Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger shares his biggest REGRET as he eyes final European glory

Posted Thursday, April 26, 2018 by

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger shares his biggest REGRET as he eyes final European glory
European success has always eluded Arsene Wenger at Arsenal

SOME people may worry that, for Arsene Wenger, the Europa League is the last throw of the dice when it comes to keeping his legacy intact.

The Arsenal manager, however, plays for much higher stakes than that and it is not so much the next few games that worry him as what lies beyond.

"I am a bit like a guy who plays Russian Roulette every week and suddenly has no gun anymore," he said. "I don't know now how addicted I am. I will see how much I miss that gun."

The next two legs against Atletico Madrid, good enough to split Barcelona and Real Madrid in La Liga currently, will determine whether his Arsenal saga ends with a European final in his native France or Huddersfield, for his somewhat prosaic Premier League bow.

"I tell you something - if we have to win the European cup at Huddersfield I am ready," said Wenger. "Huddersfield, anywhere, I don't mind."

European decoration is the one thing missing from a 35-year-long career in which the depth of Wenger's participation has been remarkable rather than his success.

This is his 259th game in European football for Monaco and Arsenal and by the end of the season he could be just nine shy of Sir Alex Ferguson's tally of 270 for Aberdeen and Manchester United.

Regardless of what Arsenal thinks, Wenger yesterday gave a hint of his plans for next season when he hinted that he was out to catch his age-old rival.

"I will continue to work, that's for sure," he said. "I hope these are not my last European cup games.

"I think on the list of the guys who have played in Europe I am quite high up, if not the highest, so my target is to play in Europe again."

Only Giovanni Trappatoni has won more than the four trophies Ferguson claimed in European competition and Wenger's tally of just three finals - one with Monaco - is disappointingly small beer. It is that empty space in the Arsenal trophy cabinet that annoys Wenger most in the final days of his tenure.

"Yes, we lost two finals," he said. "But we have to say they were under very special circumstances, one on penalties and one with 10 men.

"When you look across Europe, with the financial power everybody has, it is not easy now to get in there.

"So the Champions League final in 2006 was my biggest regret, yes.

"Just to get there, we played at the time against Juventus, who had Zlatan Ibrahimovic and David Trezeguet up front, and Patrick Vieira, and Real Madrid, who had Zinedine Zidane, David Beckham, Luis Figo and Cristiano Ronaldo.

"The difference looked bigger on paper than it does today so to beat Barcelona in the final would have been the greatest achievement as well.

"We went to the final without conceding a goal and then lost with 10 men in the final in an unfortunate way.

"Apart from that, I have no real time to look back. I look forward and forward is tomorrow."

As quickly as that, Jens Lehmann's sending-off and Samuel Eto'o's late winner disappear back into the past.

Lifting that trophy in Lyon would, of course, be a worthy end to Wenger's 22 years in charge but somewhat generously, Wenger would rather leave the dreaming till after he has finished at the club and taken up his TV commitments - and even then they are our dreams not his.

"At the moment I am just focused on this game," he said. "My job goes to May, then I will go to Russia and see England win the World Cup. On penalties!"

Relaxed and smiling at the club's Colney training ground, Wenger seems strangely at peace now that his future is determined. Names are being touted for a job which, for another season at least, he probably feels should still be his. But then he knows how the media works.

"You will not be short of candidates," he said. "That shows you that the place is a good place. Green outside, nice trees, good grass. Fantastic. No pollution. Until the press conference starts!"

It is the sort of sly dig that will only be properly missed when it is gone. Wenger is not so sure. For all that he would love to lift that European trophy, the associated place back in the Champions League to hand on to his successor still seems a greater driving force for the 68-year-old.

"Maybe when you have a big ego at 40 you think the world cannot live without you," he said. "At my age you understand that when you go, the world continues and you wish that it continues better.

"You do not give 22 years of your life for something and go away wanting things to collapse. Not at my age."

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