Lack of unity hurts Arsenal – Wenger on fans, successor & what next

Media playback is not supported on this device

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger says the lack of unity among fans in recent seasons has been “hurtful” to the club.

The Frenchman announced on Friday he would step down at the end of the season after almost 22 years in charge.

Some fans have turned on Wenger as they look set to miss out on a Premier League top-four spot for the second successive season.

“The image we gave from our club is not what it is and not what I like,” said Wenger, 68.

Arsenal beat West Ham 4-1 on Sunday to stay sixth in the top flight.

The Gunners finished outside the top four last term for the first time since Wenger arrived at the club, and are now 11 points behind fourth-placed Tottenham, with four matches remaining.

Their hopes of reaching the Champions League rest on winning the Europa League.

Fans have held “Wenger out” signs at Arsenal matches, while there have been empty seats at home games in recent months.

“I was not tired,” said Wenger after Sunday’s win, when talking about his decision to quit.

“Personally I believe this club is respected all over the world, much more than in England.

“The fans did not give me the image of unity I want all over the world and that was hurtful because I think the club is respected”.

Wenger, who has won three Premier League titles and seven FA Cups at Arsenal, added: “I’m not resentful and I do not want to make stupid headlines.

“I’m not resentful with the fans, I just feel if my personality is in the way of what I think our club is, for me that is more important than me.

“That is what I want to say, it is nothing to do with the fans. The fans were not happy – I can understand that. That is my job and I have to live with that, I can accept that.”

Analysis – ‘A fascinating news conference’

David Ornstein, BBC Sport

Speaking for the first time since announcing he would be leaving Arsenal at the end of the season, Arsene Wenger conducted a fascinating news conference following his side’s victory over West Ham.

Amid moments of emotion, nostalgia and humour was an unprovoked suggestion that his decision to depart was at least partly a consequence of the way he has been treated by some of the club’s fanbase in recent times.

Wenger appeared to imply that the rancour and disharmony, the opprobrium, the banners, placards and protests directed towards him – in other words, the actions of the so-called ‘Wenger Out’ brigade – were projecting a global image of Arsenal that was inaccurate, damaging and upsetting.

The message he seemed keen to convey was that this had created an unsustainable situation. By extracting himself, he hoped that could be rectified and lead to fresh unity, improve the climate around the team and repair any damage to the worldwide perception.

Wenger will not pick successor

Arsenal say a successor will be appointed “as soon as possible” and chief executive Ivan Gazidis said the next manager needs to be “open-minded, brave and bold”.

Former Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti has already declared an interest, while Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers has dismissed speculation linking him with the job.

Ex-Arsenal midfielder Patrick Vieira say he is “flattered” after being linked with the role, but says he is “happy” as New York City coach.

Wenger say he will not pick a successor, adding: “My job is to take care of the team, the results and the finances in the transfers.

“My job is not to select the next manager.”

Asked whether he will manage again in England, he said: “If you’re speaking about emotions, that certainly would be for me emotionally difficult.

“I’m too attached to this club to say I would go anywhere else. It’s too difficult for me”.

Full transcript of Wenger’s news conference

On the fans singing ‘One Arsene Wenger’…

I’m happy when our fans are happy. I’m even ready to suffer to make them happy. If sometimes, they make me happy as well then I’m happy. I’ll take it. Every single decision I’ve made in my 22 years is for the good and the sake of Arsenal. Even when it was the wrong decision, my one priority was to do well for the club.

I tried to influence the club on the structural side, on the development of the individual players and of course the style of play and results. To combine the three is not always easy and I believe that I will leave a club that is in a very strong position on all fronts. My target was always to do that and I give an opportunity to the guy who comes in after me to do even better in the next 20 years. That’s my wish.

On whether he wants to have any say in who comes after him…

No. It’s not my decision. I always feel that the most important thing in a football club is that everybody does his job. My job is to take care of the team, of the results and of the finances in the transfers. That’s what I did. My job is not to select the next manager.

On why it’s the right time to leave…

I made a statement. That is basically all in it. Overall, I don’t think it’s the moment to come out on that. I would like to focus, to keep the priorities right until the end of the season and focus on how well I can do until the end. I will speak about that a bit later in my life.

