Unless he breaks the habit of a lifetime, the first thing that Arsène Wenger will do when he boards the Arsenal coach for the final time, in Huddersfield tomorrow, will be to ask the driver to put Levante v Barcelona on the television. The Frenchman may indulge himself with an Italian meal at the Cocorico Italiano restaurant in Totteridge when he gets home a few hours later, but not if Arsenal have lost his 1,239th and final game of a remarkable reign.
“He won’t go out after a defeat, and even if people come round to his house he won’t talk,” a long-serving colleague explains. “He will pore over the game finding excuses for the defeat, until two days later he finally acknowledges that the opposition were the better team.”
Those who know Wenger best paint a fond picture of a man who has essentially lived the same day over and over again for his entire 22 years at Arsenal, a groundhog day existing with the only slight variety coming on match-day, which even then is dictated by the team’s results. “He’s a football hermit,” explains a close friend. “His car would be the best second-hand car to buy in London as it doesn’t go anywhere. It goes from his house to the training ground every day, and then once a fortnight to the stadium.”
Wenger’s daily life has run as smoothly and efficiently as the best of his Arsenal teams over those past two decades, with his dedication to football matched only by his commitment to maintaining his own health and fitness. At 75kg the 68-year-old’s weight is exactly the same as it was when he joined Arsenal in 1996, the result of a rigorous exercise regime and strict diet, with small portions of salad enlivened by the occasional glass of red wine and a single chocolate for dessert. “When he gets up every morning the first thing he does is put on his stopwatch,” another regular visitor to the Wenger residence says. “He’s like a Swiss clock, everything is timed to perfection.”
Wenger’s day always begins with a 45-minute workout in his home gym, which is supplemented by a swim or a bike ride in summer when the weather permits. The Frenchman’s cycling around the leafy lanes of south Hertfordshire was briefly interrupted last summer when he was knocked off his bike, although thankfully he was not seriously injured, with the driver responsible for running the Arsenal manager off the road getting more of a shock than he did when he rose to his feet to reveal his identity.
Such is Wenger’s desirPost too long. Click here to view the full text.