A blog following in Dennis' footsteps. Ajax, Arsenal and Dutch football
The position of Arsenal manager has been dividing opinions for years now. As we all know, The Gunners haven’t lifted a trophy since that ugly ’05 FA Cup win. It’s perfectly normal to discuss the position of the manager and the point of this article is not to deny my fellow fans their opinion. However, in recent times I’ve seen some of high-profile fans (let’s randomly call them Tim P. and Piers for the heck of it) bring Arsène Wenger’s salary into the equation. That’s fine as well, but not when aforementioned fans use these figures to argue that Le Professeur is only in it for the money and doesn’t care enough, neglecting his managerial duties.
One only has to look at how the boss has aged due to stress (similar to Pep Guardiola) over the last couple of years to realise he DOES care and is as disappointed and disenchanted by Arsenal’s lack of success as the most avid fan. Arsène looks physically ill and to see him squatting on the touchline in anxiety is an awful sight to behold. Of course, I get it, our beloved Arsenal seems to be falling apart: The club’s only realistic shot at a long-awaited trophy has yet again slipped away before the business-end of the season.
Richard Conte, who was general manager at AS Cannes when Arsène Wenger got his first job as assistant manager to Jean Marc Guillou, said the following:
He [Arsène] was a winner. Competitive nature is deeply rooted in him. Aside from his strengths teaching technique and his knowledge of the game, Arsène is someone who boasts exceptional concentration. He would cut himself off entirely from the outside world to prepare. He would spend hours in preparation for matches and discussing the smallest points with the club’s fitness staff.
Jean-Luc Arribart, an old friend of Arsène’s who played under him, has first-hand experience with Wenger’s reaction to defeat. This is what happened when the Frenchman lost a game when he was manager of AS Nancy:
We lost one game at Lens, conceding three or four goals, and back then it really got to him. He’d get so worked up by disappointments like that. On the way back from that match, he actually had to stop the team bus to vomit a few hundred meters away from the stadium. The defeat had literally turned his stomach and made him physically ill.
Jean-Luc Ettori, who was a goalkeeper at AS Monaco when Wenger was their manager, talks about the Alsace-born boss’ motivational skills:
I learnt so much from him. I took on his passion for the game, his patience, his desire to work so hard, and his intelligence rubbed off on me. One day he told me: “What’s important is that your team-mates have complete faith in you, even if you don’t have complete faith in yourself.” At half-time he’d restore your confidence even if you’d had a nightmare in the first half.
George Weah, probably the most famous African footballer of all time, learnt a lot from his time at AS Monaco because of Wenger:
He was always there to encourage me, not always just in his role of coach, but also as a father figure. He always gave me good advice and would repeat, over and over again: “If you work hard with me as I ask you to do, you will become one of the best players in the world”
Weah won the Ballon d’Or 1995 and the ceremony took place in Milan, where the striker played for the local AC. The Liberian, who knew that his former boss was in the Italian city for business, sent him an invitation:
When my name was announced for the Ballon d’Or, I told the hall that we had a very special guest present. Of course it was my former coach, Arsène. I said that he, not I, deserved the award.
Bob Wilson, former Arsenal ‘keeper and goalkeeping coach until 2003, shows his appreciation of Wenger:
I was in turmoil when he arrived. My daughter had been living with cancer and on December 1, 1998 she died. The times I was struggling to keep it together, he was brilliant for me.I needed someone to understand where I was at for five years of my life — as it was a horrible rollercoaster — and Arsene saw how my wife needed to do something to keep her life on track and had to follow Anna’s orders, who was a nurse, to keep our work going. We then set up the Willow Foundation and by turning up at events, Arsene has helped raise about £250,000.
I realise that it’s possible to write an article to claim the exact opposite. Not every former Wenger-protégé speaks highly of him and that is also perfectly normal. What I tried to achieve with this article is merely to provide a bit of counterweigh. Admittedly, most of the quotes are about his pre-Arsenal career and you could argue that he has changed, but I believe that they still hold value.
I hope you enjoyed my scribbling and that it makes you a bit more positive. I hate to see my fellow Gooners gloomy. Until next time!
P.S: One last quote:
Arsène Wenger is the best manager Arsenal have ever had, and one of the top three or four in top-flight British football history (along with Shankly, Clough and Ferguson).
- Piers Morgan (2008)