Just a couple of weeks after he won the FA Cup for the fifth time, Arsène Wenger signed a contract extension with the club, taking him to May 2017.

Comfortably Arsenal's longest serving and most successful manager ever, the 64-year-old Frenchman will have completed more than 20 years’ service by the end of his new contract. So far he has taken charge of 1,010 matches, won three league titles, five FA Cups and four Community Shields. He’s helped revolutionise not just Arsenal Football Club, but English football in general, and has a huge wealth of knowledge and experience in all aspects of the sport.

Over the past 12 years, the Arsenal Magazine has interviewed Arsène on a wide variety of subjects. So to mark his contract extension, here’s more than a decade’s worth of the boss’s pearls of wisdom.

2002/03

A winter break…
“If the clubs can afford it, I would be in favour of it, but as well I am a strong defender of tradition and not too much change. You have to respect the traditions of English football by playing over Christmas and then you can maybe have a break at the beginning of January. It would do the players a lot of good to be able to regenerate and have a brief spell away from their clubs. Ultimately we would gain in May at the climax of the big competitions.”

Restructuring English football…
“First of all I would take away the European place for the League Cup, keep it as a midweek cup only and use minor teams in the competition. Then possibly we could think about taking away the replays from the FA Cup.”

The new transfer window…

I would like to go down in history as somebody who tried genuinely to help the club make a step forward

Wenger on his legacy

“Here we have an example of an unnecessary European ruling. It cuts out what was one of the charms of the English Premier League. It keeps your hopes alive throughout the whole season, knowing you can bring someone in to the club, which is good for the fans. I think it takes a lot away from managers in this country.”

Being a flexible manager…
"I’m convinced of one thing - once you are not open to change any more, then you are slowly dying as a successful manager. I’ve seen managers go through their career and they have suffered because they are not ready for change anymore. Maybe they have found success, and they want to keep doing what they did when they were successful but there is always an evolution. You need to change with it.”

His style of management…
“In my early days I was a coaching fanatic. I always felt that if I worked well on the pitch then the results would come and problems would be sorted out. Of course with time I also learned that to buy the right players is even more important. In fact it’s compulsory because the coaching is only good if you buy the right players. Then what became very important for me was the idea of developing the football, and the style that I wanted to play, and buying the players who can develop the type of football I wanted to play.”

Building a legacy…
“Today you still look back and talk about Chapman at Arsenal. And that’s not only because of the trophies he won, but because of the way he changed and shaped the future of the club. He had a big influence on the future of the club and that is something I’m aiming for. I think you must try to take the club to a new level and leave behind a legacy. I would like to go down in history as somebody who tried genuinely to help the club make a step forward.”

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2003/04

Being ruthless when releasing players…
“Perhaps that is the price you pay for having such stability. It is the other side. When the players are faithful to the club, in return the club is faithful to them. Sometimes it can be difficult to pinpoint the moment when the player has gone past the peak of his career. But there are so many other reasons to keep a player - he could be important in the dressing room, for example. Maybe he is a big influence on other players and he is a motivator. So you have to be fair to players but also be efficient because you cannot keep players simply because they have performed over the past few years because you would never be able to afford it.”

Enjoying success…
“We have had success now over years and years and it is very important that you never take success for granted. I think a big club is one that is always conscious of what it takes to be at the top all the time, a club that enjoys to be at the top, and doesn’t take it just because it’s there. Once a club loses that, it’s in big trouble. I know how difficult it is to be there, the players know it as well, and as long as you know that you will fight for it.”

The strength of the Premier League…
“There are no games in this league where you can afford to take a risk. There are some leagues where there are only five or six big teams and in the other matches you can afford to put the youngsters in and let them learn slowly. Here every game is like a cup game – you just can never afford to lose.”

His training sessions…
“I never want my training sessions to be boring because I like the playing element always to be part of it. I’m not a great lover of boring training sessions to be honest. We always end every session with a game - I think that’s important. We do different sessions for the strikers, midfielders and defenders, making it more specialised for different positions, but there’s always a common element and work that is linked with the job they have in the team.”

