Wenger - Japan spell had profound effect

Arsène Wenger during his time with Grampus Eight
Wenger during his time with Nagoya Grampus

Arsene Wenger believes his success at Arsenal owes something to his experience as a manager in Japan.

The Frenchman spent 18 months in charge at Nagoya Grampus before joining the Gunners in September 1996 and he will return to Japan this summer for a pre-season friendly against his former club on July 22.

Wenger is guaranteed a warm reception from his Japanese fans and he remembers his time at Nagoya fondly - even though he admits it was a step into the unknown.

"It was a welcome change in my life, a fantastic experience," Wenger told Arsenal Player.

"It's something that changed me profoundly as well. The vision I have of life changed in Japan. It was absolutely a deep, profound and very, very positive experience. I'm very grateful that I went. Perhaps it was a bit crazy of me at the time to decide to go, but I'm thankful for that moment of craziness.

"Maybe [my time in Japan helped me succeed at Arsenal], because I took a distance from the pressure in Europe and came back with a different viewpoint. I can take more distance from decisions now than I could before."

Wenger rejuvenated Nagoya Grampus during his time in Japan, winning the prestigious Emperor's Cup and receiving the J-League Manager of the Year award. And he says he would have stayed longer than 18 months if Arsenal hadn't come calling.

"The vision I have of life changed in Japan. It was absolutely a deep, profound and very, very positive experience"

"Yes, certainly, my determination was always the same while I was in Japan: I would only leave Japan if it was for a big club in Europe," said Wenger. "Then the big club came for me and that's why I didn't stay, but I was not opposed to the idea of staying.

"When I arrived, Nagoya were known as the burden of the J-League as they had finished bottom of the league the year before and lost 13 games on the trot, so the only target was to lose fewer games. When I arrived there was no relegation, so they just wanted to avoid humiliation.

"Nagoya was linked with Toyota and it wasn't good for them that they were bottom of the league and could not win a game. They had six foreign players but could only field three of them, so three never played, so I had to reorganise all of that in my own way.

"We lost the first few games, but then we took off."

Nagoya's fans will no doubt show their appreciation when Wenger returns with Arsenal in July.

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