Arsene Wenger: The Last “Company” Man(ager) is Leaving Arsenal.  For Better or Worse

Until Death Do You Part… As they say, when people take their marriage vows…


Wenger and Arsenal WAS a marriage, and today, as we hear that he will step down as manager at the end of the season, I feel that we are witnessing something akin to a death.  

Marriage and Death may seem like overblown metaphors and many will prefer the more pragmatic notion that this is Wenger retiring, or, if it suits certain segments of the support, it is a much needed sacking, but, perhaps, done right.  After all, Wenger has always maintained that he sees out his contracts and surely he wanted to see this one out, believing, as always, in his ability to serve the club well.

Retirement or sacking, let’s call this an end to era as well as to one man’s job, an epic 22 year professional commitment, the likes of which, in this day and age are not seen in many professions, let alone football management.

What does a person have left when they’ve given their full commitment to a job and the end comes?  Many people simply can’t do it, and the stories of people dying soon after ending their working lives are legion.  While some tiny group of Gooners have been so vile as to wish for his death–at least from behind the safety of their keyboards–let the rest of us hope that AW lives a long and fruitful life and enjoys the legacy of all he’s given to the club he served for 22 years.   

I’ve told (and re-told) my story about how I landed at the address I’ve taken as my screen-name (17 Highbury Terrace, N5) in the autumn of 2006, Wenger’s first season in the new stadium, which, I believe, will ultimately be named in his honor.  If you want to read some of that story, mixed in with my personal history of watching sports and finding sports heroes, here it is. 

Being in that part of North London at that time was great.  I was new to Arsenal but you could feel the enthusiasm as crowds made their way to the new stadium.  There was (big) turnover in the team, but Arsenal had made the final of the Champions League the previous spring, and the economy was booming; tickets were expensive and very hard to come by.  In fact, I never got inside the stadium, but nonetheless I immersed myself and, despite Arsenal’s difficulties on the pitch, I could sense Wenger’s vision for the club. My take on that probably repeats my personal story a bit much for many, but there you go.  We live in a culture of narcissism and I don’t want to throw any stones in that glass house. 

One thing I could surely see–right from the start–was that nobody I’d ever seen in sports represented his club as completely as Wenger.  I was impressed.  So, for me, watching and admiring Wenger as I have for a dozen years and sensing that this is the close of his Arsenal career IS personal.  

Like Arsene and Arsenal, my wife and I almost (well, kinda-sorta) have similar last names (she’s kept hers) AND she has committed her entire post-graduate career (thus far) to one institution (a community college as we call them here in the States) while my “job” (or long-term commitment) has been to support her, mostly by using some skills I’d acquired in taking care of and working on our house(s)–including managing its rebuild after a forest fire.  (Like Wenger, doing this work and more generally, I have always been a “home economist,” prioritizing functionality and financial stability over shows of luxury.)  An even bigger responsibility was being the primary care-giver (“stay-at-home dad”) for our boy, now 16 years old.  

At my son’s current age, like AW managing Arsenal in recent years, that latter “job” is somewhat thankless these days, or maybe satisfying results seem harder to come by.  Still, like Wenger, I feel compelled to “honor my contracts,” even if my “baby” is rapidly moving on from under my direct supervision and care.  On this front, I need to step down.  Or maybe I’m getting the sack.  Hard to say.  Ask my son, these days he knows everything…

Please pardon the tortured analogies.  Still, in a world where even the stewards of entire countries (remember, I’m writing from here in the US) seem most concerned with fame and fortune and place conventional morality and norms neatly to one side, a man of Wenger’s character seems worthy of praise and emulation.  He’s been a inspiration and model for me. He may not be your hero, but he is mine.

Back to the pitch.

