Arsène Wengeradmits he is a religious man but will stop short of prayers even though he knows time is running out to qualify for the Champions League for the 20th successive season.
With pressure building on the Arsenal manager, his future could be determined over whether a top-four finish is secured again. Wenger could be excused for seeking divine intervention after four successive away defeats, the worst run during his Arsenal reign.
“I’m a religious man. I had a very, very rigorous religious education. In the church, in the Catholic school,” he said. “When I grew up in the village it was at the rhythm of religion. Today, even in my village, that has gone.
“We had three kings in the village – the mayor, the priest and the doctor. But life was dedicated by the rhythm of religion, so Easter was very important. I still like the atmosphere of the church because I think it’s a spiritual place.”
Talk over Wenger’s future continues to dominate the agenda at the Emirates. It will be the main source of conversation, win or lose against relegation-threatened Middlesbrough on Monday night. Mesut Özil has already revealed that his next move could be determined by whether Wenger stays or leaves.
Wenger, instead, wants his players to focus solely their game and forget about any potential upheaval in the dugout.
“Of course the players ask me about my future,” he said. “They communicate of course, but I think the most important thing we speak about is the next game. Özil may be coming to the end of his contract but you perform until the last day of that contract. That is how I see it.
“We have to focus on what is important, and that’s what happens on the pitch. Top-level sportsmen have to be like that.”
Arsenal have seen their season unravel as the pressure has intensified. With supporters slowly losing patience at the lack of progress, Wenger, who has faced hostility in recent years, is dealing with terrace discontent that is more sustained than ever. Defeat on Teesside is an unthinkable prospect given the unrest.
“It’s not been very enjoyable,” added Wenger. “It’s a big challenge. We have to make sure we perform in the next game and give everything. When I speak about the mental test it is to perform no matter what the circumstances are around you. But what is for sure is that in the last three months there has been no consistency, especially away from home.
“At home we have not been disastrous in the quality of our performances. But away we have not performed, and it is difficult to analyse why because in the past we have been very strong.
“I don’t know if uncertainty off the pitch breeds uncertainty in the team and performance. What is for sure, the results are not what we expect them to be.”