Arsene Wenger prepares to take charge of his 700th Premier League match today as Arsenal face North London rivals Tottenham at White Hart Lane.
Wenger’s 1000th Gunners game came against Chelsea in March last year, and there was no reason to celebrate as Arsenal were thumped 6-0 at Stamford Bridge. The Frenchman will be aiming to mark this latest milestone in a more conventional manner, by continuing Arsenal’s resurgence and gunning for the top four.
With 699 games currently under his belt, here is a look back at some of Wenger’s most colourful moments in the Premier League.
First Premier League Title
Wenger arrived at Highbury in 1996 with many English football followers having never heard of the Frenchman. Two years later however, Wenger had revolutionised an ageing Arsenal side and led them to their first Premier League title. Diets and nutrition were altered, training was varied and enjoyable, and Arsenal were playing a style of football fit for the ages. Little did Arsenal fans know that this was just the beginning of a sparkling new era…
Entirely foreign team
One of the changes Wenger implemented at Arsenal was a reliance on foreign players, a decision that received heavy criticism. Globalisation was slowly but surely tightening its grip on the Premier League, and the steady influx had been ongoing since the league’s introduction in 1992. However, no one had fielded an entire squad complied of players ineligible to play for England until Wenger did it in 2005. Six Frenchmen made the 16-man squad, and it worked perfectly as Arsenal smashed Crystal Palace 5-1 at Highbury.
Rumours suggest it was in fact Cesc Fabregas that launched pizza into Sir Alex Ferguson’s face, but Wenger certainly played his part in the Old Trafford tunnel. Arsenal had just lost their 49-match unbeaten record, losing 2-0 to United during a heated encounter, and the tension continued after the full-time whistle. Better known for the pizza-slinging, Wenger continued the ill-feeling by calling Ruud van Nistelrooy ‘a cheat’ in his post-match interview. It marked a high-point in the United-Arsenal rivalry that lit up the Premier League over a decade ago.
Standing amongst United fans
From Pizzagate in 2004, Arsenal began a steady decline at United’s gain, and the Red Devils asserted a dominance over the North Londoners for the next five or six years. By 2009, Arsenal were resigned to fighting for 4th place as Chelsea and United duelled for the title, and Wenger’s frustration got the better of him at Old Trafford. A penalty and an own goal had gifted United a 2-1 win, and Wenger was smarting over a penalty decision earlier in the game. In the final moments, Wenger lashed out at a bottle and was dismissed to the stands. However, Wenger was not given directions and was instead made to look like a buffoon standing amongst goading Mancunians. Despite a full apology, the dignity of a top manager would never be seen again in the eyes of Unitedites.
Another manager who has consistently had an advantage over Wenger is Jose Mourinho. Tension between the two has resurfaced since Mourinho returned to the Premier League last season. He called Wenger a ‘specialist in failure’ for going eight years without a trophy win, and Wenger’s frustration took over in October last year when he pushed the Portuguese manager in the technical area. It was nothing more than a minor shove, but it showed how managers like Mourinho and Ferguson could get under Wenger’s skin.
Old Trafford title win
Arsenal travelled to Old Trafford having just won the 2002 FA Cup days beforehand, knowing a win would seal the Premier League and crown an impressive Double winning campaign. There were few better places to go and win than at eternal rivals United, and Sylvain Wiltord’s strike was enough for the trophy as Arsenal won 1-0.
Unprecedented. Unlikely to ever be produced again, Arsenal went a whole 38-game campaign undefeated and won their third Premier League title. Not only did they win the trophy, but they were able to seal the league at White Hart Lane, home of local rivals Tottenham. It was the perfect way to win the league, and the team Wenger assembled will go down in history as arguably the finest of the Premier League. The club were unable to build on this achievement in the way they would have wished, but Wenger will forever be remembered for building that team.