Emmanuel Petit: It was time Arsène left Arsenal, but football still needs him

The former Gunners midfielder talks about what Wenger means to him, and says his ex-boss deserves only respect...


It was about time Arsène Wenger left Arsenal. He had plenty of time to step back and consider the fans’ feelings and all the criticism he has received over the past few years. It was the right choice.

Now, I hope the fans give their full support to Arsène and the team for the remainder of the season. They have some big games coming up, particularly in Europe. The next few weeks are very important for what happens next season.

Those who have wanted Wenger to leave years ago need to look at his entire time there, and everything he did: the stadium, the training facilities, the way he changed not just Arsenal but also the entire Premier League.

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His longevity is remarkable. To be 20 years at a team like Arsenal is an incredible achievement. If you look only at the past few years, it’s easy to criticise him for the lack of titles and the recent lack of competitiveness in the league.

But on a personal note, what he has done for me since I first encountered him at Monaco has also been amazing. He brought me into the first team and gave me the chance to be a professional footballer. He put trust in me and changed me as a person.

He started as my coach, but after a few years he became a friend.

That tells me a lot about the relationship a player can have with a manager. It’s not just based around football, but also humanity. For me, this is more important than football. Arsène is one of the few coaches who could improve the mentality of a player because he works on the human side.

So you can criticise him, but when I look at his career at Arsenal I only have one word in my mind: respect.

Still, Arsène is nearly 70 years old and football, along with the world, has changed. The mentality of current players is not the same as it was two decades ago. There’s now a big gap between Wenger – and many other managers – and the modern footballer, which has only increased in recent years. It looks now as if many coaches are struggling to deal with similar problems.

But I have met a lot of people in football and Arsène is a real human. He has a big heart. I really hope he’ll stay in the game. I can’t see him working with another club, but I could see him involved with a national team.

Football needs people like Arsène.

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What do you think?