BBC sounds, music, radio, podcasts. Hello, I'm Lauren Laverne, and this is the Desert Island Discs podcast. Every week I ask my guest to choose the eight tracks book and luxury they'd want to take with them if they were cast away to a desert island. This is an extended version of the original radio for broadcast and for right reasons. The music is shorter than the original broadcast. I hope you enjoy listening. My castaway this week is Arson Vanger.
He spent his life in professional football, first as a player, then as a manager known for his extraordinary staying power and equally extraordinary success. Most coaches tenure lasts a few seasons. He led Arsenal for 22 years through 1235 matches, transforming the club and British football in the process. His upbringing on the French border with Germany in the shadow of World War Two instilled both his legendary discipline and his passion for sport. Football was a pleasure, an escape and the nonstop topic of conversation.
At the Bistro, his parents ran a thinker as well as a player. By the time he became a professional manager, he'd studied politics and economics and spoke several languages. None of it went to waste at Arsenal. His revolutionary approach to conditioning famously brought barley and broccoli to the gunners. He challenged the Premier League's inward looking culture, recruiting new talent from all over the world. Moreover, he showed that success and style can coexist on the pitch. He says, I am a facilitator of what is beautiful in man.
I define myself as an optimist. I can be described as naive in that sense, but it allows me to believe, and I am often proven right. Arsene Wenger, welcome to Desert Island Discs. Thank you very much. We'll start with beauty then. What is beautiful about football?
Beautiful is what is transformed into art. Art is supposed to get you out of your daily world. That is quite tough. It's boring, sometimes repetitive, you know, and I think art transports you in a different world and that's what football can do and sport can do in general.
And the idea of you believing in your dream in that art behind the football, what does that bring to the experience for you?
Well, for me, it's as well what you want always to improve, you know, because in art, perfection doesn't exist. And basically sport is to do with your body what your brain wants. And that's specific intelligence that not everybody has. So people who have that quality to express what their brain wants, you need to encourage them to express what they can give. And most of the time, you need somebody who helps you to do that. And I'm the guy not only can help individual to do that, but they can help a collectivity to do that.
And so many memories for you. You saw Arsenal through 22 years. You won the premiership three times total of seventeen trophies. You're the most successful manager in the history of the club. You won it seven times. But the first time you walked out on the pitch at Wembley was a special moment for you.
It was because when I was a kid in my village, we had no television. The first television that we had in our home was when I was fourteen. So to watch a football game, we had to go to the school in watching black and white bring one pound and we could watch a football game of the football game one per year. Can you believe that today it was the AFL cup final. So I was a little kid, seven, eight or nine years old.
Now, imagine this little boy walks out at Wembley and leads his team to play in their Field Cup final. So it was something exceptional for me and I never can forget.
You've got a reputation for hard work and extreme focus. How do you relax?
Relax by watching all the managers suffer and think it's your turn, my friend. But the noise. Well, by watching football, you know, I love it so much and it's easier for me when I watch other games to take a distance. Why does this player make this decision? What is a major mistake they make? And I enjoy it because football, it's always unpredictable. It's not like theatre. You go every night to the theatre, it starts with team and finishes the same, go every night to a football game.
It's always different.
I'm going to hear your music choices today. Let's get started. Tell us about your first choice. Why have you selected this for us today? What?
Malia, could you be loved? Because I think Bob Marley created a music that will remain. It was a mixture of African jazz, what's called reggae. And he loved football as well. And his music is cool.
We got some. I am going to go. Yes, that's what I love about the night.
And then. Bob Marley and the Wailers and could you be loved since you were born in Strasbourg in 1949, the youngest of three children raised in the nearby village of Dujail? And I'm and you describe living in a world that was dominated by the cult of physical effort. Tell me more about that, because he was an agricultural village where 80 percent of people were farmers but small farmers. And it was the survival agriculture based on physical force because, you know, machines, everything was done with your body and the horses, no tractors, no tractors.
