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19 Years On: Arsenal Appoint Arsene Wenger as Manager

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October 1st 1996. Arsenal have a new man in charge following the appointment of Arsene Wenger. Immediately, the British media are asking “Arsene who?” Quite rightly so, he was practically an unknown within the realms of English football.

But he didn’t take long to settle into his new job and helped Arsenal finish 3rd in his first season. The 1997-98 season would mark his first full campaign in charge and saw players such as Marc Overmars and Emmanuel Petit join the club. The midfield duo of Patrick Vieira and Petit immediately made an impact and helped Arsenal achieve a league and cup double. The following season, Wenger would make further signings towards the attacking end of the pitch bringing in Fredrick Ljungberg and Nwankwo Kanu respectively, but the Gunners fell short of achieving any silverware that season.

The 1999-2000 season would see Wenger break the club record fee bringing in youngster Thierry Henry from Juventus. However, they would again fall short of winning the league coming runners up to Manchester United just like the season before. Wenger would guide his team to the FA Cup final the year after only to be beaten by a Liverpool side which saw Michael Owen score twice against them. In August that year, Wenger would break the club record fee once again to bring in Sylvian Wiltord, a move which would be vital as Arsenal would win the league and cup for the 2001-02 season. They would go on to retain the cup the season after beating Southampton 1-0 through a Robert Pires goal.

The 2003-04 season will be regarded as the greatest season in Premier League history for any Arsenal fan. Wenger would take his team through all 38 games without a single defeat. This included 26 wins and 12 draws. Henry would go on to score 30 goals in the Premiership alone and 39 across all competitions. The historic team which played this season are known as ‘The Invincibles’.

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Arsenal would fail to retain their league title but would again win the FA Cup the following season. 2006 would see Wenger take his Arsenal side all the way to the final of the Champions League but were unable to come out on top against a Barcelona side which scored twice in the final 20 minutes of the game to seal the win.

Unfortunately, Wenger would go trophy-less for the next few years but would continue to guide Arsenal to Champions League qualification. 2011 saw Arsenal lose in the dying minutes of Carling Cup Final against Birmingham City. However, 2014 would see Arsenal end their nine-year trophy draught by beating Hull City 3-2 in a dramatic final which would see the Gunners crowned FA Cup champions once again after coming from two goals down. They repeated their run by retaining the cup beating Aston Villa 4-0 the following year.

Despite not winning the Champions League, Arsene Wenger is still considered a great, not just by Arsenal fans, but from football fans around the world. He has developed youngsters, helping them pave a way to the first team and making a name for themselves. This is something he did early on in his coaching career which can still be seen nowadays.

In his 19 years with the club, ‘Le Prof’ has won three Premier League titles, six FA Cups and six Community Shields.

The question remains how long will the Frenchman be at the helm at the Emirates Stadium, and surely only a lack of silverware would bring his 19 year tenure to an abrupt end, having constructed an Arsenal side into one of the Premier League’s heavyweights.

Patrick Vieira Thierry Henry

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