Goals rained in, tributes poured forth, differences were put aside, but even on this day of days the man dubbed The Professor stayed true to his nickname and chose a little intellectual distance over wholly surrendering to sentimentality.
After Sundays final home match of his 22 years as Arsenal manager – a valedictory 5-0 win over Burnley followed by speeches, presentations and a lap of honour to mark the occasion – Wenger did his best to avoid discussing his feelings.
He seemed baffled by questions about them – “When people ask you how you feel, you think why does he ask me that?. I dont know how I feel anyway.” – and when asked what the appreciation of 60,000 spectators had meant to him, he shunned introspection and took it literally: “It means that even if they are not always happy they still respect me and wanted to show me at least they think I gave my total commitment to do well.”
Had Wenger, having tasked himself with bringing joy to fans, also made himself happy? Again, he opted against self-reflection in favour of a trademark quip. “Sometimes to make people happy is to go somewhere else,” he said with a smile.
He also turned to humour when asked if his impending exit had sunk in yet. “You will be happy you have another face in front of you next season – a younger face,” he joked, avoiding the question.
He was more at ease on the familiar terrain of football. Asked to reflect on the day, he chose to underline his teams excellent home results, while a question about the club giving him the gold Premier League trophy commissioned for their unbeaten 2003-04 season – a grand gesture – turned into a rumination on the need to improve their away form.
It felt strange, given that he had seemed happy to indulge the party mood when on the pitch. Wenger saluted fans when they sang “Arsene, give us a wave”; he delighted the crowd by nodding a ball back onto the field when it was thrown back from the stands; he even hurdled an advertising hoarding and handed his tie to a small child. By Wenger standards, it was devil-may-care stuff.
Perhaps he felt he had let his guard down enough by the time he fielded questions. Perhaps this essentially modest man's discomfort at being the centre of attention took over. Or maybe all this is still too raw; maybe he has not yet processed his sorrow. Maybe remaining analytical was the only way to stop the emotional banks from bursting. A slight waver in his voice suggested so.