I don’t even know where to start this morning. We’ve all now read the news, listened to the press con terence, seen the outpouring of wonderful words about Arsene Wenger, but when it comes to actually sitting down and compiling some thoughts now that he has announced he is leaving the club in the summer,I find myself finding this very hard. How can I compile all of the memories he has given – positive and negative – into just about 800 – 1,000 words?
The obvious answer is I can’t. I’ve talked about wanting him to step down for about 18 months now and you’d think i’d have something to say that was mega inciteful or interesting, but I’m really scratching my head here. Yesterday was a surreal day. I got message after message from fiends, family, work colleagues. Somebody asked me to go on a radio show. I had a call with my dad who isn’t really in to football. I even went to the gym at lunchtime and in between my office and the gym there were three separate collectives of people – non-footballing people too – all talking about the announcement. Yesterday it felt like the name Arsene Wenger was on everyone’s lips.
And this is how it should be. I’ll be honest I thought we’d sit through another horrendous season of stagnation and his exit would be acrimonious and for some fans it would be a bitter end. No Arsenal fan – regardless of how vehemently you wanted the manager out – wanted it to end this way. But by making this announcement now, by ensuring that we have the end of the season which should turn into an appreciation for a man that has dedicated so many years to the club we love, both Arsene and Arsenal can end Wenger’s tenure in the right way: a celebration.
The atmosphere tomorrow will be amazing I think. It will feel like a celebration of his achievements. The stadium will be full. Season ticket holders who weren’t going to games will be back because we all want to pay our respects. It is the right way it should all end and at the end, I’m pleased that Arsene has clawed back some more of the respect and love we all have. I have said for some time now that Arsene clearly isn’t a man of his word because he always said if he felt he couldn’t take the club forward he would step down. When he signed the deal last summer I thought that showed that he is a man too desperate to cling on to power.
I am SO glad I was wrong. Very wrong. In yesterday’s announcement Arsene proved to us that he does understand how the club had fallen and he does love the club enough to know when it is time to say goodbye. I am thankful for that and I am pleased that in that one decision his end will be on a high. I still don’t think we’ll beat Atletico over two legs but at least we can have a few games respecting him.
I was 14 years old when Arsene signed for Arsenal. I remember we were linked with Johan Cruyff and he was the one I really wanted to see, not some French guy from Japan, but I’m forever grateful that we got Arsene when we did, because so much of the Arsenal that I love has his influence on. I’m 35 now and in my life i’ve known George Graham, Bruce Rioch and Arsene Wenger. Two out of those three ain’t that bad and have delivered success that most fans can’t even dream of.
The first ten year’s were amazing. We were the peak of entertainment and success and the rivalry with United was unparalleled. Arsene brought that to us and the way he changed the club and also football in this country cannot be underestimated.
But time has moved on. Football continues to evolve and nobody can stay on top of their game forever. Football these days is about corporate structures, teams that impact multi-million pound entities through vast global networks. It is a global game and that requires more than just one pair of hands. The club have clearly been setting this up for a while and that is good. We have already seen the decline and now we are finally making the last change that could potentially change this team for the better.
It goes without saying that the next three months are massive. Huge. Legacy defining. If Arsenal get the next appointment right then there’s no telling how far we can go. The infrastructure is there. The players need to be moulded but they are good enough to make an improvement on what we’ve seen this season. Plus the new man will have a reboot on the fanbase which will hopefully reunite us all. Everyone needs to get behind the new man and I think everyone will.
I feel weird. I am happy that Arsene has taken this decision, but sad too, because this is the end of an era and the finishing of a cycle that is a big part of my life. Arsenal are a big part of my life. I talk about them every single day. I write about them (almost) every single day. Yet what lies ahead is the complete unknown. So whilst I’m happy and sad, I’m also excited and nervous. It really does feel like the sky is the limit. For that I am very, very, grateful for.
A match preview tomorrow from me but until then, Merci, Arsene.