Keown: Wenger will only be truly valued when he is gone

Martin Keown believes the appreciation for Arsene Wenger will only truly be felt once he has left Arsenal.

The Frenchman still facing detractors as he reaches 20 years as manager at the club.
In that two decades he has delivered three Premier League titles, six FA Cups and an unbeaten season, while also keeping the club in the upper echelons of the top flight despite the financial constraints caused by the relocation from Highbury to the Emirates Stadium.
 
But barren runs in recent times, as well as an inability to challenge recent top sides both on the pitch and in the transfer market, have prompted a number of supporters to turn on Wenger - who celebrates his anniversary on October 1 - but former Arsenal defender Keown reckons everyone will miss him when he calls it a day.
 
"It has only ever been a small minority (who have turned on Wenger) and all Arsenal fans want Arsene to be successful," he told Press Association Sport.
 
"He may not be fully appreciated by everyone until he is no longer there. The way most supporters now watch, it is a generation of fans who for many years have been brought up and educated in a specific way and it is Arsene Wenger who has shown them success and they all want him to bring it back.
 
"Arsene Wenger, as he gets older, still has a determination to do well with the club, keep it progressing and keep winning, his hunger remains insatiable."
 
Wenger could yet walk away at the end of the current campaign as his latest contract expires in the summer, but Keown feels the 66-year-old could yet be tempted to extend his stay after finishing a distant second to champions Leicester last year.

"It is the last year of his contract but I don't see any change in the man," he added.
"He is an incredibly powerful person both physically and mentally and is still very sharp.
 
Missing out on the title last season the way they did would have only rekindled any personal ambition he has to win another Premier League.
 
"I don't see him walking out, quite the opposite, it wouldn't surprise me if he were to sign a new contract."
 
Robert Pires, an integral member of Wenger's 'Invincibles' who won the league without losing a game in 2003-04, praised the footprint that his compatriot has already left on the club.
"He has a fantastic record," the former winger said.
 
"I don't want to forget this point, he built a philosophy with Arsenal for 20 years. Of course the fans want to win the title but the first objective for Wenger is to win (matches). For me, he is a great manager and a great person, all of the (former) players love Arsene Wenger."
 
Jens Lehmann was the first-choice goalkeeper for that unbeaten campaign during his first season at Arsenal and he told of the camaraderie among the squad, while also revealing Wenger's ability to admit to his own mistakes.
 
"Most of the players who came here are grateful. He gave us the chance to play here. I think at the time we were playing here we were a great unit and you can see when we meet, everybody is having fun.
 
"I will not forget two things, when we became champions he thought I gave away a penalty against Spurs, so I was sulking in the dressing room, then one and a half hours later, he said 'Oh I'm sorry, it wasn't a penalty'."
 
For anyone too young to remember Wenger's arrival in England, it must seem strange that he was a largely unknown quantity, not just for supporters but even for the players he inherited at Highbury.
 
''At first we didn't really know who Arsene Wenger was,'' Ray Parlour said.
 
"But we trusted (vice-chairman) David Dein at the time, him saying Arsene Wenger was going to push the club forward - and certainly after six weeks or so you could tell that he was a top-class manager.
 
''When Arsene Wenger first turned up, he took me to another level. His training methods were always great, he was on that pitch every single day, which is so important as a coach.
''He had lots and lots of brains about football and what he wanted to achieve.''


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