Arsène Wenger: “My job is to survive disappointments”

Know yourselfYou need to have an objective assessment of your own performance. For example, I’ll go up to a player at the end of a match and say: “How do you think you played?” If he gives me a good analysis of his performance, the guy has a future. If he had a terrible game but says: “I was very good”, I will say: “My friend, this isn’t going to work”.

Pub talkI grew up in a pub where there was a local football team. There’s no better psychological education than growing up in a pub. When you’re five or six years old and you’re surrounded by people drinking beer, calling each other “liar” and “stupid”, you try to understand why people say cruel things. You try to get in the minds of people.

Spot budding talentOur job [as football managers] is to identify players before they become a name. You don’t need to be a special manager to buy a [Zinadine] Zidane. Ask anyone in the street and they’ll tell you he’s a great player – you don’t need a manager or an agent to tell you that. But before Zidane was a great player (I saw him at 18), he was criticised. Our quality is to buy these players before they become great.

Surviving disappointmentsAs a manager, when you lose a game, it’s a disastrous feeling. To survive that, come back the next day, act like nothing’s happened and fight for the next game – that takes a special motivation. The job is to survive disappointments. It gets worse as you get older. Your resolve to bounce back is really tested.

Performing to your peakYou can be the son of a president or a king – but if you’re not good enough, you don’t play. That’s something I respect in sport. I believe footballers are at their peak at 23 to 24. Then there are the four or five golden years until 29/30. For defenders, that can be later. The player knows that. He feels that. Carpe diemI said I’d stop at 50. I’m still here.

Arsène Wenger was a guest speaker at this year’s Real Business/League Managers Association annual management conference.

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