Arsenal news: Arsene Wenger explains how football has changed as he equals record | Football | Sport

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Of course, you have to forget that football was not, as the modernists would have us believe, invented in 1992. Sir Alex Ferguson had been in charge at Manchester United for 225 games in the old First Division before he even started his Premier League “record”.

Still, in the modern era, Wenger’s is a remarkable feat and one that is unlikely to be surpassed once he is finally persuaded to give up his tenure at the Emirates after more than two decades of loyal service.

Ironically, the 67-year-old will be the younger of the two bosses shivering in the dugouts when Arsenal travel to Selhurst Park tonight to face Roy Hodgson’s Crystal Palace.

Nevertheless, as he no doubt wrestles with zip of his giant winter coat, the inner fire will be burning just as fiercely as for his first game, a 2-0 win over Blackburn on October 12, 1996.

Then, Wenger was the great innovator, the man who introduced health regimes and banned chocolate from the dressing room.

“When we drove to Blackburn on the coach, the players chanted, ‘We want our Mars bars back’,” he recalled. “Twenty-one years later they have their music on their headphones.”

That is not the only superficial difference between then and now. “Football has become more important,” Wenger said.

“We live in a society that is more demanding, that is more opinionated. The overall problem in Europe is that the respect for basic things has been lost or is less strong that it was 20 years ago.

“You go to a doctor and he is more questioned than he was 20 years ago. You have read up before on the internet and he has to convince you that you have not necessarily what you think you have. So that basically means that you are questioned more.

“In every single job, people are questioned more. I am questioned more, of course.”

Wenger hates that. In recent seasons, he has withstood marches, protests in the stands and fly-pasts. Even during this campaign, Arsenal once again find themselves outside the top four going into today’s game with a question mark over their ability to pick up points away from home.

However, through all this, his core belief in football remains unshakeable.

“Overall, it is more the decor that has changed,” he insists. “The core of the game is the same. That means the spirit, quality on the pitch and human beings putting their effort together to achieve something.

“What is the most important thing that people maybe never talk about is to believe in human beings. Despite all that, when you’re such a long time in the job, you’re not naive.

“You know all the strengths and the weaknesses and how sometimes people can be selfish or mean. But you still have to believe that there is a light in every human being that you can get out.

“You must have that strength of belief in human beings that always takes over at difficult moments. That is basically for me the most important quality in this job.”

And yet only the day before, Wenger’s current Old Trafford adversary Jose Mourinho was insisting it was all about the money – £300m deemed insufficient to win the title.

The Frenchman’s eyes sparkled at the opportunity to offer up some ammunition to fire back without having to pull the trigger himself.

“What is most important is that you deal with your own situation as well as you can,” he said. “Yes, Manchester City are richer than us and, yes, Chelsea is richer than us and, yes, Manchester United are richer than us. But I still believe we have to find a way to be successful.

“I have always had one team at least – sometimes four – who were richer than I was, so I learned to cope with that and deal with that.

“I have been in that position for 21 years so I will not start to complain now.”



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