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Arsene Wenger admits 22-year Arsenal stay 'perhaps' a mistake

Arsene Wenger will leave Arsenal without a European trophy

Arsene Wenger has admitted staying at Arsenal for 22 years was "perhaps" the biggest mistake of his managerial career.

The 68-year-old, who was appointed on October 1, 1996, stepped down as Gunners boss in May after winning three Premier League titles and seven FA Cups.

The Frenchman left Arsenal with a year remaining on his contract after his side missed out on Champions League qualification for a second consecutive season and he admitted he now looks back on his time in north London with a tinge of regret.

In a wide-ranging interview with French outlet RTL, Wenger had this to say when asked what the biggest mistake of his career was: "Perhaps staying at the same club for 22 years.

"I am someone who likes to move around a lot, but I also like a challenge. I've been a prisoner of my own challenge at times."

Wenger also revealed his obsession with ensuring Arsenal's success on the field had a heavy toll on his personal life it and questioned whether that is a price his former players Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira, who have both moved into coaching, would be willing to pay.

 Thierry Henry, Assistant Coach of Belgium gives his team instructions ahead of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group G match between Belgium and Panama at Fisht Stadium on June 18, 2018 in Sochi, Russia.
Image: Thierry Henry has been Belgium's assistant manager since 2016 under Roberto Martinez

"I regret having sacrificed everything I did because I realise I've hurt a lot of people around me. I've neglected a lot of people. I've neglected my family, I've neglected many close ones," Wenger admitted.

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"Deep down though, the obsessed man is selfish in his pursuit of what he loves. He ignores a lot of other things. But it's a bone to chase at the same time.

"Often, I'm asked if Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira will be good managers and I always answer yes. They have all the qualities; they're intelligent, they know football, they have excellent skillset, but do they want to sacrifice what needs to be sacrificed. It's an obsession which bounces around your head day and night.

"You wake up at 3am thinking about team selection, tactics, formation…"

Wenger also revealed he turned down the opportunity to manage his native France on numerous occasions.

He is now contemplating whether a move into international management would suit him and expects to make a decision on his future "in the next few months".

"Yes, I've had the opportunity numerous times to be France manager. I'm not sure if it was before or after Domenech," Wenger said.

"Maybe both… I've always been more interested in the day-to-day aspect of management. I find it much more stimulating.

"It is a question I've been asking myself, if I should become a national team manager. A national team manager takes charge of ten games per year. In a club, you take charge of 60. My drug is the next match, so…"

Arsenal celebrate their 'Invincibles' season
Image: Arsenal celebrate their 'Invincibles' season

Looking back on his time at Arsenal Wenger pointed at Arsenal's 'Invincibles' season, when they went through 2003/04 undefeated as his greatest achievement and admitted his own players were initially sceptical the feat could be achieved.

"Effectively we were unbeaten for a year and a half. 49 games. It's an interesting detail because when we won the title in 2002 I told the press my dream was to win the title unbeaten," Wenger said.

"I got lambasted as pretentious, arrogant etcetera. We lost the title the next season to Manchester United.

"In 2003/04, I asked the players why we didn't win the title. They said, 'it's your fault'. I asked why.

"They said: 'you put too much pressure on us.' And it's interesting because I told them the only reason I said it was because I truly believed it. And then they did it. Which proves two things.

"One, sometimes we don't put the level of ambition high enough. We don't dare, we're scared. But you must set the bar as high as possible. Two, sometimes you must plant the seed and wait for it to grow."

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