Wenger hints at desire to take club to divine heights

LONDON • Arsene Wenger has made sacrifices during his long tenure at Arsenal to the extent that he says it has been akin to joining the priesthood.

The club's manager describes himself as a "specialist in masochism" and he is perfectly clear that 90 per cent of the job is aggravation.

At the age of 67, and with a vocal element of the Arsenal support baying for him to quit when his contract expires in the summer, it is easy to wonder why on earth he would want to continue.

But there are times when Wenger speaks with such power about his chosen path that it is plain he cannot live without it. Thursday was one of those times.

Explaining his theory about masochism, he said: "This job has allowed me to get to the next level as a human being and to develop my strengths in what makes a human being great," he said.

"To get the best out of people - that is absolutely fantastic. Of course, you have disappointments with people and results...

NOBLE SACRIFICE

I always say to all the young people who want to go into this job: 'Are you ready to sacrifice your life?' It's like a priest. You're a football priest.

ARSENE WENGER, Arsenal manager, on what management entails.

"It is very interesting if you really face the challenge by accepting as well, in an objective way, what you have to do to get better."

For Barcelona coach Luis Enrique, the relentless demands of the job have become too much. He announced on Wednesday that he will step down from his post at the end of the season.

Wenger, who denied that he was interested in the Barcelona job, voiced his sympathy for Enrique at his pre-match conference ahead of today's Premier League encounter with Liverpool.

"Everybody experiences the job in a different way," the Frenchman said. "What I can say is, yes, it's very demanding.

"It's a sacrifice of your life. You have nothing else happening in your life.

"Basically, you get 90 per cent aggravation and 10 per cent top satisfaction and you have to give everything in your life for that.

"I always say to all the young people who want to go into this job: 'Are you ready to sacrifice your life?' It's like a priest. You're a football priest."

But the subtext to Wenger's comments is that he intends to take himself - and Arsenal - to the next level.

The latest indications are that he looks likelier to re-sign - a two-year extension is on the table - than resign but he says that he has not made the definitive decision. The levels of uncertainty remain chronic and the situation is fragile, at the mercy of being buffeted by results.

Today's result will have a big impact on both Arsenal and Liverpool in their bids to secure Champions League spots.

"Qualifying for the Champions League would be a big success, 100 per cent," Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp told the BBC.

"Qualifying for the Europa League, I'm not sure that I could sell it as success. But it would be okay, and it would be a step in the right direction."

On Tuesday, Wenger's side will try to overturn an unlikely 5-1 deficit from their Champions League last-16 tie with Bayern Munich at the Emirates Stadium.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 04, 2017, with the headline 'Wenger hints at desire to take club to divine heights'. Print Edition | Subscribe