At Christmas time, even Ronny Deila has a wish list. While many Glaswegians will descend on the House of Fraser to satisfy their demands, the Celtic manager prefers House of Wenger.
Deila has been in charge of the Scottish champions for just 18 months, compared to the 18 years Wenger has had at Arsenal. Yet, the Norwegian craves the long-term view shown by the London club to Wenger and allows himself the chance to dream what he could do with that environment at Celtic.
Wenger may yet profit from Arsenal’s patience, by delivering an English title in May. Deila could do that here, and might not even still be in his job. The man who is on course to win a second successive title in his short tenure at Celtic Park has heard the rumours his future is in doubt.
Defeat by Hearts at Tynecastle on Sunday would heighten criticism from within Celtic’s own support, yet Deila points out that no business has thrived by making short-term decisions, which is why Fraser’s has been in Glasgow even longer than Celtic.
“Wenger is a manager that I admire because he is into developing talents and playing attractive football,” said Deila yesterday. “He thinks about the club and not just himself. If he was thinking only of himself, he could have used a lot more money.
“But he built up the club to what it is today with a new stadium, and can maybe have two or three trophies more. I think Arsenal, compared to ten years ago, are stronger and an even bigger club. I think they have a big future.
“All the clubs with consistency are the ones who do well. Look at Barcelona. They have consistency in the style of player. They have the same type of manager who comes in and they keep winning. You could see it with [Sir Alex] Ferguson and Wenger now.
“For years he’s been called a fool because he lost in important games but he puts on players that need experience and he believes in them and knows in the end that he will get his reward. Hopefully that’s what happens this year.”
Asked if he believes that Celtic would also give him 18 years in his role, Deila laughed: “That’s going to be a long time. You never know in football. That would be fantastic. As long as I feel like I can make a change and I’m having fun, then I will continue. The day I don’t have fun anymore I will not do it.
“I don’t need the money, I don’t need the job. But I want the job. For me, it’s about going forward. I was nine years at Stromsgodset, I was 12 years at Odd Grenland. I’m quite proud of that. I could stay a long time without tiring out people around me.
“The two seasons here, I’m learning and getting better. The same with Neil Lennon – his first two years were tough for him as well. But he left here, as a manager, as a legend. It’s important to understand that when you have a young manager he’s not the finished article. He doesn’t come in and take to it at once. If you put Wenger in here, he will of course be much more ready at once – but then, I think you have to find another bank!”
Deila acknowledges that exit from the Europa League and missing out on the wealth of the Champions League, will taint whatever he does in Scottish football this season.
“I have no problem with people saying the European results were not good enough,” he said. “I agree with that but it’s important to see behind those results as well. This year there have been changes in the back four. It takes time to build up a new team again. Now it’s for us to do it and try to do everything here now to be ready for Europe next year.”
Even Lennon found himself under fire from fans for being knocked out of the League Cup by Morton, just ten months after Celtic had defeated Barcelona. Deila knows criticism goes with the territory.
“I think it’s good that there are high demands here and there have been all the time,” said Deila. “But I have to see the whole picture, which is we’re leading the league, still in both cups and can do everything. If we win our game in hand, we are four points ahead of an Aberdeen team that is as good as it has ever been.
“There are challenges now and we need to perform better. During a long season, every team has spells when they don’t play as well as they can, but it’s important to keep taking points.”
Who knows, perhaps Deila’s wish list might include a record ten titles and then walking off into the sunset? “That would be the dream, of course,” he replied. “A big, big dream. But it’s a long way to get there.”