Arsene Wenger appeared on French television on Monday night, undertaking an extended interview during which he gave us all a glimpse into that fascinating mind.
The Frenchman was speaking to Christine Kelly, the host of RTL show ‘Et Si? (‘What If?’), about his life, his career, his various philosophies and his love of patisseries.
For example, asked who he’d like to hold one conversation with, Wenger replied ‘Moses’ so they could compare notes on the composition of the Ten Commandments. In short, this wasn’t your average ‘Boys done well’ hypno-response football interview.
Here’s a selection of the best questions and erudite responses.
If you were President of France, what law would you pass?
I would introduce football as an obligation, everywhere, absolutely all over France. Every single school.
If there was one moment you could remove from your life?
All the defeats.
There haven’t been many…
More than you think, each is a scar for life. Each will forever be a great disappointment.
What would be your ultimate fantasy object to have?
I don’t really have one, maybe the team playing with the harmonious excellence all teams sometimes reach but for a full game. Everyone playing on the exact same wavelength for a whole match, it’s so rare. These moments make the job worth suffering.
And what if you told us your biggest mistake?
Perhaps staying at the same club for 22 years. I’m someone who likes to move around a lot, but I also like a challenge. I’ve been a prisoner of my own challenge at times.
And what if you told us your greatest fear?
My biggest fear is to lose the ability to be physically independent. I enjoy my mobility, I like exercising. A real fear of mine.
And if you had to ask for someone’s forgiveness?
All the people who I’ve made suffer. In my line of work, we are constantly making decisions that punish people, while making others happy. When you work with a 25-man squad, it’s basically making 14 people unemployed every Saturday or Tuesday.
Also, the players for whom I never managed to find the key to helping them reach their potential.
And what if you told us your darkest sin, the one you keep all to yourself?
My taste for patisseries. I’m from Strasbourg. I eat them every day.
And what if you weren’t in football?
I’d be somewhere in a competitive field. I love competing. There’s two types of competitiveness. Those who hate to lose, and those who love to win. We’re all in some way a mix of the two and I think I hate losing more.
In general, those who love to win more are attackers. Those who hate to lose more are defenders.
And what if you weren’t Alsacien [from Alsace]?
If I’m not Alsacien, above all I’m a citizen of the world. I have no real taste for borders…
Arsene Wenger, you love Bob Marley – not many people know that…
I love Bob Marley. He’s pure class, in a chill kind of way. And his music was surprising for back then. Also, there’s something so sad about the fact he died at 35.
He loved sport, music… for me Jamaica reminds me of that. Sport and music go together very well I find.
You often talk about values. What do you mean? What are values in football? Values in a coach?
Values in football are about finding all that is beautiful about team sport. It’s self-expression in a collective setting. Shared pleasure over individualism. Expression of beauty together is more beautiful than expression of beauty alone. And respect of your teammate, your opponent, the fan, the ref.
And most importantly, never accepting mediocrity. It’s the ultimate value in my eyes. In the sense that you must demand it of yourself. You must not accept where you are. You must be generous. You must always give more.
After 22 years at Arsenal, what’s next for Arsene Wenger?
I’m asking myself the same question! Do I keep doing what I’ve been doing, what I know. Or do I share all the knowledge I’ve accumulated over the years in a slightly different way? That’s the question I need to answer in the next few months.
What a man. Endlessly intriguing, always refined and he sure does love Bob Marley.
The full transcript of the extensive interview is available via Football London.