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Arsène Wenger suits up and sits down for L’Équipe’s Sport & Style

The 64-year-old stands at a bar with a glass of red wine as he strikes a pose for L'Equipe's Sport and Style

Arsène Wenger is one stylish fox!

Photo cred: Daily Mail

Arsène Wenger sat down for an interview with L’Équipe’s Sport & Style and he had many interesting things to say. This man’s passion is football and his heart belongs to Arsenal.

Here is an excerpt:

Arsène, if I say to you 6495 on this date, October 9th, what does that make you think of?

Nothing.

You have been the Arsenal manager for 6945 days. More than the total amount of days of the other 19 Premier League managers combined.

Oh really? And that is how much in seconds, if you are so good at maths? (he laughs)

Easy: 6945 x 24 x 3600!

For me, it doesn’t mean anything other than I have been doing a job that has been exclusively pointing towards the future. To the next day. I always live in the future. It is planned. Restricted. I actually have quite an anxious relationship with time. I am always in the process of fighting with it. That is, I totally ignore what belongs to the past.

How is the next minute in time the source of your anxiety?

I am always scared of being late. Of not being ready. To not have achieved everything that I have planned. My relationship with time is filled with anxiety in every way. Going back in time, looking back is just as volatile. First of all it is scary, because there is not as much to come as one has already lived… The only way to fight against time is to not look back too much. If you do, it is frightening and sometimes makes you feel guilty.

Art is not necessarily a source of universal beauty. Pieces can please or shock depending on each individual’s relationship with beauty.

I chose a team sport. There is a type of magic when men combine their energies to express a common idea. That is where sport becomes beautiful. The misfortune of man comes about when he finds himself alone trying to fight against the problems that he must face. Especially in modern society.

Team sport has a particular value, it is to be able to be ahead of its time. You can play with eleven players with eleven different nationalities and produce a collective piece of work. Sport today can show maybe what the world will be like tomorrow. We can also share fantastic emotions with people we cannot even talk to.

That is not yet possible in society on a daily basis. In that sense, team sport stands as an example. When tennis turns to the Davis Cup, it brings with it something that does not otherwise exist. The golf with the Ryder Cup too. People feel it. That pulse is there.

Kill ’em with style!

Photo cred: Daily Mail

Do you consider yourself today to be at the end of your coaching career? Another mini death. You have just turned 66.

I totally ignore this question. I am a bit like a guy who is 34 and is still playing. He has a bad game and we tell him: “um, ok, you need to stop my friend”. I do not even ask myself the question about what I will do afterwards, because it will be an extremely difficult shock.

Much more difficult than the one I experienced going from a player to a manager. Because with this one, it will be about switching from hyperactivity to emptiness. It is for that reason that I refuse to ask myself that question. I am like a guy who is not very far from goal, who continues to advance, and who ignores the wall.

Now, if I told you Erik, that you had just 24 hours to live. Would you be thinking about the knife that will cut your throat [in 24 hours time] – or would simply try to live them [the hours] to the fullest? That is the question of the end of life.

Why do you keep nothing from the past?

It worries me a bit. If you came to my house, you would never guess that you were in the house of a football manager. If you asked me where my medal is from the last FA Cup, I could not tell you. I think I gave it to the club doctor or the kit man.

At Real Madrid today, you can be crowned champion and still get sacked anyway…

They have entered into the modern circuit. They need fresh faces. Its an addiction to headlines. For me, consistency in results depends on the cohesion within the club. Throwing everything away, all the time, only makes sense if you have hyper-unlimited resources. Then, you can win. If not, you are done for.

You speak about consistency and patience. When you were manager of Monaco, you were more volatile. 

I have matured. I went to Japan. I learnt to control myself. I have a hyper-sensitivity that I mastered, bit by bit. I started managing properly at the age of 33, now I’m 66. To survive, I had to adapt.

Earlier on, while watching you were dressing up for the photoshoot, I cast my mind back to a thought courtesy of Mircea Lucescu, the manager of Shakhtar Donetsk, about you: “Arsène is an aristocrat. He is not driven by the working class ideals of an Alex Ferguson or by the aggressive nature of a José Mourinho. He looks to educate above all.” Do you see that as a true reflection of yourself?

I do not deny that before all else I am an educator. On the other hand, I do not at all feel like an aristocrat. If you had lived with me, loading manure onto carts, you would understand. I try to be truthful to the values that I find important in life and to transmit those onto others.

In 30 years as a coach, I have never had my players injected so that they might perform better. I’m proud of that. I have played against a lot of teams who were not in the same frame of mind.

Exactly, you are in England and you have not kept your farmer’s outfit. You are always impeccable on the bench on match days.

Because I feel responsible for the image that football gives and the image that I want to give of my club. And, at the same time, football is a celebration. And where I come from, when I was young, we dressed up on Sundays. I loved, when I arrived in England, to see managers wearing suits and ties.

As if to say “listen up guys, our aim is to make this moment a celebration”. I adhered to that. I want to be the guy who wakes up in the morning and says to himself, Arsenal are playing today, I’m going to have a good time.

This guy there starts his day by telling himself that something positive is going to happen to him. And for that reason, the big clubs must have the ambition of putting on a show. To share joy. We do not always achieve that.

It is not only the fans who are impatient. Even Thierry Henry said on Sky Sports: Arsenal “Must Win”, must become champions this season.

“Must” [is a word that] can be used for death. We “must” die one day. I prefer in my life to replace “must” with “want”. To want rather than to have to. If you tell me, you have to go out tonight, I already want to go out less. If you say to me do you want to go out tonight? Yes, I want to! That is why life should be loved. “Must”… “must”… there is nothing I “must” do.

You insist on fair play, in that sense are you a true Englishman?

I have not always played fair. In each of us, there is the desire to win and the hatred of defeat. I have at times really struggled to play fair because of my absolute hatred for defeat. Speaking of which, I am still the only manager to have one the English league without losing a match. But the English have something extra on the fair-play side of things.

Look at the rugby team who were knocked out at home in the group stages who gave the Australians a guard of honour as they left the field. There, I say, respect. You know how much they suffer. How much they suffer in real-time humiliation. Admittedly, it is a good image for sport.

What I liked a lot about sumo wrestling in Japan, is that at the end of the fight the winner never shows his delight so as to not humiliate his opponent. I have suffered enormously in defeat. When I see the behaviour and excesses in certain countries, I find what Japanese culture conveys or English sense of values to be remarkable.

If you had to pick one moment in your career?

To have arrived in London facing such great scepticism. My first championship title, my first double. From “Arsène who” to he who became a pioneer. The first non-British manager to succeed in England.

Is that why you stay away from the media?

Of course. Do you know somebody who wakes up in the morning and says: Hey, I want to receive 50 lashes?

****

The entire interview can be found here: getfootballnewsfrance.com

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My heart simply beats football.

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