Arsene Wenger: 4 remarkable achievements every Arsenal fan would cherish 

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Arsene Wenger took charge of Arsenal from the 1st of October 1996.

As Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger signs off his remarkable 22 years at the helm, we look back at some iconic moments which football fans will forever cherish especially the ones on the red side of North London.

#1 Changed the landscape of English football

When Arsene Wenger replaced Bruce Rioch as Arsenal Manager in September 1996, the newspapers welcomed him with the headlines “Arsene Who?”. An unknown man coming from a club like Nagoya Grampus in Japan did not have many expectations from the Gooners faithful.

The Frenchman revolutionized the style of English football as he proved that skill & flair could flourish despite the rough & tough nature of the league. He transformed Arsenal from the ‘boring boring Arsenal’ to a free flowing side playing attacking football.

The squad had an aging defence at the wrong side of 30 led by the captain Tony Adams, Lee Dixon, Nigel Winterburn & Steve Bould. He added years to their footballing careers and also helped inspirational captain Tony Adams with his personal problems.

Wenger had a unique approach to training sessions and also took steps to change the drinking culture that afflicted Arsenal. He brought on a change in the diet by encouraging boiled chicken over red meat and also discouraged the consumption of Mars bars before a game.

He brought in players like Nicolas Anelka, Emmanuel Petit & Gilles Grimandi who played crucial roles to lead Arsenal to the title in 1998. By beating Newcastle United in the 1998 FA Cup Final, Wenger became the first foreigner to win the double.

Wenger became known for signing young talents and giving them opportunities to nurture their talents & ply their trade in England. Nicolas Anelka, Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry all came in relatively early on in their careers and succeeded, especially the latter two under Wenger. The philosophy of relying on youth was seen during Wenger’s entire tenure which has resulted in unearthing some gems.

#2 Two Double Winning Seasons

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Arsene Wenger celebrates after guiding Arsenal to a double in 1998

Wenger began his Arsenal reign on the 1st of October 1996. The first season saw them finish 3rd, missing out on UEFA Champions League qualification to Newcastle United on goal difference.

The following season (1997-98) saw Wenger take the squad to Austria for pre-season which would later become the club’s usual pre-season base. Although they began the season well, Arsenal were seemingly out of the title race by Christmas as they were lying in sixth place. A string of consistent results saw Arsenal steadily close the gap and eventually win the title at home against Everton that secured Arsenal’s status as Champions.

After becoming the first foreigner to win the double in 1998, the Arsenal defence was going through a transition from 1999 to 2001 as Steve Bould & Nigel Winterburn had moved on. Club graduate Ashley Cole displaced Sylvinho as first choice left back whereas new signing Lauren was brought in as back up to the aging Lee Dixon.

This period also saw the signing of French players Thierry Henry & Robert Pires who would go on to play a huge role in the Invincible season along with Swedish winger Freddie Ljungberg.

The 2001-02 season saw Wenger winning his second league title. The title was won in Old Trafford against their arch rivals Manchester United was the crowning moment for Wenger that year. The FA Cup Final was also won which ensured Wenger’s second double as Arsenal beat Chelsea 2-0 in the final.

The 2001-02 season was special as it saw Arsenal score in every league fixture and were unbeaten away from home that season. This also proved to be Club Legend Tony Adams last year at Arsenal as he announced his retirement by becoming the first player to captain a side to 3 league titles in 3 different decades.

#3 Invincible Gunners

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The 1st team in the Modern era to go a league season without a single Defeat. Arsene Wenger's Invincible's

After the retirement of captain Tony Adams, Wenger appointed Patrick Vieira as club captain. The 2003 campaign ended in disappointment as Arsenal saw the title grasp out of their hands after a late collapse.

The 2004 season saw Arsenal do little business in the transfer window given the financial demands that came with their new stadium project. The only signing made then was goalkeeper Jens Lehmann who replaced the England veteran David Seaman.

After being unbeaten away from home in the league in the title winning season of 2002, Wenger had made a bold claim that they could remain unbeaten throughout the course of a season.

Many who heard him talk that day would have discounted his talk as the English Premier League is one of the toughest leagues in the world. But the professor proved everyone wrong when his side took the league by storm in the 2003-04 campaign by winning 26, drawing 12 and losing 0 – a feat last achieved by Preston North End 115 years before, in the Football League.

During the club’s victory parade, Wenger remarked “My Prediction was a season too early!” This side came to be known as the “Invincibles” & their unbeaten run ended at 49 as they were beaten by Manchester United 2-0 on 24th October 2004. The accomplishment of going unbeaten in the Premier League is unlikely to be matched any time soon as the league has become more competitive than ever before.

#4 Stadium of (their) his own

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Arsene Wenger oversaw the transition from Highbury to Emirates Stadium

In the summer of 2006, Wenger oversaw Arsenal’s relocation from Highbury to the newly constructed Emirates Stadium. This was a vital move to the club’s financial future as it would also help them to attract the best players. However moving to a new stadium has its fair share of problems and the club prioritised financing the stadium over the team.

Financial difficulties saw Wenger sell some of his experienced players like Campbell, Lauren, Pires, & Cole and brought in young players like Theo Walcott, Fabregas & Senderous into the first team. The experience of the side was there to see as they reached the final of the League Cup in 2007 with an average age of 21 years. This was the youngest average age of a team playing in an English Cup Final.

The Emirates Stadium is a house which Wenger built. It’s impact on him was, however, overwhelmingly restrictive and consumed all his energy during the most challenging years of his reign. Arsenal’s move to Emirates was supposed to be a start, a start which would see them compete with Europe’s elite. But what has transpired since has not gone as per the plans.

Nevertheless, there’s no manager in the modern era anywhere in the world so associated with a stadium. Arsenal had wanted to expand beyond a 48,000 capacity anyway, but that was a much more logical decision when they had a team who were at that exact point playing the kind of attacking football that was making them amongst the most admired sides in the world.

Wenger himself offered direct inputs and ideas for the design of the area. It also meant the stadium blueprints bear Wenger’s imprint. That unique football mind really is ingrained in the ground’s very design, to go with what was seen on the pitch. The Stadium is the ultimate testament to Wenger’s influence on the club and the irony is that it is also a major reason for the struggles of his second decade at the club.

Nevertheless, Wenger the man will always be remembered as a Club Legend who changed the face of football worldwide.

Edited by Zeeshan Ali
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