Wenger’s tenure at Arsenal divides somewhat neatly between the Highbury years (good ones, very good ones) and his time at the new stadium, generally characterized as a long, slow demise.  Personally, coming in when I did, I don’t see it that way. Yes, there was a big emphasis on young players of dubious quality and an attendant trophy drought. Financial stability and top-four league finishes that might give us a chance in the European Champions League were priorities.  In 2009 we reached the semi-finals of the CL but were given a drubbing by Manchester United. In most seasons, however, it began to feel silly to aim so completely for a tournament many believed we had no chance of winning.

In more recent years, we’ve competed more successfully on the domestic front, winning the FA Cup in 2014, 15 and 17, while our best shot at the league title was the intervening season, 2015-16, the year that Leicester City won their miracle title.  Ours was undone with winter injuries to Alexis Sanchez and Santi Cazorla, yet we still pipped our arch-rivals, Tottenham Hotspur, on the final day to finish 2nd.  It hasn’t been so rosy since, and Spurs finishing above us these past couple of seasons has been a source of real misery, especially for local fans.

The ENTIRE time I’ve supported Arsenal, Gooners have wanted Wenger gone.  It was only a few voices (and bloggers) who took this tack early on, but, over the years, more have joined in and the intensity of his critics, most certainly, has increased.  I’m his biggest supporter, but even I believed his situation seemed untenable some 14 months ago when we were dumped out of the CL (by Bayern Munich) by an aggregate score of 10-2.  That was compounded by losses at West Bromwich Albion and Crystal Palace that, in effect, made a top four finish all but impossible. With pressure mounting but a new contract on offer, Wenger, often criticized for his inflexible tactics, tried a three center back formation and won nine of his final ten league matches and semi-final and final FA Cup matches at Wembley.  It seemed a miracle to me, but of course, it did not stop the pressure on the man. Once a Gooner goes to the darkside, it’s hard to see the light, I guess.

And, have no doubt about it, Arsene Wenger took on FULL responsibility–the full weight of representing the club through these ever darkening times, becoming, through no fault of his own, a truly divisive figure.  As such, to my mind, for many on one side of that divide, the idea of Wenger Out became an all-purpose solution for all of Arsenal’s ills.  For me, it mirrors the darkness of the politics of our time, with similar divisive tactics and rhetorics of blame bringing far-right parties and candidates to power.  If you buy into these ideas or you’re able to  ignore the real-world problems (and extreme amaturism) some of these folks have brought with them, you cannot overlook the entertainment value they embody.  I mention no names, but, again, I’m writing from here in the States.

I’m NOT saying you’re a fascist if you’re happy that Wenger is (finally) out.  In fact, it could easily be seen as a progressive move and a toppling of conservatism at the club. What I am saying is that sports (more than politics, I would hope) is most certainly an entertainment industry, and something (anything) new, including a new coach, presumably bringing in new players, means the entertainment value at Arsenal should go up.  Already, with the appointments of Sven Mislintat and Raul Sanllehi we’ve seen big action in the most recent January transfer window.  Now a new manager (or first-team coach) must be selected. Unlike Wenger’s near complete control of the club, it should be management by committee going forward, with the on-pitch guy expected to produce results.  I would expect supporters to give a new manager a bit of patience: at least one season to bed-in and show off his (or her…haha, Arsenal aren’t that progressive) ideas, with little pressure for immediate improvement in results.  That second season, however, had better make Arsenal great again.

Or maybe not.  Perhaps Gooners will come to realize that so much in the world of football has changed and blame and simple solutions are not the answer.  Starting about fifteen years ago, a handful of English clubs sold out to the princes and emirs of the world, including billionaire American owners, like our own Stan Kroenke.  Simply put, the game is now consumed as much on television and the internet by a worldwide audience as it is by those who go to the stadia–with attendant monies pouring into the game.  That’s something few would have imagined a generation or two previous.

So, just like the rest, I cannot predict the future.  Maybe I’m the one who has become conservative, simply wondering if Arsenal (or America or our increasingly global culture) can EVER be truly great if we don’t have a committed figurehead who will take responsibility for the present AND future of the club.  Stan (or Josh) Kroenke? Ivan Gazidis? Sven and Raul? Where does the buck stop?


