As Arsene Wenger prepares to take charge of his 810th Premier League game in charge of Arsenal – equaling Alex Ferguson’s long-standing record – the Frenchman says he never believed he’d be in the game as long as he has been.
Describing football matches as ‘Russian roulette’, he says that the core of the game has remained constant, while the accoutrements have changed down the years.
Recalling the players singing ‘We want our Mars bars’ on the bus after he’d banned chocolate when he first took over, he reflected on what’s now a very different world from the one in 1996.
Speaking about football in general, Wenger said, “It has changed but, overall, it is more the decor that has changed. The core of the game is the same.
“That means the spirit, quality on the pitch and human beings putting their effort together to achieve something.
“What has changed is the society. We have gone to more individualism. More individual plan of careers so that is more anxious for the players as well.”
On the the way the world itself has changed, Wenger saw positives and negatives, saying, “We live in a society that is more demanding, that is more opinionated. The overall problem in Europe is that the respect for basic things has been lost or is less strong that it was 20 years ago.
“Basic values are that I respect you. It’s as simple as that. You go to a doctor and he is more questioned than he was 20 years ago. Twenty years ago, you go to a doctor, he says you have that, you say ‘OK I will go home and do that’.
“Today, when you go to see the doctor, you have read before on the internet and he has to convince you that you have not necessarily what you think you have. So that basically means that you are questioned more. In every single job, people are questioned more.
“But as well you have positive things. People are better informed, people are better educated. People have more knowledge of the game and of other things. So you have to think of balance.”
And as he looks to celebrate his record breaking managerial appearance with three points, Wenger looked back on that first game and explained what he’d have thought if someone told him he’d still be doing the job so many years later.
“I would have said ‘you’re absolutely mad, absolutely no chance’,” he said.
“I remember when I was 33, 34, I thought that to 60, is 25, 26 years and you’ll never get there, because every game is such a gamble.
“It’s Russian roulette, every game. So you think, at some stage the bullet will hit you. So that’s absolutely unbelievable. You can never predict that.”
Let’s hope tonight brings us three points, and he can break the record with another three at West Brom.