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2004/05

Advocating fair play…

So you have to be fair to players but also be efficient because you cannot keep players simply because they have performed over the past few years

Wenger on choices

“I feel personally responsible for representing all Arsenal fans. That’s three, four, five hundred thousand people, and I want them to be proud of the way we play, and also the way we behave. The media has helped a lot to clean the game up. Every game is shown on TV now. That means that if you’re a player then your daughter or son could see you kicking someone or using dirty tricks, and no man would be proud of himself.”

Referees’ performances…
“Since I arrived in England I’ve only seen positive changes in the referees over here. The fitness has improved 100 per cent. When I first came to England there were still some referees who couldn’t run. Those times have gone. They have made a big effort to improve. They are all full-time now - there were no professionals before - and I believe that has made a difference.”

Remaining loyal to his beliefs…
“It’s very difficult in football because as soon as you have one or two disappointing results, suddenly everybody questions your tactics. The most important thing is to keep a distance from that, and that’s your job as manager. You have to analyse everything, of course, but don’t make panic decisions. I agree that you have to be open-minded, but you shouldn’t question things that don’t need to be questioned. The problem in football is that people are tempted to copy the success of the moment. It doesn’t work like that. You have to have your own ideas and go through with them. We go for a style of football that has cohesion, and it has produced results over the years. And what’s more the players enjoy playing this style. You are always looking for a new formation, yes, but at the end of the day you have to be as rational as possible with how you choose to occupy the field. I don’t think there is a lot more that can be created on that. It’s like a chess board – if you take a player from somewhere, you leave a hole so somebody else has to compensate for that. What’s most important is to play a system the others don’t play, then you have advantages they don’t have.”

The trend towards defensive football…
“Long-term I think there will be fewer strikers coming through in this country. If you are only playing one up front you spend less time working with them in training and educating them. There is increased pressure on managers now so they don’t want to take as many risks.”

Arsène Wenger and Thierry Henry
Arsène Wenger and Thierry Henry

2005/06

His former player George Weah running for Liberia’s presidency…
“I could not imagine that the shy boy walking up on his first day at Monaco, completely lost, who nobody knew, could one day challenge to become president of Liberia. First of all it shows the amazing strength of character this boy has. Secondly it shows how magical sport can be to get a guy who starts with nothing yet can suddenly become president of his country. It’s a fantastic promotion of what football can be. It shows what kind of sense of mission, responsibility and love Weah has always shown for his country. I remember in his second year with us there was civil war in his country and he would always listen at night to his radio because he wanted to know what was happening. A few years later he bought all the shirts for his national team.”

His first impressions of Thierry Henry…
“I remember every minute of the first time I saw him play. I saw him play for the under-17s in France and I would always ask the youth coach every Monday, ‘How has Thierry done this weekend?’ because I knew there was something special there. The coach would say to me every time, ‘Look, he scored two goals, but he should have had at least six.’ I always said to him, ‘Take the two goals, it’s not bad for a young player to score two each time.’ I knew there was something there because I made him start when he was 17 for Monaco.”

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2006/07

The rise of foreign ownership…
“This trend does worry me. Generally you want the clubs to be in control of their own destiny. If you suddenly have 20 foreign investors who buy 20 English clubs, you are in danger. The manager is foreign, the players are foreign, the owners are foreign – you need to draw a line. England doesn’t control it anymore.”

The signing of Tomas Rosicky
“When you are in a big team the basis of the side is built from the attitude from each player in it. They have to want to play for the team, and from then on you can build. You build up each floor, and with players like Rosicky, they allow you to build foundations.”

Settling in at Emirates Stadium…
“I think now it is just our stadium, rather than our new stadium, because it doesn’t feel new anymore. I always said it would take a few weeks, months even, before we felt completely at home at Emirates Stadium, and I must say that we do feel at home there now much more than we did at the start of the season. I think that’s true for the players as well but I know people will always have a doubt as long as you don’t win games.”

