Arsene Wenger had enjoyed success in France and Japan in the early nineties
Arsene Who? Arrives at Highbury
In September 1996 Arsene Wenger was unveiled as the new manager of Arsenal. It is fair to say the welcome he received from both the fans and media was underwhelming.
Wenger wasn’t at all well known in England and after hoping for a big name to take the hot seat, some fans were less than impressed with Wenger’s appointment.
Even club captain Tony Adams was unsure about Wenger as he revealed his thoughts on the arrival of his new manager:
“At first, I thought: What does this Frenchman know about football? He wears glasses and looks more like a schoolteacher. He’s not going to be as good as George [Graham]. Does he even speak English properly?”
Wenger soon changed opinions of him by producing a team that was capable of challenging Manchester United for the title. He signed Patrik Vieira, Nicolas Anelka and Emmanuel Petit, and Arsenal started playing the best football in the league.
Premier League and FA Cup double
They finished the season in third position but the following year Wenger led Arsenal to a league and FA Cup double. They trailed Man Utd by 12 points with nine weeks of the season remaining, but put a run together built on seven clean sheets in a row to clinch the title.
The turning point in the title race was undoubtedly when Arsenal beat United 1-0 at Old Trafford with a goal from Marc Overmars.
Runners-up and losing finalists
After winning the double in 1998, Arsenal struggled to add anymore silverware to the trophy cabinet for the next few seasons. They came desperately close on several occasions but finished as league runners-up to Manchester United for three years in a row. They also lost the UEFA Cup final in 2000 to Galatasaray on penalties and the 2001 FA Cup final 2-1 to Liverpool.
Despite failing to win any trophies during this period, Arsenal were now playing the best football in the league. The calibre of their one and two touch passing in and around the box was something never seen on these shores before and won them many plaudits. They also received a lot of criticism from pundits and the press for failing to turn this entertaining football into trophies.
However, Wenger was on the verge of building a team capable of beating anyone and doing it in a style never seen before.
He had sold Nicolas Anelka, Emmanuel Petit and Marc Overmars, and Tony Adams and Steve Bould had retired. Wenger brought in Thierry Henry, Sylvain Wiltord, Robert Pires and Freddie Ljungberg to maintain the levels of attacking flair at the club.
In defence he signed Kolo Toure and Sol Campbell to replace Adams and Bould. The best player at the club remained Dennis Bergkamp.
Goals and trophies
The team came together with Patrik Vieira, Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp hitting the best form of their careers. Pires, Ljungberg, Wiltord, Toure and Campbell were superb in the supporting roles.
Arsenal won the league and cup double again in 2002, sealed by beating Man Utd at Old Trafford 1-0 with Wiltord netting the winner. They also set a Premier League record by scoring in every single game. They beat Chelsea 2-0 in the FA Cup final.
In 2003 they threw away the league title after surrendering a two goal lead at Bolton to draw 2-2 and allow Man Utd to top the table. They did, however, retain the FA Cup by beating Southampton 1-0 in the final with a Robert Pires goal. Arsenal are unbeatable – Read more