Memorable Arsene Wenger Press Conferences at Arsenal
Being a man of great intelligence but also a man of some stubbornness, whose frustrations can sometimes quite easily boil over, he has the ability to offer a great insight into matters, as well as taking aim at opponents—sometimes blowing his top.
Here I pick a short selection of some of his finest moments that have managed to tick at least one of these boxes, but nevertheless, are always great entertainment.
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For a period, Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson shared one of football’s great rivalries. After arriving as a relative unknown from Japan in 1996, it did not take Wenger too long to get under Ferguson’s skin, criticising the influence his United side had on English football.
Soon the Frenchman was stealing his trophies, denying United from being champions on three occasions; we had a fine battle between the two playing out in front of our eyes every season.
Perhaps the peak of their rivalry came in October 2004, when United defeated reigning champions Arsenal at Old Trafford to deny the "Invincibles" from going 50 games unbeaten, with "Pizza-gate" soon unfolding at the full-time whistle.
Ferguson would go on to claim that he knew the identity of the Arsenal players who allegedly threw pizza and soup at him after the final whistle, to which Wenger replied in a January 2005 press conference:
“[Sir Alex] 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.”
Fast forward eight years and the only thing that the pair share nowadays is that of a mutual respect. Fergie no longer seeing the Gunners boss, and his side, as a threat anymore probably has something to do with it.
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Arsene Wenger is never going to respond lightly to criticism. His feathers were already ruffled, I’m sure, when the "Special One" Jose Mourinho arrived in England off the back of a Champions League win with Porto to lead Chelsea to their first title in 50 years–knocking Wenger’s "Invincibles" off their perch in the process.
So when Mourinho took unkindly to the Frenchman’s assessment that Chelsea had lost some of their belief after two recent results, calling him a “voyeur” who “likes to watch other people,” Wenger hit back in a November 2005 press conference:
"He's out of order, disconnected with reality and disrespectful. When you give success to stupid people, it makes them more stupid sometimes and not more intelligent."
Fast forward nearly eight years and Mourinho has gone on to gain plenty more success wherever he has ventured and has arguably become more intelligent. Wenger, meanwhile, has had no more success, and some would say he is starting to lose his marbles.
On the Emirates Move
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It is no coincidence that Arsenal’s recent trophy drought corresponds to their moving from Highbury into the Emirates in 2006. The move up the road meant the club became burdened with the debts of huge loans used to pay for the new stadium.
This has had a direct effect on the team, as it has meant that Arsene Wenger has not been able to spend money as lavishly on players as rival managers have been able to. As a result, Wenger was forced to follow a philosophy of building a team around young promising players. In August 2009 he gave an insight into this:
"We try to go a different way that, for me, is respectable. Briefly, these are the basics. I thought: We are building a stadium, so I will get young players in early so I do not find myself exposed on the transfer market without the money to compete with the others. I build a team, and we compensate by creating a style of play, by creating a culture at the club because the boy comes in at 16 or 17 and when they go out they have a supplement of soul, of love for the club, because they have been educated together. The people you meet at college from 16 to 20, often those are the relationships in life that keep going. That, I think, will give us strength that other clubs will not have."
Certainly, for a few years, despite not winning any trophies, Arsenal played some fantastic football and won many admirers by doing so with such a young side. Take note, at the time of these comments the Gunners still had the likes of Robin van Persie, Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Alex Song.
And that is the key, as while Wenger was applauded for his philosophy at the time, Arsenal still failed in landing a trophy. And the “boys” coming into the club all eventually left to seek pastures new, where they could actually be successful. The masterplan was not foolproof.
Now, with many players having matured, it appears the philosophy is no more. Coincidence or not, though, Arsenal are playing the worst football ever played during Wenger’s reign this season.
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Sadly, it seems the press conference that will be remembered most when Arsene Wenger’s career is no more will be his recent meltdown in the build up to the Champions League last 16 first-leg tie with Bayern Munich.
While Wenger’s previous remarks have come at a time when he has been very much on top of his game, this sadly, did not. Nearly eight trophy-less seasons, and ever-increasing pressure from fans and media alike, all appeared to take their toll as the Frenchman cracked.
Wenger’s anger seemed to stem from a report that Arsenal were to offer him a new two-year deal, believing it was planted to turn the fans further against him:
“The lie is targeted to hurt. It’s easy to say people are not happy and on top of that say he’s extending the contract. That’s what I mean. Why does it just come out when we lose a big game? In your opinion. You think I am so naive that I don’t see what is behind that? You think I am a complete idiot.”
Wenger then snapped at another journalist: “I look at you not because you give information, I do not know if it is you, I do not know where the information comes from. Why do you look at me? I just thought you had given this information out.”
This was the most angry many had ever seen Wenger and raised further doubts over his ability to still be able to lead his side to glory.
What happened next? Arsenal was outplayed against Bayern, effectively signaling another season without a trophy for the Gunners.
And the sad thing is, is that nobody would be surprised if the man, that many feel is losing it, was to lose his cool in such a manner once again.