Arsene Wenger has revealed he rejected at least three offers to leave Arsenal because of his commitment to ensuring the club were able to weather the financial storm that came as a result of their stadium move.
Wenger is the longest serving manager in England by some distance as he closes in on 20 years at the Arsenal helm, but his illustrious spell in north London may have been ended a decade ago.
Arsenal had just won the Premier League in 2004 - the last time they lifted the trophy - when Wenger claimed he had the opportunity to leave Highbury, while further offers came in the years that followed.
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When asked by former charge Martin Keown, working for BBC Sport, if there had been chances to move to another job, Wenger responded: “In 2004, 2005, 2006 I had chances to leave, of course.
“But I went with the club for the challenge of building our new stadium without dropping out of the Champions League.
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“Three years out of five was the financial request and we made it [into the Champions League] every year.
“I knew that for the club was a very sensitive period. I feel I’ve done my job in a very committed and faithful way.”
It is certainly admirable from Wenger that he decided to stay in his position during what he knew would be a very difficult time. The club’s top players left but established replacements did not replace them, with Arsenal instead tasked with developing talent on the cheap.
After winning the FA Cup in 2005, the Gunners went nine years without a trophy to speak of, with this drought ended at Wembley only last May. But, as Wenger alluded to, the greatest achievement was to remain in the Premier League’s top four following their move to the Emirates Stadium.
Some will say that aiming only for fourth place each year was not befitting of a club of Arsenal’s stature, and there is some truth to that. However, preserving their Champions League status over this time really was a job well done.
They should be aiming higher now, however, with Arsenal able to compete in the transfer market once again. The Gunners are third right now and fighting for the top four once again.
But how long must they wait for a genuine title challenge? That is Wenger’s next great test, and he is running out of time to pass this one.
Do you think Arsene Wenger should have left Arsenal when he had the chance?
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