The tractors arrived when I was 14, 62, 63. So in my young child, to be well respected when you were strong and when you were hard working physically, you know, and that's where I learned effort. Your parents, Luis and Alphonse, run a bistro Licadho. What was it like? It was a little bistro with the farmers coming home from the fields. Had to be on Sunday after church for the rest of the week. At night, people after work came in to have a beer and talk about football, you know, because we had the headquarters of the local football club.
Incidentally, the team was terrible. But that's why maybe the meaning of my life is football, because I the young age. I heard you talk about that. Were you helping out at the bistro? Of course. I learned how to serve in the bistro, maybe a cigarette food. And it remained with me because when I go in the restaurant, I look at the waiters and I can tell you straight away who is good and who is less good.
Your parents worked incredibly hard. Did they ever have time for you to do things together as a family or take holidays? No. That's why I wouldn't advise anybody to open the bistro and have children, because at the time it was no family life, because the bistro was open every day of the year. It closed only one day from four o'clock in the afternoon until midnight. That was on Christmas because the village was dominated by religion. So that was no holiday.
So the village was dominated by church. How often did you go to Mass? We went every day and after we went to school we had to confess every week on the Steber. Sometimes I learned to lie as well because I didn't always remember what I did wrong. But you came out fresh. You always felt OK. I've confessed. Now, God forgive me, I can start my life again. It sounds quite austere. What was the impact of that environment on you?
It must have shaped you. I think the impact for me was that you never completely happy because you never do well enough and the religion makes you feel always a bit guilty because the Catholic religion is like that. But overall, the desire not to be scared to work. You're a post-war baby, of course, and being on the board of the assassins suffered a huge amount in the years just before you arrived. Many locals were conscripted by the German army and forced to fight against their own people.
And the trauma would still have been very fresh. In your childhood, were you aware of what the community had been through at the early try to know? Bulatov Yes, of course. And my father was one of the guys was incorporated by force by the Germans. And as a French guy, because Germany invaded France, he did fight with the Germans on the Russian front, you know, and came back late 45 with 52 kilos and was one year of between life and death.
But he never talked about it. But in the bistro, you could listen to stories. And overall, we were encouraged, honestly, in our young age to hate Germans. But funnily, it created more curiosity for me. And I wanted to know what were these guys who live on the other side of the Rhine? And as soon as I could, I went to Germany. I discovered when people like you and me, we just try to have a good life.
It's time for your second desk. What are we going to hear and why they chose this today? John Lennon's Imagine, because I think it's a great song and the Beatles are like a good football player. They make simple what looks very complicated, you know, and it's as well part of my childhood because suddenly this was the modern music when I was a child. Of course, today people will laugh at me when I say that. But for me, people with long hair suddenly who played this kind of music was revolutionary and did smoke dope.
It was inconceivable in my childhood and that created a lot of interest. Says if you try. Above us only sky. John Lennon and Imagine US in Your Village doesn't sound like the kind of place you were expected to leave when you grew up. What were your parents aspirations for you? Well, I don't know.
My parents wanted me to do well, you know, I wanted to be freedom because my parents were very busy. So at school, I didn't work at the start. And suddenly I realized I was not too stupid and I caught all back. What I didn't do, it was start and became quite a good student.
What was the turning point? What made you decide to do that?
I think to be conscious that I go nowhere like that and I refused to to be mediocre. I don't know exactly why, but always at some stage I thought I have to take control of my life there. So they were quite happy, my parents. But subconsciously, secretly, I always thought if I could spend my life in football, that would be a relief for me, because I love to understand how the world works, but I don't want to spend my life in it.
You know, football, when you're a manager, you speak to three people in every player is the child the child wants to play is completely in the presence of a teenager. For him, it's all black and white. Are you stupid or are you a genius? And the adult is a guy who leaves in turn and suffering but has to find a compromise with the external world, you know, and if he's capable of that, he can find a balanced life.