Consider me scared, or at least wistful, which brings me back to marriage and death and why Wenger’s commitment to Arsenal has meant so much to me.  53% of all marriages (again, in my home country, the United States) end in divorce and those that don’t end in death.  Likewise, 100% of all lives end.  Ideally, one enters this world with (nothing but) hope (from others already here) and leaves it with (nothing but) memories, good ones, ideally. When Wenger arrived–as with any football manager–there was hope, and with his leaving there will be memories, lots of them, and probably, for most Gooners at least, memories of things for which they couldn’t have hoped.  

I’d argue that a big reason we should celebrate these memories–and something that makes them EVEN BETTER is the FULL COMMITMENT and TRUE PASSION that Arsene Wenger gave to his, no OUR, club.  And his satisfactions–along with his struggles–were borne fully, which, I believe, added to the experience.  All I really know is that they, and thus the man himself, have been an inspiration to me.  Hopefully, for you too.  And, hopefully, they will inspire our players in his final seven (or, possibly eight) matches…and well into the future.   

So, for Arsene and for Arsenal, (and for myself, I guess…) I say…

Go on then…

By 17highburyterrace    


24 thoughts on “Arsene Wenger: The Last “Company” Man(ager) is Leaving Arsenal.  For Better or Worse

  • Brilliant piece 17HT.
    The Buck stops at the owner nowadays, so its the Kroenke family that decides.

    Wanted to say a hell lot of things about the history of Wenger’s time at Arsenal, the way the Total Football philosophy is envisioned and put into reality by Wenger, not Barca, who just deployed the attacking part, not defensive part, and the Vieira and Bergkamp years. Not forgetting the recent years and the coming years, but I think that 17ht has done it brilliantly, so I will not repeat what you said.

    The passion and never-say-die attitude that Wenger possess helped us Gooners in person too. The way we see the players on the pitch in our growing up years also helped us gain a positive mentality that will help us where-ever we go.

    Thank you TA, 17ht and Wenger for this blog. Couldn’t have done any better.

  • Fellow gooners,

    A couple of months ago, I authored a passionate post about the necessity of “Change” at Arsenal this coming Summer. I half-expected it to happen but I was also fully prepared for Arsène to finish out his contract at the end of next season. Whether Arsène was pushed out or not (or maybe it was a mutual decision or Arsène’s own decision), is now irrelevant. And now that the biggest decision that Arsene and Arsenal could ever make regarding the future of Arsenal FC has been announced, I frankly don’t know what to feel or how to feel about it anymore. I surprisingly find myself very very conflicted. On one hand, I am excited about next season, about our new manager and what he will bring, and about the future of the Club once again. But on the other hand, I am very sad that we are losing the greatest manager we have ever had (and perhaps will ever have). I am sad that I won’t be seeing videos of him during pre-season. I am sad that I won’t be listening to his usual pre-match press conferences next season. I am sad that I won’t be seeing pictures of him during training sessions at London Colney. I am sad that I won’t have him around to drive me completely bonkers/crazy/nuts when discussing potential summer transfers. I am sad that I won’t seeing his little devilish grin when attempting to hide his excitement about a potential transfer of a World Class Superstar to the Club. I am sad that I won’t have him around to blame for any poor performance anymore 😉😉😁. I am sad that I won’t be seeing him sitting on the Arsenal bench fighting his big coat zipper or standing in the technical area berating the poor fourth official. But most of all, I am sad that the name “Arsene” will no longer be ushered when speaking about the present and future of the Arsenal FC. For a lot of supporters (myself included), Arsène Wenger is the only Arsenal Manager that we have ever know…

    So please, kindly allow me to extend on behalf of all Arsène’s supporters as well as all his (growing list of) detractors, a very big heartfelt “THANK YOU” to Arsène Wenger for all that he has done and meant for Arsenal FC. We wouldn’t be where we are today without him. We will forever cherish and treasure all the memories, good and bad. The footballing philosophy and values that he passionately brought and instilled into the Club will forever be remembered, respected, and honored. I for one hope to see him manage again next season or the one after. This is not the end for him. I firmly believe that he will be the next manager of the French National Team (or maybe another national team. I do however think that he is done with the pressure and daily/weekly grind of club management) and if that happens, I wish him nothing but glowing success in his next endeavors.

