Arsene Wenger led Arsenal to the Premiership title, the FA Cup and the semi-final of the league cup in 1997/98, his first full season in charge at Highbury.
Our French coach is one of the most dedicated men in football and never took his focus off the job of bringing glory to the Gunners, but at the end of an amazing run of success, he was able to look back at a job well done.
“I was encouraged by the way we started the season because I could see signs of what I wanted from the team. We had draws against Leeds, Leicester and Tottenham but could have won all three games. That was good because I thought that we would go on to win more games if we continued to play with the same pace, spirit and determination. The 3-3 draw at Leicester, when we had the game won, was a lesson to keep our concentration from the start to the end of a match.”
“Going out in the first round of the UEFA Cup was a big disappointment because we want to win every competition we enter and we also wanted to do better in Europe than last season. But the first leg against Salonika was probably where we lost it.
“I was very pleased with our Premiership wins over Bolton, Chelsea and West Ham. Nigel Winterburn scored a great goal to win the Chelsea match near the end and that showed the value of experienced players to the side.”
“I thought that going out of the UEFA Cup had affected us more than I appreciated when we played Barnsley at the start of the month. It affected our confidence and fluency and I couldn’t recognise the team at first. But then Bergkamp scored his first goal and that brought us back into the game.
“After that we looked serious, didn’t make any huge mistakes, scored five goals and didn’t look back. After that we struggled to create chances and score goals in our draw with Palace and Aston Villa. In the league cup some of the younger players showed they have futures as Arsenal players by beating Birmingham.”
“Probably our worst month of the season when we lost to Derby, Sheffield Wednesday and Liverpool. Our earlier goalscoring form, when Wright and Bergkamp had been so consistent, slipped for a while. But our home win over Manchester United showed that we still had the spirit and determination to win big game, even though Dennis was not in the side that day.
“The league cup tie against Coventry gave us another chance to give some younger players a turn and that proved to be vital in terms of gaining experience for later in the season. Marc Overmars also started to show that he had the ability to succeed in England.”
“We had a very good win at Newcastle but the turning point of the season came after our home defeat against Blackburn. The players realised then that they would have to get our early season form back if we were going to challenge for a place in Europe, let along win the title or the Champions League. The win against Leicester in our next match was to be the start of a remarkable 48 points from 18 league games and everyone played a part in that success.”
“I soon realised when I came to Arsenal that teams raise their levels when they play against us. I would watch opponents on video tape and then see a completely different performance when we played them because Arsenal is such a big club and other sides badly want to beat us.
“The FA Cup tie against Port Vale was an example of that when we needed a replay and penalties to get through. We gave a better performance winning the fourth round at Middlesbrough but it was another tough game in the league cup quarter-final at West Ham when we played very well to win. We dominated the first leg of the semi-final at home to Chelsea and should have killed the tie off that night, before going into the second leg, with four or five goals instead of two.”
“We seemed to be playing in two leagues for a while - the Premiership and a separate one for London teams as we played Chelsea, Palace and West Ham so many times. We had to be very solid to come through so many difficult games in a short period and we had very bad injury problems for the league game at home to Palace.
“That was an important win with so many key players missing. The league cup semi-final defeat was a big disappointment although they showed great spirit to win in Vialli’s first gas me as manager. We also needed another replay to beat Palace in the FA Cup so no-one can say we got to Wembley the easy way.”
“The win at Wimbledon set us up to go to Old Trafford with confidence in our next game and the victory there gave us the belief that we could challenge at the top again. The players did very well considering that they knew they could not afford to lose a single match at this stage.
“We won mainly 1-0 but that was not by design as I always encourage the players to keep pressing for more goals if they are ahead. Alex Manninger did very well when David Seaman was injured and made excellent saves in the cup games against West Ham, including in the penalty shoot-out at Upton Park.”
“We did not listen when people said United had the title won and we did not listen when they said we were now favourites. You cannot think like that and must treat every game as if it is the hardest one to win. We scored five against Wimbledon and the four goals at Blackburn were just as good.
“We had found our early season form again and we were attacking with a lot of pace. The FA Cup semi=final win over Wolves was another good example of how the whole squad contributed over the season when Chris Wreh scored the game’s only goal.”
“We could not think of the final at Wembley when there were still so many league games to go. But with three left, I knew that it was very important that we won the Premiership in our home game against Everton. I knew that the away matches at Liverpool and Aston Villa to follow would be hard and that made the Everton game so satisfying.
“Winning the Premiership is my greatest achievement in management and I am very proud of the players. The defeats at Liverpool and Villa were obviously a reaction to winning the title but we had our concentration and determination back in order to beat Newcastle in the FA Cup final."
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