Merci Arsène: Wenger behind the scenes

Arsène Wenger during his final match in charge of us
Arsène Wenger during his final match in charge of us

Arsène Wenger took charge of 1,235 matches for us during his near 22-year reign as our manager.

Of course we all know what Wenger was like on the touchline and when speaking to the media - but how was he behind the scenes? Read on for a couple of examples...

By Samir Singh, Arsenal in the Community

I’ve worked for Arsenal FC since 2005/06. We’re grateful that the boss has attended many community events over the years, such as a Premier League season launch at Market Road, the opening of the Arsenal Hub and the 25th anniversary of the department to name but a few. At these events he always made time to speak to project participants from the local community with warmth and respect. He really has a commanding presence and the young people just listen to him; perhaps we should try now to get him on some of our youth work programmes on the estates!

In 2007, Arsenal in the Community officially launched our Double Club modern foreign languages programme – we developed school resources featuring first-team players speaking in their native tongues to encourage English pupils to both take up and enjoy learning a foreign language. The boss spoke at the launch event and I was lucky enough to interview him on stage in front of a large audience of VIPs and schoolchildren. It’s one of the highlights of my time here. He was very inspiring when speaking about languages and why young people should learn a language. It’s well known that he speaks five languages (plus some Japanese) so he’s probably one of the most high-profile ambassadors in the UK for multilingualism. You hear so much from him footballistically, so it’s always interesting to hear his thoughts on a topic away from that. One stand out quote for me was “if you learn the language of a country, you never hate that country”. ,

He’s done so much for Arsenal Football Club both on and off the pitch and personally, he’s been a big part of my life – I’ve been a season ticket holder since the 1996/97 season so the whole time he’s been with us. For my friends and I, the ’98 Double will always be some of the best days of our lives.  

By James Derbyshire, Arsenal fan

My uncle has been a season ticket holder for around 30 years, and he’s part of the disabled supporters’ trust because he’s registered as blind. I attend each home game with him as his sighted helper. The names of all the season ticket holders from the disabled supporters’ trust were put into a hat and we were lucky enough to be drawn out and invited to the training ground in early April. 

We were given the opportunity to have a look around, watch the players train and meet the staff too.

It was a once-in-a-lifetime chance for us and I even had to cancel an overseas work trip to be there. I remember being truly intrigued about how the training ground was run and about what the people were like. Of course I felt a touch nervous beforehand but I was really looking forward to it. 

We went out to watch training and every player came over to us and shook hands before going out. 

Arsène Wenger started them off on their warm up and then come over and spent some time with us. All of a sudden you realise that you’re standing next to this person that you’ve only ever seen on the TV or in the stadium. Being that close up to him was absolutely fantastic.

There were a small group of around 10 of us and he made time for us. I manage a Sunday league team called Warlingham Football Club and we had a chat about that. He told me to enjoy every moment, to have a laugh with the players and also to do my best to keep them off the booze, as he had to do when he arrived in England! 

My team have actually just won the double as well, so I like to think that chat helped! 

After announcing his departure, Arsène mentioned the club would have "my love and support forever". I hope he knows that he has that returned to him in abundance from so many of us. Thank you Arsène.

By Adam Kaliniecki, Arsenal in the Community

I was at Colney a couple of years ago on a staff visit to watch a training session. As it was the international break, the squad was a little lighter than usual, and Arsene was able to wander over to say hello. Rather than just the normal quick pleasantries he stayed chatting to us for a good 25 minutes or so and was happy to answer all sorts of questions.

At one point he mentioned how it was extremely reassuring to know that he had a well-run club behind him; he was able to concentrate purely on football and didn’t need to worry about issues behind the scenes like whether or not his players would be paid, or other procedural problems. In that way, he said, we are all part of the same team working towards the same goals.

I asked him: “If we’re all part of the same team, can I play at right back?"

“Of course!” he said. “If you think you have the ability to do it.”

I’m still waiting for the nod. I worry that the next gaffer won’t be so accommodating…

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