Arsene Wenger has hinted that Arsenal's worldwide perception was being harmed by his continued presence at the club, but insisted he wasn't 'resentful' of the way the club's fans have acted in recent years.
Speaking after his side's 4-1 win over West Ham on Sunday afternoon - his first match since announcing his impending resignation last Friday - Wenger admitted that the disharmony among Gunners fans was 'hurtful' to the club's image.
Arsene Wenger in post-match presser wouldn’t elaborate on decision to leave/timing. Says “I was not tired” & right now “will be very difficult” to manage in England again”. But big news criticism of Arsenal fans for image the disharmony & rancour projected round the world #AFC— David Ornstein (@bbcsport_david) April 22, 2018
Asked if there was a sense of relief in stepping down after 22 years, he said: "No, because I was not tired. But personally, I feel that this club is respected all over the world, much more than in England. That our fans did not give the image of unity that I want at the club all over the world, and that was hurtful because I feel that the club is respected and overall the image we gave from our club is not what it is and not what I like."
Pressed for more details, he said: "Nothing more to say. I feel that this club has a fantastic image and for me, that is absolutely vital. In sport we can speak and speak and speak, sport is about winning and losing and you have to accept that you will lose games - even when I won't be here anymore - but it's also about something bigger than just winning or losing.
"I always worried about how the club is perceived worldwide, for kids who play in Africa, in China, in America, and the dream that it can create for young children who want to play football. And all our clubs have a responsibility in that."
Wenger: I was not tired. I believe that this club is respected all over the world, much more than in England. Our fans didn't give the image of unity I want at the club. That was hurtful.— James Benge (@jamesbenge) April 22, 2018
"Look, I'm not resentful, and I do not want to make stupid headlines. I'm not resentful with the fans, I just feel that if my personality is in the way of what I think our club is, for me that is more important than me. It's nothing to do with the fans. The fans were not happy? I can understand that, and that's my job and I have to live with that. I can accept that."
He also refused to make a judgement on whether the atmosphere on the club was damaging, saying: "I don't know if it was damaging. It was not corresponding to what I really feel our club is perceived and has to be perceived all over the world. If you travel with us, I travel a lot, this club is respected all over the world and that's down to work and the way we play football, the way we behave and the way we treat people.
"So I want that to go on, and the club to be respected and give the image that I think is right. Even if there's a lot of money in the game, above that more than the money, more than the result is the way the club is perceived and the example the club gives all over the world."