‘It was never the same’ – Arsene Wenger admits he should have quit Arsenal when Stan Kroenke arrived at Emirates in 2007
ARSENE WENGER has admitted for the first time that he regrets dedicating so much of his life to Arsenal.
And he claims he has no reason to return to the club where he was sacked after 22 years in charge.
The Frenchman, 72, rejected job offers from some of the biggest clubs in the world before being asked to leave in 2018.
He has never returned to the Emirates and now cannot help wonder what might have been if he followed his instinct to leave when things started to fall apart in 2007.
In a revealing new documentary released this week, Wenger said: “I should have gone somewhere else. My fatal flaw was that I loved too much where I was.
“I identified myself completely with Arsenal and that was the mistake I regret. But now there is no special reason for me to go there.
“I could have gone to the French national team, the English national team three times, I could have gone twice to Real Madrid, to Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain and even to Manchester United.”
Yet that loyalty was never truly appreciated by the board or fans, culminating in his departure at the end of the 2017-18 season.
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He recalled: “It’s the end of your life, like a funeral. On the day everyone is nice to you and one week before you have to face a lot of criticism.
“I managed to control my emotions but, of course, the end of a love story is always sad.”
Wenger admitted his obsessive nature has worked against him as he finally faces up to the reality of his solitary existence.
He said: “The meaning of my whole life was football and sometimes I’m afraid to acknowledge it.
“I am a hermit. I lived in a bubble, my own little triangle of home, training centre and football stadium.
“I have the addiction gene and when you have that you don’t develop some of the aspects of your personality that you should.
The end of a love story is always sad
“I feel guilty because my passion created selfishness. My passion for football made me not take enough care of the people around me.
“I would have loved to have had a bigger family and now I am so grateful to have my daughter.
“I try to repair things but this desire not to lose makes you inhuman and destroys part of you.
“Women kill for love and men kill because they hate to lose. I meet many huge champions and they only talk about what they lost.
“Success is easy to absorb but the defeat remains forever. It hurt so much when we lost that sometimes I threw up.”
Wenger, now head of global football development for Fifa, saw cracks start to appear when the club left their Highbury home and moved to the Emirates.
He said: “Highbury was my soul, the Emirates my suffering.
Highbury was my soul, the Emirates my suffering
“I could see that it would be more difficult because we started out with a project of £200million, which we could basically afford, and finished at £428m.
“The decisive point was 2007. It was the first time I could feel tensions in the boardroom because David Dein had an agreement to bring in Stan Kroenke and I was torn between being loyal to the club and being loyal to David.
“That’s when I thought I had to go to the end of the project, but I still wonder if I did the right thing because life was never the same.
“Once we moved to the new stadium, we moved from first or second place to third or fourth and we lost our best players.
“Before we lost the players at 30 years plus. Afterwards we lost them at 25.
“So to work with restricted resources and still keep the club at a level where we could pay our debts, from 2006 to 2015 I personally think I did my best job.”
Alongside interviews with former Arsenal greats Dennis Bergkamp, Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry, Martin Keown and Lee Dixon, the documentary also includes a contribution from Wenger’s managerial nemesis Sir Alex Ferguson.
I was not scared of anyone in football
Wenger recalled: “Ferguson was the dominant figure in English football and everyone was scared of him, from the press to the referees.
“But I was ready for the fight because it was a good opportunity to show that it’s not only in England that you know how to play football.
“When you are fighting to win, you are two lions with only one desire which is to eat the lion against you. I was not scared of anyone in football.”
Ferguson said: “Arsene and myself are dinosaurs but we didn’t do so badly.
“I went 13 weeks without losing but I was never near going through a whole season unbeaten. That achievement stands above anything else and it belongs to Arsenal.”
Looking back on that Invincibles season of 2003-04, Wenger added: “It was the moment where I fulfilled the dream of my life.
"The fact I could convince this group of players to achieve something they didn’t think was possible, I have done my job in a perfect year for one year.
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“But I sometimes wonder if something was broken after that Invincibles season because I had achieved what I deeply wanted.
“Now is it linked with me that after I had achieved the highest level, I didn’t do it again.”
*Arsene Wenger: Invincible comes to cinemas from November 11 and on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Download on November 22. It is available to pre-order now at amzn.to/3Bqxnm8.
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