It has been exactly 2 decades today since Arsene Wenger spoke at a conference at Highbury stadium as the new manager of Arsenal and it has been a long journey indeed.
“The biggest things in life have been achieved by people who, at the start, we would have judged crazy. And yet if they had not had these crazy ideas the world would have been more stupid.” – Arsene Wenger
When Bruce Rioch was sacked as Arsenal manager in 1996 and the club confirmed Frenchman Arsene Wenger’s name over the legendary Johan Cruyff, every supporter and critic alike, went bonkers over the ‘naïve’ appointment. As reported by Tony Adams (the Gunner’s captain; 1983-2002) to The Sun, Arsene Wenger’s arrival was a big shock to digest. He said “the name Arsene Wenger meant nothing to me in 1996. He wasn’t a top-of-the-tree British coach with proven experience. He wasn’t a George Graham or an Alex Ferguson. There was a feeling of who the f*** is he and what is he going to do?”
His new ways and transformations like the end of Tuesday Club drinking sessions and pre-match Mars chocolate were met with bewilderment and resistance by the players. But a third place finish for Arsenal in the 1996-97 season made the Arsenal players respect their manager.
“It's silly to work hard the whole week and then spoil it by not preparing properly before the game.”- Arsene Wenger
Nicknamed as “Le Professeur ”, Wenger was successful in dispelling any remaining doubts over him when he led the Gunners to a historic double in 1997-98 season: Winning the league and the FA Cup!
The Gooners started chanting, ‘In Arsene we trust’, reflecting their unfathomable faith in him even as arch-rivals Manchester United went on a winning streak from 1998-2001. And the fans were rightly rewarded when Arsenal won the double in 2002.
Wenger was accorded the status of a legend after the culmination of the 2003/04 season when he led the likes of Thierry Henry, Robert Pires, Patrick Vieira and the other "Invincibles" to an unbeaten run of 26 wins and 12 draws in the Premier League.
A top four finish and an FA Cup now and then, all on a shoe-string budget has kept Arsenal fans loyal towards their manager for quite a while. However, no Premier League title for the past 12 years has worn off the armoured trust they used to have in Wenger.
His almost ‘minimum-spending policy’ has brought him a lot of criticism in recent years and despite leading the Premier League title race for most of last season, Arsenal slipped in the final months to hand Leicester City their maiden league triumph.
Maybe, its time for Wenger to depart as his contract at Arsenal ends this season and the Emirates witnesses a change. After all, to build on something new, something old must have to be changed.
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