Wenger says ‘hurtful’ fans played role in departure
Manager worried about damage to the club’s image around the world
Arsene Wenger has indicated that one of the factors behind his decision to leave Arsenal was his growing sense of unease that the supporters campaigning for his removal had created a “hurtful” atmosphere that was damaging the club’s reputation on a worldwide scale.
Speaking for the first time about his decision to cut his ties with Arsenal at the end of the season, Wenger made it clear he was “not tired” and wanted to continue working in football even though it would be “emotionally difficult” for him to manage another English club.
The Frenchman declined to explain in full why had chosen to break his contract, stating that he would wait until he had left the club, but he also spoke at length for the first time about the bitter divisions that have been created among Arsenal’s fanbase. It had not damaged him personally, he said, but it had been bad for the club’s reputation.
“I believe this club is respected all over the world, much more than in England, and our fans did not give the image of unity that I wanted. That was hurtful because I feel the club is respected over the world and, overall, the image we gave from our club is not what it is – and not what I like.
“I feel this club has a fantastic image and, for me, that is absolutely vital. We can speak and speak and speak but sport is about winning and losing and you [the supporters] have to accept you will lose games, even when I will not be here anymore. But it is about something bigger than just winning or losing and that was always a worry: how the club is perceived worldwide, for kids playing in Africa, China and America and the dreams it can create for young children who want to play football.
“I am not resentful and I do not want to make stupid headlines. I just feel if my personality is in the way of what I think our club is . . . for me, that is more important than me staying . . . It is nothing to do with the fans. The fans were not happy and I can understand that. It’s my job. I have to live with that. I can accept that.”
Asked how damaging it had been for the club, he said: “I don’t know if it was damaging but it was not corresponding to how I feel our club is perceived – and has to be perceived – all over the world. If you travel with us – and I travel a lot – this club is respected all over the world and that is down to work, the way we play football, the way we behave and the way we treat people. I want that to go on, to be respected and to give the image I think is right. It is more than the money, more than the result. It is the way the club is received and the impression it leaves all over the world.”
Speaking after Arsenal’s 4-1 defeat of West Ham yesterday, Wenger added: “I’m happy when the fans are happy and I’m even ready to suffer to make them happy. If sometimes they make me happy as well [by singing his name], I will take it. Every single decision I made during my 22 years was for the good of Arsenal and every single decision was with the priority of doing well for the club.
“I tried to influence the club on structure, development of players and style of play. To combine the three is not always easy and I believe I leave a club that is in a very good position. My target was always to do that and give continuity to the guy who comes in after me so we can be better in the next 20 years. That’s my wish.” – Guardian service
‘‘ Every single decision I made during my 22 years was for the good of Arsenal and every single decision was with the priority of doing well for the club