Fear of losing drives Wenger's glory hunt

Arsene Wenger shuddered as he contemplated the feeling he hates more than any other - losing.

updated: February 17, 2008 12:44 IST
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Arsene Wenger shuddered as he contemplated the feeling he hates more than any other - losing.

Wenger's philosophical persona hides a fierce desire for success that still burns as brightly now as it did the day he took charge at Arsenal 12 years ago.

But the flipside of that passion is the emotional scars that come when his thirst for victory isn't quenched.

Wenger, 58, admits to being destroyed when Arsenal lose and he made no attempt to hide his fear of those down days when asked what keeps him motivated.

Inevitably such stress will take its toll but clearly not enough to make the Frenchman consider calling it a day.

He is determined to carry on pitting his wits against the likes of Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson for as long as his competitive juices continue to flow.

After all, legendary Italian manager Giovanni Trapattoni is still going strong at 68 after taking the Republic of Ireland job this week.

"I was asked when I want to retire and I said 'I don't know'. It could be tomorrow, it could be 10 years," Wenger said. "I don't think like that, I think about the next game, let's do it. Trapattoni has just signed for Ireland at 68 and you want me out at 58!

"He has fantastic health and still has the drive. I personally believe that winning and losing matters to you until the last day of your life. It matters more to some and less to others.

"I don't know how long I could go on. It's a balance between internal desire, instinctive animal desire to fight and win and being wise enough to make the right decisions.

"It's a mixture but you must have that physical drive to want to win and a good distance from the pressure."

Wenger knows even he will have to call it a day eventually but the success of his bright, young team this season has given him an even greater sense that his career is far from over.

"I cannot imagine being sat on the bench at 92 saying 'come on my friend let's do it'," he said.

"Of course, as long as winning means something to you, you go for it because you sacrifice nearly everything for the next game and you live a professional football player.

"That means if it's not so important any more you are not ready to sacrifice, to not go out and prepare like a player. You only do that because it has massive meaning for you to win.

"I have always had the same desire but I've not always been capable of winning the games.

"You must be destroyed when you lose and happy when you win in this job. It feels like that but that's why you are in the job."

Wenger's duels with Ferguson have provided an enthralling backdrop to life in the Premier League over the last decade and the two old rivals are going at it again this season.

Arsenal lead the Premier League and sit five points ahead of United, with an FA Cup fifth round tie between the clubs at Old Trafford on Saturday certain to add an another layer of intrigue to the rivalry,

They could still clash in the Champions League as well and although Wenger has the upper hand at present, he knows better than to write off one of the few other managers who can match his will to win.

"I feel they are still in the race because, two games ago we were second, that shows you how quickly it can change from one day to the next," Wenger said. "And it shows as well, this year, in the Premier League, things can change very quickly."