If Cesc Fabregas delayed the inevitable of moving to Barca for a year, he did so persuaded by the man who could see a move himself elsewhere after this season.
Wenger is approaching his 61st birthday and he has given himself for more years before his self imposed retirement. If he has to seek out a new challenge then he will have to do so in very short time because in his view it takes about 3-4 years to make an impact. Having said that, his preference would be to finish his career at Arsenal.
In a wide ranging interview with the Guardian, made immensely readable because of Wenger's astute and passionate insights into the game, one particularly thorny area crops up which occupied a lot of space in recent years: Has he changed? The perception is that he has become rigid and belligerent. A marked change from the open minded and liberal demeanour that he brought from Monaco.
In Wenger's mind, it is not that he has changed so much, as much as framing it in the context of the simplest explanation - an Occam's razor: Perceptions nowadays are all down to whether or not you win. It is part of a larger malaise.
He defends himself by saying that if Arsenal had been more successful in the last five years, these questions about personal change would not have come up. He gives the example of Wayne Rooney demonized recently for a night on the town, smoking, and relieving himself on the street. The reaction would have been different if England had done well. It is the fallout from the current obsession with results to the detriment of the game itself. "We have created a monster," Wenger says. It of course, explains City's reality bending amounts spent on transfers, France's World Cup rebellion, the spectacle of jeering England supporters.
What is interesting is his connection between Arsenal's lack of success and the labeling of his character as intransigent and willful. Success, and hence the lack of it, can change opinions but how does Wenger arrive at this in his case? It is too simple and reflexive. A defense mechanism for deflecting criticism?
One would have liked a more expansive argument about why his coaching philosophy seems to have changed over the years and frame it in context. Arsenal's defense was its great strength as late as 2004 - Wenger did not completely jettison George Graham's legacy while furthering the development of the brand of attractive, attacking football that is its present trademark.
How did we as notorious enforcers of the game become a club that does not "like it up the arse"? Patrick Vieira and Sol Campbell, currently playing in the Premiership are a reminder of those days. Many former Arsenal players have commented about this phenomenon - Martin Keown and Tony Adams, part of that successful warrior mentality have talked about Wenger's penchant for stocking up on quality attacking midfielders and strikers but giving Arsenal the minimum in defensive backbone.
One area that does not get discussed is Wenger's evolution into an insider into club's politics and finances. In my opinion, this is something that does not get too much press- how has his coaching objectivity been influenced by his connection to the board? He has in the past made public statements about shareholding disputes, boardroom politics, and the transformation into a selling club.
Wenger's proactive stance has been instrumental in the club's emergence as a model of stability and good financial stewardship. Which bodes well for the club in the long term. But has this sensitivity to the realities of today's game become too excessive and come at the cost of a winning edge?
Sir Alex keeps statements about club matters to a minimum. He punted on last season's maelstrom surrounding the Red Knights takeover, the Green and Gold rebellion, and the club debt preferring to talk about personnel issues. Jose Mourinho was the quintessential outsider- blindsided by Avram Grant and John Terry at Chelsea which got him fired. At Inter he shared a cordial relationship with Massimo Moratti but that was the extent of his involvement with the club's executive echelon. He prefers to play his politics on the pitch. Perhaps, these two have maintained a separation between coach and club that allow for less distraction.
I have focused on two areas that Wenger could have been pushed. There is obviously much more in the interview >>