Wenger’s interview with L’Equipe – full transcript

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There has been much discussion of Arsene Wenger’s interview with L’Equipe last weekend. The manager himself clarified some of the reported comments in his post-game press conference after the 2-1 win over Norwich, but to make sure everything is in context, here is the full transcript of the interview.

Translation very kindly provided by @mattspiro – and because it’s long it’s split into two pages.

L’EQUIPE MAGAZINE, Saturday November 19, 2011

 The interview, conducted by Jean-Marc Butterlin, took place in the manager’s office at London Colney on Monday October 31, two days after the Chelsea game. The journalist spent one and a half hours talking to Wenger.

ARSENE WENGER: “In the storm, I’ve been solid and I’ve stayed on course.”

L’Equipe: When we reflect on your 15 years as Arsenal manager, we have the impression that after some glorious seasons, last summer was the worst time of all…

Wenger: Yes, definitely. There are periods when everything is easy and there are moments when suddenly everything becomes difficult. That’s part of the job and it’s an experience any manager can go through, with highs and lows.

L’Equipe: Did it not feel like things were suddenly slipping away from you, especially during the summer, during the transfer window?

Wenger: The hard thing is the feeling that something is ending. You had a project with guys that you took on at the age of 18 and they leave at the age of 23. That’s not what you dream about. What’s more, on top of the players that left, there were injuries. It’s simple: last season, our midfield was built around Wilshere, Nasri, Diaby and Fabregas. Then we find ourselves without Diaby and Wilshere who are injured for a long time, and without Nasri and Fabregas who have gone to Manchester City and Barça.

L’Equipe: Do you know who once said that the success of a season depends 90 percent on the summer’s recruitment?

Wenger: Yes, I said that and I still think it. I know that my recruitment has been criticised, but personally I think I have succeeded beyond my own hopes. I’m happy with Gervinho, Mertesacker, Santos, Park, Benayoun and Arteta. I’ve never signed so many players (so quickly) before, although I didn’t really have a choice.

L’Equipe: From the outside, it looks like a case of patching up…

Wenger: I acknowledge that not everything was planned. Above all, what wasn’t planned was Wilshere’s long injury and Vermaelen having to undergo surgery. Losing 8-2 at Manchester United wasn’t planned either, nor was Gibbs’ injury. When that happens you are obliged to act quickly, to adapt. I bought five players in three days at the end of August, and am happy about it.

L’Equipe: Still, there was a lot of commotion and it seems to be the end of the hopes you placed in a generation of players. Do you not see that as a personal failure?

Wenger: For the first time since I have been here, I lost young players who were reaching maturity. I suffered. Because it is painful to separate with key players who you have invested a lot in, it’s painful when the results are not good enough. We are fighting with clubs that have far superior means to us. We cannot account for the difference in the financial potential of clubs like Manchester City and ourselves.

L’Equipe: You can’t ignore the fact that the results haven’t been there. That might have worn down certain players and contributed to the exodus…

Wenger: Of course that played a part. In this respect, last season broke the squad. They could have been extraordinary. I often call it ‘the season of the last minute’. We lost the League Cup final in the last minute, we lost to Liverpool in the last minute (in fact Arsenal drew in April, Kuyt equalising in 12th minute of added time), we lost the chance of qualifying, with only ten players, against Barcelona with Bendtner’s opportunity. At Tottenham, we were 3-1 up and got pegged back. When that happens your backs are against the wall. When you no longer have anything to get your teeth into, one and a half months is a long time to spend together. We felt like the winds wouldn’t stop blowing against us and yet we were so close to exploding (winning) everything.

L’Equipe: How much responsibility do you take for the collapse?

Wenger: If I acknowledge one mistake, it was wanting to win everything. We played 27 matches between November and January. After that we started to run out of petrol.

L’Equipe: You wanted to win everything because above all you couldn’t afford to win nothing… again?

Wenger: Yes. To try to catch one, we ran after all the hares.

L’Equipe: What about this season?

Wenger: I’ll do the same thing. It’s the only response I have to pressure.

L’Equipe: Does the current team have what it takes to resist, to shoulder the pressure?

Wenger: I don’t know. Paradoxically, our bad start to the season has lowered the pressure. People are saying: ‘Arsenal are going to battle against relegation, they’ll do nothing’. That’s why our victory at Chelsea had such a resounding effect. Nobody believed we were capable of that. People had downplayed our wins so much up until then, it was a clap of thunder in the English sky.

L’Equipe: Was it a positive turning point?

