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Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger in his own words on highs, lows, bests and worsts, achievements, regrets – and why he mentioned 20,000 trees in Colney, Hertfordshire...

PUBLISHED: 18:02 10 May 2018 | UPDATED: 18:30 10 May 2018

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger salutes the fans after his final home game as manager (pic Nick Potts/PA)

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger salutes the fans after his final home game as manager (pic Nick Potts/PA)

PA Wire/PA Images

An Arsene Wenger press conference is rarely dull and the departing boss gave an absorbing one as he held court on Thursday at London Colney in what will be his last chat with the media at the club’s training ground as Arsenal manager. Read on for his must-read impish, considered, intelligent, passionate and thought-provoking musings on a number of topics – including why he mentioned 20,000 trees in Colney, Hertfordshire...

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes there will be a European League and that the Premier League will drop to 16 teams. PAArsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes there will be a European League and that the Premier League will drop to 16 teams. PA

Arsene Wenger’s first press conference...

I remember how bad my English was! And the curiosity that people had about me, because I came from nowhere. But I completely maintain what I said there, one of my jobs was to keep faithful to the qualities I had found here. The world has changed, the players are richer as well. I tried always to maintain the tradition and values of this club as much as I could. Overall I believe I was not too bad.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger (left) and assistant Steve Bould chat with Arsenal's Per Mertesacker, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Aaron Ramsey (right) at the Emirates Stadium (pic Nick Potts/PA)Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger (left) and assistant Steve Bould chat with Arsenal's Per Mertesacker, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Aaron Ramsey (right) at the Emirates Stadium (pic Nick Potts/PA)

Will Wenger miss the media...

Yes, because nobody will ask me anymore about things. I always told you I love football and I love the game. Every time I can talk about the game with you, I’m happy. I didn’t enjoy many of the press conferences because it was sometimes, for different reasons, to get my emotional response. But every time I can talk about the game and the things I love in the game, I’m happy. On that front I will miss the press conferences.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger at Old Trafford (pic Martin Rickett/PA)Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger at Old Trafford (pic Martin Rickett/PA)

On whether this is the last time a long-term manager will face the press...

It’s a very unique press conference because [Sir Alex] Ferguson was the last one. I take this opportunity to wish him well. I see he is doing well, and I think he made 26 years and I am on 22. There are some young managers who are already five or six years in charge. But 22? I don’t know. You never can say I am the last one, it can happen again.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger (left) and Robert Pires during a training session at London Colney (pic John Walton/PA)Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger (left) and Robert Pires during a training session at London Colney (pic John Walton/PA)

On holding press conferences at 8.45am...

First, I like that you have to get up early because I know in the press nobody likes to get up early! They usually start at 10 or 11am. So to make you suffer a little bit as well. And I know if I start early, you will not all turn up so it will be a bit easier for me!

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger after the final whistle (pic Martin Rickett/PA)Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger after the final whistle (pic Martin Rickett/PA)

On how difficult Wenger has found it to leave the club…

It’s difficult because this is my life, every year. I have 20,000 trees out there [at the training ground] and I saw every one like that (small) and they are now massive. I will greet every one of them before I leave and say ‘thank you’. Of course that’s my life, I don’t know anything else, and that’s why it will be difficult. I will leave a club where I can be proud of what is behind me because it has a fantastic structure, fantastic conditions for the next manager. I think I have been a little part in the development of a club that is historical and that has a huge fanbase. I leave the club in the conditions where the future of the club is in a strong position.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger (centre) with Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho (right) and Sir Alex Ferguson (left) before the Premier League match at Old Trafford (pic Martin Rickett/PA)Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger (centre) with Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho (right) and Sir Alex Ferguson (left) before the Premier League match at Old Trafford (pic Martin Rickett/PA)

Wenger on how strange it’s been since Sunday…

It was very strange and I’m grateful for [Sunday] because you can say it’s sad but if you look at it in an objective way, when you have the privilege to manage a club of that stature for 22 years, you should be very, very happy and say ‘thank you very much, it was a great privilege’. That’s how I look at it.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger looks on from the dug out at the Emirates Stadium (pic Mark Kerton/PA)Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger looks on from the dug out at the Emirates Stadium (pic Mark Kerton/PA)

On how difficult it has been for the players to get themselves up for these last two games…

I must say the players’ attitude was great last night [at Leicester]. They were fantastic. I believe there is a special bond in the team. There’s something waiting to come out of this team that is special, that I like very much. Hopefully they can express that next season. If you look at it in a very objective way, we’ve scored 73 goals and will score more certainly, but we conceded too many goals. It’s quite simple to look at what needs to be improved.

Arsenal's Konstantinos Mavropanos (27) is sent off by match referee Graham Scott during the Premier League match at the King Power Stadium, Leicester.Arsenal's Konstantinos Mavropanos (27) is sent off by match referee Graham Scott during the Premier League match at the King Power Stadium, Leicester.

