A tribute to Arsene Wenger: Vision, Principles and Continuity
Arsene Charles Ernest Wenger was born on the 22nd of October 1949 in Strasbourg, France and he has left a legacy that will be remembered for generations to come. In his playing days, He was a defensive sweeper that played for FC Mulhouse were he notched up 56 league appearances and four goals in two years (1973-1975) before making a move to ASPV Strasbourg from 1975 to 1978 amassing a total of 80 appearances scoring 20 goals in the process.
He ended his playing days for his hometown club RC Strasbourg before delving into football management in AS Nancy Lorraine in 1984. His spell in ASNL had a very bad twist in his third and final season because they finished the season in 19th place and was relegated to the second tier of French football.
Arsene Wenger’s managerial career turned for the best when he took over at the helm of affairs of AS Monaco in the 1987/88 campaign. The Masters Degree holder in Economics guided the club from the Principality to a Ligue 1 crowna and he achieved this feat while having a talented squad that had the likes of Youri Djourkaeff, Jurgen Kilnsmann, Glenn Hoodle and the 1995 FIFA Golden Ball winner, George Opong Weah. Wenger also guided AS Monaco to the French Cup trophy in 1991.
His success at AS Monaco made him a media favorite for the Bayern Munchen job in 1994 but the Board of AS Monaco denied him a move to the German juggernauts before sacking him after the post had been taken.
Wenger put that disappointment behind and moved over the Pacific Ocean to manage Nagoya Grampus Eight in the J-League. In his 18-month stint with the Japenese outfit, he won the Emperor’s Cup and was honor with the J-League Manager of the Year award for 1995 making him the first ever foreigner to receive such an accolade.
On the 30th of September, 1996, Arsene Wenger took on a job that he has been with till date making him one of the longest serving managers in club football history. He marked his Arsenal start with a 2-0 win against Blackburn and he ended his first season in third place. He also welcomed Patrick Vieira to the club and the lanky holding midfielder spent the best part of nine magical years serving Arsenal making 279 appearances and scoring 28 league goals.
In his time under Wenger, Vieira lifted the Community Shield four times (1998, 1999, 2002 and 2004), the FA Cup four times (1998, 2002, 2003 and 2005) and the Premier League three times (1998, 2002 and 2004).
In Wenger’s second season in charge, he achieved the unthinkable with a League and Cup double despite being 12 points behind Manchester United at the turn of the year. The double winning squad had a water-tight rock solid defense in an all-English affair led by Tony Adams. He was supported by Steve Bould, Nigel Winterburn, Lee Dixon and Martin Keown was somewhere in the mix.
Wenger also had the great David Seaman as the custodian between the sticks and the midfield was blessed with Marc Overmars, Emmanuel Petit and Patrick Vieira while Dennis Bergkamp and Nicolas Anelka did the business upfront.
Wenger’s sale of Anelka to Real Madrid put him in the Guinness Book of Records for the highest transfer profit made but Sir Alex Ferguson’s sale of Cristiano Ronaldo to the same Real Madrid smashed the records to bits. In the turn of the new millennium, Manchester United became a dominant force and Arsenal had to settle for second place but Wenger came close to glory in the UEFA Cup (now Europa League) in a penalty loss to Galatasaray while Liverpool had the upper hand in the FA Cup final of 2001.
Wenger’s squad had a fresh outlook with the injection of Thierry Henry, Robert Pires, Fredrik Ljungberg and Sol Campbell. Arsenal overthrew Manchester United in the sweetest possible way in the 2001/02 double winning season with a win at old Trafford in the penultimate game of the season.
Manchester United exerted their revenge the next season but Wenger’s class of 2004 achieved immortality by being the first team to go through an entire season unbeaten and the record extended to the next season only to be ended by the old enemy, Manchester United. In the 2004/05 campaign, Chelsea’s Roman Abramovich unveiled Jose Mourinho to the Premier League and the Portuguese manager wasted no time in sweeping Wenger and Ferguson aside to win Chelsea’s first title since the days King Arthur Pendragon ruled Britain.
Sir Alex Ferguson stepped his game up to win three titles in a row but Arsene Wenger’s side fell from glory and started struggling for third and fourth place. In the pre-Mourinho era, two names were mentioned in the Premier League but Liverpool’s Rafa Benitez joined the clique and was very close to ending the Reds barren spell in the 2008/09 campaign.
As at January last season, Wenger’s men were eyeing the quadruple but the club’s demise in the Carling Cup final created a downward spiral that saw Arsenal lose in the Champions League and FA Cup in quick succession. With only the Premier League to fight for, Arsenal were nine games away from winning the league if they could win them all including a game-of-the-season tagged match against Manchester United in May.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s men were involved in the FA Cup as well as the Champions League so it was expected that fatigue would play a slight role in the final charge while Arsenal who had just Sunday matches to play were to emerge as potential Premier League winners.
Arsenal started the 9-game run with a bore stalemate against Blackburn before a nervy yet convincing 3-1 win over recently relegated Blackpool. There was some late drama when Liverpool visited the Emirates and the match against Tottenham was enthralling. Arsenal had managed six points from a possible 12 so they needed a win at all costs against Bolton to keep the title flame burning but it was doused by a Tamir Cohen header in the 90th minute.
All other matches turned out to be formalities but the Gunners still managed to lose two more games to Aston Villa and Stoke before closing the curtains with a 2-2 draw against Fulham.
In his 15 years at Arsenal, Arsene Wenger has won three Premier Leagues, four FA Cups and four Community Shields and he has been unlucky in the Premier League on five occasions, as well as one FA Cup final loss, two Carling Cup final losses, two Community Shield losses, one UEFA Cup loss and of course, the 2006 UEFA Champions League final loss to Barcelona.
He has also made certain principles that have been praised by some and criticized by others but Arsene Wenger is a manager that is highly respected by the Arsenal Board, Arsenal and football fans, his own players as well as other players and of course, his fellow football managers.
Should Sir Alex Ferguson decide to retire today, there’ll be a manager that will be regarded as the longest serving manager in football. A manager that’s chased closely by Werder Bremen’s Thomas Schaaf and Everton’s David Moyes.
A manager that has been honored in Great Britain as an Officer of the British Empire,
A manager that represents vision, principles and continuity,
Happy Birthday Arsene Wenger.
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