Idiot to hero – Wenger looks to Barca boss Luis Enrique as Arsenal future remains unclear
Luis Enrique is the toast of Barcelona having announced he will step down - a fact not lost on Arsene Wenger as his future hangs in the air.
As Arsene Wenger batted back the latest round of questions over whether he will remain Arsenal manager after this season, he reflected on a colleague recently persuaded to take a hasty decision.
Barcelona's 4-0 Champions League loss at Paris Saint-Germain last month brought heavy scrutiny upon Luis Enrique, who confirmed he would stand down in June after last week's 6-1 LaLiga win over Sporting Gijon.
As Barca beat PSG by the same scoreline in Wednesday's return match to dramatically and astonishingly complete one of sport's great comebacks, fans at Camp Nou exulted Luis Enrique having recently called for his head.
Wenger was unable to guide Arsenal to a similar feat of Champions League escapology 24 hours earlier as Bayern Munich dealt out a second 5-1 thrashing of their last-16 tie, with the hosts rudderless after Laurent Koscielny's red card early in the second half.
Before kick-off against Bayern at Emirates Stadium, around 200 Arsenal supporters staged a protest calling for Wenger to end a reign spanning three decades in north London.
Chairman Sir Chips Keswick issued a statement on Thursday insisting the 67-year-old Frenchman and the club will not be rushed over a mutual decision on his future, with a similar fan march expected before Saturday's FA Cup quarter-final against non-league Lincoln City.
Having acknowledged fan attitudes would have a bearing on whether he stays or goes, the Gunners boss made reference to the astonishing events in Catalonia.
"I feel very strong, very motivated, ready to give my best," said Wenger, whose contract expires at the end of the season.
"It just sums it up that two weeks ago [Luis Enrique] was an idiot and everyone said you have to leave, so he said, 'okay, I go'.
"Today he is a hero. That sums up the job."
Refereeing decisions played a part in Barcelona's delirious triumph, with Luis Suarez's tumble to win a second penalty for their fifth goal drawing particular criticism.
Wenger ruefully pointed out the contrast between the breaks Barca enjoyed and his own side's ill fortune against Bayern, with Theo Walcott denied a strong penalty claim after opening the scoring and Koscielny only dismissed when the additional assistant persuaded referee Tasos Sidiropoulos to upgrade his initial yellow card.
"At the end of the [Barcelona] game, even when you have been so long in football, you sit there and think, 'how could this happen?'," Wenger said.
"But is the first penalty a penalty? The second one? Honestly..."
Having seen PSG undergo a staggering mental collapse, Wenger was left to wonder whether Arsenal might have brought similar pressure to bear on Bayern.
"Would we have made it or not? I don't know, maybe not," he added.
"But it could have been close because the [challenge] on Walcott was a penalty, [Olivier] Giroud had a great chance with a header just after half-time from six yards.
"They were wobbling a little bit at 1-0. At 2-0 it would have changed. You could see that with Paris Saint-Germain - players with experience froze suddenly.
"The mental aspect in these kind of games is very important."