So, this is it.
We finally reached this point that I had always, in many ways, dreaded. The point where Arsene and Arsenal take their separate ways. It is far more an intricate, complex, elaborate affair than previously thought, far more interpersonal and undoubtedly different for all of us.
Every person you meet creates and articulates a different memory of you, you believe in a memory of yourself, in how you’re seen, and often it falls far or short of how others see you. It doesn’t matter what good you do in this world, or bad, how you see yourself is not a blueprint for how others see you.
With this in mind, we tend to base the opinions of ourselves with those we’re surrounded by, those that employ us, that love us, that shelter us. Those that pass us by and those that we help or harm on the way in life. Reading posts by coaches, players, and those no longer in the field, that once had the pleasure of working with or for Arsene Wenger, there is no doubt the impact he left on those lives. The memory that he created, the marks he imprinted, like the purest forms of the most beautiful elements in football, but also in life.
Whether it was the development of their human game, or their footballing persona, he extracted leadership, belief, and confidence on a daily basis for 22 years. For the fans, it is different for every single one. Whether you count success in trophies or the types of trophies they are, or, in abilities to compete, or how you withstand competition in an age of giants all around you, each fan will have an answer that invariably suits their understanding of life and what is needed from it to succeed.
What seems inevitable is the realisation that things won’t immediately get better. The clubs around us aren’t going to get any poorer, nor will the market change in our favour, whether that regards how our ownership behaves, wage bills or how we manage to bid for players. All things once connected to the manager, will be spread and nostalgia will kick in.
The next stage of Arsenal, won’t be the same for anyone who has lived their entire life as an Arsenal fan with Arsene Wenger in charge, it almost feels like your club is leaving you, and what is left is nothing but a divided fanbase (with many spiteful, hateful, angry people), awaiting a new leader, asked to perform even greater miracles. I spoke about memories and how we create them, it is only natural that for some, they cannot separate Arsenal and Arsene Wenger yet, nor is there a need to. How these fans view Arsenal after he’s gone, is understandably difficult.
After all, Arsene Wenger helped create the modern Arsenal fanbase, he was instrumental in its growth, all around the world, most notably Africa and Asia. How these fanbases react to his loss will be telling, and also important to the future growth of this club. It cannot be understated often enough, the values he’s helped build upon, will have a lasting memory than most other coaches or players ever had.
To some, he’s a father figure, to others, a grandfather of such. To most, he’s a role model, an outstanding professional, the greatest manager the club has seen and will probably ever see. His early success set the bar high, and with that, expectation followed. Although we’ve had our varied treatments by the press and by impartial referees, Arsenal fans will feel upset, that something like this feels like it’s left unfinished.
When Alex Ferguson left Manchester United, there was a sense of completion among United fans, he had already retired and reversed it, then come back to win another Champions League and a few more leagues to go. But for us, there's a huge sense of disappointment, a sense of embarrassment within our own fanbase, and a sense of the reality of football and the times, that really creates the compounding emotions.
We know many players signed for Arsene, and not just Arsenal, we know that Liverpool and Tottenham, who are closest to our financial situation, have finished below us more times than not over the last 22 years, and barely matched our trophy haul even after net spend. Even with recent standings, we’ve managed a decent trophy haul and finishes compared to all the clubs in the league. But in the end, the consistency was no longer the same, and the disfigured resentfulness of time catches up with us all.
Perhaps the worry is, that long after he’s gone, we will see that he was never the problem at all. The entitlement and toxic atmosphere has grown its seeds and will remain, in a club that predominantly cannot fulfil them. And that the thing that made us special and unique in world football is not there anymore.
But this is not the value Arsene instilled in me, or in us. There is always tomorrow, there is always another battle and another priority and another way to take those steps of confidence, however slow they may be.
I really hope his successor is even an inch of the man he is. He must make the club his priority, there is no other way, as Arsene would say.
Parts of me, are left with discontent, immeasurable sadness, and despair, as not only do I love a man that does not know me personally, but never have I felt such respect and admiration for a human being over such a large duration of time. I believe we have been so lucky to have him, and so unlucky to have it end like this.
I’m also left with hope and understanding that I never would have had, if he had decided to go somewhere else in 1996. I got to Arsenal via Arsene Wenger, and I got to Twitter via Arsenal. And that is where I found all of you.
I believe that time didn’t serve him greatly towards the end of his career, but after he’s gone, time will do nothing but serve him and his success at our club.
I am forever indebted to that man and his brilliant legacy.
As I tweeted, long ago, on the April 24th of 2018 - “Arsene brought so much of my love in to the club, it won't be a surprise if him leaving takes a lot of it out. There's a huge human element to this that cannot be derided or understated.”
Thank you so much for everything Arsene, you were always bigger than football.