But when you're a manager, you speak a lot to the child and the child is playing. And I try not to forget that when I was a manager, because to be creative, you have to enjoy things. If you want to do something, you're much more creative. And part of our job, despite all the pressure that is around us, is always to speak to the child. And I was a child who wanted to play. Yeah, you were a street player, completely street player because I had no coach until the age of 19.
It was impossible for me to think we'd spent my life in football. I respected every coach I had later.
And what skills do you learn as a street player? What does it teach you? Individual initiative, courage as well? Because my brother was five years older, I wanted to play with my brother, but my brother played with people of his age. And when you're five years younger, you have to be brave to play. And I could convince my brother that if it takes me in his team, I can help him to win. So that is a very good education.
And did the street. You have to be shrewd.
So tell me then about the teenage you you said teenagers see things in black and white. So you were a member of the football team.
What did playing give you the sense that when you were a teenager, you want this world to be loved by others. And because I was good, everybody wanted me to play and and were happy to be my friends. And I feel I was belong to the community. And people encouraged me always. You know, it was enjoyment because this was a 65 66. It was a positive part after war because with no job problems, no crisis, no covid, everybody had a good future.
So it was optimism was dancing and playing and drinking. And that's what life was about.
You said that you were very motivated to win. You wanted to make you make the village proud. How did you cope when you didn't win?
Were you a good loser? I was a very bad loser. And honestly, I'm still today having said that, in our job, if you're a good loser, you don't go far. But I suffered a lot physically from hating the defeat, you know, and every defeat, every defeat is a scar in my heart. And sometimes I fought. I would not survive in this job because I suffered really physically from from defeats.
How did it manifest? I adapted because I started at 33 years of age. I was at the top level. So maybe if you start at a very young age, you adapt and your body adjusts to it. It's time for similar music us. And tell us about your next choice today.
My next song is Littlefair is a French poet singer from the sixties and the song is adequate. That means with time. What I like is the poet that is in this song. But what I don't share it is basically time is a healer, but time is a healer as well of love and that you finish alone in your bed and you don't love anymore. And I don't believe that. But the song is great. Voeckler, Tom. Voeckler dove to solve.
Honorably movies, children love what? Conservatory PCIP pullup in the lead ship shipshape one fully, syphilis, it plebian. Actually turns out to solve the affray and affect little arson, VANGER Everything changed for you after a bad defeat to a team that was much better than yours now despite being on the losing side. Their manager, Max Hild, singled you out for praise rather than anyone on his team. What happened?
Yes, I lost seven one. And it just shows you how weird life can be sometimes, you know, because I lost seven one and of course, against the team that was the dominant team in League One team, you know, and he in the dressing room said, I've seen a great player today. And one of my friends stood up and said, thank you very much. I said to him, no, it's stupid. It's not you.
He's played on the other side.
And so I got out of my village for him and it was my mentor because he took me after with him and took care of me.
So this was 1969. Then you joined as Motsyk, the team that Maxfield coached, and that was when your career really took off. It was a big step up for you. How easily did you rise to the challenge?
Well, it was unexpected and the level was very high for me, but straight away had confidence in me. And it took me a while to adjust because I had never practiced before. And I became a good player in your side.
While you were at Motsyk, you also went to the University of Strasbourg regarding politics and economics. Why did you choose those subjects?
I went basically to university to understand the world I live in. I went one year to medicine after I went to economics. After I went one year sociology. There was more curiosity when to use my my exams, you know.
And how did you manage studying and training at the same time?
Well, I did not a lot go to university. The people who went there gave me their lectures, you know, and I worked outside the university. So you did it on your own. But yes, I was used to that. You went from Haiti to Morehouse to Verbum to Strasbourg, and you'd been fascinated by that club as a child. What were your feelings when you arrived?
