London: Arsene Wenger has banished any thoughts of retirement as the Arsenal manager fine-tunes his preparations for his 20th season with the Gunners in the Emirates Cup this weekend.
With his 66th birthday looming in October, Wenger could be forgiven for being seduced by the stress-free lifestyle that would await him in his golden years if he turned his back on the pressures of the Premier League rat race.
Even the ferociously competitive Alex Ferguson eventually called it quits after growing tired of the battle to keep Manchester United at the top.
But Wenger, who took charge at Arsenal in 1996, has dedicated his entire existence to his job and the Frenchman says he is terrified at the prospect of walking away from the sport for good.
"Retirement? Yes, it crosses my mind sometimes but for no longer than five seconds because I panic a little bit," Wenger told the British media this week.
"When we played at Man United, Ferguson came to meet me after the game. I said: `Come on, you don`t miss it?` He says: `No.` He had enough. He goes to every game. But he has horses. I have no horses.
"Enthusiasm? That is not a problem, honestly. I am more committed than ever for that. I just think the number of times you have done it doesn`t count. It is how much you love what you do that counts.
"And the love of what you do is not necessarily diminished by the number of times you`ve done it. Football is new every day. That`s a big quality."Wenger`s obsessive approach to management has kept him on the cutting edge for nearly two decades with Arsenal -- an era that has brought three Premier League titles, six FA Cups and a Champions League final appearance.
But his commitment to the cause has been tested as well after 11 years without a league title -- never more so than when he was verbally abused by Arsenal supporters as he boarded a train following a lacklustre defeat at Stoke last season.
"You would not necessarily expect people to insult you on the way to the train. It`s the way society has gone and you have to go with it. You can take it or not," he said.
"That`s where experience helps. You have a good assessment of who you are. And you`re not influenced by what people say.
"Because with every defeat people say: `What is this guy doing?` Every three days you are questioned. You have an exam every three days.
"You have to prepare for the next exam and come out of it with success. So it always demands 100 percent commitment."
On the evidence of their brilliant demolition of Aston Villa in last year`s FA Cup final, Arsenal are closer than ever to ending their title drought.
And Wenger is so satisfied with his current squad that his only major pre-season signing to date is Petr Cech, the Czech goalkeeper lured from the Chelsea bench for £11 million.
Arsenal fans should get their first glimpse of Cech this weekend when the north London club host the Emirates Cup friendly tournament.
Wenger`s team face French club Lyon on Saturday and German side Wolfsburg on Sunday as they look ahead to the Community Shield against Chelsea at Wembley on August 2 and their Premier League opener at home to West Ham seven days later.
In the tournament`s other fixtures, Wolfsburg take on Spanish outfit Villarreal in the opening match on Saturday, while on Sunday Lyon face Villarreal.