Arsene Wenger has admitted it is a “big honour” to reach his 1,000th match in charge of Arsenal this weekend, but has stressed that the game against Chelsea will be far more important to get a result that keeps them in the Premier League title race.
Wenger has been praised for the landmark – which he will reach when he walks out of the Stamford Bridge tunnel on Saturday afternoon – and he recognises the achievement in a job where defeat in the next game can cost you your job.
“It is a big honour to stay such a long time in such a big club, and (reaching 1,000 games), we cannot predict,” said Wenger.
“We are in a job where you go for the next game and try to do well in that next game. Then step by step, sometimes you get to 1,000.
“Honestly, I am conscious I represent my club and that is much more important than what is happening to me, so that game (against Chelsea) will not be important because it is my 1,000th game, but it is what is at stake for our season and for our club.”
Arsene Wenger's worst signings XI
Arsene Wenger's worst signings XI
1/11 Richard Wright
After impressing at Ipswich, Wright was signed in 2001 as the heir to David Seaman's No 1 shirt, but his time at Highbury was remembered for error after error, and he was eventually usurped by young Stuart Taylor
2/11 Oleg Luzhny
Known as "The Horse" for his galloping runs, but played like he was wearing blinkers. Joined from Dynamo Kyiv in 1999
3/11 Igors Stepanovs
Tried to marshal the Gunners against Manchester United at Old Trafford in disastrous consequences, the team conceding five before half-time and memorably losing 6-1. Latvian signed from Skonto Riga in 2000
4/11 Sebastien Squillaci
French international joined for £4m from Sevilla in 2010. Made 39 largely woeful appearances for the club, and left on a free last year
5/11 Andre Santos
The least said about Santos the better. Wenger said the "quality" left-back had "Champions League experience" when he was signed from Fenerbahce for £6.2m in 2011 but he had yet to play even in the full competition. Was he even talking about the same player?
6/11 Junichi Inamoto
The Japanese midfielder joined from Gamba Osaka in 2001, in a move that was portrayed as a cynical marketing ploy for the Gunners to tap into the Far East market. The doubters had a point, he failed to make a Premier League appearance for the club before leaving to join Fulham a year later
7/11 Amaury Bischoff
Wenger admitted he had taken "a gamble" on signing the injury-hit Portuguese midfielder in 2008. The gamble didn't pay off - he only played one Premier League match for the Gunners before leaving the following season
He may now be setting the world alight for Roma in Italy, but the Gervinho at Arsenal was a different beast - one that could not cross or shoot, and confused himself when he was running with the ball
9/11 Park Ju-Young
Park who? I hear you cry. Despite scoring on his debut, the South Korean striker only ever made seven appearances in three years at the club. He is now paying his trade on loan at Watford
10/11 Marouane Chamakh
The Moroccan target man joined from Bordeaux with fine Champions League pedigree. Unfortunately he did not ever get close to replicating this for the Gunners
11/11 Francis Jeffers
The "Fox in the Box" was not a wily signing for £8m. He scored eight goals during his time at Arsenal, meaning every goal he scored set the club back a cool £1m
However, the Gunners’ manager did admit that when he eventually retires, he can look back on his early years in north London with a lot of pride. He goes on to admit though that the last few years have not gone to plan, and he wants his current crop of talent to show “more commitment and strength” to end their trophyless run that stretches back to 2005’s FA Cup success.
“I believe that when one day I look back at the first years, I will be very proud of what I did - the second period has been a more difficult period, a trophyless period, but it has been much more difficult, much more sensitive and we needed much more commitment and strengths than the first part of my stay here,” he continued.
“I went for a change that I knew would be difficult because we had to fight with clubs who could survive losses of £150million a year, and we had to make £30million (to finance the new stadium payments) and on top of that we had people saying 'you have to beat them' - if I ask you tomorrow to race with Usain Bolt and win the race, you will realise quickly it is difficult.
“(But) I think we can be proud of the consistency of our achievement at the club.”
The 64-year-old also added that there was a time where he acknowledged the Premier League title was out of the club’s grasp due to their financial restrictions from building the Emirates Stadium, but explained that they now stand a realistic chance of winning the title they have not claimed since the ‘Invincibles’ of 2003-04.
“I accepted to stay here a long time knowing that we had little chance to win the Premiership, but I think now we are in a position again where we can fight with other clubs to sign big players,” Wenger added.
“I have the energy, believe me, and the excitement, but I want to do well.
“I do not stay here because I have been here a long time, but because I feel I respond to the expectation of our fans and of the people of the club, it is as simple as that.
"People want us to win the championship, people want us to win trophies, and that is what I want to do."