Because it was an impossible dream to go to Strasbourg at the time. For me, the professional football players were not born in the same world, and I was and they were on another planet. It is funny because when I joined this club, I was over the moon and I couldn't even believe it.
What was football like when you were playing it? What did it feel like? How intense was it?
When you win, you are extremely happy. When you lose, you are extremely disappointed. And honestly, the game is no bigger revelator of the character of a person, because when you go into a football game or do something that is important for you, you get rid of all your social skills and you become who you really are. And there, you know, if you can trust people or not, if you can rely on people or not. And that's why I think it's a fantastic experience.
And what did your parents and the people that you'd grown up with make of you becoming a professional footballer?
I think early on they were worried. And after they were proud, maybe when I was 25, 26, they thought, OK, he will he will have a good life and we're happy. And I could help the family as well to turn slowly the family over to football.
You know, you won the round. I want them round. Yes. It's time for some more music. And what are we going to hear?
This number four is Elton John. I like the fact that Elton John was similar age to me. And when I heard him at a young age, I find it fantastic. And this world, because he likes football in this world, because I meet him sometimes in the same restaurants and we speak a bit about English football. And I think he deserves to be remembered. This is just some. It may be quite simple, but. Now that it's done, I hope you don't mind, I hope you don't mind that I put down the word.
I wonder if. Elton John and your song, any advice for Watford FC at the moment, Arsene Wenger?
Look, I was surprised it went down last year because I think they had enough quality to stay in the league and they sacked the manager with two games to go. And I was quite surprised at this decision. So I wish they'd come back because it is a team who can be in the Premier League.
Well, let's get back to your coaching career. And that began while you were playing for Strasburg. You were put in charge of the training center and then became head of the youth team. You were only 30 at the time and coaching young men, 18, 19 years old. The transition from from playing to coaching can be very tricky. How did you find it?
Interesting and challenging, but I was so passionate, you know, why I couldn't count the hours I worked on exercises I worked morning, afternoon, evening at the time I was scouting as well. So I sometimes I traveled three or four hours by car to watch a youth team game and come back at night and in the morning on the training ground. So you got different time where it was more all down to your own initiative. You know, today it's all more structured.
At the time, football was not rich, so the quality of a club depended more on the individual initiative.
And you had a very interesting approach at that time. You brought in a psychiatrist to meet players individually every week. Why?
Because I felt that the mental aspect of a young player is very important and I thought I can help them to develop, you know, because once you 1819, it's important to push yourself as far as you can. And I want you to understand better what is going on in the brain of a young boy who is a possibility to make a career. And what we did quite well, we forced them every day to analyze that day. I forced them every day to say, how did you feel today physically?
How was your concentration? How do you feel tactically? We did. How did you think you did? So even when I meet them today, sometimes they still tell me about them a lot in their life to think about what they did and if they did well or not.
In 1994, you took up your first managerial post with the league run club, Nancy, and moved on to become the manager of Monaco in 1987, winning the league championship. In your first season there, you were very hands on your eye for detail was meticulous. I've seen a diet sheet that was prepared for the players before and after the match. And I know that you were fastidious about the pitch. You said the groundsmen must have been very pleased when you left.
Yes, because in Monaco we had the problem on that front. But to be successful there was quite important because it was at the start of my career and I had an advantage. I knew exactly what I wanted and I had the players who were capable to execute it. And then it makes a good chemistry and the results come.
So when it came to expressing yourself, what was your temperament like back then?
I was very demanding at that age, you know, and sometimes not flexible enough and young, quite confident. But I believe I had always a right mixture between confidence and humility, but very demanding on the players. And so sometimes were fed up with me. But it worked.
You met Annie Brusstar house while you were there and you go on to marry and have a daughter together. How difficult was it to have a job that was so all consuming, so pressured and build a relationship alongside that?