    Merci beaucoup pour tout, Arsène. Nous te sommes eternellement tres reconnaissants.

    Now let’s all come together as one and push our team strongly to the finish line in the next few weeks, and more importantly, send Arsène Wenger off into the sunset with the best gift we could ever afford him now: the Europa League Trophy. I implore all the players to give way above their maximum to make this happen, from the first whistle to the last whistle. No more sleep-walking or daydreaming until the second half of a game, please!

  • I cried.
    I wiped my tears.
    I saw work aplenty.
    I rolled up my sleeves
    I sweat and swear and sweat.

    The King is dead, long live the King!

  • Seventeenho 🙂

    Thank you for a beautiful, personal and wise tribute to our One Arsene Wenger. It is also a reflexion of an international era that is coming to an end and warns us about the new world and its poor state of leadership.

    Regarding Arsenal, and leadership in general, I reckon it is hard to get one guy to do it all; there is too much at stake and the world/managing a football club is too complex. So we need leadership teams and that is what the club will establish with getting a manager who fits in and responsibilities are clear and values and vision are shared AND lived. That to me is very exciting and I hope you will come to like it too. It will depend though on who the new manager will be, but that is for another post.

  • Fine comments also by 84 and PE. Wenger will be missed and we will have to get used to a new manager, his (her?) personality and way of dealing with the press etc etc. 22 years is for most Gooners at least 1/3 of their lifetime, for some it is more than half of their life time or even more than their time alive. It will take some time getting used to.

    I have to say I also feel relief. A change had to come and it would have driven me mad would Wenger still be in charge next season. From a footballing point of view it is the right thing to do and that is the raison d’etre of the club.


    The marriage is between the club, Arsenal FC, and the supporters. Wenger is a formidable and much loved Head Butler. 🙂

  • The good thing is that Arsene has been so long at Arsenal and achieved so much, as per my post yesterday, that our Head Butler will not be forgotten as he has become part of the very fabric of the club, its values and foundations. It would indeed be great if the stadium is named after him. The One Arsene Wenger Stadium.

  • Fellow BKers–
    It’s perhaps not too odd that HT and I have had so many like life-experiences– as to end up here (at Bergkampesque) in this place at this time. Both, having become Arsenal fans within about a calendar year of one another (myself in Fall of 2005). Following the Invincibles season, ESPN began filling it’s non-prime-time slots with replays of Premier League ‘soccer’. Almost every match broadcast involved Arsenal. At first I didn’t bother recording them; but as time went by over the next few months, I kept noticing this magnificent athlete doing magical things. And the team never seemed to lose. They could go a man down– didn’t matter! Arsenal’s penchant for scoring short-handed was uncanny.

    Still on the fringes of being a ‘fan’ at this point– but curious enough. Had no idea that the 2003-04 season had occurred. No knowledge yet what had come before that either. Barely knew who Arsene Wenger was. But mesmerized by the fluid athleticism of Thierry Henry– who appeared on my TV (and now my VCR) several times a week. I really wanted more.

    (Mostly for HT: Played Open Division Ultimate till age 42 (retiring from the Alvin Houndz, after the World Ultimate Club Championships at St Andrews, Scotland, Summer of 1999). Then built and captained local Co-ed teams, winning every Houston city league championship for the next 3 years. In 2004, I quit Ultimate cold-turkey after 22yrs.)

