After 22 years at the same football club, the ability to shock and rock a fanbase that has seen and heard it all still lives on in Arsene Wenger, because that’s exactly what he did on Friday morning when he announced he would end a lifelong tradition and break a contract for the first time.
It’s a day we’ve all longed for, for so long, yet now that it has arrived, I find myself at a loss for what to say or do.
I’ve sat here in a shed for the last 30 minutes trying to work out what to write. I’m on holiday, you see, my last tweet before I left declaring that I wouldn’t even be home for the game against West Ham on Sunday because only a moron would cut short their time away to do that.
I’ll be home in time for the match on Sunday now.
I’m numb, but I know under the surface lies immense sadness. That was always going to be the deal. Like an ancient family pet that has started pissing on the furniture, we knew Arsene had to go. We also knew that when the time finally came it would be heart-breaking.
It’s the right decision. For the fans, for the man himself and, ultimately and most importantly, for the club.
And it’s being done in the right way too.
This season, there was simply no way you could watch what Arsene Wenger was doing to himself and not feel it like a dagger to your hardened heart. He was frustrating and stubborn and arrogant and all the things he’s been accused of over the years, but it hurt to see him attempt to fight on regardless.
Rather than having to watch him struggle for the remainder of the season in front of a half-empty Emirates, we now get to play him out in the same way his early teams played football for us. We get to remember why we fell in love with him, not why we fell out of it. The focus shifts and we get to look forward, after a brief look back to say ‘thank you Arsene. Thank you.’
Just last week over on Daily Cannon, I wrote about the death of optimism at Arsenal, but with this one statement Arsene Wenger has breathed life back into a weary fanbase, who had become bored with the same sort of failure year on year.
Trophies came, but they couldn’t hide the slide that Arsenal started when they moved to the Emirates. It wasn’t supposed to be that way, of course. We banked on Wenger being able to produce magic from his hat regardless of the circumstances around him. That he did what he did in keeping Arsenal in the Champions League for so long will, one day, be seen for the Herculean task it truly was.
And that’s what Arsene Wenger has been at Arsenal – a Herculean manager who was weighed down by a role that was always going to be too big for just one man.
Because of what he delivered when he first arrived at the club, we expected too much from him. He raised our expectations and then we shot him down when he couldn’t keep reaching them. The club and the fans need to own responsibility for the part we also played in how this all turned out.
But it’s over now. The sadness will pass. We’ll get to a place where we look back and smile because we were alive to witness some of the best football ever played anywhere on the planet in the history of the game.
We got to see Arsenal become the most successful FA Cup team in history.
We got to watch an Arsenal team win the Premier League without losing a single game.
We got to see our side play, and beat, the biggest names in Europe.
We got to marvel at goals like Jack Wilshere’s against Norwich, not as an aberration but as a regular part of the football our team played.
And if that wasn’t enough, we got to humiliate Tottenham for 20 years in a row.
Now that I think about it, no amount of ‘thank yous’ will ever be enough.
But thank you all the same, Arsene. Thank you, thank you, thank you.