Wenger boasting about recently playing a football match at the age of 70 that featured the likes of Laurent Blanc, Christian Karembeu and Bixente Lizarazu, & winning 4-1.
Admits in his new autobiography, a “very lonely, very painful” separation. He has not been back to the Emirates, Arsenal’s stadium. Not yet anyway. Although invited, but thought it was better to follow the club from a distance. now has “no connection at all with the club”. There’s a sense Wenger is getting over the pain of enforced separation from the club where he “knitted my soul in red and white”, as he puts it in his book. On being asked if he would have accepted a seat on the board like what was offered to SAF, “I would have done that, yes.”. Says wasn’t expecting anything anyway. He is happy that he left the club in good hands & in good shape. “I did the job at three levels. To play with style and to win. To develop players. And to develop the club worldwide. The third level today is impossible. It’s not in your hands any more.”
Talks about Phil Foden being a guy with big quality, but at the moment he has not made it. “He hasn’t played enough at Manchester City. You need about 100 games to know your job in the Premier League.”
Talks about still being in touch with SAF over calls. When asked about how they respect each other now, especially keeping in mind that pizzagate scandal, Wenger laughs. “After you’re not competing any more, everyone becomes a bit more objective.” “He [Ferguson] knows better wine than I do,” admits Wenger, growing nostalgic. “Ah, we had some good battles. He’s an intelligent man. You don’t make a career like this guy if you’re stupid.”
Although not in touch with Pep anymore, Wenger recalls : “When Guardiola was still a player, he came to my home to ask to play for Arsenal. At the time I had Vieira. I had Gilberto Silva. I couldn’t take him.”
Still follows PL ardently as it’s the most unpredictable compared to the other leagues.
Confirms that he was offered the United job.
What’s he doing now? “Making some sport. Visiting my family and friends. Holidays. Reading a lot. Enjoying life but in a sensible way, because I’m a little bit drilled by 30, 40 years of discipline, you know?”
Gets up at 5:30 everyday & spends 90 minutes doing gym & cardio.
During lockdown, which he spent in Totteridge, the north London suburb he calls home, he ran “8-10k a day”.
Claims to have religious morality still & likes going to church.
He relates in his book, for instance, how when he first met Arsenal’s vice-chairman at the time, David Dein, he ended up acting out A Midsummer Night’s Dream in a game of charades at Dein’s house.
While talking about the strict nutrition & diet discipline he brought to Arsenal when he joined, he reveals that the squad used to sing, “We want our Mars bars,” on the team bus. Then they started winning, and his rivals decided these newfangled notions of “invisible training” might have some merit and promptly copied them. Ironically, the players never knew that Wenger himself was in a habit of smoking.
Politically liberal right, supports Macron. Not a fan of Brexit.
“I would have respected my contract,” he says, looking back on his Emirates exit. “The club thought it was better I stopped. I’d always lived with the idea that could happen. The supporters were not happy any more. Some of them. You can understand that, at some stage, 22 years, people want a change.”
His obsession was the reason he didn’t become a father until he was 48. “I think basically this is a job for single people. I always cherish freedom. I had girlfriends, but my priority was always football. I liked the idea to take my luggage and go anywhere in the world tomorrow. At Cannes I lived over the Bay of Villefranche; when I was in Japan [in Nagoya, not a natural beauty spot] I had a view of a wall, but I always say if I won the game it was a great view and I was happy. If happiness is liking the life one lives, I can say I have been happy, and still am.”
The grand old stadium was redeveloped as flats after the club moved. Wenger seriously considered buying one. As it is, he volunteers just before we part, “I drive sometimes through Highbury. The entrance is still there, the gates are listed…” And what does he feel? “I feel nostalgia,” he replies. “We had good times there.”