Arsène Wenger celebrated 21 years at the helm of Arsenal over the weekend with a 2-0 victory over Brighton Hove and Albion. For the man to have been at Arsenal for over two decades is some achievement.
He may have had several low points in his time at Arsenal, but he has also had a lot of iconic moments. He’s won trophies, set records, changed cultural perspectives and elevated the status of Arsenal Football Club.
He’s undoubtedly one of the greatest figures football has ever seen and he deserves way more respect & recognition than we give him.
Here are 5 iconic moments in Arsène Wenger’s career.
5 Moving Arsenal to the Emirates
It’s one thing to build a great team, it’s another thing to build a great club. Arsène Wenger set out a vision for Arsenal football club and followed it to the tee. He turned Arsenal from a great club into a super club on a global stage.
He noticed that Arsenal were trailing behind Europe’s elites in matchday revenue and gate intake. The 38,419 capacity of Highbury would no longer be enough for the club Arsène Wenger wanted to manage, he wanted to take them to new heights and that’s exactly what he did.
Many people criticise Arsène Wenger’s inability to win the Premier League ever since moving to the Emirates, but many seem to forget that he was under severe financial restrictions at that time.
The bank that loaned Arsenal the money to construct the Emirates specifically stated they would only complete the deal if Arsène Wenger managed to keep Arsenal in the Champions League in that time, which he did. When the whole world was doubting his vision, he stuck to it and took the club into a new stratosphere.
4 Winning the Double in his 2nd season
In only his second season in English football, Arsène Wenger laid down an impacting precedent for his Arsenal career. The Frenchman became the first foreign manager ever to win the double in England, as he led Arsenal to the Premier League and FA Cup in the 1997/98 season.
The Premier League victory was extra special as Arsenal won 15 of their 18 PL games after Christmas, overturning a 13-point deficit over Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United.
Winning the double was literally a rarity in that era and a foreign manager coming to do it in his 2nd season was deemed remarkable. Since then, Arsenal’s greatest manager ever has gone onto win 10 major honours with the club, making them one of the most successful clubs in England.
3 The signing of Thierry Henry
There comes a time when every football manager looks back at THE signing that changed their career. For Sir Alex Ferguson, it was Cristiano Ronaldo, while Jose Mourinho should fondly remember the day he brought Claude Makalele to Chelsea.
And for Arsene Wenger, it was Thierry Henry who he had to thank for the most successful period in his managerial career.
Under his watch, the striker became the most prolific goal scorer in Arsenal’s history. It was Arsène Wenger who gave Thierry Henry his first ever senior professional contract back at Monaco. So, it only made sense for the boss to emphatically sign him once again in North London.
The signing of Thierry Henry paved the way for an influx foreign imports to the Premier League. It dawned a new era not only at Arsenal, but in England. Thierry Henry will go down as Arsène Wenger’s greatest ever signing.
2 The most successful manager in FA Cup history
After convincingly beating the Premier League Champions back in May, Arsène Wenger became the most successful manager in FA Cup history. The Frenchman has won the cup on 7 separate occasions, more than any other manager in the cup’s 143-year history.
Because of the Frenchman’s unrivalled success, he’s propelled Arsenal to overtake Manchester United as the most successful club in the FA Cup with 13 wins.
Sometimes the FA Cup is deemed as a lower-tier cup, but when the best teams in England are constantly fighting for it every season, the scale of Arsène Wenger’s achievement is put into context.
1 Invincible Season
It’s literally unheard of in the modern era of Premier League football for any team to go unbeaten for a domestic campaign. Arsène Wenger’s team of 2003/04 are the one & only team in the Premier League era to have won the league whilst going unbeaten.
That’s something even the great Sir Alex Ferguson can’t say he’s achieved, it’s also something Jose Mourinho hasn’t achieved either. Arsène Wenger stands alone on that pedestal and that feat will perhaps never be replicated in the near future.
That Invincible Arsenal team won 26 games, drew 12 and lost none. It’s not only the achievement that’s great, it’s the manner in which they completed it. They were a team finely balanced with skill, pace, power, technical ability and tactical awareness.
Arsène Wenger created the perfect machine and a formula that may never be re-created again.