04/22 12:32 CDT Wenger quit Arsenal after 'hurtful' fan protests
Wenger quit Arsenal after 'hurtful' fan protests
By ROB HARRIS
AP Global Soccer Writer
LONDON (AP) --- Arsene Wenger said he wasn't tired of managing Arsenal but quit
after finding fan protests calling for his departure "hurtful" and damaging to
the club's image.
The 68-year-old Frenchman was initially reticent on Sunday to discuss the
precise reason for his decision after 22 years in charge.
But facing the media for the first time since Friday's shock announcement,
Wenger relented and gave an insight into what precipitated his departure when
he had another season remaining on his contract.
"I was not tired," Wenger said after Arsenal's 4-1 victory over West Ham in the
Premier League. "Personally I believe this club is respected all over the
world, much more than in England ... our fans did not give the image of unity
that I want in the club all over the world, and that was hurtful. I feel the
club is respected. Overall the image we gave of our club is not what it is and
not what I like."
"Wenger Out" banners have been displayed by some fans at games --- and at
events unconnected to football --- as disillusionment grew at Arsenal's failure
to win the Premier League since 2004.
"I do not want to make stupid headlines. I am not resentful with the fans,"
Wenger said. "I just feel that if my personality is in the way of what I think
our club is, for me that is more important than me. That's what I say. It has
nothing to do with the fans. Our fans were not happy. I can understand that.
"I travel a lot and this club is respected all over the world, and that's down
to work. It's down to the way we play football, the way we behave and the way
we treat people. So I want that to go on and be respected and give the image
that I think is right. Even though there's a lot of money in the game ... more
than the results is the way a club is perceived. And the example the club gives
all over the world."
Wenger was hired by Arsenal in 1996 on the back of successes at Monaco and a
stint in charge of Japanese club Grampus Eight. Only the second manager from
outside Britain or Ireland to take charge of a top-flight English club, Wenger
helped to revolutionize English football by introducing new sports science
Wenger's methods delivered on the pitch --- with Arsenal winning the Premier
League in 1998, 2002 and the 2004 unbeaten "Invincibles" season --- and helped
to attract a global fan base.
"I feel that this club has a fantastic image and for me that is absolutely
vital," Wenger said. "Sport is as well about something bigger than just winning
or losing and 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 that
it can create for young children who want to play football."
Wenger has enjoyed glowing tributes about his contribution to the Premier
League since Friday's decision. It marks a change from the protests that have
mounted as Arsenal has slipped to sixth in the standings and faces its lowest
finish during Wenger's reign.
"After that I had the feeling a little bit ... (of) my funeral because other
people speak about you and how you were," Wenger said. "So it was a little bit
interesting on that front. So I don't need to die anymore."
But there wasn't an outpouring of support for Wenger during Sunday's game
against West Ham, with only a few renditions of "There's only one Arsene
Wenger" in the Emirates Stadium.
"I am happy when our fans are happy, and I'm even ready to suffer to make them
happy," Wenger said. "If sometimes they make me happy as well, I take it. But I
feel every single decision I made in my 22 years is for the good and the sake
of Arsenal. Even when it was the wrong decision it was always with one priority
and to do well with the club.
"I tried to influence a club on the structural side, on the development of
individual players and of course the style of play and the results. To combine
the three is not always easy. I believe that I will leave a club that is in a
very strong position on all fronts and my target was always to do that. And to
give an opportunity to the guy that comes in after me to do even better in the
next 20 years. That's my wish."
Arsenal's priority is now the Europa League, with the semifinal first leg
against Atletico Madrid on Thursday. With Arsenal out of the top four in the
league, winning the Europa League is the only realistic path into the Champions
League and the final in Lyon can provide Wenger with the perfect send-off.
"I will always be attached (to the club) but it's difficult," Wenger said. "You
do not give 22 years of your life like that --- and 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, not six and a half, seven, for 22 years.
"So you cannot just walk away and say, 'Thank you very much, bye bye.' You
cannot be on one side completely committed and then walk away like nothing
happened. It's impossible. I know that I will face that challenge, that it will
be difficult for me. But I had other difficulties in my life and I hope I will
get through this one as well."
Wenger is yet to say if he will manage another team.