Wenger says ‘hurt­ful’ fans played role in de­par­ture

Man­ager wor­ried about dam­age to the club’s image around the world

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Front Page - Daniel Tay­lor at the Emirates Sta­dium

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.

Image

“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

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