On whether he can sum up the range of emotions he’s gone through…

No, not really. It’s a mixed feeling. First of all I must say that I’m touched by all the praise I’ve got from all English football and I’m grateful for having that experience in this country. That for me is very special. The football is special, the passion is special and you’ll find that nowhere else. I know that I will not get that anymore in my life.

Of course that is absolutely special and the fact that I could see the development of the Premier League in 20 years is sensational. I hope that will last a very long time. After that I had the feeling a little bit [like this was similar to] my funeral because people speak about you and how you were, so it was little bit interesting on that front. I don’t need to die anymore because I know what it’s like! That is quite interesting but I must say, apart from a little sense of humour, I would like to thank everybody who has been nice to me. It’s our job because I certainly got more praise than I deserved and maybe sometimes more criticism than I deserved. It has been difficult but also fantastic.

On when he knew he was leaving…

It’s not the moment to talk about that.

On what changed his mind over respecting his contract…

I just told you a few minutes ago that I would talk about that one day but it’s not the right moment.

On whether he will manage again in England…

If you’re speaking about emotions, that certainly would be for me emotionally difficult. I don’t know how well I will live without that so at the moment its difficult for me to say never. But at the minute I speak to you, I’m too attached to this club to say I would go anywhere else. It’s too difficult for me.

On whether it’s hit him that he will be leaving…

I will never completely leave this club, because my first look will always be for Arsenal and how well the club develops. I will always be attached, but it’s difficult. You do not give 22 years of your life like that. I gave the best years of my life to this club. I arrived at 46 years old and I worked seven days a week – not six or six and a half. Seven for 22 years! You cannot just walk away and say thank you very much and bye bye, it is absolutely normal. You cannot be on one side completely committed and after walk away like nothing happened – it’s impossible. I know I will face that challenge and that it will be difficult for me. But I had other difficulties in my life and I hope that I will get through this one as well.

On whether he hopes that his announcement has boosted the club…

I don’t know. The club needs to prepare for the future and the earlier and more settled it is, the better. You cannot come in on 1 June and say look we separate now and do what you want.

On whether he wants to retire or work elsewhere…

Maybe – I don’t know. It’s new for me. With Sir Alex Ferguson it was different, I agree with you. He’s still at the club though, he stayed at Manchester United.

On whether he wants to keep coaching or go upstairs…

Honestly, I can’t tell you much because I don’t want you to come back to me in six months and say that you lied to us. I know I did that a few times, but I would like to be definite today. I don’t know how I’ll respond to that situation.

On what the club needs from the new manager…

Look, you take me and take a guy who’s much stronger in every strong point that I have!

On whether he felt relief in his announcement…

No, because I was not tired, but I personally feel that this club is respect 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 and 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.

On whether the players will let him down if they don’t win the Europa League…

We will try you know, we play against Atletico Madrid and it is very open. Hopefully we can continue to have positives results until the end and then we will see where we go from there.

On unity…

I have nothing more to say. I feel this club has a fantastic image and for me that is absolutely vital.

We can speak and speak and speak, sport is about winning and losing and you have to accept that you can lose games but it is about something bigger than winning and losing. For me that was always a worry, how the club is perceived worldwide for kids who play in Africa, in China, in America and the dream it can create for young children who want to play football and all of our clubs have a responsibility in that.

On whether fans hurt the club in that sense…

I’m not resentful and I do not want to make stupid headlines. I’m not resentful with the fans, I just feel if my personality is in the way of what I think our club is, for me that is more important than me. That is what I want to say, it is nothing to do with the fans, the fans were not happy I can understand that, that is my job and I have to live with that, I can accept that. I don’t know if it was damaging but it was not corresponding with what I really feel our club is perceived and has to be perceived all over the world. I travel a lot and this club is respected all over the world and that is down to work and as well to the way we play football, the way we behave and the way we treat people. I want that to go on and to be respected and give the image I think is right. There is a lot of money in the game but above that is more than money, more than results, it is the way a club is perceived and the example a club gives all over the world.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

BBC Sport – Sport