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20 years of Arsene Wenger at Arsenal: A welcome anomaly for football romantics

Arsenal manager is now Europe’s longest-serving manager. He is certainly the last of his kind.

football Updated: Oct 01, 2016 12:10 IST
Sayan Ghosh
Arsenal

When Wenger took charge of Arsenal in 1996, he was a little-known figure in England and most critics thought the foreigner would be a failed experiment.(Reuters)

Managing a Premier League club is certainly one of football’s most coveted jobs. Perhaps that’s why job security is at a premium. If statistics are to be believed, at least one of the Premier League managers will be looking for a new job by Christmas.

According to statistics from the League Managers’ Association, a record 56 managers were sacked in 2015-16. Eleven Premier League managers were axed and there were 18 dismissals in the Championship — two short of the record high of 20 in 2014-15.

The average tenure for the 56 dismissed managers last season was a little over 15 months. It was the second lowest since 1992. The 11 Premier League bosses sacked had an average of two years and seven days in the job. In League One, where 14 managers lost their jobs, the average tenure was 354 days.

However, every rule has an exception and in this case it is Arsene Wenger.

When the Frenchman took charge of Arsenal in 1996, he was a little-known figure in England and most critics thought the foreigner would be a failed experiment.

Arsene Wenger

(Arsenal, 1996-Present)

Arsene Wenger is currently the longest serving manager in the Premier League and the Arsenal boss just completed his 20th year in charge of the club. He won the double in 1998, only the second in the club’s history, after only his second season. He went on to lose narrowly the 2000 UEFA Cup final to Galatasaray and the 2001 FA Cup final to Liverpool. He won his second double in 2002, winning the league with a 1-0 victory at Old Trafford and beating Chelsea 2-0 in the final of the FA Cup.

Arsene timeline

  • OCT 1996: Arsenal appointed Wenger as their new manager after the dismissal of Bruce Rioch. He was the first non-British manager in their history.

  • MAY 1998: In his second season, Wenger helped Arsenal win the Premier League and FA Cup to complete their second double.

  • AUG 1998: Arsenal defeated Manchester United 3-0 to lift the first Community Shield title under Arsene Wenger.

  • MAY 2002: Arsenal achieved the double once more in the 2001–02 season. They also beat Man United at Old Trafford in the penultimate game.

  • MAY 2004: Arsenal became the first club in Premier League history to win the title without losing a single game.

  • OCT 2004: Arsenal’s run of 49 unbeaten league games came to an end with a 2–0 defeat at Manchester United.

  • MAY 2006: Arsenal reached the final of the UEFA Champions League, but they were defeated 2-1 by Barcelona.

  • OCT 2006: Arsene Wenger oversaw Arsenal’s relocation to the Emirates Stadium.

  • OCT 2009: After surpassing George Allison, Arsene Wenger became Arsenal’s longest-serving manager.

  • AUG 2013: Arsenal completed the club record signing of Mesut Oezil from Real Madrid, totalling £42.5 million (Rs 368.6 crore).

  • MAR 2014: Arsenal were defeated 6-0 by Chelsea in Arsene Wenger’s 1000th match in charge of the club.

  • MAY 2014: Wenger guided his team to FA Cup success as they came from two goals down to beat Hull City 3-2 in the final.

  • MAY 2015: Won his sixth FA Cup, which placed him alongside George Ramsay as the most successful manager in the competition.

Wenger completes 20 years at Arsenal on Saturday and is now the longest-serving active manager in European football. Ronnie McFall had resigned from the Irish Premiership side Portadown FC after 29 years at helm in March.

The biggest reasons behind Wenger’s long tenure with Arsenal have been his team’s success over the years and the way he changed English football. Wenger was the first manager to introduce a diet chart for the players and the results were almost instant. Arsenal won the league and the FA Cup in his second season and again in 2002. Wenger’s crowning achievement came in 2004 when his ‘Invincibles’ won the Premier League without losing a game.

However, it was far from perfect and during the well-chronicled trophy drought from 2005 to 2014, fans were not always in favour of retaining him. In that period though, Wenger successfully oversaw the club’s transition from Highbury (their former home ground) to the Emirates Stadium in 2006 and continued to produce good performances with a balanced budget. In his 19 seasons in London, Arsenal never finished outside the top four in the Premiership.

long reigns

GUY ROUX
AUXERRE, 1961-2005

Roux joined the club in 1961 when they were an amateur team in the third division. He led them to the French Cup final in 1979 before earning promotion to Ligue 1 in 1980. He then went on to win the league title in 1996, as well as four French Cups and an Intertoto Cup triumph. He finally retired in 2005 after a remarkable 44 years in charge.
ALEX FERGUSON
MAN UNITED, 1986–2013

During his 27 years as United boss, he won 13 Premier League trophies, 2 Champions Leagues, 5 FA Cups, 4 League Cups, 1 Club World Cup, 1 UEFA Winners Cup, 1 UEFA Super Cup, 1 Intercontinental Cup and 10 FA Cup titles. Ferguson’s crowning achievement was in 1999, when United won the Champions League, Premier League, and FA Cup to claim the treble.
WILLIE MALEY
CELTIC, 1897–1940

In 1897, the 29-year old Maley was appointed Celtic’s first manager. He never worked with his players in training, he watched games from the directors’ box and never indulged in team talks or half-time talks. But yet, as a coach he led Celtic to 16 league titles, 14 Scottish Cups, 14 Glasgow Cups, and 19 Glasgow Charity Cups.
MATT BUSBY
MAN UNITED, 1945–1969

Busby joined United after the war on 1 October 1945 and went on to win the FA Cup in 1958 and the league title in 1962. He won the league in 1956 and 1957. Busby managed to successfully rebuild his team after the Munich disaster and guided them to an FA Cup win in 1963, as well as the league in 1965 and 1967. In 1968, he led United to their first European Cup.

The times have changed drastically since Wenger took charge in 1996 and at present, most football clubs are operated as big profit-making enterprises by their billionaire owners. The owners are spending huge amounts of money in buying players from all around the world and the managers are expected to deliver results at the earliest. As a result, even the most high-profile names only last two to three seasons at a club.

Over the course of Wenger’s reign, Everton, Liverpool and arch-rivals Tottenham have gone through a total of 24 managers and the current situation can aptly be described by Wenger himself.

“Longevity doesn’t depend only on the coach. We live in a time now where the trend in our society is to always want something new. I still believe that longevity and cohesion and the history and the values of a club have to be carried by someone. I still believe the best situation for a club is to have someone who knows what he wants and has the authority to do it,” he said.

Thus, it can truly be said that Arsene Wenger is the last of his kind and, in the age of trigger-happy owners, a welcome anomaly for football romantics around the world.

Read more:

Arsene Wenger: A truly revolutionary manager, the last of his kind