Like Arsene Wenger and Arsenal. Lee Kuan Yew and Singapore. Steve Jobs and Apple.
Arsene was Arsenal, just the way LKY was Singapore and Jobs was Apple. By putting their heart and soul into building what they believe is right, they became what they built (in Wenger’s case though, the club existed before he came on the scene 22 years ago, but his ways revolutionised the club and the game in general, and rebuilt the club to represent what he believed in: Wengerball).
They spent every waking second, their every breath, improving, perfecting, questioning and defending what they’ve built. “It’s not work, it’s my life,” said Jobs. Wenger summed up his ambition with “When I arrive at the gates of Heaven the Good Lord will ask ‘what did you do in your life?’ I will respond ‘I tried to win football matches.” LKY went a step further, when he said, "Even from my sickbed, even if you are going to lower me to the grave and I feel that something is going wrong, I will get up."
So it always made me wonder what Arsenal would be like without Arsene, who has become synonymous with the club. Or Singapore without its legendary architect. Or Apple without the genius of Jobs.
Now, with the divided fanbase coming together to bid farewell to Wenger, whose emphasis on delivering winning (largely) performance with style attracted me to Arsenal some fifteen years ago, the answers seem closer.
Apple isn’t the same without the guiding insight of its founder. iPad with stylus and the Apple map disaster come to mind.
Singapore isn’t exactly struggling but the big man is missed. Recent MRT breakdowns made people wonder wistfully how the ‘old man’ would have handled it, and whether he would have allowed such lapses at all.
As for Arsenal, it is too soon to tell. Like a Chelsea supporter friend of mine said a few years ago, we will feel the magnitude of Arsene’s impact only after he’s gone.
While they leave an illustrious legacy, they also leave massive shoe sizes to be filled for their potential replacements. But like someone recently said about Wenger, he wasn’t bigger than Arsenal, but Arsenal are bigger because of him. I think it’s a sentiment that fits the other two perfectly.
The sentiment, leave it better than you found it, probably sums up what they gave their lives for I guess.