Martin Keown has interviewed Arsene Wenger for the BBC ahead of Monday night’s FA Cup clash with Manchester United. We’ve written up a transcript of the seven minute head-to-head.
Even if you’ve watched the original, we suggest giving it a read. It’s only having scrutinised Arsene’s words at close quarters that we’ve noticed he references what he was asked to achieve during the early years of the stadium build and just how bullish he is about the future…
MK: I know you don’t like looking back, you’re in the middle of your career…you like to think you’re in the middle of your career…why not?
AW: I’m not in the middle of my career, but I still don’t like to look back because what is important in our job is to look forward for the next game. You know, our job is linked with the last result.
If I do ask you to look back, which one of those wins [in the FA Cup] means the most to you?
Maybe the first one. The first one was when we won the Double in 1998 against Newcastle. I remember absolutely everything. It was at Wembley which for a guy who comes from France, you know, for me it was all new. It was really something special. The whole stadium…it was an old stadium, but there was a soul in there that was exceptional, the grass was special. Everything was special at Wembley.
Where do you keep your medals? Do you have a big cabinet at home or are they in a box somewhere?
Martin, I don’t even know where they are! That tells you that I don’t look back. Maybe one day I will regret it. I like to think I get more from my career from the human side of it than the medals. I would like to think that when I meet the former players I remember more what kind of people they were than what I won with them.
There have been some epic battles between these two teams [Arsenal and Manchester United] over the years, what memories do you have of these games?
Look, I think the most memorable…you were involved in it once. [Laughs] You will be in a better position to talk about it. One was of course that famous incident with the penalty on Van Nistelrooy where you were singled out afterwards. The second one was, what I never forget, we lost the fiftieth game at Man United. That still hurts today. It was certainly the game that hurt us the most, even if we had lost sometimes with a big goal difference (6-1, 8-2 etc.). The fiftieth game will remain forever for me.
Sir Alex Ferguson is of course no longer in the dugout, do you miss him now he’s gone?
Look, I’m happy to see him now, much more than before. We have gone through some difficult spells in our relationship. In the end it became more peaceful and respectful. Today we are happy to have a good dinner together or a good glass of wine and talk about football and raise above the differences we had before.
What do you make of Louis Van Gaal?
I think he’s a great manager and when you look at what he has done in his life it is absolutely outstanding. He’s in a period where they rebuild their team and he has stabilised the team now; they lost only two out of the last 18 games. I believe as well the environment of the teams and the clubs has changed you know. Everybody is always under severe scrutiny, questioning. The media environment is much more demanding, the social networks are much more demanding. Every game today is a trial where you are judged before and after.
You haven’t won at Old Trafford for ten games, how are you going to change that?
Look, what is good in our game is that first of all it is unpredictable. Secondly, it is not the history that makes the result; it is the performance on the day. The target is to qualify for the semi-final of the FA Cup, that is enough just for us to focus on our performance.
Looking at the team in 2004 it was certainly much more physical than the current team, it’s much more technical now. You changed there…
I think the availability of the players changed. We produced after that  players like Fabregas who were less physical than Patrick Vieira, but were still exceptional players. For a while maybe, of course we became slowly a little bit less athletic. What people forget is that we had to build the stadium, to build the stadium we had to create money. Today the weight of that is not important any more, we can compete again to fight for the best players. That was not the case six, seven years ago or five years ago.
Did you have chances to leave?
2004, 2005, 2006…I had chances to leave, of course. I went for the club with a challenge to build a new stadium without dropping out of the Champions League three years out of five. That was the financial request. We made it every year. I knew that that period for the club was a very sensitive period and I feel I’ve done my job in a very committed and faithful way.
One day everybody has to leave this club, it happened to me…
It will happen to me.
What condition to do you want to leave this club in?
In a strong, healthy position. That means a club that has good players, good youth [coming up] behind and a strong financial position to go further up and develop even more. I will do that, you can believe me. The guy who comes in after me is in a very strong position to deliver something exceptional. I believe that biggest quality first of a top, top club is to maintain consistency in the results. I hope that when I’ve left some day and come back to the Emirates to watch a game that I’ll be very happy to see a quality team.