Wenger reveals ‘hurt’ at criticism as Arsenal turn on the style
Real Madrid, Barcelona, AC Milan, Inter Milan, PSG, the French national team, the English national team and just about every other national team.
During the last 19 years, it might be easier to draw up a list of those who have not tried to lure Arsène Wenger from Highbury or, latterly, The Emirates Stadium.
It is measure of Wenger’s class that when asked to put a figure on how many times he has stood by Arsenal, his only response was to smile. He seemed to quite enjoy the line of inquiry, and might have gone into detail had an impatient media man not ushered him off when he was flowing as expressively and eloquently as his side over the previous 90 minutes at Goodison Park.
Off Wenger went, dragged away by one of his own when he had more to offer. It seemed quite the visual metaphor for what might come if the Arsenal board respond to the clamour for change.
Wenger is no busted flush. The risk in losing him is twofold.
His intention appears to be to end his career at the club he has defined, just like Sir Alex Ferguson, but if that proves unpalatable it would be naive to presume a domestic or European rival would not beg him to spend his twilight years in management elsewhere.
A guarantee of being in the last 16 of the Champions League every season may no longer satisfy Arsenal, but others would enthusiastically accept a side perpetually in contention for honours.
Wenger would transform any side he coached and while Arsenal began the task of finding another visionary – good luck with that – he would threaten their habitual and presumptuous top-four status if he turned up elsewhere.
Wenger admitted the most recent “scepticism” has hurt him more than usual given it is led by supporters. The first goal at Goodison, beautifully crafted by Alexis Sánchez and Mesut Özil and finished by Danny Welbeck, gave him particular pleasure.
“What hurts me is that at the important moment of the season we played in a sceptical environment,” Wenger said. “I couldn’t understand why. From the media – OK. From our fans? It is a bit more difficult to take.
“I never complain about critics, especially when they are turned against me. I just think I give my best, I built this club over 19 years with the quality of my work, not with resources from outside.”
As for Everton, another week, another mood swing. Manager Roberto Martínez warned his players that FA Cup semi-final places are at stake.
“There’s been a lot of talk about the semi-final,” he said. “Unless you can show you are a player to drive Everton forward, it will be difficult to see how you can stay in the side.”