Wenger: We will see where we are situated in December.

L’Equipe: Do you have a clue?

Wenger: None at all. We are coming from a long way back. We’ve had to rebuild at a time when there was a total lack of confidence. That takes time.

L’Equipe: It terms of technique and tactics, we have seen your team struggle like never before. Have you looked to change your footballing principles… become less ambitious?

Wenger: Our style is founded on a form of insouciance when it comes to risk-taking, and this is something that had disappeared. As a result, there was no longer spontaneity in our play and we were in difficulty. So we decided to try to get some ‘small’ wins. Confidence is something you lose quickly and regain slowly. You climb back up the slope step by step. But I never considered renouncing my playing philosophy. On the contrary, I told myself that if I also abandoned the playing habits that this club has been founded on until now, the team would become disorientated. If I tell the players tomorrow ‘hit the ball long towards the forwards’, they will be even more unsettled. I have kept faith in our style, knowing all along that it would be hard work and laborious.

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124 Comments on "Wenger’s interview with L’Equipe – full transcript"

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Donski

Amazing man, will be a truely sad day when he does leave, though lets hope thats not for sometime!

Maddo

ARSEBLOG own submission on AW yesterday: “He’s a frustrating old goat but he’s our frustrating old goat” Bless.

Jeff

Well it just shows how the press never let the “facts” get in the way of a good story.

To me it just shows what a strong, admirable man Wenger is.

No one could have foreseen the russian gangster coming in to CSKA Fulham to launder his money and then the arabs from middle eastlands.

Let’s face it, without this form of cheating, financial doping, we would have won a lot more.

Two hundred million debt in one season! If I were a man city fan, I’d be ashamed.

We Gooners are blessed with this great man at the helm.

We will win something this season, maybe even old big ears!

GManSizzle

I hope the anti-Wenger brigade read this and are full of shame. This man demands respect for what he’s done for Arsenal Football Club

Gabe

I’m guessing the French department gets more funding than the Russian department?

Ben Savage

I know exactly what he means by that last point. First came to Highbury when I was 9, I’m now 24. I can’t possibly imagine anyone else in the dug out! What a legend.

IndianGooner

Me too.. Started following Arsenal when I was 12. Now I’m 27..

Glenn

And me… I started in 1994, when I was 8, so I remember Graham, Houston, Rioch and Rice before Wenger, but I also remember going to the Sunderland game in 1996, right before Wenger came. Not to mention being told of his appointment by my Dad, and asking something along the lines of “Arsène who?”

Steve

I am also that 10 year old who started in the Wenger era, right after Euro 96.

Mooro

Despite the lack of monkeys driving cars, Russian girlfriends and running old dears over coming through in the translation, what a great interview, and thanks for putting it out there for us.

This would never have happened with an English journo, so it’s refreshing to read his words as reported.

Sean

150 euros on the pitch?!

Domhuaille MacMathghamhna
Domhuaille MacMathghamhna

150 million Euros mate!

Samuel Hills

That kid is me, and so many other Arsenal fans. We have an awful lot to be thankful to Mr Wenger for.

Cedric

” I like courage and this club is courageous. In 1996, for a club that represented the tradition of English football, going and getting an unknown Frenchman from Japan was a bit rash. So historically, Arsenal have been courageous, innovatory. They try to do things with class and style. That’s why I defend them with so much fierceness. Because of these values. They mean a lot to me and I like to defend them.”

A true love statement. This man is amazing.

AR

He has always defended the club, whatever his point of view might have been, I can’t think of a single instance where he’s said anything bad about the fans, players, board or our history no matter what has happened with or around him.

Like people have been saying, he might have made some bad decisions but his intentions have always been right and he only wants the best for our club. He’s a true fan, in fact even a fanatic gooner! Proud to have a classy human being in charge of our great club!

bin kris

What a visionary! I also have seen arsenal with wenger only!!!

Abdul Moeed

Agreed with Ben. First watched Arsenal in 1997 when I was 8. Now Im 22 . Ive grown up watching Wenger. I can never imagine anyone else on the bench. It will be a very sad day when The Professor decides to call it a day. In Arsene I trust. Always.

Anon

Loved his last statement.

Also, he could stay for 30 years in Arsenal, despite him saying he won’t be here 15 years from now. Look at Sir Alex Ferguson, he said he’d retire at 60, and he’s still on as Man Utd manager.

A man can dream.

Padwoir

Classic Wenger. Loving the ‘Let it circulate’ quote. Grand to see the interview fleshed out like that, everything in context, good job.

