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WhoScored: Zabaleta-Sterling a key battle

Tactics And Analysis 14 hours ago
Read
Sep 23, 2009

Wenger's memorable moments

On Thursday, Arsene Wenger becomes the longest-serving manager in Arsenal's history, with his 13-year reign now surpassing that of George Allison who served the club between 1934 and 1947.

• Manager profile of Arsene Wenger

When Wenger first arrived in North London from Japan, to an infamous headline of 'Arsene Who?' in the London Evening Standard, England and its football top flight were in a period of transition. A politician named Tony Blair was laying the groundwork for a landslide election victory the following summer and a Manchester United academy graduate named David Beckham had just launched himself into the public consciousness by beating Wimbledon's Neil Sullivan from the half-way line.

But while New Labour limps along and Beckham enjoys a state of semi-retirement in America, Wenger remains at the cutting edge of football having carved a real legacy in the domestic game with his revolutionary training techniques, innate ability to pluck a player from nowhere and the distinctive brand of football he has fostered at a stadium he helped to conceive.

Recent years have brought frustration due to a lack of silverware but his legacy, at Arsenal and beyond, is far-reaching and below we present the ten finest moments and achievements in Wenger's reign to date. In a nod to his 13-year stint, we have also selected a further three moments he would rather forget.

1. The Invincibles. Arsenal's success in going the season unbeaten in 2003-04 was not just Wenger's finest achievement but perhaps the greatest domestic accomplishment of the modern era. A 2-1 win over Leicester in May ensured Wenger's side were the first team since Preston in 1888-89 to go unbeaten, although a dubiously-won penalty against Portsmouth and Ruud van Nistelrooy's own spot-kick that rattled the crossbar at Old Trafford, sparking shameful scenes from Martin Keown amongst others, showed just how fragile an achievement this was. There is no disguising the fact that Arsenal achieved the feat with real panache though, with Robert Pires, Patrick Vieira, Dennis Bergkamp and, above all, Thierry Henry contributing to a remarkable campaign. And to think, Wenger was ridiculed for suggesting it could be done the season before.

2. The double Double. Winning both the Premier League and FA Cup in his first season - Arsenal's first Double since 1971 - was quite something, but to do so again within four years was remarkable indeed. Arsenal's triumph in 1998 was due to a combination of the solidity provided by the defence inherited from Bruce Rioch, the dominant midfield partnership of Patrick Vieira and Emmanuel Petit, the electric contribution of Marc Overmars and the utter genius of Dennis Berkgamp. Four years later, it was Freddie Ljungberg, Pires and Henry who rose to the fore, with Sylvain Wiltord stealing the spotlight when winning the league at Old Trafford.

3. Transfer success. Quite simply, Wenger is the greatest manipulator of the transfer market in modern times. Any manager has skeletons like Igor Stepanovs, Stefan Malz and Amaury Bischoff in his closet, but Wenger's hit-rate is remarkable. Sol Campbell (free,) Cesc Fabregas (£500,000) and Kolo Toure (£150,000) are perhaps his three outstanding bargain purchases while his greatest piece of business was signing Nicolas Anelka for £500,000 before making a near-£23 million profit when selling him to Real Madrid two years later. That deal enabled Arsenal to redevelop their training ground and the man who replaced Anelka? A certain Thierry Henry, prised from Juventus for just £10.5 million - another example of Wenger's golden touch.

4. Style makeover. The description of George Graham's Arsenal as 'boring' was always a touch misleading, blessed as his side was with talents such as Anders Limpar, Paul Merson and Ian Wright, but Wenger completely transformed the image of Arsenal within the football community and indeed in the wider world. As the architect of a free-flowing, technically-intricate and attacking brand of football, Wenger installed Arsenal as the team to watch in Europe and with the likes of Bergkamp, Henry and Pires in full flight, they became a byword for attractive football. Recent years have seen a debate over whether style has come at the cost of substance, but what style.

5. Tony Adams scores against Everton. Some of the entries on this list are achievements spread across Wenger's reign, or specific games, but a ten-second snapshot at the end of the 1997-98 season is as significant as any of them. Steve Bould lofts the ball forward and Adams charges onto it, hammering the ball home in the game that clinched Wenger's first league title. It encapsulated perfectly the new style with which his side were performing and the way in which he reinvigorated players like Adams with new dietary regimes and tactical liberation.

