Arsene Wenger may be in the midst of one of his darkest times as Arsenal boss but the Frenchman insists he is even more motivated than he was on the day he walked into the club.
Sixty-six-year-old Wenger will bring about two decades at the helm of the Gunners in September but is not in a position to start planning any anniversary celebrations.
His side are on a dismal run which has seen them drop from top of the Barclays Premier League at the turn of the year to 11 points adrift of leaders Leicester – while the prospect of becoming the first team in living memory to win three successive FA Cups ended when they were beaten at home by Watford in Sunday’s quarter-final meeting.
Now Arsenal face the daunting task of trying to overturn a 2-0 deficit to reigning European champions Barcelona when they pair clash in the Nou Camp on Wednesday night.
The Catalan giants secured victory at the Emirates Stadium last month and are currently on a 37-game unbeaten run across all competitions.
They are near-unbeatable at home under coach Luis Enrique and if they dish out another defeat to Wenger, it is likely to see the pressure on his tenure ramp up in the coming days.
Having already batted away questions over his future, labelling them both “boring” and “a farce”, Wenger has also had to defend himself against pundits and ex-Arsenal players all queuing up to tell him it is time to move on.
But, on the eve of one of his biggest challenges since taking over in 1996, he is determined to prove he is still hungry to succeed.
“Look, I have no doubt about my huge motivation,” he said.
“I just think I built the club….in the way I did it with hard work, without any external resources. I think if you compare the club with the moment I arrived and the club where it is today, we have moved forward and without any money from anybody.
“The money has been produced by the quality of the work and I am even more motivated than in the first day I arrived. I feel more the pressure and responsibility to keep this club moving forward.
“The problem when you are a long time somewhere is that you are always questioned about the duration. I personally don’t question. I think I give more time to my club now than when I arrived.
“I just want to think I give my best for this club and I’m absolutely determined to do that. After that, image and what people think, it is something different.
“I have never been a fan of that, I believe honest dedication and total commitment is the most important.”
Wednesday’s match will also see Wenger achieve the milestone of 200 Champions League games as a manager, accrued jointly across time at Arsenal and Monaco, but now he is only interested in winning in one of the most difficult stadiums to do so.
“We have recently gone through a disappointing spell with our results, it’s important to stay calm and strong,” he said.
“You say I have taken charge of 200 games in the Champions League, I know that we have won everywhere in Europe but not here yet, so we are in a position where we have to achieve that tomorrow. I’m convinced that the players are united to give a strong response tomorrow and hopefully we can achieve a great result.
“For us it’s just the next game. We did fight very hard to be in the Champions League.
“We made a miracle against Olympiacos (winning 3-0 to qualify from the group stage) so now we are in a position where we have to deliver something special and I’m convinced that for the rest of the season, it would be a big boost for us to have a great game here.”