Arsene Wenger is man who has split opinions on what he has achieved at Arsenal and on what could have been. Having joined the club back in 1996, the now-67-year-old Frenchman, the longest-serving manager in the top flight, has come a long way – as have Arsenal.
He is the man who steered Arsenal into the modern era of football where success both on and off the pitch go hand-in-hand. He revolutionised the game in England when foreign managers were arrogantly looked at with disdain. He has seen unbelievable highs and forgettable lows in his career, especially after moving from the old idyllic Highbury to the behemoth that is Emirates Stadium.
Now, after 21 years, his future at the club is in doubt and certain sections of the fanbase want him gone. But many believe he is a misunderstood man who is a lightning rod for all the criticism aimed at the club. Only a select few truly know what the real deal at Arsenal is.
Being the gentleman that he is, it is highly unlikely that Wenger will spill all the secrets he has kept over so many seasons in a book that tells all about the club he loves. Nevertheless, here are a few questions fans will want answers to should he ever pen down his memoirs in a villa somewhere in the south of France in the future.
1) What exactly happened in the case of Robin van Persie?
Robin van Persie’s career at Arsenal was one that failed to live up to expectations due to the fact that he was world-class but made of glass. A number of injuries saw the Dutch striker sidelined for crucial periods of the season and it wasn’t until his last one-and-a-half seasons at the club that he became the success that Wenger envisioned when Van Persie first signed for the Gunners in 2004.
His goalscoring streak started in January 2010 and by the end of the 2011/12 season, he had scored 59 goals. The Premier League Golden Boot was his in 2011/12 (with 30 goals) and the club looked like they were in the ascendancy following the loss of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri.
Then came that fateful summer when contract negotiations took a cruel turn for Arsenal fans. The Dutchman refused to put pen to paper as he did not agree with the direction the club was headed. He wanted world-class signings while Wenger chased the likes of Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski who had never proven themselves in a demanding league like the Premier League.
Meetings at Wenger’s house saw Van Persie reportedly disagree on not only new signings but also Steve Bould taking over from the retiring Pat Rice as the assistant manager because he was never going to challenge Wenger’s beliefs. The pair never reconciled and Van Persie moved to Manchester United for a paltry fee of £24m – where he eventually won the league title in his first season.
Which players did Van Persie want at Arsenal? And why weren’t they signed?