Arsène Wenger: The end of our world was at Bradford!
Had the world ended yesterday then Arsène Wenger would have looked back on his stylistic legacy with the most pride.
Wenger has been Arsenal manager for 16 years now and has left a very deep imprint on the club. Asked how he felt about reports emanating from central America that the world might end, Wenger joked that his apocalypse had already been and gone: "Our Mayan calendar was at Bradford!"
But if his tenure at Arsenal were to end suddenly in a comet-strike or a deep flood, Wenger would have been fairly pleased – although "never satisfied" – with some of what he had done. It was not even the trophies, the unbeaten season – 2003-04 – or the youth development which Wenger identified as his proudest achievement at Arsenal, but the commitment to attractive football.
"Our legacy will be our style of play," Wenger said. "A way to see football. A way to see the development of the game and overall a happy attitude towards the game."
Arsenal is certainly a much bigger club now than in 1996 and Wenger also takes pride in that. "I believe as well the club has grown since I arrived," he said. "When I arrived, the club was at Highbury with no training ground. Eighty employees, today we are nearly 500 in a big stadium and big training centre. And we are a world-known club. We have been consistent at the top level."
As it happens, the world is still here and Arsenal play at Wigan Athletic in the early kick-off this afternoon. Wenger faces Roberto Martinez, a manager trying to leave his own imprint of "a way to see football" at Wigan, having already done so at Swansea City. Agreeing that Martinez could be a top-four manager one day, Wenger expressed admiration for his opponent.
"I don't know him well enough but I believe he has a positive idea of the game. He finds something every year when everybody writes them off. And he finds the resources to get the results that nobody expected."
Wenger respects Martinez's success at exploring new markets, something Wenger used to do himself. "Wigan always have technically talented players and they scout countries where nobody else goes."
Arsenal have no new injury concerns and have a lighter workload given their Boxing Day game with West Ham has been postponed. Wenger's biggest decision is between Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud up front.
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