    And I really needed something to believe in. Soon, that something became Arsene Wenger and The Arsenal. It was an easy assimilation. I’d seen this script before– like a pleasant sense of deju vu.
    (As a young boy growing up in Miami Florida USA– the NFL team, the Dolphins, and a new head coach Don Shula, won 2 Super Bowls (1972 and ’73). The team was a power for the next 20 years. Shula did things in the right way (member of the NFL Rules Committee), ran a tight ship, revolutionizing training and strategy. Don Shula was thought of by many in Miami– as family.)

    By way of this? Arsene Wenger fit neatly into my psyche. Everything he stood for? I could stand behind. A rediscovery of something that had long-since passed– from my childhood. I knew this man. I could trust this man. So I did. I still do.

    Not been at all simple as a US-based Arsenal fan– trying to participate long-distance. There are multiple hurdles to jump– mostly due the fact that I’m a fan, and not a local supporter. I tread lightly here– as I have the utmost respect for those who are, or have been. I have some envy too, that can never be shed– because I’ll never know things as those who have experienced Arsenal lifelong.

    Still. Here I am. With all of my uncomfortable Americanisms, not quite striking the right chord. Insane ideas how statistics and digital analysis are invisibly changing football and Arsenal. Not easy knowing you come off like a heretic day-in, day-out.

    Still. Here I am. And it’s all Arsene Wenger’s doing.
    And I’ll never have the way, or the means, to ever thank him– or thank him enough.

    So I feel– like HT seems to? That supporting Arsene Wenger as we’ve each professed on this thread– comes down to not just what he’s done in a sporting sense? But the ideals behind what he does, everyday, without fail. That everyone who knows him? Can count on that.

    Yeah, HT. Like a marriage.


  • Jw1, we need you as our new manager.

    22 years of marriage is a long time. Not many couples tie the knot for so many years too, and with so many third parties (fans) in this marriage too. We will definitely miss Wenger next season and whether the next manager can continue his philosophy we will continue to be fans of the club.

  • Spuds self-mashed in the second half. Very poor performance and once again no price this season for them. The Mancs did not impress either, except for their defending in the second half, but did enough to get to the final.

  • I’m Ok with not too much reaction to what I wrote, TA… (the tumbleweeds vid…) Like you said, it was personal, and really just my own take on what AW meant (means) to me… Of course, that’s a lot more than “head butler,” but I can accept that everybody sees it differently… Cheers to those who did read it and for the thoughts they’ve shared…

    I keep looking around for more in terms of the specifics of what AW brought to the game, esp. to the style of play. It’s probably more an effect of the money in the game, but, to my eye at least, the quality of play (up and down the league) seems pretty strong and very (very) attack oriented. The nil-nil games seem extremely rare and 5+ goals per game rather common. Is that Wenger’s influence? Certainly I remember a lot of talk when Moo quit Chavs the first time around that his football failed to entertain sufficiently…

    Anyhow, there’s probably an endless quantity of stuff that could be written about Wenger but I respect that most Gooners are very happy to be looking forward to something different… On that note, don’t we have a match in some 16 hours?…

  • Hi there HT. thank you for your kind and respectful post. Please don’t think the lack of comment from all quarters reflects a lack of interest. For me the news made ,e more reflective rather than anything else. And I rather wanted to be away from it all at first. I still do in large measure in truth as I just feel deeply saddened by the whole business. I don’t believe he would have wanted to go. Nor do I believe that he is spent. But the whole situation has become impossible and therefore the end was inevitable I fear. Even though I for one had hoped it would not be.

    I’m not going to attempt to cover all the aspects of the man that I respect so much. A core part of my attachment to Arsenal though is a belief that we are different as a club. We bring something slightly higher to the game, in terms of the history and standards of the club and the manner in which we perform. Or at least strive to perform. And the values of the club have become encapsulated and embodied in the man. Arguably to an unhealthy extent. But it leaves the question hanging now of what exactly will enshrine that difference at our club in the future? Because I don’t wish us to be just another sporting corporation, differentiated only by the colour of our strip. What we are watching at Manure is an example that I dread. Not the rubbish performances. But the stripping out of all the characteristics of a great club. Souness did the same thing to Liverpool 25 years or so ago. I dread that happening with us.

