On 1 October 1996, Arsenal formally welcomed Arsene Wenger as Bruce Rioch’s successor. Although fans had clamoured for ex-Barcelona boss Johan Cruyff, Arsenal chief executive David Dein was resolute in his choice of the then little known Wenger, who arrived from Japanese side Nagoya Grampus.
Now, after 20 years with Wenger at the helm, it is fair to suggest the appointment of the Frenchman was inspired. Six FA Cup victories and three Premier League triumphs mean Wenger will surely go down as one of the greatest managers in English football, let alone Arsenal’s history.
However, it hasn’t all been plain sailing. Courting controversy has almost become as regular as winning trophies for the 66-year-old. At times, Arsenal fans have called for his head and in recent years the silverware has largely dried up.
On the 20th anniversary of Wenger’s appointment, talkSPORT examines the most memorable moments from his Arsenal career.
The Coat Zip
Aside from Sir Alex Ferguson, this is perhaps Wenger’s longest running adversary. The battles may not have been as spectacular, but Sir Alex never quite managed to infuriate the Frenchman as much as his own coat. When Arsenal signed a new kit deal with Puma, one of the first changes the sportswear company implemented was to the club’s outerwear – to spare Arsene’s blushes?
The touchline scraps
Over the last decade, Arsenal have been criticised for lacking the necessary grit to grind out victories. It can’t be due to a lack of fighting spirit however, if their manager’s touchline antics are anything to go by. Wenger has never been one to suppress his emotions despite being restricted to the sidelines. Clashes with Alan Pardew, Jose Mourinho and Martin Jol over the years have turned ugly fast – handbags galore.
Players leaving for success
They say you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. For Wenger, this sentiment carries a sense of déjà vu. Watching Robin vas Persie, Samir Nasri, Cesc Fabregas – the list goes on and on – enjoy Premier League success after leaving Arsenal has left Gunners fans frustrated at what could – maybe should – have been.
2006 Champions league Final
The biggest trophy to have persistently evaded Wenger in his 20 years is the Champions League. He has never come closer than ten years ago when, having taken an early lead despite going down to 10 men, he watched his side succumb to Frank Rijkaard’s Barcelona. Inspired by Ronaldinho, Arsenal were defeated 2-1 in Paris and Wenger’s best chance of victory in Europe slipped away. So near, yet so far.
Always finishing above Spurs
Wenger has never finished below Tottenham in his tenure as Arsenal boss, including ‘Lasagna-gate’ in 2006. Simply matching Arsenal’s result on the final day of the season, and Tottenham would have sat secured Champions League football at the Gunners’ expense. A dodgy portion of lasagna the night before Spurs’ final match invoked a squad-wide bout of food poisoning and the Lilywhites lost 2-1 away to West Ham. Arsenal duly won their last ever game at Highbur, against Wigan, and Tottenham were left feeling… rather nauseous.
The 2014 FA Cup win
Arsenal had waited nine years for a major trophy heading into their clash with Hull, so you could forgive Wenger’s side for being nervous. However, the players did little to allay those fears by shipping two early goals. Cue a remarkable comeback culminating in an extra time winner from Aaron Ramsey, and a huge collective sigh of relief emanating from North London.
Moving to the Emirates
Although it may lack the soul of Highbury, the 60,000 capacity stadium that Arsenal now call home is in place in no small part thanks to Wenger’s hard work. Recognising the need to compete with European and domestic rivals who commanded over 50,000 fans per game, the Frenchman personally oversaw the Gunners’ move into one of the slickest stadiums in world football.
Aside from a bronze statue outside of the Emirates, this may be the most long-lasting memory that Wenger leaves in north London. The 2003/04 season witnessed Premier League history as Arsene Wenger guided his side to the title without losing a game. The goalscoring prowess of Thierry Henry, the steel of Patrick Vieira and guile of Robert Pires supplemented one another perfectly to form one of the greatest sides in history.
Let us know your favourite Arsene Wenger moment by adding your opinion in the comments section below!