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Arsene Wenger

Managing: Arsenal
Nationality: French
Date of Birth: 22/09/1949


Little was known in England about the man who had managed Nancy Lorraine before taking AS Monaco to the French League Championship with a certain Glenn Hoddle in his ranks.

Arsene Wenger had since left his homeland for Japan, to manage the team Gary Lineker had 'enjoyed' a brief spell with, Grampus Eight, but he was pleased to accept the invitation to manage in the English Premier League with one of England's biggest and, historically, most successful clubs.

Arsene replaced Bruce Rioch at Highbury in 1996 but prior to officially joining the Gunners from the J-League, Arsenal had, under the Frenchman's advice, signed two French players. They were Remi Garde from Strasbourg and Patrick Vieira from AC Milan. More Frenchmen soon joined the Gunners including Emmanuel Petit (Monaco) and Nicolas Anelka (Paris St Germain). Dutch winger Marc Overmars also joined the club from Ajax Amsterdam.

Arsenal fans were initially skeptical about the influx of French players to Highbury, but their fears were soon dispelled as Petit and Vieira forged a powerful midfield partnership to help the Gunners to seriously challenge for the title in Wenger's first season - for the first time since 1991. Arsenal eventually ended the season in third place, level on points with Newcastle United but losing out on the runners-up spot and a place in the UEFA Champion's League on goal difference.

In the following season, 1997/98, the Gunners picked themselves up from a slow start to power to the Double, winning the Premier League and the FA Cup and repeating the achievement of Bertie Mee's 1970-71 side. In the process, Arsene became the first non-British manager to accomplish this.

In the process of their late surge for the title, Arsenal also set a Premier League record of 10 successive wins to snatch the trophy from Manchester United, who had looked odds-on to win all season, with some bookmakers even paying out at one stage. It was a testament to Wenger's determination and motivational skills that Arsenal were able to triumph in the final chapter of an enthralling campaign.

The combination of foreign flair and English grit in Wenger's side, typified by the contrasting qualities of Denis Bergkamp and Tony Adams, highlighted the changing nature of the modern English game, something that was certainly apparent to the astute Frenchman.

The following three seasons again saw Wenger's men challenging for the Premiership, but they were thwarted by Manchester United on every occasion. Their European campaigns were generally disappointing although, having been eliminated from the Champions League, The Gunners got through to the final of the UEFA Cup in 1999/2000 only to be narrowly defeated in a penalty shoot-out by Galatasaray.

They were runners-up again, this time in the FA Cup, in 2001, after a Michael Owen double allowed Liverpool to snatch the lead, and the trophy, in a game that Arsenal had dominated for 80 minutes.

Wenger had continued to invest in new talent, bringing in the likes of Kanu, Silvinho and Lauren to replace those who left Highbury. Steve Bould and Nigel Winterburn left the club, breaking up Arsenal's famous home-grown back four, and foreign stars Anelka, Petit and Overmars were all sold for enormous transfer fees. The Frenchman's best buys came again from his homeland, with Thierry Henry, Sylvain Wiltord and Robert Pires all coming to Highbury.

The French tactician has built up a reputation as one of the shrewdest operators in the transfer market and is probably the most successful manager to have come to English football from abroad. He continues to bring the best out of Highbury's collection of continental stars, as well as developing the skills of young English players like Ashley Cole and Jermaine Pennant.

Coveted by several clubs around the world, and by the French and Japanese FA, Wenger committed himself to Arsenal by signing a new contract in 2001.

His loyalty, and the club's foresight, were rewarded with another Double the following season, as The Gunners put their FA Cup heartache behind them with a 2-0 win over Chelsea in the final.

And in the most open title race for years, Arsenal were crowned Barclaycard Premiership champions, securing victory with a 1-0 win at Old Trafford against their perennial rivals.

In a season that saw Henry and Pires in particular excel, the North London side were unbeaten away from home and lost just three Premiership games.

Despite beating Juventus in the Champions League second stage, they were unable to reach the quarter-finals as they had the previous year, but domestically they were untouchable and fully deserved to complete their second double in four years as they smashed countless records.

It further underlined Wenger's qualities as a manager and further engrained his name into the Arsenal history books as a Highbury legend.

He was personally honoured at the LMA's Tenth Annual dinner where, via a satellite link to Highbury, he was presented with the LMA Manager of the Year award, as voted for by his fellow professionals, and the Barclaycard Premiership Manager of the Year award (chosen by a Barclaycard panel).

With plans for a new stadium having been approved, Wenger sees a bright future for the club and is determined to dominate the English game in the way Manchester United had done during the previous ten years, 1997-98 aside.


Previous Clubs

Grampus Eight (JA), AS Monaco (FR), Nancy (FR)

Reproduced under permission from the League Managers Association.
For more information, please visit their website.

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