Arsene Wenger Reminisces About Joining Arsenal, First Trip to Wembley, & More

Nov 22, 2020, 6:15 PM GMT
Arsene Wenger went on Desert Island Discs
Arsene Wenger went on Desert Island Discs | Simon Hofmann/Getty Images
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Since leaving Arsenal back in 2018, Arsene Wenger has regularly spoken about life with the Gunners, and he has revealed plenty of great stories from his time at the helm.

His latest trip down memory lane came on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs, during which he reminisced about his 22-year spell with Arsenal, including everything from his first trip to Wembley and the reaction he received when he first joined the club.

Here are some of the best bits.

On His First FA Cup Final at Wembley

Wenger lifted his first FA Cup in 1998, leading his side to a 2-0 win over Kenny Dalglish's Newcastle United.

“It was because when I was a kid, in my village, we had no television. The first television that we had in our home was when I was 14. So to watch a football game, we had to go to the school and watch in black and white. Bring £1, and we could watch a football game... one per year. Can you believe that today?

"It was the FA Cup Final, so I was a little kid seven, eight or nine years old. Now imagine this little boy walks out at Wembley and leads his team to play an FA Cup final. So it was something exceptional for me. And, that I can never forget.”

On Enjoying Managers Suffering

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Wenger is enjoying a different perspective on football | IAN KINGTON/Getty Images

“I relax by watching other managers suffer. And think 'It's your turn my friend'. But by watching football as well, you know, I love it so much. And it's easier for me when I watch other games to take a distance. Why does this player make this decision? What are the major mistakes they make? And I enjoy it because football is always unpredictable.

"It's not like theatre - you go every night to the theatre - it starts the same and finishes the same. Go every night to a football game - it's always different.”

On the Importance of the Mind in Football

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Wenger believes the mental side of football is just as important | ADRIAN DENNIS/Getty Images

“I felt that the mental aspect of a young player is very important, and I thought I can help them. I [used to hire a psychiatrist because I] wanted to understand better what is going on in the brain of a young boy.

"And I forced them every day to say, how did you feel today? Physically? How was your concentration? How do you feel that tactically we did? How did you think you did? So even when I meet them today, they still tell me that helped them a lot in their life to think about what they did and if I did well or not.”

On the Response to His Move to Arsenal

Arsene Wenger
Wenger's move to Arsenal was met with confusion | Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Wenger was largely unknown outside of France when he moved to Arsenal in 1996. He'd spent ten uninspiring years in France and was actually signed from Japanese side Nagoya Grampus Eight.

“I think the club was quite crazy to appoint a guy like me, because this was one of the most traditional clubs in England. And to take a completely unknown guy, I think they were crazy, these guys. But I had the advantage to benefit from it.”

On His Unbeaten Streak Between 2003-04

Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira
Arsenal went unbeaten in 2003/04 | Clive Mason/Getty Images

Between May 2003 and October 2004, Arsenal did not lose one of their 49 league games, setting a Premier League record and also going an entire season unbeaten.

“I thought the perfection of my job would be one year not to lose a game. It was an exceptional experience to play 49 games, imagine one and a half years, without losing a game? Sometimes I thought: 'Why am I well paid to do this job, it's so simple, so enjoyable?' You know, after you lose your first game, you know why you're well paid!”

On Leaving Arsenal

Arsene Wenger
Wenger found it hard leaving Arsenal | Chris Brunskill Ltd/Getty Images

“It was difficult because when you're 69 years of age, you don't imagine going somewhere else as a manager. I turned all the best clubs in the world down to go to the end of my contract, to the end of my mission with this club.

"So it was difficult, because your car that drove automatically to the training centre has to stay at home, and you with it. And to cut that link was very, very difficult, but on the other hand, I decided to change completely. And I'm very happy about that.”

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