It’s fair to say that at the end of Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, he looked drained and damaged. The constant pressure of trying to deliver the glory days had taken its toll and the reign of the manager that delivered exhilarating football, with a group of world class players, was finally over.
22 years of rebuilding the club and remodelling Arsenal’s game, resulted in his unceremonious removal in the 2017-18 season. Wenger left the same way he arrived, without much fuss and in a controlled and dignified way. Wenger said nothing about the scurrilous treatment he received or how those behind the scenes betrayed him. Wenger simply cleared his desk, said his goodbyes and booked a flight.
After the dust had settled, it was almost inevitable that the speculation would begin regarding his return and likely destination. Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, PSG and Juventus were mentioned but nothing transpired and the quick return that was expected became less likely.
Wenger became a member of the human race, indulging his self with family and friends, dabbling as a pundit and receiving the odd award for his contribution to the beautiful game. Gradually the desire to travel to a training pitch on a wet November morning, to prepare for a tricky midweek encounter against the likes of Reading, became less attractive.
Wenger on Europa League Final troubles: “It’s a little bit of a nightmare [for the fans]. The teams have no problem. They live in ideal conditions – they have their private jet, nice business seats, but it’s the fans.” #afc pic.twitter.com/4HtVHQaFlW
— afcstuff (@afcstuff) May 24, 2019
Yet there are other reasons for Wenger’s latest admission that he may never return to the dugout. Wenger’s long association with Arsenal, his emotional attachment and overriding loyalty, was always going to prevent him taking charge of another premier league club. In The Frenchman’s mind, it was totally unthinkable and no amount of splash happy cash would influence his decision.
So where to from Arsenal ? It had to be a top club, one with a massive following and one which was worthy of his undeniable talents. Sadly, at the time, the main jobs in world football were spoken for and the few posts that were coming up, already had their replacements waiting in the wings, so where next ?
Wenger: "I miss competition. I miss Arsenal, because I left my heart there."
— Goal (@goal) May 25, 2019
Nowhere ! there was no where to go, apart from an obscure Chinese club for a hotel room full of yen or a glittering outpost in America, to eek out the tail end of his glorious career, managing a handful of jaded and belly heavy, former premier league players.
There is the international stage, managing a national team to challenge for the World Cup is certainly something worth considering but it would have to be one of the top six sides in the World and in particular France but again, there is no vacancy.
Wenger is a shrewd operator and a devoted football man, revered as Arsenal’s greatest manager. Wenger can’t manage beneath his station at Aston Villa or Leeds, it’s just not doable and the longer he is out, the less likely he will come back.
Massimiliano Allegri has just left Juventus and that throws up names such as Wenger and Mourinho but again, would Wenger want to lock horns with his former Arsenal Nemesis Ivan Gazidis after years of acrimony ? No, he’s more likely to fly a thousand miles in the opposite direction but who the hell really knows.
The Frenchman was at the launch of a new sports technology company, in which he is an investor and partner. Looking relaxed and suitably rested Wenger told the BBC that he wasn’t sure about a comeback,
“I thought I will come back into management very quickly, but I enjoyed taking a little distance. Now I’m at a crossroads.”
Wenger added teasingly,
“You will see me again in football. As a manager… I don’t know.
In this year I did a lot of charity work, conferences – and I enjoyed it, I must say, to be a little bit less in highlights and less under stress.”
Wenger has adopted more of a Peter Jones (Dragons Den) approach with his latest venture in sports technology which has a device placed inside a football boot, that analyses technical, tactical and physical performance related data.
“My last dream at Arsenal was to create a university inside the club. I was negotiating already with some big companies, like Sony, Siemens, because they had big research departments.”
– Arsène Wenger pic.twitter.com/axUElv022X
— AFTV (@AFTVMedia) May 24, 2019
Impressive but I doubt it’s going to replace the thrills and disappointments of seasonal football and I’m not sure if Wenger is telling us what he thinks we want to hear or what he thinks he should say.
Wenger always has been an immensely complex yet captivating individual and wherever he decides to go, whatever he chooses to do, he will always be a gooner.