Arsene Wenger took over reigns at Arsenal on 22 September, 1996, and recently celebrated his 20th anniversary as the north London club's manager.
He discussed his two decades in charge of the football club in a freewheeling chat with Roger Bennett, co-host of NBC's show Men in Blazers. The manager talked about everything, from the stress of holding such a high-profile job to his mantra in life. The usually reticent Wenger spoke quite frankly about all the criticism he has received in the last few years and how he has manged to survive.
"I think I've survived because I love the game. I love to win. I love the next game. My job is great because you have to build a concept and show that it works on the pitch. Football is so rich, and every time it's a new experience. I think it's a good school of humility, it's a good lesson for every individual who thinks, 'I found the secret'. Football will show you that you found absolutely nothing at all," Wenger said in the interview, which aired in the United States last week.
Wenger arrived in England in 1996 as a relatively unknown manager, from Japanese side Grampus Eight and became only the third foreign boss to take charge of a Premier League club.
He started to build a side with a backbone of French players — Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry, Robert Pires Nicolas Anelka and Emmanuel Petit, with others like Dennis Bergkamp and Freddie Ljungberg.
In Wenger's first season, he took Arsenal to third place and the club never finished outside the top two for the next eight years. Over the 20 years, the Frenchman has won 15 trophies and is arguably one of the most successful managers the Premier League has ever seen.
In the most memorable chapter of Wenger's Arsenal reign, the Gunners swept majestically through the entire 38-game Premier League campaign without a single defeat in 2003-04. Henry was at his brilliant best, with Pires and Ljungberg playing memorable supporting roles.
Speaking about the 'Invincibles' and their unbeaten run, Wenger said, "My job is to do the best with the players I have and to develop them. What I wanted to do is football played with style. We are the only ones who have done that in the modern era in England, nobody else has done it. I wanted to show to the players that if you seed something in your brain and you really want it, you can do it. That was for me a very interesting lesson. If you set high targets sometimes you do not achieve them as quickly as you imagined you could do them, but if you maintain it, on a longer period you can get it. You never know how good you are as a manager, but if you never lose a game there's not much room for anybody else to do better."
Wenger admits that he has made some mistakes in his two-decade long managerial tenure, but believes that he has stayed true to his values at the club. He insists he gave his absolute best to the players and showed them how great football can be if everyone gets over their egos and instead puts their best qualities together.
When asked to pick the most important life lesson that he has drawn from his time at Arsenal, he spoke about the need to share the values that are important to a person. He describes how he has had multiple opportunities to go to glamorous clubs, but chose to stay at Arsenal to stay faithful to what he believes is right in life. He adds a note of caution, saying "Don't be stupid enough, just for an ego or a glory problem, to go somewhere else."
Wenger chose tenacity as one of the qualities that have helped him build a legacy of longevity and success at the club. He describes it as an underrated quality in life, with people always speaking about talent, intelligence, glamour. But according to Wenger, tenacity is the common thing for every successful person in life. He signs off the interview with some pearls of advice: "Maintain that motivation to go from A to B and to keep your focus on that target without any weakening. That is called tenacity; stamina in your motivation."
Read the complete interview here.