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The best managers of all time: #25 Arsene Wenger

Kicking off our Legendary Manager series with Arsene Wenger, our 25th best ranked manager of all time.

Arsene Wenger celebrating
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Legendary Manager Series

Football management can often be a thankless task, more so in today’s times. Win and your players walk away with most of the credit. Lose and your tactics are immediately blamed and questioned. With massive funds flowing into the game, and expectations sky high, patience seems to run thin at clubs, even though at the end of the day only one team can win any given competition. A lot is on the line, and the top coaches are expected to implement their strategies with immediate effect and bring success. The demands are high, but achievements of a few managers in the game far exceed their peers and sets them apart.

The men that we will be looking at, have changed the way the game is played. They have extracted the last ounce of sweat and drive from their personnel and defied the odds to emerge with a resounding array of success, to leave a mark in the history of the beautiful game.

The list of the 25 best managers of all time is full of extraordinary individuals, men who have left behind a legacy, an inspiration and an ethos that will remain long after they’ve retired. Our primary considerations have been trophies won, modernism brought to the game and consistency. 

#25 Arsene Wenger

Arsene Wenger would have been higher on this list a few years ago, but it’s a sign of him failing to keep up with the times that has him ‘only’ at No. 25. Such has been the Frenchman’s barren spell - barring a few domestic cups, which are worthy achievements, though not enough for a manager of his caliber - that he continually risks letting people forget the brilliant impact he had on the Arsenal football club when he arrived on English shores.

The English Premier League was far from the brilliant product and celebration of football it is today, when he arrived from the Japanese club, Nagoya Grampus Eight, as the lanky 45-year-old nicknamed, ‘Professor’. Wenger immediately went about revolutionizing the Arsenal team, completely revamping diets, training routines and, their playing philosophy.

With 3 Premier League titles and an equal number of FA Cup and Community Shield trophies, Wenger had glittering success in his first 8 years at the club. He was delivering titles, establishing Arsenal as one of the best teams to watch in the division and helping the London club create a large worldwide fan base.

Wenger brought over Thierry Henry from Juventus, and Dennis Bergkamp from Inter, two players who were struggling at their clubs, and gave them the freedom and confidence to relaunch their careers and win the hearts of Arsenal fans worldwide. Both players are amongst some of the best to have ever played the game, and they both credit Wenger as having played a huge part in their playing careers.

Since the time Arsenal lost to a Ronaldinho-inspired Barcelona side in 2006, things haven’t been so rosy. The Gunners’ investment in the new, state-of-the-art Emirates stadium has been blamed several times, but it’s hard to really use that as an excuse for the lack of success. The question is whether Wenger was willing to adapt to the demands of the modern game to replicate Arsenal’s former success, and unfortunately the answer was that he wasn’t.

Arsenal would, of course, keep successively qualifying for the Champions League, a worthy achievement, but they always appeared to be a little too predictable. Wenger would refuse to revamp his tactical approach and would often lose psychological battles against Jose Mourinho and Sir Alex Ferguson, who often got under his skin.  

But Wenger will still have an indelible mark in history as one of the first men to play a part in redefining the product of the Premier League and bringing indescribable joy to Gunners fans. Though the Premier League has a number of teams that play aesthetically pleasing football now, there was a time when Arsenal were one of the very few who played that style of football.

His ability to handpick talent and develop them into fine footballers has also been well known, and the list of players who have blossomed under his mentorship is numerous. He had the conviction in his ways when he arrived in England and clung on to the philosophies of his 'project'.

Wenger stuck to his principles and adapted to the English game and cemented himself in the memories of Arsenal fans. With the 66-year-old now finally giving more importance to playing central midfielders with strength and tenacity in the middle of the park, could Arsenal be a quality center forward away from giving Wenger the perfect sendoff? 

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