Arsene Wenger has been a permanent fitxure in English football for over two decades.
Reflection on his tenure at Arsenal in the wake of the announcement of his departure has brought into focus a legacy of two halves. In his early years, Wenger gave as good as he got in his rivalry with Alex Ferguson and the Scotman’s dominant Red Devils.
The peak of that came in 2004 when Arsene’s ‘Invincible’ Gunners went unbeaten in the Premier League. Since then however, they have failed to win the league title.
A Champions League final and a stadium change followed in a period of upheaval, but around the turn of the decade, longing for a renewed challenge at the big two trophies in club football festered among the Gooner faithful.
Coming to a head in recent years, the ‘Wenger Out’ movement became synonymous with the club. With Wenger seemingly a tenured manager in a footballing world that was trigger-happy when it came to managerial hiring and firing, the disconnect continued to grow.
While Wenger handled the weekly pressure with the grace that has defined him, it understandably weighed on his mind, as he told the media after his side’s 4-1 win over West Ham on Sunday.
“The fans were not happy. I understand that”, he admitted via David Ornstein of the BBC.
Wenger suggests fan unrest may have played a role in his decision: “Our fans did not give the image of unity I want at the club all over the world. That was hurtful. I feel the club is respected and overall the image we gave from our club is not what it is and not what I like” pic.twitter.com/rmxq1hesmv
— David Ornstein (@bbcsport_david) April 22, 2018
“I was not tired. But I personally feel this club is respected all over the world much more than in England. Our fans did not give the image of unity I want at the club all over the world. That was hurtful.
“I feel the club is respected and overall the image we gave from our club is not what it is and not what I like.”
“It was always a worry how the club was perceived worldwide. For kids who play in Africa, China, America, all our clubs have a responsibility in that sense.”
The Frenchman was at pains to ensure that he does not intend to sow further discontent with the fans, claiming that he is “not resentful” with them. As a faithful servant of the club for almost a quarter of a decade, he stated that his own position may have contributed to the perception of Arsenal.
“I just feel if my personality is in the way of what I think our club is, that is more important than me.”
Once current tension subsides, and those proverbially calling for Wenger’s head get their pound of flesh, the often fraught relationship between fans and manager will hopefully be reflected upon positively by both sides.