Arsene Wenger: 10 Most Intriguing Quotes by the Arsenal Manager
Arsene Wenger quotes may lack the outright zaniness of compatriots like Eric Cantona and Emmanuel Petit, but the Arsenal manager occasionally obliges with a sarcastic outburst, a wry challenge or a thought-provoking metaphor.
One of the striking things about Arsene Wenger quotes down the years is how revealing they can be of his mindset at the time.
Here are 10 of the most intriguing quotes the Arsenal manager has come up with in his time in the Premier League.
If You Eat Caviar Every Day, It's Difficult to Return to Sausages
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"If you eat caviar every day, it's difficult to return to sausages." (November 1998)
This quote so succinctly sums up what seems to be happening to Arsenal right now, it's hard to believe its vintage.
Even so early in his Premier League career, Wenger learned to contend with the Arsenal fans' expectations—which he had himself inflated with his attractive and winning football.
After delivering a league and FA Cup double in 1997/98, a turgid 1-1 draw with Middlesbrough the following season brought murmurs of discontent from the supporters.
Wenger's response in the post-match press conference (as reported by the Mirror) struck a jaunty tone of optimistic insouciance.
Sometimes Stupid Behaviour Makes You Win
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"Gerard is an open-minded and passionate man. I am the opposite: stubborn and stupid. But sometimes stupid behaviour makes you win." (May 2001)
His jokily self-deprecating dismissal of his own demeanour failed to save his team from one of the great last-minute upsets in FA Cup history, when a late brace from the young Michael Owen won the trophy for Houllier's Liverpool.
Everyone Thinks They Have the Prettiest Wife
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"Everyone thinks they have the prettiest wife at home." (May 2002)
It's an Arsene Wenger classic—suave, diplomatic, witty—perhaps the most polite yet cutting put-down in the fabled war of words between the Arsenal manager and his nemesis Alex Ferguson.
The quote shows Wenger at the top of his game.
Arsenal were on their way to winning their second league and FA Cup double under the Frenchman, and his confidence was hardly going to be dented by Ferguson's blustering (and entirely unconvincing) assertion that Man United was actually the best team in the league.
When Arsenal ultimately won the Premier League at Old Trafford, the BBC detailed how Wenger had bested Fergie on and off the pitch, perfectly summed up by this masterful quote.
Like a Child Used to Having Ice Cream Whenever He Wants
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"It's like a child who is used to having ice cream whenever he wants. When it doesn't come when he asks he tends to get confused and nervous." (November 2004)
But the key differences between the two quotes are significant.
The 2004 comment refers not to the crowd, but the players as they struggled to assert their quality—an issue that would become a running theme in the Arsenal camp.
Even more significantly, the tone of indulgence has been replaced by a slight irritation. It is almost as though the manager had a glimpse of the future, when Arsenal's fortunes would soon begin to shift.
He's Pushed the Cork in a Bit Far This Time
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"Ferguson's out of order. He has lost all sense of reality. He is going out looking for a confrontation, then asking the person he is confronting to apologise. He's pushed the cork in a bit far this time." (January 2005)
Wenger's command of English means he seldom resorts to typically awkward idiomatic translation, and this one is so smooth, it almost seems calculated, perhaps an allusion to Ferguson's tradition of sharing a post-match bottle of wine with his opposite number—an invitation Wenger supposedly snubbed.
Wenger was responding to his old sparring partner Alex Ferguson's suggestion that he should apologize for his players' behaviour in the notorious "Battle of the Buffet," when an Arsenal player allegedly threw a slice of pizza at Ferguson. The BBC reported Wenger's remarks to French TV station TPS in the wake of the ill-tempered affair, sparked when Man United snapped Arsenal's legendary 49-game winning streak.
Exchanges between the two managers—and their teams—were reaching possibly their bitterest nadir.
When You Give Success to Stupid People, It Makes Them More Stupid
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"When you give success to stupid people, it makes them more stupid sometimes and not more intelligent." (November 2005)
It never developed into anything near his grudge match with Fergie, but there was certainly no jovial familiarity between Wenger and Jose Mourinho, who in 2005 famously branded the Arsenal manager a "voyueur" for supposedly obsessing over his Chelsea team.
Wenger's dismissive response, as reported by the BBC, hints at a growing edge behind the insouciance.
If I Give You a Good Wine, You Will See How It Tastes
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"If I give you a good wine, you will see how it tastes and after you ask where it comes from." (February 2007)
When the Middlesbrough chairman took up a familiar complaint about the imbalance of English and foreign players in the Arsenal side, Wenger replied with an elegant metaphor dismissing the idea that a player's nationality should influence whether a club buys him.
True to his word—and contrary to the sneaking suspicion that Wenger harboured some kind of prejudice against British players—six years later, the side would be very differently balanced, with home-grown boys like Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere dominating the team.
The Problem of the Media Is Always to Imagine the Worst
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"If I go into a season and I say, 'For fuck's sake, if we don't win anything, they [the club's star players] will all leave,' I have already lost. The problem of the media is always to imagine the worst and the problem of the manager is always to imagine the best." (August 2008)
At the beginning of the 2008/09 season, Wenger surprised journalists at a press conference detailed here in the Guardian.
Questions about the pressure to win trophies caused the Arsenal manager to break through his usual controlled and business-like demeanour with some choice Anglo-Saxon phrasing more usually associated with old-school football men like Joe Kinnear and Neil Warnock.
It was an early warning shot that Arsenal's "trophy-less drought," a theme much loved by the football media, would become an ever-growing press-room irritant for Wenger.
I Am Not Against Being Pragmatic
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"I am not against being pragmatic, because it is pragmatic to make a good pass, not a bad one. If I have the ball, what do I do with it? Could anybody argue that a bad solution like just kicking it away is pragmatic just because, sometimes, it works by accident?" (August 2009)
Arsene Wenger has long symbolised the move in the Premier League from a physical, "British" style to a more technical brand of football. This is sometimes interpreted as championing an idealistic game at the expense of pragmatism.
In an in-depth interview for the Daily Mail, Wenger refuted that somewhat ill-judged interpretation eloquently.
I Have Won Four Times the FA Cup. Who Has Won It More?
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"I have been accused of not taking seriously the FA Cup on Saturday. I have won four times the FA Cup. Who has won it more? Give me one name." (February 2013)
None of the journalists treated to Wenger's uncharacteristically cantankerous press-room outburst obliged with the obvious answer: Alex Ferguson, with five FA Cup victories.
The Daily Mail printed a transcript of the press conference and videos of Wenger's outburst garnered millions of views around the world.
In truth, the performance was neither shocking nor especially remarkable, particularly given the intense pressure Wenger was facing after being knocked out of the FA Cup by Blackburn.
But the undeniable chippiness plus a simple error from the usually meticulously correct manager indicates plainly that the strain is showing.