Arsene Wenger is very public about how he always honors his contract. This is not news - he’s said that almost every time he’s been asked about his contract status in the last five seasons or more. It’s one of the many things I’ve always respected about him - he is very much a “your word is your bond” kind of guy, and there aren’t many of those around any more, particularly in the high-stakes world of elite professional sports.
Which is what makes his exit right now - with a year left on his current contract - very interesting. There’s been a ton of speculation that he was given a “here’s the diving board. Jump or be pushed” directive, because again, Wenger honors his contracts. But, Wenger is also highly diplomatic, so he hasn’t really said anything about the actual circumstances of his announcement.
Until today, that is. In his pre-Atletico press conference, he was naturally questioned about his exit, and why it comes now, with that year still remaining. He said, simply,
The timing was not really my decision.
Well then. He went on to say, in a clarifying-nothing-while-saying-words-that-sound-like-something sort of way:
After reaching agreement about my departure, I was happy for the club to decide when to announce. I wish to make it clear the timing of the announcement was right.
Those certainly don’t sound like the words of a man who left by his own choosing, do they? The club later attempted to clarify that Wenger was talking about the timing of their announcement, not of the resignation itself, but given what we know about Wenger’s stance about contracts and his fantastically dry way of making sharp remarks, I’m not sure I buy that.
I mean, I’m not trying to stoke the fires of some raging controversy here - Wenger’s departure is the right thing, and now is a pretty good time for it to happen. But it is interesting to hear the normally circumspect Wenger, a man who knows his way around a turn of phrase, use a sentence like “the timing was not really my decision”. It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next couple months, and to have a few more lines to read between as Arsenal (and Wenger) move to the next phase of their existence.