Arsene Wenger has revealed he holds no regrets about Arsenal’s move to the Emirates, even if it ultimately came at the expense of silverware and an inability to recreate the “special spirit” of Highbury.
Wenger’s 22-year association with the Gunners will come to an end when he leads his side out against Huddersfield on Sunday, but his time with the north London club has often been separated into two chapters – life at Highbury and life at the Emirates.
Prior to the switch in 2006, Arsenal had secured three league titles and four FA Cups since Wenger arrived, whereas in the time since the Gunners have managed just three FA Cups.
Despite the disparity, Wenger’s legacy at the club ensured he was pivotal in securing and leading the charge at the new 60,000-seater stadium, which the Frenchman concedes has restricted his spending power in the years since.
Although the need to pay for the new ground ensured a bid to secure more silverware hit a number of roadblocks, Wenger admitted it was a sacrifice he was willing to make.
“We had to do it. There is no club that can turn people who wanted to attend the game down. At the time I thought we were a bit too ambitious with 60,000 [capacity] but at the end of the day it worked,” Wenger said, via Sky Sports.
“It’s not really happened because other clubs have used outside resources. We had a double handicap. We had to pay back the debt and had to face the competition where clubs have even more resources than they usually have.
“I believe Highbury had a special spirit. It’s a cathedral, a church. You could smell the soul of every guy that played there. So it was special. It will always be special for me.
“The Emirates for me was like buying a new house. It took us a while to feel at home there. It’s a fantastic stadium – but there was something special at Highbury that you could never recreate when you build something new.
“I would say personally from 2006 to 2015 it was certainly the period where I needed to be the strongest and did the best job. I personally feel I did my best job in that period. Not the most glamorous maybe, but the most difficult.
“I signed for five years accepting it will be more limited resources. When you have that you have less good players,” he added.
Arsenal are no longer weighed down by doubt, but with Manchester City storming ahead with their transfer activity the Gunners continue to struggle to compete financially to build a charge towards the title for the first time since season 2003/04.