By Chris Harris

Arsène Wenger remembers all too well the day that Gerard Houllier needed heart surgery but believes that the timing of his friend's collapse actually saved his life.

The then Liverpool manager was taken ill at half time during a Premier League game against Leeds in October 2001 and was rushed to hospital for an emergency operation. But Wenger believes it could have been even worse for his compatriot.

"One day later he flew to the Ukraine [for a Champions League game]," recalled the Arsenal manager. "If that [his collapse] happens one day later then he is a dead man. The big luck was it happened one day before and he recovered well.

"It was a shame he got that unfortunately and for a while you are not the same person. That damaged certainly his potential to finish the job that he had started so well at Liverpool."

Houllier's health problems brought into focus the pressure on top-flight managers and for Wenger it was a reminder of his own mortality. Not that the 61-year-old has taken it easy since then.

"I take it [pressure] on board," said Wenger. "I am ready to give everything to be successful in football. It means a massive amount to me and I am not the kind of person who can be half-in and half-out. I am unhappy [if I do that].

"I am only happy if I am completely into what I do. I know it does not help health-wise but I have no other way to do it."

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26 Nov 2010