Remembering... 1997/98

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News

May 16, 1998: Wenger wins first Double

May 16, 1998 was a day of celebration for Arsenal fans everywhere.

Having seen their team clinch the league title at Highbury, supporters around the world watched the Gunners secure the Double at the end of Arsene Wenger's first full season in charge.

Marc Overmars and Nicolas Anelka scored the goals that beat Newcastle United in the FA Cup final while Ray Parlour was named man of the match.

Scroll down for our picture gallery from Wembley.

News

Wenger - Why I went with instinct to sign Overmars

It is 20 years since the start of Arsene Wenger’s first full season in English football - but he can still remember it clearly.

In the summer of 1997, the Arsenal manager was in the process of reshaping his squad for a tilt at the title, with Dutch winger Marc Overmars his star signing.

“I had exactly in my mind the type of players I wanted,” Wenger told Arsenal Player. “It was quite easy to [sign] players and it was easy to make decisions as well. 

“The difficult decision was Overmars, because the medical department said at the time not to do it. But I had a clear idea after six or seven months at the club of what I needed to improve the team. 

“It was also a very cheap buy on top of that because he came back from a cruciate [injury].”

Wenger also added unknown quantities such as Christopher Wreh, Alex Manninger, Matthew Upon and Luis Boa More to his ranks during a busy summer.

“They all played their part that season and were young talented players,” he said. “They did not all make it [here] but I went for them because I believe they had the talent. 

“Many of them showed after that they had the talent, like Upson, who had a great career.”

Interview

'They were so confident... they had no fear'

As assistant manager to Arsene Wenger during the 1997/98 season, Pat Rice is perfectly placed to assess what made that team one of the greatest in our history.

The Arsenal legend won the Double himself during his playing days, and says that the squad that emulated that 1971 side had some unique qualities - as could be seen in that season-defining win at Old Trafford.

"They were confident, they were so confident," Rice told Arsenal Player. "They knew they were going out [to win], and they had no fear. 

"They knew in their own hearts that they would create chances to win the game. Of course, with the speed that they had up front, anything can happen. Of course, it did happen. The flick on, and then Overmars is in, and then the goal is scored. It was fantastic. 

“When we were up against it and whenever we were playing at that time, even when we were a goal down and sitting on the line, you thought, 'Don’t worry, somebody else will pick up the bat and somebody will do it’.

"The other thing as well is that with those type of players, they weren’t frightened of having a go at each other. They would have a go at each other, but they had so much respect for each other – I can remember players really getting into a tussle out there but coming off the pitch they would be arm in arm."

Every member of the 1997/98 squad played an important role as we won the Double, but Rice picked out three of the newest members of the side as being particularly key.

“The thing I found with Patrick [Vieira] is that when he is up against it, when his reputation is on the line or his pride is on the line, he just goes up another level," Rice said. "Manu Petit, he was a great reader of the game. He had a brilliant left foot. He could not only play in midfield, he could play at centre back, he could play at left back – he smelt danger. He could create goals, he was a brilliant player as well. 

"Anelka, we know about Anelka. He was so quick, once he was off, boom, you had no chance of catching him. He had a great build for a young man. His reputation came before him, and it wasn’t one of those where the reputation was false, the reputation was true. He could play with players, he had tricks, he was quick, he could finish – he was a brilliant acquisition.”

Interview

'It was one of the best teams I played in'

It is exactly 20 years since the run-in to the 1997/98 season, when we won 10 games in a row to snatch the Premier League title from under the noses of Manchester United.

Nigel Winterburn can still recall it vividly, and says the signings that Arsene Wenger made the previous summer - the likes of Marc Overmars and Emmanuel Petit - helped create an unstoppable force.

"I always say that it is one of the best teams that I played in terms of its power and its ability to play," the legendary left-back told Arsenal Player. 

"But not only that, when it wasn't going so well we could usually tough it out and get a result. 

"Arsene's first signings were absolutely sensational, and people forget about the likes of Christopher Wreh as well who came in and got important goals.

"He didn't play a massive role [with the number of games he played], but in terms of what we achieved, he played a huge part as well."