Arsene Wenger: 17 Years in 17 photos

October 2, 2013 in Premier League by Lizzi Hollis

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This week, on 1st October Arsene Wenger celebrated his 17th anniversary as manager of Arsenal. As a devout life-long Arsenal fan it only seems right for me to celebrate this extraordinary milestone with a tribute to the most successful, infuriating and ultimately best loved manager ever to grace the red site of North London. For those of you who do not share my passion for this amazing football club, don’t worry – this isn’t going to be a saccharine expression of admiration that glosses over all the rough times. This is 17 years of Arsenal and Arsene Wenger: The good, the bad and the ugly (which doesn’t just mean Gervinho’s forehead!)arsene 1

Arsene Wenger officially became Arsenal manager on 1st October 1996 after the sacking of Bruce Rioch the previous August. Wenger won his first game in charge 2-0 Away to Blackburn.arsene2

After two seasons in charge Wenger gets his hands on not one, but two pieces of silverware as Arsenal gain their second double win, in 1998.arsene3

Many scoffed at Wenger during 2002-2003 when he said it was possible for Arsenal to go an entire season unbeaten. But in 2003-04 Arsenal became the first team since Preston North end in the 1880’s to go an entire season without a loss. Although Arsenal haven’t been able to replicate this incredible form in recent years, it is a point of smugness for me that no one else has been able to either!arsene4

Signed by Wenger in 1999 for a rumoured £11m Theirry Henry has a shaky start to his Arsenal career, but proved he was worth every penny and is still the clubs top goal scorer of all time netting 228 times until his move to Barcelona in 2007 and then again when he returned to Arsenal for six glorious weeks in January 2012. He is also the Premier League’s 3rd top goal scorer of all time behind Alan Shearer and Andy Cole.arsene5

While Wenger may have had moments of transfer glory, signing the likes of Henry (above), Emmanuel Petit and Marc Overmars, he really has also made some blunders in his eternal search for talent at a bargain. To just name a few, we have Gervinho, Sebastian Squillaci, Pascal Cygan and Francis Jeffers.arsene6

In 2006 Arsenal moved back to their original North London home, into the Emirates Stadium in Finsbury Park. Arsene Wenger called the £390million development the “biggest decision in Arsenal’s history”. The decision to move came after planning permission was denied to expand Highbury and the result was this 60,000 capacity stadium, the 3rd largest in England. If you haven’t been, I suggest you go: it’s magnificent!arsene7

By 2006 Wenger era Arsenal were becoming accustomed to trophies, but the 2006 Champions League Final defeat to Barcelona (score 2-1) was the start of what is now an 8 year trophy drought. A Jens Lehman sending off then 2 late goals from Eto’o and Belletti sealed Arsenal’s fate and the rest kids, is history.

arsene8The only time Arsenal have come close to filling the now rather sad and empty trophy cabinet was through a successful League Cup campaign in 2010-2011. I would rather not go into the details of the final at Wembley and to be honest they are all rather hazy as I was on a weekend away in Berlin at the time, but lets just say there was some comedy defending, a royal mess up from Szczesny and a goal from Obafemi Martins that still causes me grief to this day.

arsene9Wenger is well known for this wit, never has a truer word been uttered that “errrr, I did not see it”. But whether it is outbursts defending his transfer policy or his assessment of Arsenal’s ‘mental strength’ in each game, Wenger has more than once found himself under the media spotlight for something he has said. This is true of his reaction to the horrific injury caused to Eduardo in February 2008 by then Birmingham City defender Martin Taylor. The injury was so serious that it was questioned whether the Croatian striker would ever be able to play football again and led to Wenger calling for Taylor to be given a lifetime ban, comparing the nightmare-tackle to murder. He later retracted the comment saying it was ‘excessive’ and blamed it on emotions running high after the incident.

arsene10The start of the 2011-2012 season marked Arsenal’s 125 year anniversary as a football club. In honour a new badge was designed and having lost our captain to Barcelona and a chinless tw*t (Sami Nasri) to Manchester City over the summer, we marked this massive milestone with our worst start to a season ever (more on that below).

906564-15114599-640-360Because anything can happen in football, it frequently does. I never expect Arsenal to win at Old Trafford, and after starting this season by drawing with Newcastle and losing to Liverpool, I wasn’t expecting it for this game. What I was expecting for Wenger to field a defence. Arsenal were still vulnerable and weak from the recent losses of Fabregas and Nasri and fielded a depleted side, which included Traore and Lansbury (remember them?), after being hampered with injury. It is a testament to how feeble Arsenal were in this game by the fact that Ashley Young was able to score two goals, neither of which came from the penalty spot. It was a complete and utter drubbing and contributed to Arsenal’s worst defeat since 1896, highlighting again the need for a more solid defence. However, I am pleased to say that we bounced back from this embarrassment and went on to finish the season at the respectable 3rd place, which brings me on to St Totteringham…

9b56ef7c9ed843eaa09bfcc84e628445_lrgThis Arsenal 5-2 defeat of Tottenham isn’t just on this list because we overturned a convincing lead held by our rivals. It’s here because it signifies what Arsenal are actually capable of. The morning of this game we were 10 points behind Spurs and having a truly terrible run of form in all competitions. Champions League football looked impossible and morale was at an all time low. But somehow we were able to overturn not only a 2 goals deficit, but a 10 point deficit in the league and leapfrog Spurs to secure a 16th consecutive Champions League spot. Of course much of Arsenal’s 3rd place finish can be attributed to Tottenham’s evident drop in form as speculation increased around Harry Redknapp’s position as manager, but we can gloss over that for now!

arsene12This just wouldn’t be a celebration of Wenger’s time as Arsenal manager without an iconic image that year on year we can associate with Arsene’s Arsenal. Yes, it’s the winter sleeping bag coat!

arsene13This seems like a million years away now. With Arsenal sitting semi-comfortably, 2 points clear at the top of the table it’s easy to forget that our first game of the season was a complete shambles. After taking a 1-0 lead, thanks to a 5 minute opener from Olivier Giroud, we went on to lose 3-1 at home to Aston Villa. Wenger said we would come back from the defeat and he has not failed to deliver on this promise.

arsene14£42.3 million on transfer deadline day made Mesut Ozil Arsenal’s most expensive signing. In the month that he has been an Arsenal player he has not only scored a thunderbastard of a goal, he has given 4 assists and added some desperately needed class to the Arsenal team. All the praise, Mesut. ALL OF IT!

arsene15Arsenal commemorate Arsene’s 17th anniversary as manger with a 2-0 victory at home over Napoli in the Champions League last night. The goal scorers were Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud.

arsene-we-trustSo sure, we’ve seen some rough times as Arsenal fans, especially in more recent years. There have been moments when I have despaired of my club, likened Koscielny and Vermaelen to Laurel and Hardy and been on the very verge of tears. But there have been some amazing times and with our current run of form I can see all of the old optimism creeping back in. Ultimately, week in, week out the above image consistently appears at each and every Arsenal game.

Thanks for the last 17 years Arsene!