24 hours on from the news that Arsene Wenger will be leaving Arsenal after 22 years in charge, I’m still not entirely sure that it’s sunk in.
I’m on holiday at the minute, deliberately choosing a place with limited internet and phone reception so I could have a break from all the moaning and negativity. Little did any of us expect this news to start our Friday.
Any non-Arsenal fans must surely be looking at our fanbase at the minute, wondering what the hell is wrong with (most of) us. We’ve been wanting him out for so long, the outpouring of sadness and regret that followed his announcement hints at fans suffering split personality.
That’s always been one of the main problems with this whole shambles. There was a time when many of us never wanted to see Arsene Wenger leave Arsenal. We didn’t want to imagine a future without him at the club. That morphed into a desire to see him move on, anger at the board for not being more proactive and serious frustration at the man himself for not seeing what seemed so obvious to everyone else.
But most Arsenal fans never stopped adoring the man that brought them the Invincibles, more FA Cups than you could imagine, a new stadium, some of the best players in world football and a constant stream of great European teams and trips.
How could we? How could you ever love someone as deeply as we love Arsene Wenger and feel nothing now?
Arsene Wenger was appointed as Arsenal manager was I was 20 years old. He took charge of his first match on my 21st birthday.
I’m 42 now.
Aside from my family and support of Arsenal, he has been the longest constant in my life. I have lived nowhere longer nor been in a relationship with anyone as long as I’ve been in this with Arsene.
I saw tons of people saying the same sort of stuff on Twitter on Friday. People were saying how they’d never known Arsenal without Wenger, or had only started at University or where still at school when he was appointed. I wasn’t even a dude when Arsene took over, so I think I win that contest, don’t you?
There are, I hear, some people who aren’t taking the news in the same fashion. They have, reports on Twitter say, been gloating and continuing to abuse a man who has refused to be angered by the vitriol they have spent years slinging in his direction. I haven’t seen any of these people, thankfully, although the one person who told me to ‘grow up’ because I said I was having trouble getting the news to sink in was told to ‘fuck off’.
If you are an Arsenal fan who is questioning the depth of feeling for Arsene Wenger amongst other fans, then you have let your own agenda blind you so much, I have no time for anything you think.
Some in the press are being snippy, too. After waging a war on Wenger for years in their papers, hounding him, sometimes daily, they are glowing in their tributes and condescending in their assessment of Arsenal fans’ reactions. Some like to lump all Arsenal fans in with the vocal, moronic minority who have dominated this discussion for far too long. Theirs never was the dominating feeling amongst fans, even though that’s what the press told the public.
The majority of Arsenal fans have always struggled with the dual personality that formed inside them as Arsene’s powers waned. We never expected to find ourselves in a place where we wanted him to leave. Once there, the adoration we had nurtured over his first decade at the club restrained us from any urge to be abusive.
We wanted him to go, but we wanted him respected, too.
So now what? It probably won’t hit me until I get home on Sunday evening and get online properly. I’ve found a hotspot in the garden that should let me stream the game on my phone so I’ll be hoping the good weather lasts. There’s something fitting about Arsene being seen off in the same glorious sunshine that illuminated the games his side were crowned as Champions of England.
There are now a maximum of seven games left for Arsenal with Arsene Wenger as manager. The players are gutted that he’s leaving and have promised to give him a send-off worthy of such a great man.
I hope they mean it this time. All too often they’ve promised performances but failed to deliver.
To do that this time would be the biggest insult to the man who nurtured them all.