Sports fans are suckers for cheap narratives. The player who is injured and makes a heroic recovery; the team that pulls itself up from the basement and wins a trophy. The grizzled veteran who signs one last contract with a winning team in order to win that elusive championship. No matter what the sport, fans have been conditioned to think that “going out on top” is somehow the birthright or natural state of good teams, athletes, or coaches.
In the case of Arsenal, of course, a very common sentiment floating around is “I wish Arsene Wenger would win one more championship and then leave”, as if departing the Emirates without a current trophy tucked under his arm would be in some way a failure or shortcoming.
Wenger himself came out yesterday and refuted that thought process. When asked about his future in an article about his past, he said that he is “not obsessed” with winning that one last title:
“Would Ferguson have not have gone out on a high after the history? Time makes a difference with what the guy has done. He would still be the same great manager had he not gone out on a high.”
He also says that “I have to accept as well that if things don’t go well, maybe I do something else”, and that managing Arsenal is like a “love story”, noting that “you always expect a love story to last forever, but it can always stop suddenly.”
I believe most managers feel this way - after all, things like inter-team rivalries and narratives and the like are generally fan constructs, and managers/players are usually more detached - but I was very glad to hear Wenger actually come out and say something like this.
I love Wenger and I will be sad when he leaves, but I do not believe for a minute that if he leaves after this season (which I do hope is the case) that if his departure doesn’t include another trophy, his career is somehow lessened because of that. There is nothing in my mind that can damage his reputation - again, trophies aren’t given, they’re earned, and the man has won enough of them in his career that I can overlook the recency bias that suggests One Last Trophy is necessary to validate an extraordinary body of work.