But was my weakness and I must say that I gave so much time to my job that it was very difficult today. Sometimes I think I have been a monster, you know, because I gave so much and I didn't develop the skills. I had plenty of friends that I kept my whole life. But as well, for my family, I say overall, I was not up to the level that you would expect from a guy like me.
Do you have time to make up for it these days? Yes, I try. It's time for some more music desk number five. What's it going to be and why have you chosen this?
I've chosen this because I have that in common with some people I cherish very much in France and as well, because if you demo, it tells you a little bit. But we still love each other. But it's not exactly the same like before. You know, it shows that if you don't take care of love, it slowly vanishes.
Évidemment. See, Mom. Pretty good. There's also. Franco and Évidemment, Austin Vega, you moved to Japan to manage Nagoya Grampa's eight before being headhunted by Arsenal in 1996. When you arrived, you were considered an unknown quantity by many, certainly in the press, and quite rudely wrote about us. Son, who how did the fans and players receive you?
Well, I would say was the scepticism around me. But you have to accept when you go abroad, you know, you don't expect the red carpet. It has changed now, but at the time you're first to prove that you have the level to be there. And honestly, I said always to the players as well, look, you come from abroad, you come here. If you choose to do what the local guy does, stay at home, you have to be conscious, but you have to do more.
And I was in that mode of thinking. And in fairness, I think the club was like crazy to appoint a guy like me because one was one of the most traditional clubs in England. And to take a completely unknown guy, I think they were crazy, these guys, but I had the advantage to benefit from it.
Yes. And you brought in many innovations, including persuading the team to give up their Mars bars for.
How did that go down? Well, it was players who were all 30, but they were intelligent and they thought if I could extend their career by doing what I told them, maybe I would do it. And they tried. You know, I remember going to the first game, which I did at the back of the coach. We want our mousepads.
And so at halftime, we were running up and nobody talked. And it was like at the funeral. And I said to Gary, the physio, what's wrong? Why does nobody say you're working here? He said, they're hungry.
You know, we take it for granted. Now, that place are very strict, healthy diet. But it was revolutionary at the time.
Yes. And that is now accepted all over the world. You know, I told them that you need a global approach. What is visible that means on the training ground and what is not visible is the way you prepare mentally, the way you prepare by sleeping well, eating well, and all that makes performance. A club is basically there to create an environment that favouritism the performance of the players.
Before you got there, there was quite well-established drinking culture at the club. When George Graham, the previous manager, was in charge, the Tuesday club there was very much seen as a bonding experience for the players with the manager. How did they react to your way of doing things?
It was not always easy, but they understood and do know I was lucky as well, because at the time Tony Adams had just come out and said, look, I am an alcoholic and I went to rehab and I don't want to drink anymore. And I must give him absolute credit because still today is never drunk any drop of alcohol, but is a remarkable strength of character. And I could convince the other players that if you want to give him a chance, we cannot drink in front of him, you know, so that helped me a lot.
But when he didn't play, the pressure was still there to have a drink after the game, you know, so I didn't compromise. I think when you come from outside as a foreign manager, you have to respect the local culture and know what you can compromise on and what you don't tolerate at all. And they smell very quickly. I was not ready to tolerate alcohol.
What would the sanction have been if people I could find or not play them when you were a manager, when you pick the team, you have ultimate power. And one of a difficulty of a job is on every Friday before the Saturday game, we make jobless people over the weekend who feel useless, who hate you. And on Monday you employ them again and you say to them, look, we do now like nothing happened and you give your best again.
And that's the difficulty of our job.
You won the premiership for the third time with a team that became known as the Invincibles, 49 consecutive matches they didn't lose. Why was it important to you to win the premiership without losing a game?
Because I think it's difficult to measure the quality of a manager. So I thought the perfection of my job would be one year not to lose a game. And I must say it was an exceptional experience. To play 49 games is one and a half years. You imagine one and a half years without losing a game. So it was just enjoyment. Sometimes I thought, why am I well paid to do this job? It's so simple, so enjoyable.
