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An interview with Arsène Wenger from 1988 on the Soviet Union, Platini, Richelieu and more

In today’s edition of Monaco Matin, the local Monaco newspaper, there are extracts from an interview that the brother paper Nice Matin did with Arsène Wenger in 1988. Wenger at the time was Monaco manager of course, and it was a year that saw him win Ligue 1.


Arsène, how do you work?

“I read a lot, all sorts of books because you have to be conversant in a larger and larger amount of things. For example, I follow closely what is being released in the bookstore, be it in French, in German or in English. I take notes by hand. I do not know how to type. I have watched a lot of matches. This is part of continuing to grow (as a manager): you take a step back from your football and you analyse the practices elsewhere.”


Do you use video cassettes?

“A lot. I have at least 250. Every evening, at hime, I watch a game for about half an hour. Often, it is the opponent that we are about to play, sometimes, it is just for enjoyment. Bayern vs Real for example.”


Your best way of forgetting football for a moment?

“Watching a game which does not concern me. I enjoy doing that, it is like a piece of theatre or a concert. I memorise what I see, then I sleep on it. That is 7 out of 7 days of work. There is only Sunday afternoon where I allow a little time for reading.”


Who are your favourite authors?

“There are few, I don’t read. Between the age of 16 and 18, I read all the French and Russian classics. Then, I got into psychology books. Freud, naturally, and some others. Then, I did a master’s degree in Sciences-Economics. Economics seemed to me to be the way to understand what was going on around me: inflation, unemployment…”


Favourite statesman?

“Richelieu. He structured France economically by establishing a centralised system. Unwell, he slept for two hours every night so that he could work. And he left Louis XIV with a very strong country from an economic point of view.”


Greatest regret?

“That days are only 24 hours long. There are so many things that we could do. For example, at the moment, I am learning Spanish for 15 minutes everyday. I should give it at least 30 minutes everyday, but I cannot, I don’t have time.”


Your favourite footballer?

“Michel Platini. He had the rarest of qualities for a footballer: vision.”


Your thoughts on elegance?

“It is something that I like a lot in other people.”


The criticism that hurts you the most?

“The doubt that was cast over my honesty when I left Nancy.”


The hardest thing about your job?

“To keep mentally strong is an indispensable trait in success. You need to discuss as little as possible with people who are not directly concerned. There is also the success of recruitment which at the top level, plays a crucial role, because the best work (on the pitch) with failed recruitment, is doomed to fail.”


The team that impresses you the most for the future?

“The Soviet Union, they have the technical mastery and dynamism to be a very good side.”


On the future for Monaco in 1988…

“The essential challenge next season, is to have the desire again to better ourselves. The title, that was already yesterday. Today, I want to know with which appetite we will approach the season. What would disappoint me the most is chat like: “we were champions, it is difficult to do better”. A title, it is not an ending. It is the baccalaureate that allows you to go to university.”

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