The news everyone has been waiting for finally arrived on Friday morning when Arsenal announced Arsène Wenger has signed a three-year contract extension.

Last year Arsenal.com dedicated a whole week of content to the Frenchman to celebrate him reaching 10 years as Arsenal manager.

The below article was produced at the time but now Arsenal.com users can read it again and reflect on why Wenger's new deal is so important to the Club.

 

By Chris Harris

The 1998/99 campaign will go down in history as the season Manchester United won the Treble. From an Arsenal perspective, it could have been so different. As Spring sprung, a second consecutive Double was within sight; ultimately, two hammerblows left Arsène Wenger empty-handed. We'll get to those later.

The season started with a notable departure. Ian Wright, having smashed Cliff Bastin's Club scoring record, left Highbury after a little under seven years and a haul of 185 goals. Fortunately, Wenger had a ready-made replacement - Nicolas Anelka.

The latest unknown Frenchman to make a splash at Highbury had already shown glimpses of his class. Now Arsenal had another weapon to add to the silk of Bergkamp and the steel of the Vieira-Petit midfield axis - Anelka's blistering pace.

He certainly put the frighteners on United. Anelka ran Jaap Stam and company ragged in the Charity Shield and picked up where he left off a month later when United visited Highbury. Arsenal won 3-0 on both occasions; Anelka was on target twice and Freddie Ljungberg scored on his debut in the Highbury encounter.

They were the highlights of a somewhat sluggish start to the season. Wenger's side struggled for goals and their momentum was not helped by the experiment of switching Champions League games to Wembley. Late goals conceded in 'home' matches against Dynamo Kiev and Lens extinguished Arsenal's European hopes.

Five days before Christmas, Arsenal clicked into gear. Bergkamp, Vieira and Petit were on target in a 3-1 win over Leeds at Highbury and the champions embarked on a run of 16 wins in 20 games, a sequence which ignited their title challenge and set up an FA Cup Semi Final with old foes United.

With Bergkamp and Anelka among the goals and the Back Four as tight as ever, silverware was within touching distance. Then the first of those two hammerblows landed on April 14 after a 0-0 draw had taken Arsenal and United back to Villa Park for a replay.

With extra time looming and United down to 10 men, Bergkamp stepped up to take a penalty. If he'd scored, Arsenal would almost certainly have been at Wembley. Instead Peter Schmeichel saved, United were galvanised and Ryan Giggs slalomed through the Arsenal defence to score a magnificent winner.

Wenger's team hit back, putting five past Wimbledon, six past Middlesbrough and three past Tottenham to keep their title challenge alive. United's draw at Liverpool - not to mention their fixture congestion - gave Arsenal a slight advantage. Then came hammerblow No 2 on May 11.

Arsenal, level with United on points and goal difference with two games each to play, head to Leeds. With nine minutes left Nigel Winterburn limps off. Four minutes later his replacement Nelson Vivas is caught out of position and Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink heads a late winner. It would be a decisive moment.

The title race went to the final day but, despite Kanu's winner against Aston Villa, United came from behind to beat Tottenham at Old Trafford and win the Premiership by a solitary point. The new champions go on to win the Treble; Arsenal are left to wonder what might have been.

Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source Chris Harris 10 Oct 2006