While most of Friday’s pre-match press conference was understandably devoted to Chelsea’s upcoming FA Cup semifinal against Southampton on Sunday, Antonio Conte also spoke at length about Arsene Wenger. Wenger had just announced that he was stepping down after 22 years in charge of Arsenal and Conte was fulsome in his praise.
“I think we must pay a great tribute to Arsene Wenger for his career. For his career at Arsenal. He and Ferguson, we’re talking about the last two managers to stay for such a long time in a club.
”Arsene Wenger worked 22 years for Arsenal. I think that’s great, it’s a fantastic story. He won a lot at this club and, for this reason, I think he deserves a great tribute for his career.
“He deserves great respect. Not only from Arsenal supporters, but from the whole world of football. He deserves great respect. We are talking about one of the best managers in the world with a great and important career with Arsenal. He deserves a great tribute for his career.”
Conte’s longest tenure as a manager (so far) has been his three years at Juventus. These days, that’s considered a decent run and he, like most everyone else, is skeptical that Wenger’s two decades as a Gunner will be matched anytime soon.
“It would be very difficult to see in the future another manager staying for such a long time at the same club. I think, maybe, Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger were a really good story for football. Now it will be very difficult to see that again, another situation like this.”
Time dims memories and Wenger’s long tenure in North London, which had a much better first decade than second, has led people to forget* that the club he inherited from George Graham was a very different outfit, noted for its dour, pragmatic play.
*or not remember in the first place since it was so long ago; a generation of football fans have grown up not knowing anything other than “4th place Arsenal”
As The Telegraph puts it, Graham’s nine years at Arsenal featured “effectively rotten football.” Nobody ever accused Arsene Wenger of playing effective, rotten football. As Conte noted, he changed Arsenal’s culture and, in some respects, British football.
“I think Arsene is one of the managers who had a great influence on football because, in every moment in his idea of football, he tried to play good football, creative and offensive football. He deserves great tribute also for this.”
-Antonio Conte; source: Football.London
Gracious praise from a gracious man.