As Arséne Wenger manages his last fixtures in English football, his departure is something much more than a manger leaving his persevering post. It is a departure of morality, honesty and loyalty in an industry that needs it more than ever.
Throughout my life there have only been a few constants. One happened to be in North London, guiding the Arsenal through title-laden times and tumultuous campaigns later on.
To some, this was all that mattered. You can find them on YouTube and Twitter quite easily. But for me, and many others who have only known the Wenger era, Arséne’s Arsenal meant so much more.
I grew up learning to stick with your belief in what is right, to always have your rectitude and honesty at the forefront of your mind. I went from a kid being thankful for the Arsenal manager’s fluid dynamic football to a young man grateful for his philosophy-laden GQ interviews and thoughts on existence in his Friday presser.
As I grew to understand the man and his principles more, I grew more emotionally attached than most fans to their teams. For me, it was the beautiful game and then some. It was about self-belief, battling through adversity and winning in the right way. His beliefs became mine. When he won, so did I. When he lost, I would feel the pain too.
I’m not naïve, and my arguments for him to stay with other fans dwindled after the 2015/16 campaign. But how do you dispel something you believe in more than anything? It is hard, and I have a feeling that question will never be answered.
In some ways, I am glad it’s over, because finding everything you believe in attacked by people every week must be piercing. I know that in a few years I will look back and think of the principled man I saw on the touchline at the Emirates. I will think of the guy who brought us Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sánchez and Aaron Ramsey. Someone who gave us football we couldn’t imagine.
But more importantly, he gave us a blueprint to being an exceptional person, and it is that I will thank him for most. The quote “success without integrity is nothing” is more than a cheesy line echoed in a Hugo Boss advertisement. It is something that we were told every lunchtime on Saturday. I hope there’s one more principled trophy left in the tank for Arséne Wenger.
Merci Arsene. For everything.
Listen to the latest Coshcast – in which we react to Wenger’s departure – below. If you enjoy it, please subscribe on iTunes.