Entertaining the fans…
“A football philosophy that doesn’t rely on a generous ambition cannot improve the players on a long-term basis. That ambition has to be there in order to sustain the long-term development of a club and of a player. If you think, ‘OK, let’s just be efficient but don’t give anything else to the player, or to the team’ then I don’t think that team will go very far. I also believe it is the responsibility of every big club to win with style - you must have that ambition. And I will always fight for that.”

Tomas Rosicky
Tomas Rosicky

2007/08

Video technology…
“When you see the way rugby is refereed it makes football look out of date. Why do we still continue not to use the technology? I have personally been fighting for that for a long time. In rugby the referees are able to refer decisions to the video replay and that gives them more power, more credibility - not less. Because then everyone knows the decision is correct.”

England’s failure to reach Euro 2008…
“There are bigger issues for the FA than who the manager is. The basic problem, I believe, is to produce more players of a high enough quality. That comes back to raising the right questions in the aftermath of England not qualifying. I don’t think the solution is to force more English players to play - the answer is if you produce more good English players they will play. Otherwise if you force average players to play in the Premier League it will not solve anything. You only win big trophies with big players.”

Managers’ short shelf lives…
“For me what is happening inside the game at the moment is very sad. It’s all instinctive now; there is no long-term process. You have no chance to bring the young players out like we have, for example, if the manager is not given time to work. Why should he take a gamble and a risk and build for the future when he knows that after his first defeat he could be out? He will go for security. That leads to a vicious circle. The next manager comes in and thinks I only have six months to get things right, so I will go with 29-year-olds not 19-year-olds. Where will the young players come from?”

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2008/09

Football’s finances…

My love for the game and my love for the club keeps my motivation high, as well as an extreme desire to win

Wenger on motivation

“At the moment we have a worldwide economic recession, and that will not continue indefinitely without any impact on the game. We cannot live in football as though we are isolated from the rest of the world, because it is not true. It will catch up with us. The problem is that when these people who have bought in to football get tired of it, what will they leave behind? That’s the real question you can ask. If their investment is purely strategic, based on the market interest, then they could easily decide one day that it is not strategic to be in that market anymore, and they will leave.”

His motivation, 12 years into the job…
“The motivation is even stronger now because I feel more responsible and more a part of the club than when I first joined. The pressure is even higher too. My love for the game and my love for the club keeps my motivation high, as well as an extreme desire to win. My life is now here. You never say it cannot change, but I have built this team, I have contributed to building the club up, and I want to be part of it.”

The demise of international football…
“I think that the multiplication of countries has lessened the players’ appetite for these games. They know that they are playing big-pressure games but against teams that have no real quality. In the last international break I watched France v Lithuania - let me tell you that you must really love football if you want to watch that. You basically had Lithuania who just sat in their own half, everyone defended, and they wait for the other team to score a goal. I understand that, because they have no other possibilities. What has happened is that the Soviet Union has gone from one country to 21, Yugoslavia from one to five or six, and all these new countries mean that the quality has been diluted. You have countries like San Marino, Andorra, Faroe Islands, and many of these qualifiers are not so interesting anymore.”

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2009/10

Previewing the 2010 World Cup…
“Holland, France and Italy will always be a threat. At the moment though I put England, Spain and Brazil above everybody else. England always has hope but this time they could really confirm the expectation level of the country.”

Playing the ‘Arsenal Way’…
“Arsenal has gained a lot of credit all over the world for our style and our approach. When you see one of our players control the ball, you can tell he’s an Arsenal player straight away. There is an Arsenal way, an Arsenal style that is respected, and we have to put that all together now, and link it with efficiency.”

The economics of football…
“I firmly believe that if you have a hundred, you don’t spend more than a hundred. You have to try to be successful within those resources. That’s what we work on here. But we live in a world now where you can sell a dream. A superficial hope. That means you always flirt with danger.”

The values of Arsenal Football Club…
“The values of the club include making a contribution to people, respecting the history of the club, being committed to helping each other out - that’s the kind of football we want to play too. That means a game not based on individual stars, but instead a collective game. Our style of play is basically a reflection on the values that we feel are important inside the club.”