    We need someone to step into a position that offer stable leadership and a long term perspective. I doubt that will be the new manager. It could be Gazidis I guess. Or it could be a young Kroenke. Or another on the Board in the ilk of Dein. Arsene has said before that we will miss him when he goes. And I fear we shall. We need a club leader to emerge in the next couple of weeks to help us through this transition and spare us the haphazard blundering that ‘united’ have been through over the last 5 years.

    For the moment then, the man matters more than the club – because how we treat his final days defines what the club is at it’s core without him, and what we will have left to build from. And then into a period of change and uncertainty. My expectations of next season are being set low as I guess we will experience significant squad changes and there will be a lot of pressure on players and management alike. For my money I would go with safe hands for a couple of years before starting building again with a young coach. I watch and wait with both fascination and trepidation. In equal measure.

    Thanks again HT. I think Gerry used to say keep the faith! It’s no easy matter. But it’s a lot better than the alternative.

  • Hi all.. I don’t know how long will it take me to finish this post.. Hehehe..

    Still can’t believe what I’ve read and hear.. Like Wright said something must happened.. Cause It’s just ain’t Wenger.. He will never quit and leave his job before it is end.. Cause he still have another year..

    But that’s life.. Like it or not it will happen sooner or later..
    I think the only reason he did it.. Because of his love to the club and also to the fans..
    His love has overcome his Ego..

    I started to love Arsenal because of one name Dennis Bergkamp.. And Wenger also admit that he is the most skillful player he ever worked with..

    Bergkamp came in 95.. But Bergkamp alone.. Maybe with David Platt that moment can’t lift Arsenal.. Until Wenger came in 96 and changed all the situation dramatically.. Soon Arsenal became the most expressive and dangerous club in PL and world..
    At that time.. In Indonesia.. people only know MU and Liverpool.. Even Leeds and Newcastle were more famous than us.. Hehehe..

    Let’s be honest.. By that time.. Who ever dream that our Club will be in the big five football Club in the world..?? None of us I think.. After this past 20 years.. Who did it..?? We will never come to this stage if not because of One on Only Arsene Wenger..

    For me Arsene Wenger is the real Arsenal Legend.. If we honour our best players with statue.. I think he deserves more than that.. Something like a name for the stadium..

    But, the show must go on.. Let’s hope the BoD pick the right man to replace his position.. Even though he will never be replaced..

    Let’s song together the Arsene Wenger Song..

  • Seventeenho,

    I just released AB’s comment which for some reason did not post automatically.

    Good comments fellows. It just shows we all respond differently to change and it is great to read how you all do. Uncertainty for some is frightening and for others exciting. It is indeed a good test to see how the vision and values of the club will survive and flourish further. I am confident that these are part of the club’s DNA which is carried by the supporters and is at the centre of the thinking and acting of the BoD, as far as I can see it. It is correct to say though that Wenger was the embodiment of our DNA and it will be hard to replace that. That is why I believe strongly, and have done for a long time, that Joachim Low is the perfect replacement, but that is for another post.

    The BoD need(ed) to ask themselves who is best to take the club forward from an on-field performance point of view whilst working alongside our vision and values. I am afraid that was not Wenger anymore. Another season of Arsene leading the club was an almost unbearable prospect for me and I can tell you that I was seriously thinking of closing the blog until a change had been made. So respect for those who feel sad but for many of us it is what was needed. Arsene did the right thing for the club and ultimately himself, I reckon.

    For those who like classical music, I am listening this morning to Dvorak’s famous ninth symphony… It may even sooth those who are suffering from Arsene’s announcement 🙂 :

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