GoonerMonkey

Well there you go. Journalists cherry pick the juicy sound-bites from a story and neglect the rest of the interview as they only want to gain clicks to their website, or pennies for the paper: Playing on people’s anxiety towards a certain topic in order to make a story compelling. We’re all anxious about this season for a host of reasons, the hacks can smell it. It makes their job easy.

Fear sells.

NEXT GAME!

david seago

This: “It’s true, a new cycle is starting. When we left Highbury, I set my sights on a long-term project with a young team. It didn’t produce the results I’d hoped for. Yes, we have to rebuild”

and this: “as far as I am concerned, we are now talking pretty short term”
i find very interesting.

He has admitted his project hasn’t worked, and his changed his tact slightly. I think this is fantastic management. A man that has realised his own mistakes and has responded accordingly, whilst still staying true to his footballing principles.
I have always been behind Arsene, and continue to be, i have disagreed with decisions he’s made and still do, that is my perogative, but i have always respected the fact he has stayed true to his philosophy, and his single-mindedness.
Long may he continue to manage this great club.

critic

so basically by saying “as far as I am concerned, we are now talking pretty short term” he means he is not gonna invest so much in youth as he has done previously?
It’s a good thing in my opinion. Basically he will buy some proven stars( might not be at the highest level) and restructure arsenal wage pyramid.
Let’s keep our fingers crossed…

waleed

no I think what he means is he won’t be here for that much longer

david seago

i don’t think it means he’s going to invest in youth more, i think he will always see the youth system as extremely important for the club, and i’m sure we’ll see more youth products come through. I just think it means he is more focused on NOW than what the team is going to be like in 2-3 years time.

GoonerTerry

@ critic: no I thin k he meant survival in the first instance (stop the slide) then win a trophy to rebuild the confidence of both the team and the fans. He alluded to it during the interview.

Ian allinson's tache

When the naming rights come up again let’s do the classy thing and call it the wenger stadium(we won t spend the money anyway!),it’s the least he deserves

GoonerTerry

I share the sentiment but I feel that naming the the training ground after him would be more meaningful seen as that’s the place the players & training staff spends most of their time. Also it will remind future generations of his legacy every day…

Dam Dizzle

Always a fascinating man to listen to…

great read, great man

Dolgion

Amazing man and manager. Is there any other club as blessed with their manager as Arsenal? And yeah, he’s arguably better than Ferguson if one looks at all the factors

critic

“when u see a cow at the neighbour’s house u think it’s better than your cow but it’s actually not”……that was the dumber version of “grass is always greener on the other side”

And ferguson is not half smart and good looking as wenger. FACT.

Richard Smith

Someone should give all football journalists a taste of their own medicine.

TeeCee

That’s a good idea.
What we should do is keep an eye on the press articles. Then, whenever a hack writes a story, mentions himself and neglects to add that he’s got a secure job, get a news article put out here on how he’s getting sacked in the morning.

E.g. Alan Hansen pens an article on how disappointed he is in the scousers’ defending and how much better it was in his day (perm one from infinity there). Our article says that Hansen is “disappointed” with football, feels he’s not up with the current game and considering giving up punditry. (Usual stuff – one quote, one out-of-context reword and a made up bit).
Sit back, wait for Google to do its job and spot the “Hansen quitting” articles in the press tthe next day.

Simple eh?

Bob Stepanovs

Thoroughly enjoyed that, thanks for going to the trouble of translating it. Top work.

IncognitoGooner

Wonderful read. Whoever thought listening to a football manager could be so refreshing.

rickthegooner

Love him or hate him, the man is class

If the players he trusted showed the same class and repaid his trust, then things may have been different.
Perhaps that’s the frailty in the man !!! Maybe he looks at the world through ” rose tinted glasses. “

critic

“If the players he trusted showed the same class and repaid his trust, then things may have been different.”

that’s why there’s only “one arsene wenger”, no players will sacrifice greener pastures for arsenal and philosophy like arsene does.

Sivakumar

What an interview !!! how wise is this man.. He keeps amazing people with his wisdom. Carry on forever .. am really emotional . Kudos for the transalation.

Fed up of Barca

Guys a legend!

Last comment made me smile, Okay I was a fan before Wenger (but only just – am 27 now). I remember the tail end of Grahams reign, Houston being caretaker, Rioch’s year, more Houston caretaking and then Wenger… He’s certainly been a very prominent figure in my life.

Pele of Romford

I honestly have tears in my eyes reading that.