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2010/11

How to coach young players…
“The first thing to do is to give them the basics. The basics are technique, and you go from there. To make a comparison, it’s a bit like when you have a child - first you want to teach them a vocabulary so he can express himself. The technique is a vocabulary of a football player – that’s the basis. After that, you want your child to use intelligent sentences. For that he has to use his technique in an intelligent way, and that’s where the coaches come in.”

Life after management…
“I see myself becoming a director of football at some stage. Not necessarily being involved in the decisions of the manager, but helping him on the board, for example.”

His view of the lower leagues…
“I keep in touch with the Championship more than I used to. To be honest it wasn’t really my cup of tea before. I saw some games where it was just kick and rush, but now you see much more football.”

Philosophy on life…
“I like a famous line from a great philosopher who said: ‘The only way to deal with death is to transform everything that precedes it into art.’ That means we have to make sure that we try to make every day as beautiful as we can.”

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2011/12

Proposed changes to international qualification…

I firmly believe that if you have a hundred, you don’t spend more than a hundred. You have to try to be successful within those resources

Wenger on economics

“I would propose that we had the smaller teams playing against each other in qualification, with the best ones going through to the European Championship, and that the bigger teams then have the opportunity to be qualified directly.”

The difference between strikers and other positions…
“In that position being spontaneous is very important, because the time available to make decisions is very short. In the attacking third, you have 0.1 to 0.2 seconds maximum to make your decision. In midfield you have one second available, if you play at the back you have one to two seconds. That means when you play up front the spontaneity is vital.”

The introduction of a sin bin…
“A sin bin is worth thinking about in my opinion. Sometimes you see a guy is on the fringes of his temper, on a moody day. Maybe if the referee can take him out for 10 minutes - like in rugby - then it would be a chance for the manger to tell him to calm down, focus on your game. That would be better in the long run.”

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2012/13

The rise of creative midfielders…
“It’s because the density of players you have to fight against in the final third is always getting bigger, so the quality of the pass and the technique in that area has become much more important. There is less space available, so the accuracy is key. Secondly, because there is a smaller space the shorter players, the very agile players are becoming more important and the taller players in midfield less so. That could be an explanation. It’s changed in the last four or five years - the distances absorbed by players are becoming bigger and bigger, and therefore the limited space on the pitch demands more technical ability.”

Scouting closer to home…
“I believe there are some interesting cases in England that need to be studied, and maybe when we speak about scouting we have to be a bit more audacious when it comes to buying players internally. I will give you two examples. The first one is Carl Jenkinson, who was playing for Charlton in League One just over a year ago. Secondly you have a guy like Rickie Lambert. Suddenly you discover, at the age of 30, that this guy has class and you wonder, ‘Has he really been at Bristol and places like that his whole career?’ He has been in all the lower leagues, playing everywhere, yet not one person from a top club saw him and said, ‘Hey, this guy has something special?’”

The changing face of European football…
“Football always follows the economical power, and it looks as though the economical power is heading away from central Europe, so you have to expect that in future, some other countries - and I am thinking especially about Russia - will become a dominant force in European football.”

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2013/14

The Arsenal Magazine

Read this feature and more and more in our latest edition

Politics in football…
“I look at politicians when they are interviewed because it’s a game, similar to when managers are interviewed by the press. It’s a game where you are caught between two things: Deliver a message, but also don’t be caught out. You know that every sentence, every part of a sentence, could be dangerous for you, your club, and your team. There is always a little tension there.”

The FA Cup…
“The only thing I might change is the priority it has over Premier League fixtures. We postpone games in the Premier League later on in the season when they clash with the FA Cup. That can lead to unfairness in the league. The FA Cup itself is fantastically organised, but I would think about not moving Premier League games to make time for the FA Cup.”

Prejudice in football…
“Football is there to provoke moments of happiness, excitement and positive experiences in people, no matter where they come from, what colour skin they have, what religion they are or what their preferred sexuality is. It’s very sad that some people think that this sport should only be reserved for those who have certain characteristics. It’s open to everybody who loves football and when that doesn’t happen, it’s not acceptable.”

Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 16 Jul 2014