis of sentimentality, but because it is felt he is the best option for the role and for his ideas to be trusted.


That has seen Wenger effectively speak in code on his future for much of the past few months, but also use some of his press conferences to leverage the situation. He has also publicly offered criticism of plans like the introduction of a director of football and he reiterated on Saturday that any decision should be about "competence" and not "popularity" - another reminder to not bow to pressure from more animated parts of the Emirates support.

The Arsenal board will meet on Tuesday, before taking their decision to Wenger. If they offer him a new deal, as expected, he will then confirm whether or not he wants to stay.

Asked at the end of his Monday press conference whether there is a presentation at the board meeting, Wenger responded: "The best presentation, watch the game and there can be no doubt.

"We live in a society that wants always change, but at the end of the day football is about making the right decision and every company is about making the right decision.

"That's why I say it's not about popularity, it's about competence," Wenger continued.

"It's the board who has to decide who will lead the club in the future and I have after to decide if they want me, do I say yes or no."

He conspicuously added: "I am committed to giving everything to stay."

Again wearying of having to answer questions on an issue that remains undecided, Wenger admitted it should have been solved for the benefit of the team.

"Look, this season, I think usually we have no sagas. The media, every press conference is an issue of it (my future). I don't think it should affect the media so much.

"I don't change my commitment. I worked until the last day of my contract. That is today, basically. I think I have shown you that I have exactly the same commitment.

"So, for me, the contract does not have a special meaning. But, because of the debate, I should have sorted that out earlier."

Wenger revealed after the 2-1 win that he is breaking the habit of his career and keeping his medal rather than giving it away, with that leading to further speculation that he was doing so because it is a last memento before he leaves.

However, he explained that he was keeping this one because it was the record-breaking seventh. He also intimated this win was all the sweeter because of the doubt he suffered when Diego Costa equalised Alexis Sanchez's controversial opening goal, just before Aaron Ramsey headed the winner to deny Chelsea a league and FA Cup Double.

"It's absolutely fantastic. I've won a few Doubles and I know that when a team is on a high, to break that takes something special. When they equalised, I thought that will give them momentum and we will feel guilty, they would take advantage. I was worried at that stage.

"It means the intensity of the emotions. You go out there today, when can you get that, you know? Or in the semi-final. I think it's a special day for a football club and it should be a great night, it's just the explosion of the passion of people.

"I have desire. I love my job. I love to win, I love to build, I love to get people going and I love what I do. It's as simple as that."

Asked how he managed to rally his Arsenal side for what was arguably their best performance in the last half-decade, let alone the season, Wenger said he told the players: "Just to be focused on what is important, our futures, the future of the club and no matter if I stay or not they play for their futures."

He also spoke about the hurt he felt at seeing banners and even airplanes carrying messages urging him to leave, but said he was forgiving.

"You know, we cannot say 'oh fantastic, I enjoy that'. So, there's a kind of violence in our society now where everybody has opinions and we have to live with it, but I just, the only thing I say, I accept, you know, people's opinion, but during the game you want people who are fans to be behind the club and that's what I refuse. I will never accept that during a game. If people want me out, they want me out, I can accept that. In the game, you support the team, it's as simple as that.

"I meet many Arsenal fans who are absolutely fantastic. I just said there was maybe 1pc, but the 99pc of our fans are absolutely fantastic. We play for the 99.9pc.

"I am a forgiving man. This job is basically trusting human beings, you know, so if you cannot forgive, you cannot trust.

"The only thing I advise to young coaches, if you have tendency to paranoia, don't do this job."

Irish Independent

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