You know, after when you lose your first game, you know why you well paid.
So that game fifty was a game. Fifty.
First of all, we lost the fifty, but it was not deserved.
And sometimes I think as well I was born forty 49 and maybe that was my destiny to lose the fifth game because it was the year of your birth.
I could see that 50 still rankling, though, of course, because it was against our rivals at the time.
I mean, United, it's time for your next discussion. What are we going to hear and why have you chosen this one? It's Elvis Presley because was this where the style of my childhood was, especially because he was somewhere I asked him to walk out on the beach.
The wonder of you where no one else can understand me. He. You give me hope and consolation. You give me strength to me home.
Elvis and the wonder of you, that is Arsenal's walk out song us in Vanga, so 1235 times at least, you've heard that it's many games, many suffering, many sleepless nights and many happy days as well, I must say.
So you got to take that one to the island. Now, us in the rivalry between competing managers is often obvious pitch side. And you regularly clashed with Sir Alex Ferguson, former Manchester United manager. Those exchanges can look pretty visceral to people watching. What was it like for you?
Well, it was normal for me because it was him or me and or will you fight for your life when you go out there?
How would you describe your relationship these days?
At the time, I was seen as the intruder. Well, this is coming disturbing my superiority here in England, you know, and I was a guy who wanted to show him that we can beat them with time passing on. I think it became respectful and friendly, but we went through some difficult times.
I believe you said he knows his wife better than you do. He does. That was a big surprise. He has more knowledge about red wine than I have.
You did say that you were offered the job of Manchester United manager. Now, I'm assuming that was when Sir Alex indicated retire in 2003.
I cannot tell you exactly when because I'm quite keen not to talk about it.
Can you tell me why you turned it down?
Because my heart was at Arsenal and at the time, David Deane, who was my friend, was still at the club. I couldn't imagine me moving out of the club. But anyway, your Arsenal was the love story of my life. And since I stopped Lydersen, I didn't go anywhere. You know, I thought in England it would be asked and nobody else.
It also sounds like loyalty is a very important quality to you.
Yes, I come from I just, you know, his German influence. When you sign, nobody forces you to sign. Once you have signed, you respect what you have signed. And that was the way I was always doing.
You had so many successes at Arsenal 17 trophies in all but one that eluded you was the Champions League premier contest in Europe, and you qualified for the tournament 19 years in a row to reach the final once, but were beaten by Barcelona 2006. How do you cope when a dream doesn't come true?
It's difficult, but at the end of a day, guided by dreams of a whole life and some come through, some don't come through, and you have to accept that you never win everything you want to win and you have to live with what you didn't achieve. The most important is to be faithful to what is important for you. That means find a meaning in your life and walk on the road of your life with the values that look important to you.
After that, you win, you lose. It's part of life.
Since you entered the game, it has changed considerably. The money paid to players has grown beyond the wildest dreams of the players of 30 40 years ago. They get paid vastly more than their managers. Now, what's your view on that, I wonder?
Well, I'm not against the money because I did fight my whole life with the players get well paid, so I'm happy for them. The players are not responsible for the money they get. It's the success of football that produces the money. The only thing I insisted always life is about give and take. And don't forget to give. If you get big money or small money once you sign, give your best to your club.
In 2006, the club left its home of 93 years, Highbury and relocated to the new, much larger Emirates Stadium and the movement. They had to cope with financial constraints. The club then didn't win another trophy for eleven years. How did the move affect you?
Well, I guided the club through this period that was sensitive, but we still produced fantastic games and fantastic football. We won the championship, but there's word we finished five times second. When you finished second, you know about you, we were consistent. What is the most difficult part? We had? Not anymore. The experience and maturity to win in a decisive moment of the season that was until 2014, we could buy again better players because the burden of debt was diminished.
Then, yes, you paid off the debts that you accrued in creating the new stadium. But that is a substantial burden and a pressure to carry with you over that time.