6. Henry the record-breaker. Undoubtedly the leading light of the Wenger era, even considering the contributions of Vieira, Bergkamp and Fabregas, it is easy to forget that Henry arrived at Arsenal as a winger who never made the grade at Juventus. Under his compatriot, Henry was transformed into the finest forward in world football and enjoyed a catalogue of stunning goals in his eight-year spell at the club. In October 2005 he surpassed Ian Wright as the club's greatest goalscorer and accumulated 226 in 380 games before leaving to join Barcelona in 2007. The highlights are too numerous to do justice to, but special mention should go to his performance in the 5-1 win over Inter, the lob to beat Fabien Barthez, the 60-yard run and finish against Spurs and his backheel against Charlton. A genius, made by Wenger.

7. The Ferguson rivalry. It did not take long for the Frenchman to rattle Sir Alex Ferguson - the Manchester United manager declaring in April 1997: "He's a novice - he should keep his opinions to Japanese football" - and what followed was one of the great rivalries in sport. Prior to the arrival of Jose Mourinho, Wenger and Ferguson were engaged in almost perpetual warfare, both on the pitch and off. Wenger convincingly won a battle of wills in 2002 when his comment that "everyone thinks they have the prettiest wife at home" drew a furious response from Ferguson, but animosity has disappointingly died down in recent seasons, no doubt in no small part to Chelsea's success in becoming United's great rivals for silverware.

8. Marc Overmars scores at Old Trafford. For many, Robert Pires is the greatest left winger in Arsenal's history but if it was not for his predecessor, the history of the club, and Wenger's career, may have been very different. Arriving in Manchester in March 1998, Overmars raced through on goal and stabbed the ball past Peter Schmeichel to swing the title balance in Arsenal's favour and help deliver the Premier League crown in Wenger's first full season. It was clear proof that Arsenal, under Wenger, were there to stay.

9. 'It's only Ray Parlour'. Facing Chelsea in the 2002 FA Cup final, Ray Parlour took up possession and to the surprise of just about everyone in attendance at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium, produced a stunning effort that seared past Carlo Cudicini. Ljungberg sealed victory with another lovely strike and Arsenal ended their four-year wait for a trophy. The league would follow in the very next game at Old Trafford.

10. Standing defiant. While not marking a title win, or even a league win, Wenger's trip to the stands at Old Trafford earlier this season already has an iconic feel about it. Sent from the touchline for the crime of kicking a water bottle, Wenger bravely made his way to join United fans who have berated him for years - often with the most unimaginable of accusations - and stood, arms outstretched in defiance. It summed up perfectly the way he has been forced to endure cruel taunts throughout his time in England and earned him the respect of many an observer.

Now we present the three aspects of his reign that Mr Wenger would probably rather forget.

1. The Red mist. The name Jason Crowe is likely to be more prominent in pub quiz books than the annals of football history but he boasts the unenviable record of having the quickest ever red card on his debut, having been sent off after 33 seconds of a League Cup tie against Birmingham in October 1997. That was one of the many incidents that helped Wenger's Arsenal fall victim to accusations of a lack of discipline in his early years. It didn't help when Patrick Vieira was sent off in the first two games of the 2000-01 season while the famous battle of Old Trafford in the unbeaten season saw FA charges levelled against a number of players. The tally of dismissals now stands in excess of 70.

2. 'The Battle of the Buffet'. Perhaps the most painful afternoon of Wenger's reign came at Old Trafford in October 2004. Chasing a 50th unbeaten league game in succession, having already beaten Nottingham Forest's record, Arsenal were undone when Wayne Rooney won a highly-dubious penalty and then scored himself after 90 minutes. The aftershocks of that particular defeat took months to subside. The result also left an indelible mark on Sir Alex Ferguson's suit as the United boss was struck by a slice of Pizza thrown by an Arsenal player, who remains nameless to this day.

3. European failure. For all his domestic achievements, Wenger's European record at Arsenal is average at best and the suspicion remains that he needs to win the Champions League to enter the ranks of the all-time greats. The closest his side came was losing a rain-drenched 2006 final to Barcelona, while last season's semi-final defeat to Manchester United was an ordeal from which you suspect the manager is yet to fully recover. A penalty shoot-out defeat to Galatasaray in the Uefa Cup final in 2000 was just another in a long list of disappointments on the continental stage.

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