And that’s why I’ll defend him to the end. All the Wenger out numpties need to read that and have a good look at their ungrateful selves.
This is the man that said ‘…I believe this team can go undefeated.’ and the world laughed at him.
There will never be another arsene Wenger.

Scott Davis

“I was thinking about a 10 year old kid who might have come to watch Arsenal for the first time with his dad in 1996. I was thinking that he’d now be 25, and he will have known only one chap on the bench” <– Well as a matter of a fact Arsene, thats right. Thats exactly what happened to me.

Arsene Wenger represents a huge generation of Arsenal Football Club to many and I for one am very proud of that fact.

Niran.A

I love you arsene, I always have and always will and I don’t mind u being in arsenal another 15 yrs.

DaveL

For all his experience in the game, he seems truly and personally hurt by Fabergas and Nasri leaving.

critic

cunts…..changed the ship on the 1st sign of storm…

GoonerTerry

No I will always defend Cesc because he really loved Arsenal but he so wanted to go home to Spain. He has always been up front about that…so take back the abuse critic…but its OK to lump it on the cunt Nasri (0;

Jayjinho

2 weeks ago my girlfriend asked me who my hero was. I thought for a moment and replied in all seriousness that it was Arsene. The answer surprised me but I couldn’t think of anyone else who I admired so much. Wise, gracious, competitive and unswerving commitment and dedication to his values and to Arsenal.

Fantastic interview. Thanks.

drona

Great interview and completely different tone to what has appeared in the media. Just before this translated transcript I swallowed my pride and read Myles Palmer’s take on this Wenger interview. This particular thought flashed across my mind.

“Never argue with a fool, because they will only drag you down to the level of stupidity, and then beat you with their experience.”

Maddo

Cor Blimey… isn’t our Manager a word smith general of the highest calibre.

Some of his vocabularies are just pure gold.

There are so many quotes I could use from the excellent translated interview above but I choose this “With time, like Ferguson at Manchester United, I have become part of the historic memory of the game”

With a global audience in the millions; you Mr Arsene Wenger will be remembered by many, from all corners of the world, from supporters and fans with names that many cannot imagine nor pronounce. Both the old and young generation will remember you… BUT IT’S NOT OVER YET!

Arsene Wenger …Le Professor: I say take a bow and long may you continue sitting on that beach at the Emirates.

Mon ami : Quand vous vivez, vous obtiendrez plus que juste un stand nommé d’après vous.

Paul

Typical of the media to add 2 + 2 and come up with any number other than 4!

It is good to read the interview with the full context. Wenger has given everything to Arsenal and continues to do so. This interview does not suggest he might be about to leave, it suggests a man who is still doing everything he can to make Arsenal winners

Olu

This is really refreshing. Arsene Wenger is truly a legend. It is sad when players like Fabregas and Nasri leave him after he had stuck out his neck for them. Truly there will only be one Arsene Wenger but many Nasris and a few Fabregas who make Arsenal a delight to watch.
We have seen this new team develop in a few weeks and they are playing well. Lets hope that we can get Jack in there soon, Ryo also and the Ox. I am sure we will soon forget the hurt of the barca boy and the money loving french boy leaving us at the worst time – when we needed them most.
In Arsene? We trust.

sam (@gaffer02)

i cant believe reading this interview has made me emotional. what a man!! i hope people realise how lucky we are to have him as manager. and why did the english media make it sound bad? reading the whole piece shows just how the media try to make noise out of nothing. #inarsenewetrustalways

Mooro

I’m really pleased there’s so many posts basically saying they were that kid he’s talking about.

It’s restored my faith in that you don’t have to be an older fucker like me, and be able to recall when things really were shit, to truly appreciate how much this man has done for our club.

the only sam is nelson
the only sam is nelson

too right. My first game was December 1976 – nearly 35 years ago *gulp* – and it saw SuperMac, recently purchased for a third of a million pounds, turn on his former club, smashing a hat trick in a 5-3 win in front of a packed Highbury.

As a starry eyed 5 year old I was instantly in love with this free flowing, entertaining and goal filled club called Arsenal with their full stadium of adoring fans and team studded with glittering talent

Of course this cruel illusion was starkly exposed quickly enough, but by then it was too late. Oh Terry Neill and Don “a draw is never a loss” Howe…

We really *were* boring, boring Arsenal once. But not now, and that’s down to one man. For that, for all the trophies, for the wonderful football, for the fact that other fans have an admiration for the Arsenal now that I never imagined possible rather than the contempt of days gone by, for the constant ability to challenge for honours in the absence of financial doping, for all of that I thank Mr Wenger. A real gent.

