'The timing wasn't really my decision' - Arsene Wenger opens up on surprise departure announcement
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has admitted for the first time that the timing of his exit from the club was not his decision, in the clearest indication yet that he was asked to step down by the club’s board last week.
Wenger confirmed that his near 22-year reign as Arsenal boss would conclude at the end of this season in a statement last Friday, with the timing of the announcement taking many by surprise.
The Frenchman has always insisted he would remain loyal to his current contract that was due to expire in the summer of 2019, but confirmation of his early exit set the wheels in motion on his departure from the club.
Now Wenger has admitted that he was pushed into making the announcement, as he spoke to the media ahead of Thursday’s Europa League game against Atletico Madrid.
"The timing wasn’t really my decision," admitted Wenger. "For the rest, I have spoken about it already.
"Some people can make the difference between moments of unhappiness and global satisfaction for what I brought to the club. We live in a very emotional society where people can express how they feel."
Wenger again suggested that he intends to remain working in football when he leaves Arsenal, as he insisted his appetite for the game has not waned at the age of 68.
"I don't know what I'll do. I'll continue to work that's for sure," he stated. "At the moment I'm not ready to commit to anything but giving my best for Arsenal."
He also appeared to be uncomfortable with the suggestion that a Europa League win would represent his perfect way to bid farewell to Arsenal.
"I don’t know. I don’t look for myself," he continued. "I want to win and continue to do what I have done my whole life.
"The next game is in Europe and then we face (Manchester) United. I want to win those games.
"Is there a perfect goodbye? I don’t know. I want to do as well as I can. We have been challenged mentally and I have seen my players respond.
"If I can add that to what I have done, I will be very happy. We have to put a performance in on the pitch. We face a very strong team, the toughest opponent in this competition. We must focus on the quality of our performance.
"This group of players deserve something special and I want to do it for them and achieve it with them. My biggest satisfaction would be to be successful with the players I have."
Wenger’s frustration at what increasingly appears to be his unwelcome ousting from the role he has held since September 1996 is threatening to overshadow the clash with Atletico Madrid at Emirates Stadium, yet the Arsenal boss has urged the club’s fans to treat Thursday’s game as if it were a contest in Europe’s elite competition.
"It is a Champions League night," he added. "A Champions League place is at stake, for us. These are two teams that are used to be playing in the Champions League.
"We have to put a performance in on the pitch. We face a very strong team, the toughest opponent in this competition. We must focus on the quality of our performance."