When it comes to the wide debate about Arsene Wenger’s future, an argument often made is that it’s impossible to imagine him living without football, and he all but confirmed that on Thursday. The 67-year-old said that, regardless of what happens with Arsenal, he will not be retiring because “for old people retirement is dying”.
Laughing as he said it but also reflecting on how much the club has changed in his 20 years, Wenger said he has the same hunger and love for the game as when he first walked in the door at the club, and utterly hates defeat.
“I will not retire,” Wenger asserted. “Retiring is for young people. For old people, retirement is dying.”
There is clearly still a fire about Wenger, too, even if there has been so much doubt about his managerial approach this season.
“Yes, of course I'm as hungry,” he said. “I carry a bit more pressure on my shoulders than 20 years ago but the hunger is exactly the same. When you see what the club was and what it is today – when I arrived we were 70 employees, we are 700 today. One share was £400, it £18,000 today. And I'll tell you straight away, I don't have any shares.”
Asked whether he is more fearful of defeat these days because of the potential crowd reaction, Wenger rejected that.
“Fear, no. My next game is about hope and desire, I hate defeat.
“I hate defeat. But I can understand the fans that are unhappy with every defeat but the only way to have victory is to stick together with the fans and give absolutely everything until the end of the season, that's all we can do.”
Arsenal host Manchester City on Sunday, hoping to end what has been the worst run of Wenger’s career at Arsenal after four league defeats in five, as the club drifts away from the top four spots. You could say it’s a match they dare not afford to lose, but the manager claimed it is no different from any other game.
“I've been in this job for 34 years and I've never met somebody who told me 'you can afford to lose on Sunday'. You can never afford to lose and you're never in that mode, even if it's a pre-season friendly. In your mind you can never afford to lose, you're always very focused on winning the next game.”
Wenger famously has few interests outside the game beyond current affairs, and spends much of his time watching matches from all over the world.
“Yes, I watch every football game. I find it interesting. International games are less interesting but I did see one good game, Spain against France.”
Asked does he regret not having other pursuits like Sir Alex Ferguson and his horse-racing, Wenger laughed again.
“Fergie will have to initiate me if I start that.”