Arsene Wenger insists the curtain will not come down on his managerial career even if he announces his departure from Arsenal in the next two months.
The 67-year-old has been in charge of the Gunners for more than 20 years but has seen his position come under increased scrutiny following the 5-1 thrashing at the hands of Bayern Munich on Wednesday night.
He confirmed at his press conference yesterday that he would make a firm decision on his position in either March or in April.
But he said he would not walk away purely because of the Champions League defeat in midweek and that he would look to manage elsewhere if he opted against signing a fresh deal when his current contract expires in the summer.
When asked if he ever feels like he has had enough of management, he replied: “No. No matter what happens, I will manage next season, whether it’s here or somewhere else. That’s absolutely for sure.
“On a night like that, of course I hate defeat and I hate to lose games. I want to do extremely well for this club and I feel a big responsibility.
“You do not stay somewhere for 20 years to then walk out after a defeat like that. I think what is important is that the club makes the right decision for the future.
“I do not work here for 20 years not to care about this club, because I had many opportunities to go somewhere else during that period and I care about this club and I care about its future.”
If Wenger is to leave, and barring a miracle turnaround in the second leg against Bayern, he will end his reign without being able to deliver the Champions League to the club.
But he insists the expectations of the increasing number of supporters calling for a change in manager should be evaluated based on where the club were when he first took over in 1996.
“Even if I go, Arsenal will not win every single game in the future, that is part of it, you have to accept that as much as it hurts to lose games,” he said.
“If you look at the history of Arsenal, Arsenal had less Champions League games when I arrived than I had in my career already, and since then we have done a few.
“So I hope in the future we can win this trophy, or Arsenal can win this trophy, but it is not like I arrived Arsenal had already won the European Cup five times — they had never won the European Cup. They played maybe 10 games in the history of the club so you have to take into perspective some demands.
“It is very important that the club is always in safe hands, whether that is me or someone else, which I am sure it will be.”
With the post mortem of the devastating defeat in Bavaria still ongoing, Wenger moved to quash speculation there had been a dressing room disagreement following the heavy loss.
“No. Not at all,” he said when questioned about a post-match row.
“Everybody was of course deeply disappointed and affected but there was no incident in the dressing room apart from a huge sadness and disappointment.”
While being derided by an increasing number of supporters, Wenger has also seen several former Arsenal favourites offer their opinions on his future.
Lee Dixon and Martin Keown, who were working as television pundits for the Bayern match, speculated over whether Wenger would quit following the nature of the defeat.
But he said was not concerning himself with anyone else’s opinions over his future.
“I am used to it,” he said. “I am here for 20 years and I think in life it is important that you do what you think is right.
“All the rest of it is judgement and I am in a public job and I have to accept that.
“I have to behave with my values and with the way that I see my job and accept that everybody can have an opinion on it.”
With their Champions League hopes all-but extinguished and hopes of a first Premier League title since 2004 dwindling after losing two of their last three games, the FA Cup could again offer salvation for Wenger.
He has won the competition six times, a joint-record, and takes his side to face non-league Sutton on their artificial pitch at Gander Green Lane on Monday night.
“I always had in my head that it was a very important game,” he added.
“In my head, I have a team that will start and play there for a week or 10 days now. That result we had at Bayern Munich will not influence that selection.
“The FA Cup is one of our targets. It’s the next game and for us to bounce back after the game we just had, it becomes a very important game. But it always was, in my head.”
Larry Ryan: 36
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