Arsene Wenger is preparing for Arsenal’s best chance at next season’s UEFA Champions League: April 5 and 12 quarterfinal legs against CSKA Moscow in the Europa League.
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Speaking to Bein Sport this international break in preparation for the matches, he was asked whether winning the competition could be a storybook end for his time at Arsenal.
Wenger didn’t bite on the retirement bait, though he did show that the relatively leading question took him directly where it hoped; Instead of moving the talk to how he doesn’t know when he’ll be done at the Emirates, he shifted the context to image.
“I am not too concerned by image because I focus to work with values,” Wenger said. “I am prone to do my best for my club. I am maybe naive enough that with the time going on, with the perspective and the emotional context growing it will stand out what I’ve done for my club and not so much the last result… I am a little bit fed up with the modern thing that is to completely take care of your image.”
There’s a “get off my lawn” joke to be made here, but that would feel a bit like ageism, wouldn’t it? Good news: That would lead into the other part of Wenger’s thoughts.
“You focus on doing well for your club. Overall the older you get, the more it become a bit of age discrimination. I can accept that the results are not good enough but we are in a job where we have to take the consequences but overall, the big picture of how long you’ve been at the club, how old you are. I find that difficult to take. All the rest I accept. I am in a top public job where I have to make results and I am responsible for the results.”
I think Wenger’s legacy is largely safe as one of the most influential managers in Premier League history. Perhaps the only danger of these recent seasons overriding his long track record of success is a fan- and media-driven need to fulfill the prophecy of his legacy being tarnished.
Wenger is known as a leader who treats every Arsenal employee the same, and it does seem destined that in some capacity he’ll be loved more inside the grounds than the league itself. But there’s a wider circle which will view him as a legend beyond the scope of this magnified and disappointing on-field time at the Emirates.