Late on Friday evening the internet was in something of a tizzy over comments from Ian Wright that Arsenal Wenger had told him he was on his way out.
‘He’s coming to the end’ was the dominant line from Wright’s piece on BBC 5 Live Sport when he was chatting to Jermaine Jenas about what we can only assume Wenger believed was a private conversation.
This quickly spun into people believing that Wenger will definitely hang up his coat at the end of the season. I know I felt a sudden thump of sadness, despite thinking that it is probably time for Wenger to call it a day at Arsenal.
I mumbled a few things on Twitter and figured I’d cover it more in the morning.
So, imagine my surprise (not, I do this every day, quotes get twisted regularly as you know) when I listened to the words coming out of Ian Wright’s mouth for myself.
It left a very different ‘impression’ – one built more on Wright’s supposition and ‘feeling’ than anything of real substance.
Here’s what he said and then you can listen for yourself below: “I was with the boss last night and if I’m going to be totally honest, I get the impression, I think ‘that’s it!’
“I genuinely believe, I was with him for a few hours last night and we’re talking. Obviously he didn’t say to me ‘I’m leaving at the end of the season’.”
Jenas then said something along the lines of ‘But you get the impression…’ (it’s mumbled) and Wright replied, “You do, you just get the impression even looking at him ‘that’s it’.
“He actually mentioned last night that he’s coming to the end. I’ve never heard him say that.”
Now. Let’s take a minute and look at this.
Yes, it could well mean that Wenger is going at the end of the season. He hasn’t signed a new deal and won’t until he sees how this season goes. But he’s also 67-years-old and has been at the club for over 20 years. Unless he’s planning on sticking around well into his 80s, of course he’s ‘on the way out.’
Most of what Ian Wright is reacting to is his own ‘feeling’ and ‘instinct’. Wright is never shy of showing his emotions, but they can often cloud his world view.
Robert Pires, who seems to spend time with Wenger almost daily at Arsenal training, thinks different. He thinks Wenger will stay as long as the board wants him.
Things might have changed somewhat since Pires said that back in September, but remember, Wenger is not given to knee-jerk reactions. Extra criticism over a four-month period are unlikely to move him from what he believes to be the right thing. It hasn’t moved him over the last decade, has it?
Pires also said, “I can tell you that mentally he is very strong.
“The view of critical journalists, fans of opposing coaches, basically, he does not care.
“He has this ability to lift his head, and know what he wants. Above all, he is tough, and it is also thanks to Arsenal’s chairman, who gave him a lot of confidence.
“Honestly, I’ve never seen doubt.”
Speaking in the match day programme ahead of the Hull game, Wenger said, “You don’t become a different player after two defeats.” The same can be said for him – two defeats will not have changed him in the way they have angered the fanbase. If he was going to leave at the end of the season, it would not have anything to do with this current run of form.
So who is telling the truth?
They both are.
Both Pires and Wright are telling us what *they* believe.
What Wenger believes, however, is a completely different matter. And still unknown.