And the “we all think we have the best looking wife at home” comment in 2002 that wound Demento up, I’d *really* like to thank him for that. Heh.

GoonerTerry

You are a lucky so-and-so Sammy Nelson (one of my favorites btw) I started in 1968 and it was not a vintage year. But I got to see the rise of Bertie Mee’s Red & White Army. Some great FA Cup nights (that’s what we aspired to then) and it wasn’t until GG that we thought that we could win anything like another title. GG was good and most Gooners of my generation felt that we had never had it so good…until…Wenger! I still can scarcely believe the improvement in everything Arsenal that Wenger has brought. Its a completely different club – from top to bottom. The Wenger generation can not imagine how different our football has been compared to before Wenger..when you see the UTUBE clips of us winning the Fairs Cup and the 71 Double it hides the fact that we had to suffer years of dire football on muddy pitches to get a little bit of cheer every so often…oh to be a Gooner these days..

Adebayo

Is it by coincidence that his name is synonymous with the club? Could that have arouse the passion and dedication? That aside, these are the kinda man of any employer’s dream. A man that would remember the day he was employed out of dust. I wish some certain players would have taken a pinch from this,remember the day they were brought to the club as relatively unknown.

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[…] of the article. Thank goodness for the folks over at Arseblog. They have the full article here. What comes through is not the self pitying portrayal that came across in the English press but the […]

sam

He came to arsenal when I was 2 he is all I’ve ever known and I believe we shouldn’t let him go because there isn’t a better manager that could come in and fill his shoes. Will be a very sad day in the history of Arsenal Football Club when he leaves

critic

I truly believe arsene will leave a great foundation for his successor as he said in the interview.

Board really need to be pro-active in making the transition hassle free.

Laure

They’re almost now inseparable, in terms of concept as well as his loyalty to the club. Great translation from Matt Spiro, too.

Matty

Great interview by a great great great man!

Sabrina

I knew he’d never think of leaving us.

bizircus

What a delightful interview…..a class act???
Take note our friends from Chelsea, who just churn through managers………
you cant buy class lads!!

Merlin's Panini

When this interview first came to light I knew it didn’t all seem quite right.
He’s always said he would honour his contract and I believe he will, at the very least, do that. People who say Arsene is not Arsenal are right, but he’s more Arsenal than any other manager we’ve ever had or probably ever will have.
His loyalty is unwavering and astounding and I am proud to have grown up as an Arsenal supporter with him, in the most part, at the helm.

The funny thing with Arsene is that I felt at ease with him as soon as he took over. There was no period of adjustment. He was just fantastic from the off.
I still look back with bafflement that Bruce Rioch ever managed us. His legacy will always be Dennis Bergkamp, although from what I’ve heard that deal wasn’t really his doing.

AvenellRoad

I’ve been a following the Arsenal for 30 years. The last 15 of those with true pride. Pride of the beautiful way we play the game, of how we manage to compete despite the lack of a sugar daddy. I also read Myles’ xenophobic take on the interview earlier. That man has totally lost it.

Rocky7

Legend.

Sam

If someone knows Arsene personally they should let him read all the comments made here,might give him a glimpse of what he means to the club to the fans,personally the man is a legend,a hero a true mentor and a man who inspires me to stand by my beliefs to the end. Give us another 15 years Arsene!,please.

N7 Gooner

He deserves a trophy so so much more than any of that lot at City!

BARNBOY

Good work mr blogs…… I feel the interview sums up arsene and arsenal…. Class…..

critic

Thank you thank you thank you…….bazilllion times for this full interview transcript.

tomNW5

Brilliant. Let me add my thanks for this translation.

Also Palmer is a cynical twat who shouldn’t be encouraged. Vanity coupled with stupidity , wrapped up in smugness. A proper little shit.

Joseph Omagbon

At first i thought he was stuborn, but now i can call him a courageous man. The most painful part of his reign in Arsenal should be the betrayal done to him by some players (like Flamini, Hleb, Adebayor, Nasri, Clichy, even Cesc) who he picked as NOBODIES and turned them into Sought- after STARS. I never sat with you in a class to be taught Management Ethics but ur Philosophy has added to my Managerial Skills. I love you Arsene Wenger, stay with us cos i can see better days ahead.

Terry-fied Gooner

This sums it up for me ” form is temporary, class is permanent ”

Trevor

In Arsene We TRUST

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