You know, I took my challenge because I thought it's another way for a manager. You know, you have an influence on the style of play, the trophies you win, and on the individual development of a players, but as well on the quality of the development of your club, on the brand, on the values that you carry through the world. And I am very proud that. I achieved that part as well and also became a renowned club all over the world because it gave his chance to young players and had the positive image.
And what about the change from the old stadium to the new one on the team?
First of all, you take your while to feel completely at home and you have to recreate the history. And we lost part of the soul of Highbury because the hybrid was hybrid. And I think the difference between these two stadiums shows the evolution of a game. The distances between the supporters and the club and the team became bigger. And you see that physically at the Emirates because you had to respect the security rules, the other clubs in more money. And we lost a little bit that feeling that we were told that, yeah, it was it hard to say goodbye.
It was very hard to say goodbye. And I must tell you, I drove a few times in front of Highbury just to see this list listed stand again and to remember a little bit what happened in there.
What was that like?
I think their apartments now, it was a nostalgia, you know, and good memories. Very good memories.
Let's have some more music. Just what are we going to hear?
Jacques Brel, who I love Namiki to, says, don't leave me. You know, it's he chose. They never know who is the most happy. Those who love of those who are loved. And I think as well, he was extraordinary presence on stage. And the great singer. Keep the ball.
Info to relay to. Possibly. He's so free, these yeldon, the don't do the town building. A several commom. Yes, I'll get you a butterfly. A coup de Boer, Kohala, can you put in the. No lover, no, yeah, no complete Credico, Jacques Brel, nobody better. Namiki Tappa Arson. Vanger You left Arsenal in 2018 after 22 years there and you last one the up in 2017, one of only three trophies since you moved to the Emirates Stadium.
You've said that you wanted to see out your contract and you were clearly very sad to leave. How difficult was it to do so?
It was difficult because when you're 69 years of age, you don't imagine going somewhere else. As a manager, I turned all the best clubs in the world down to go to the end of my contract and the end of my mission with this club. So it was difficult because your car, who drove automatically to the training center, has to stay at home and you with him and to cut that link was very, very difficult. But on the other hand, I decided to change completely and I'm very happy about that.
In 2005, you were quoted as saying, I always treated Arsenal as if it belonged to me. How do you feel about the club now? You've got a little bit of distance on it after leaving.
Yes, I still support Arsenal. You know, I still love this club. When I see the red and white walking out, I'm not the same man anymore. And I still say we when I talk about the club Westlife, you do your best. And after all the people come in, what you want is that they are faithful to the culture of the club and they carry the values that you have built. That club continues and continues its development as well.
How do you think they're going to do the season?
I think I have a feeling that we will do very well. And it looks to me that you will be a very open championship I don't think is at the moment any dominating team in the league and that we have as much potential than the other team. So we might have a chance to do supremely well in this new chapter of yours.
You're currently FIFA's head of global football development of both the women and the men's games. And of course, we're in the midst of a global pandemic right now. What do you think are the key challenges facing the sport at the moment?
The key challenge is the gap between Europe and the rest of the world. It's as simple as that. So I created teams who go into the 200 countries who have signed up for my program to detect exactly the needs and respond with FIFA to provide the needs for have to develop the game on the women's front. It's not only to give them coaches and structure championships, but is where pitches, because in some countries they have no pitches to play because the boys already play on Saturday, Sunday and it's fully booked.
And what about the challenge of coronavirus, which is facing everyone?
The coronavirus is a big worry because financially the smaller clubs suffer. The best players have been grouped in the best clubs and the richest clubs and are local support has gone down. So the smaller clubs in England suffer a lot financially. You have 92 clubs in England. You take the twenty Premier League out. Seventy two clubs of the 72 professional clubs, 65 lose money that cannot last forever. So we have to sit down and find a solution to help them to survive.
