Saturday 20 January 2018

Wenger 'feels' game like no one else so to quit would be hard


Ramsey: Match-winner. Photo: John Sibley/Action Images via Reuters
Ramsey: Match-winner. Photo: John Sibley/Action Images via Reuters

Miguel Delaney

Amid all the intrigue about Arsene Wenger's future that he has so fuelled this weekend, all the debate about whether he should finally leave Arsenal as his contract ends, there is one thing that should never be forgotten about him that remains so crucial to this entire situation: he 'feels' the game more than probably any other football figure. He lives it more.

Wenger has spoken about how he is unlike Alex Ferguson in that he doesn't have "his horses", and those close to him say it is ultimately very difficult to imagine him leaving the Arsenal job because it would be very difficult for him to imagine life without the day-to-day of football. Beyond current affairs, all he is interested in is football.

That was something that came across when he began to speak about how special Saturday was, what a seventh FA Cup meant to him, after Arsenal had defeated Chelsea 2-1. Wenger was almost wistful, and endearingly so.

"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… it's just the explosion of the passion of people."

It's why it's so difficult to imagine him giving up the job. This is what he lives for. "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 also meant it was Wenger at his best, as he offered up some classic 'Wengerisms': the little reflections on football that almost become grandiose reflections on life.

"There's a kind of violence in our society now where everybody has opinions and we have to live with it," was one.

"We live in a society that wants always change," was another.

Then there was this gem. "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."

It is precisely because this job is so special to him, though, that he wants it on the right terms. This is the other thing that shouldn't be forgotten: he does have an ego, a pride in what he has done at the club. As such, those who know Wenger say he doesn't want the job out of sentimentality or for it to represent some kind of "charity case", but because he is still trusted to be the best man for Arsenal.

That is the root of so much of the politicking over the past few months.

With the club wanting any decision on a new two-year deal to be "mutual", Wenger is understood to have been irritated at how some of the goalposts have been shifted, such as the sudden floating of plans for roles like a director of football. It has led to a few public digs in his press conferences about elements that have irked him. One example was a comment on what he feels is the club's obsession with stats.

"It's very difficult to predict where football will go, what will happen in the next 20 years," Wenger said at the end of the league season.

"Maybe we'll have a robot on the bench who will make the decisions and the computer will analyse exactly what decisions he makes during the game. You might not even have human beings on the bench anymore."

It was cuttingly delivered. That is why there was also an evident pride in the delivery of his sign-off at the end of his press conference after the FA Cup final, when asked if he will make a presentation to the board at their Tuesday meeting to discuss his future.

"The best presentation: watch the game, and there can be no doubt."

In other words, go back to the basics. That is what Wenger lives for. Moments like Saturday are what he works for. That is why it is so hard to see him walking away. Look at the football on Saturday, look at his joy in it. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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