LONDON – Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said he decided to bring his 22-year tenure to a close at the end of the season because he didn’t like the image of a divided fanbase being sent around the world.
Wenger won three Premier League titles and a record seven FA Cups during his time in charge.
However, Arsenal haven’t won the league for 14 years, and languish in sixth in the Premier League, on course for their worst-ever finish under Wenger despite beating West Ham 4-1 on Sunday.
“I was not tired,” said the Frenchman, 68, of the decision he announced on Friday.
“Personally I believe this club is respected all over the world, much more than in England.
“The fans did not give me the image of unity I want all over the world, and that was hurtful because I think the club is respected.
“Overall, the image we gave is not what it is, and not what I like.”
Fans have become increasingly frustrated with Wenger’s inability to mould a side capable of matching the standards he set in his first decade in charge of the club.
Signs with “Wenger out” had become commonplace at Arsenal matches in recent seasons, while there were vast swaths of empty seats at the Emirates for home games in recent months.
“I’m not resentful and I don’t want to make stupid headlines,” added Wenger.
“I just feel if my personality is in the way of what I think our club needs, for me, that is more important than me.”
Wenger, though, defended his record at the club, and believes Arsenal are in a far better shape to succeed than when he arrived at the club in 1996.
“Every decision I made in my 22 years is for the good and sake of Arsenal,” he said.
“I tried to influence the club on the structural side, on the development of players and of course the style of play and the results, and to combine the three is not always easy.
“I believe I will leave the club in a very strong position on both fronts, and my target was always to do that. My wish is that they do even better in the next 20 years.”
Reports in the days since Wenger made his decision public suggest he could have been forced out by the club’s board at the end of the season had he not walked on his own terms.
And Wenger added credence to those suggestions by continuously refusing to address why the decision was taken now.
“I gave the best years of my life to this club. I arrived at 46-years-old and I worked seven days a week, not six or six-and-a-half, for 22 years.
Can you sum up all your emotions, boss?
🗣 “Not really. I’m touched by all the praise I’ve received from everyone in English football. I’ve been able to see the sensational development of the @premierleague in 20 years and I’m very honoured.”
Tune in 👉 https://t.co/fh4FyeG5tv pic.twitter.com/Hg1lA9bLz1
“You cannot just walk away and say ‘bye bye’ like nothing happened. I know I will face that challenge. It will be difficult for me, but I got through other difficulties in my life.”
Wenger didn’t rule out continuing his coaching career elsewhere, although he accepted it is unlikely he will manage another club in England due to his attachment to Arsenal.
“If you speak about emotions, that would be, for me, emotionally difficult,” he added.
“I don’t know how well I will live about that. It’s difficult for me to say never, but at the minute I speak to you, I’m too attached to this club to say I will go to another club.”