Arsene Wenger still watches Arsenal’s matches on TV and follows their results, discussing talking points like team selection with friends.
That’s according to Julien Laurens, the French writer who has grown close with Wenger over the years.
Laurens recalls a discussion with the former Arsenal boss four weeks ago, where Wenger wondered about the team Unai Emery would pick against Eintracht Frankfurt, whether he’d rotate, whether young players would get chances.
The 70-year-old, who celebrates his birthday today, still refers to Arsenal as “we” in conversation, still watches the games on television as much as possible, and he recently stated at the Nordoff Robbins awards dinner: “I will always love Arsenal”.
All the same, he’s yet to go back to watch a game in person, with the suggestion that it’s just too soon at the moment.
Wenger has simply transitioned into being a fan from a distance. After 22 years with the club, it was always unlikely he would be able to immediately cut ties completely, whether he wanted to or not.
When he was still manager, Wenger told the media: “I would be happy to sit in the North Bank. In the job I do (next), will I be free on the day Arsenal plays? But I will be happy to be in the North Bank if you can get me a ticket.
“The positive of that is that I can shout at the next manager!”
It was a nice sentiment, but the reality Wenger will be well aware of is that if he did turn up in the North Bank right now, it would be a major distraction. Every reaction, every smile or frown, every remark to a fellow spectator, it would all be scrutinised and publicised, especially when anything went wrong on the pitch.
For now, he can still follow the team through his TV stream, or through discussions with others. It’s just nice to know he still wants to.