With the benefit of hindsight, the Evening Standard headline writer who dreamt up the ‘Arsène Who?’ headline back in September, 1996 must feel pretty silly now.
There can be few football club managers anywhere in the world who are as identified with their team and their style of play as Arsenal’s Arsène Wenger. In a profession in which staying in a post for more than two years should qualify you for a testimonial match, the urbane Frenchman has now been at Arsenal for nearly 13 years. In any other country – that is one with no Sir Alex Ferguson in it – he would be by far the longest-serving manager.
During that time, Arsenal have won the Premier League on three occasions and the FA Cup four times – as well as twice reaching the Champions League final and being runner-up in the UEFA Cup. And, during the whole of his spell with the north London club, Wenger has produced teams that play football with real style sometimes breathtaking beauty.
Arsène Wenger belongs to that tradition of managers who were never great players and therefore took to coaching comparatively early in their lives. With degrees in both Engineering and Economics, and with fluency in Spanish and German as well as French and English, education was very much a priority for him as a young man and he didn’t become a professional with RC Strasbourg – his home town – until 1978, when he was 29 years old. He only played for the first team on twelve occasions – in their title winning season of 1978/79, including one match in the UEFA Cup.
Wenger’s first managerial post was with Nancy, when he was 34, and he followed this relatively unsuccessful stint by joining AS Monaco, ironically the team he made his first team debut against for Strasbourg, in 1987. It was here that his career really started to flourish – winning the French league in his first season (1988) and the cup in 1991. He also took players of the calibre of Glenn Hoddle, Jurgen Klinsmann and George Weah to play in the Principality. Always wanting to broaden his education and horizons, however, he then went over to the Japanese J League to manage Grampus Eight for an 18 month spell which brought the Emperor’s Cup to the club. In 1995, he became the first overseas manager to be awarded the Manager of the Year Trophy.
As soon as he joined Arsenal, Arsène Wenger set about transforming the face, not only of the Highbury club, but, indirectly, all of English football. By completely transforming the training methods and introducing totally new dietary requirements – in addition to using a variety of coaches and experts unheard of in English football at that time – clubs throughout the country began to re-evaluate their structures. It helped his cause, needless to say, when Arsenal won the League and FA Cup double in only his second season in charge.
Gradually, Wenger was able to change what had been a predominantly cautious Arsenal side into a vibrant attacking force, without losing the ability to defend when necessary. The greatest achievement of his Premier League career – and one that will always be regarded as one of the finest feats ever – was to go the whole of the 2003/04 campaign without suffering a single defeat. แทงบอลufabetรับทันที
Key to all of Arsenal’s success under Wenger has been his talent at bringing young players through into the first team and signing relatively unknown players and grooming them into world superstars. Patrick Viera, Nicolas Anelka and Emmanuel Adebayor were all transformed at Arsenal. Players such as Anelka were bought for £500,000 and later sold for over £22 million!
The recent injury to striker Robin Van Persie, who had previously been enjoying great success this season, has put the onus on the Arsenal manager to find a similar player during the January transfer window. To outsiders, it does seem as if the comparatively long period since the team’s last trophy – the FA Cup in 2005 – is perhaps beginning to put pressure, much of it self-imposed, on the manager. Famous for not having seen controversial incidents involving his players, his recent uncharacteristic outburst at a Press Conference when asked a question about Theo Walcott’s fitness was followed by some strange comments about Didier Drogba not doing much in the league game in which he completely dominated the Arsenal defence. Finally, after the League Cup Quarter Final defeat at Manchester City, Wenger took off down the Eastlands’ tunnel without shaking Mark Hughes’ hand after a little ‘spat’ between them during the game.
Despite this, at times, ungallant attitude, Arsène Wenger continues to produce football teams that can delight the neutral spectator because of their passing, movement and fluency. Already Arsenal’s longest serving manager, Arsène Wenger, O.B.E. and Freeman of the Borough of Islington, will surely bring another trophy or two back to north London in the near future.