A little known Alsacian Frenchman blew into Highbury on a September breeze in 1996. The club was in disarray having suffered the loss of a popular and powerful coach to scandal and supporters were hoping for a big name to come in and clean things up.
In what would become “typical Arsenal style” the board instead signed a relatively unknown coach who’s last job was as coach of Japanese team Grampus Eight Nagoya. And, much like the unknowns who would become famous on the pitch for us later, what a terrific signing he would be.
You’ve heard all the stuff before, he’s a visionary leader, a man who transformed Arsenal into a 38,000 seat club in North London to a club that has a modern 60,000 seat Golden Goose and supporters clubs the world over who are so in love with the club that they will get up 8 time zones away, sometimes at 4am, to sing and cheer their beloved Arsenal. You already know that Wenger did that. And most of you already know that Arsene Wenger coached the club to three league titles, four FA Cups, and an unbeatable 49 games without a loss. That unknown coach from France, via Japan, did all that.
In these eleven years there have been ups and downs: losing the UEFA Cup Final on penalties was pretty down but most of those players went on to eternal glory as the team that went 49 unbeaten. Some would probably say that this year had been a down year, 5 defeats already, the captain stripped bare by his suitors, many people say a derelict transfer policy and the booing of Eboue all mark some of the lowest moments I can remember as an Arsenal supporter. But if Arsene Wenger has shown us anything, it’s that those lows always precede a high. So, despite the 5 losses, we’re beating the “top four” and are right there in the thick of the Premiership race, about to take a step into the knockout stages of the Champions League, and we have an exciting young team players coming through — with a fair number of English on the team which should make the Triesman’s and Platini’s and Bleater’s of the world happy.
Good times are ahead. Hell, we might even win something this year!
Despite the highs and lows, it’s been a great 700 games and for those of you who like stats, just take a peek at that link above. In 11 years, Arsene has notched up a nearly 60% winning percentage. With all the Sheffield Uniteds and Wigans who want nothing more than to get away from this Arsenal team with a draw Arsenal under Arsene Wenger have managed to win 58.4% of their games.
It’s been a great 700, Arsene, and may Arsenal get you a win for your 700th matchday.
Feel free to share your favorite moments in the comments below. Hmmm…. the Pardew Scuffle? Winning the league at the Lane? Pizzagate? 49 unbeaten? So many to choose from!
Porto v. Arsenal
Arsene is fielding a weakened team today against Porto, well, weakened because they’re not including Adebayor, van Persie, Sagna, or Cesc. For some, it’s clear that Saturday’s match against ‘Boro is more important to Wenger than winning the group stage tonight. To others, maybe he feels that this team has enough quality to get the job done and is just throwing them on the fire to see how they react.
I’m going with the latter.
Including Eboue in the starting lineup is the type of bold move that Wenger is know for. A sort of stick in the eye to us Ebooers. But at the same time, note what position Eboue is playing: right back. It’s an admission that Eboue is a good right back, but is not a winger. Whereas before Wenger would scramble and play anyone else at right back in order to play Eboue in the midfield, now he’s just playing him, from the start, at right back. It’s a good move and I expect Arsenal supporters to support the player tonight no matter where you watch the game. I’ve argued all along that the reaction was a one-off reaction and Wenger argues that as well in the link above, we wouldn’t want to let Arsene down on the eve of his 700th game would we?
And if they do boo him? Well, Nick Hornby, who has been watching football longer than most of my readers have been alive puts the booing into context.
Getting away from all the Eboue stuff, Wenger has targeted Carlos Vela for great things and is hinting at starting the player tonight. I’m happy for the kid, I just hope Bendtner passes him the ball once or twice.
And finally, Alumia will be captain, even though Gallas is playing. Ow. That has to hurt worse than any boo boo.
I can’t get away to watch the game today, work calls and all that, I will check after work to see if Doyle’s was able to record the game for me but no promises there. And I will try to give a “Good, Bad, and Ugly” tomorrow but as is my policy, if I don’t watch the game, I don’t give you an analysis, it’s just plain dishonest. Either way, I’ll see you tomorrow, though the blog may be about how I solved the mystery of the leaky DNS and not about Arsenal.