Written by John Smith
In spite of where you stand on Arsene Wenger in the current day, it’s hard to put into words just how much he has done for not only the club but English football throughout his 20 year tenure at the club. To some he will forever be known as ‘Le Professeur’, the man who completely revolutionised the north London club and brought some of the greatest success during his earlier years as manager.
The man who completely sacrificed his entire legacy – rejecting PSG on numerous occasions as well as other clubs including Barcelona – for the sake of the club that he had known to love. However to others, he is simply known as the man who has stagnated the club and failed to deliver more successful years as manager whilst jeering: ‘Arsene, thanks for the memories, but it’s time to say goodbye’.
From the second he arrived in north London, it was obvious that Wenger meant business and was ready to transform an already historical football club. A virtual unknown in English football, Wenger immediately had much to prove to his critics following his transition from Japan to England.
The media were quick to apply pressure on the new Arsenal boss, and writer Nick Hornby summarised it perfectly by going on to say: ‘I remember when Bruce Rioch was sacked, one of the papers had three or four names. It was Terry Venables, Johan Cruyff and then, at the end, Arsène Wenger. I remember thinking as a fan, I bet it’s Arsène Wenger, because I haven’t heard of him and I’ve heard of the other two. Trust Arsenal to appoint the boring one that you haven’t heard of.’
In addition to this, the Arsenal players were quick to add extra pressure on Wenger. Club captain Tony Adams went on to say that: ‘At first, I thought, what does this Frenchman know about football? He wears glasses and looks more like a schoolteacher.’ Lee Dixon followed by revealing: ‘The players filed in and in front of us stood this tall, slightly built man who gave no impression whatsoever of being a football manager.’
Notwithstanding the fact that Wenger lost the support from his fellow players upon his arrival, the second he began to make crucial changes, all opinions changed.Unlike his predecessors Rioch and George Graham, the board gave Wenger a lot more freedom at the club; control over transfers, contracts and also training sessions. The second he arrived to the historical London club, Wenger immediately began to make changes that would influence and transform English football as we know of it.
Lecturing the importance of a healthy and balanced diet, in came the nutritional experts to monitor the respective player’s diets. The days of Mars bars, red meat and alcohol were long gone as pasta, boiled chicken and raw vegetables came in.
Taking into consideration the changes he made to his players diet, Wenger also played an unforgettable part in reconstructing the training regimes. The long, boring training sessions that were used by Graham were scrapped, Wenger was taking control and doing everything his own way.
New training sessions, specific personal training and brand new dietary plans were all unveiled and the media were angry at the revolutionary changes. But soon all clubs followed in a similar direction to what Wenger introduced to English football.
Although failing to qualify for the Champions League – missing out due to Newcastle United having a higher goal difference – Arsenal were still able to finish in a respectable third place, two places higher than Rioch’s only reign at the club. With flowing attacking football as well as constant brilliant performances on display, Wenger soon won the hearts of not only his players, but all Arsenal fans.