Your daughter Leah is studying for a PhD at Cambridge University at the moment. She's a scientist. Does she share your love of the beautiful game? She loves sport.
Yes, not football, but she's in track and field. She's competitive like I am. I wonder if she's not even more than I am.
I know that you've said neuroscience. Is football the next frontier. Why is that?
Because we arrive to the end of a physical development of a players and we cannot go much further. And maybe the speed of decision making and how quickly can you analyse the situation around us will be the next level we can experience to develop.
So does this mean Lleó might be coming into the family business at some stage? Yes, I hope so. And recently you've been reflecting obviously we've been talking today, looking back over your life and career, you've written your autobiography. I wonder how your definition of success has changed.
If it's changed since your early years, I would say success is finding the meaning of your life and be capable to to live it. You know, after that, it's never enough. But if happiness is to have a life you want to have, I can say I've been very happy until now because I I had the life I wanted to have this time for one more desk before we cast you away to the desert island.
Dustin Fagre, what are we going to hear?
Frank Sinatra's My Way. It is a song, but as. Been written in France, a Canadian singer heard somebody sing it, I think it was Claude Phosphine France, and he took that song and sang it in a private party where Frank Sinatra was. And Frank Sinatra said, Oh, I like that song. And it became his song and he became a worldwide success. This kind of coincidence, I sometimes think with success.
I did what I had to do. Without exemption. Each charted course, each careful step. Way, yes. Frank Sinatra, my way that is important for the success in life is to do it my way. You've certainly done that, Arsene Wenger, and it is time to cast you away to your desert island. I know that your fitness regime is still quite strict these days. Yes. Will you keep that up on the island?
Of course. You know, I am at an age you do not try to improve anymore, but you try to be in the same shape when the day before.
But you have to exercise. Well, it's the old regime. My regime is getting up in the morning. Let's do it straight away. And after you can do what you want, you know, you have done it.
Kick back with some coconuts on the island, OK? Now, of course, we'll give you the books to take with you when we cast you away. The Bible, the complete works of Shakespeare and a book of your choice. What would you like?
I would say around the world in 80 days from Julian, who is a French writer. And his book is fascinating because it shows the power of imagination.
You can also have a luxury item for pleasure or sensory stimulation. What will that be?
A ball? The ball was a friend of my life. You know, he was with me everywhere. And if I go out in the corridor and there is a ball there, I have to touch it, you know? So what is my companion?
Well, it's yours for the island. And finally, if you had to save just one of the eight tracks that you've shared with us today, which would it be? I would say a little torn from liver failure because it says basically the time is a good doctor, it kills you, it kills every wound, and you have to get over that in life. It's not only success, it's it's worth suffering. And you have to give time to time sometimes.
Arsene Wenger, thank you so much for sharing your Desert Island Discs with us. Thank you very much.
I hope you enjoyed my conversation with us, and I am delighted to imagine him whiling away the hours on his island pinky of women's football, you'll have heard us and praise former Arsenal Club Captain Tony Adams. Well, he was cast away by Kirsty Young in 2010, and Ian Wright was my guest last year. You'll also find editions with David Beckham, Gary Lineker, Trevor Brooking and Jackie Charlton in the Desert Island Discs back catalogue. You can hear all of those episodes on BBC Sang's Next time, my guest will be the illustrator, Helen Oxenberg.
I do hope you'll join us then.
From BBC Radio for a new series From Intrigue May Day on November the 11th, 2019, James Le Lamamra was found dead in Istanbul. He was the British army officer who helped set up the White Helmets in Syria.
Ordinary people trained to save civilians in the aftermath of bomb attacks. The biggest heroes in an ugly war. But lots of people here in the UK say all the White Helmets videos staged part of the greatest hoax in history by Loman's.
I'm Chloe Hedgepeth and I've spent the last year investigating the White Helmets and James Le Mesurier, who they are, who he was and why he died. Subscribe to Intrigue Now and BBC Sounds.