Wenger won't leave behind a mess, defends Euro record

LONDON • Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has given the first hint that he is starting to contemplate his legacy at the club, suggesting that he is determined to make sure that he leaves the Gunners in such rude health that his successor is more successful than him.

Speaking at a stormy annual general meeting, the 65-year-old insisted he is "absolutely committed" to seeing out his contract, which expires in 2017.

Club chairman Chips Keswick made it clear he and the board are convinced that Wenger is the "best person to take charge of Arsenal for as long as he feels inclined".

Wenger's defence of his side's recent Champions League record - in response to a shareholder's assertion that performances in the last year against Monaco, Anderlecht and Olympiakos were "embarrassing" - was robust enough to indicate that he is by no means ready to lay down the cudgels just yet.

That the prospect of his eventual departure is on his mind for the first time, though, was clear.

"I am resolute and absolutely committed until the last day of my contract to bringing big success back to this club," he told shareholders on Thursday. "(I am committed) as well to leaving the club in a position where it can do even better when I leave. That is very important to me that I leave the club in the shape that (means) the guy who comes after me can do better.

"Looking back, I am proud we have won titles (three-time Premier League champions) and FA Cups (six) but the first quality of a club is to be consistent.

"We've had 18 consecutive years in the Champions League. Only one club - Real Madrid - has done better. I can understand that is not enough. I am the first person to agree that it is not enough.

"The performances (against Monaco, Olympiakos and the rest) were not good enough.

"But we have played more than 150 games in Europe. If you look at the percentages of games won in Europe, you will see Arsenal are in the top five."

Wenger has been in charge of the London side for 6,935 days - more than all the other Premier League managers combined.

Watford manager Quique Sanchez Flores will go head-to-head with the Frenchman for the first time today.

"What (former Manchester United manager) Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger did is very difficult to match in other countries, it is impossible," Spaniard Flores, a former Real Madrid defender, said.

"I respect (Wenger), the English league is like the Spanish league, we have high respect for this type of manager. He has experience and we have respect."

Watford, promoted from the Championship last term, have made a solid start to the season, thanks to a stout defensive foundation. They have conceded just seven times in their eight games but scored just six times themselves.

Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny faces a fitness test but midfielders Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini are available.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 17, 2015, with the headline 'Wenger won't leave behind a mess, defends Euro record'. Print Edition | Subscribe