A Brief Stint into Arsene Wenger’s Spell at Nagoya Grampus
With the Asia Tour still ongoing, Arsenal has played two games against the national teams of Indonesia and Vietnam with the Gunners scoring for fun in both encounters. The attackers had certainly been firing on all cylinders and there have been some youngsters that have hugely impressed.
The Gunners have arrived in somewhat familiar surroundings in Nagoya, Japan for more reasons than one.
For those that don’t know, this is the hometown of young starlet, Ryo Miyaichi, that has been a success story in his loan spells at Feyernoord and Bolton. His time at Wigan was plagued by injuries, that even cut his loan spell short.
As expected, the Blue Samurai has been on the spotlight ahead of what is going to be an emotional game for him as he plays in place he calls home. He has even shared his views on his team’s arrival to Nagoya,
“When we arrived at the airport, some of the fans were at the airport. I haven’t met with family or friends yet but I went to a signing session and it was good to see Japanese people and Japanese fans.
“At Nagoya Grampus now, they have a very good calibre of players and I’m looking forward to playing against them on Monday. I will try to do my best and try to show them my speed, stamina and good play.”
This happens to be the club that was managed by Arsene Wenger before moving to London to become the longest serving manager in the Premier League (yes, the gum chewer is gone!).
Nagoya Grampus is a professional club in the J-League that was originally founded by Toyota Motor Corporation. The club shares its home games between the Mizuho Athletic Stadium (27,000 capacity, oldest stadium in the J-League) and the much larger Toyota Stadium (45,000 capacity).
Nagoya Grampus are one of only four teams to have competed in the J-League since its inception in 1993. The others include Kashima Antlers, Shimizu S-Pulse and Yokohama F. Marinos. The club has also had some imports from all over the world with the most notable being Gary Lineker (1992 – 1994) and Dragan Stojkovic (1994 – 2001), that’s currently the manager.
Their first success, the Emperor’s Cup (Japan’s version of the FA Cup), came in 1995 with Arsene Wenger at the helm of affairs. That season, Arsene Wenger worked with an all-Japanese squad with the only foreign imports being Gerard Passi and Franck Durix from France, Alexandre Torres from Brazil and of course, Dragan Stojkovic from Serbia.
Stojkovic was Nagoya Grampus’ highest goalscorer in the League with 15 goals (17 overall), which also earned him a place in the J-League Team of the Year as well as the J-League Player of the Year award. Takafumi Ogura had the highest number of goals for the team that season with 14 in the league and five in the Emperor’s Cup, where they were triumphant.
However, Arsene Wenger’s side finished the 1995 J-League campaign in third place, behind Verdy Kawasaki and eventual winners, Yokohama F. Marinos. In Wenger’s final season with the club (1996 J-League campaign), Nagoya Grampus finished as the League’s runners-up behind Kashima Antlers. That season, he worked alongside Jose Alberto Costa and Carlos Queiroz from Portugal.
At the end of that campaign, he moved to the Premier League giants, Arsenal, and has gone on to win three Premier League titles and four FA Cups.
17 years later, Wenger is back to Nagoya and as expected, he has received a warm reception from the Japanese faithful. The manager also went on to say that his time at Japan had a profound effect on his time in Arsenal,
“It was a welcome change in my life, a fantastic experience.
“It’s something that changed me profoundly as well. The vision I have of life changed in Japan. It was absolutely a deep, profound and very, very positive experience. I’m very grateful that I went. Perhaps it was a bit crazy of me at the time to decide to go, but I’m thankful for that moment of craziness.
“Maybe [my time in Japan helped me succeed at Arsenal], because I took a distance from the pressure in Europe and came back with a different viewpoint. I can take more distance from decisions now than I could before.”
The manager was also delighted that one of his former star players in Nagoya Grampus, Dragan Stojkovic, or Piksi, as he’s fondly called, is now the manager. Piski played under Arsene Wenger’s tutelage for two seasons, scoring 31 goals in the process. In both seasons, he won the J-League’s Player of the Year award and he also played a lot of games for Yugoslavia and Serbia before going into administrative positions after hanging his boots.
Stojkovic became the manager of Nagoya Grampus in 2008 after administrative roles with Serbia’s FA and Red Star Belgrade. His arrival at the helm was met with some criticism from the Nagoya fans because despite the fact that he had a glittering career with the club, he had never managed any other club before.
However, Stojkovic came third in his first season and qualified for the AFC Champions League as well. Strange similarities to his former manager.
In the 2009 J-League campaign, Stojkovic shocked the football world in a game between Nagoya Grampus and Yokohama F. Marinos. During the match, a player was injured, causing the Yokohama goalie, Tetsuya Enomoto, to kick the ball out of play. Shockingly, Stojkovic came out of his technical area and volleyed the ball that went high into the air before going into the net.
He was sent off by the referee afterwards.
Stojkovic finally got some success for Nagoya in 2010, leading them to their first ever J-League title. The manager stated that he has constantly kept in touch with Arsene Wenger, receiving advice and he has learnt a lot from the French sensei.
Funnily enough, there was a time when Arsene Wenger stated that he would like Dragan Stojkovic to be his successor because they share the same ideas and strive for perfect football.
In the Premier League, we have seen Sir Alex Ferguson go head to head against his former players. It’s time to see Arsene Wenger follow suit on today.
Who knows, this could be the next Arsenal manager.
As they say in Japan…Sayonara.
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