Wenger on if he is happy he has had a ‘long goodbye’...

I enjoyed some aspects of it, yes – and not all. It was not always easy to cut slowly with what you do everyday and always you want to do it as well as you can and you don’t want to forget to thank people who deserve it. There are some people here who I employed 20 years ago who fought for me every single day so it is not easy to say goodbye.

Arsenal's Shkodran Mustafi slides in as Leicester City's Kelechi Iheanacho (right) has a shot during the Premier League match at the King Power Stadium, Leicester.Arsenal's Shkodran Mustafi slides in as Leicester City's Kelechi Iheanacho (right) has a shot during the Premier League match at the King Power Stadium, Leicester.

On the changes Wenger has seen in the Premier League...

There’s two aspects I would say. The Premier League has created many jobs, when I arrived we were 80 at Arsenal, we are today 700. That means from a private little company where you know everybody, we have gone to a normal company with an HR department where everything has to be processed and regulated. That’s not down anymore to your initiative, but every single decision has to go through a process in an over-regulated society. It’s sometimes discouraging, so the human aspect has dropped a little bit. On the other hand the financial power of the clubs has become huge. On the other hand, in 20 years the ownership has changed completely. If you look at the ownership when I was arrived and what it is today, it has become completely world wide. England does not own the clubs any more, it’s much more international. The world has become globalised and open, so the competition is worldwide with the players as well. These owners buy players from all over the world. The Premier League has become a world-wide championship. The next evolution? Maybe I will see you in a few years and you will certainly have a European league over the weekends. A domestic league will certainly play Tuesday/Wednesday. I think that is the next step we will see.

Arsenal's Rob Holding (right) and Leicester City's Riyad Mahrez (left) battle for the ball during the Premier League match at the King Power Stadium, Leicester.Arsenal's Rob Holding (right) and Leicester City's Riyad Mahrez (left) battle for the ball during the Premier League match at the King Power Stadium, Leicester.

Has Wenger booked a holiday...

Not yet, honestly no. I don’t know what I will do, maybe go to Russia.

Leicester City's Jamie Vardy has a shot on goal during the Premier League match at the King Power Stadium, Leicester.Leicester City's Jamie Vardy has a shot on goal during the Premier League match at the King Power Stadium, Leicester.

Will he will follow the Premier League after he leaves...

Yes.

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger with journalists at his final press conference at London Colney including Layth YousifArsenal boss Arsene Wenger with journalists at his final press conference at London Colney including Layth Yousif

Will he go to the World Cup...

I will watch the World Cup, I will be at the World Cup at the opening game and I watch of course the Premier League. When I wake up in the morning I look first at what kind of game is at night and that will not change.

What he will do in the next couple of weeks...

I have some work to do in France on Monday, Tuesday and after I will come back on Thursday and clear my office and that will be it – after that I don’t know.

On his most cherished memory...

Maybe my first title here because I came completely unknown and in my first full year I won the championship. I would say personally from 2006 to 2015 it was certainly the period where I needed to be the strongest and [where] I did the best job. To accept to commit to five years when you build the stadium to work with restricted resources and keep the club in a position where we can pay our debts back, I personally feel I did my best job in that period. Not the most glamorous maybe, but the most difficult.

On the match he would change...

It’s always the last one - not Leicester because there was nothing at stake - but Atletico Madrid. When you come out of these two games and you are out of the semi-final of the Europa League... when you come out of the first leg with 1-1 and it should be 3-0, it is what you would like to change. Even with my experience, when it was 1-0 in the second half [of the first leg] I never thought it would finish 1-1. I thought maybe we won’t score the second goal, but we cannot concede - they never crossed the halfway line. Always the last pain is the biggest one.

On it not being the Champions League final in 2006...

That was in 2006, it is over 11 years ago and of course it is still painful but my last pain, the last big defeat, is that.

On his best Arsenal team: 1998 or 2004?

2004. Their achievement, nobody has done it since in the Premier League. I loved the team in 1998 because I found some players had quality much better than I thought they were when I arrived here. They were very intelligent as well. And they were an experienced team. After, we added a bit more exceptional quality in 2002 and 2004. Overall, maybe the Invincibles.

On what his legacy is: trophies or stadium?

It’s a bit of all of that. I would say the legacy is what you think is important, with the way you behave with your players. I get so many messages from players, that are not about the trophies we won together, they are more about the human aspect. That’s what the players keep - and the values of the club - that they realise when they go somewhere else. That’s what you want and after that you want the style of play, as the manager has an influence on the way you play football. The idea that you want to give from the game you love. The structures of the club, the way you can influence individual players’ lives as well. All that together you would want to be remembered for.

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