Arsene Wenger: a fan’s profile of a true football genius
Current Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger or Le Professeur as he is also referred to by fans and those in the British media is one of the most intelligent and forward thinking managers in the game. Before he came to England many had not heard of him but there is no question that his arrival in England at Arsenal during the mid-nineties started a revolution in terms of the training and diets of players. Wenger has now been at Arsenal since 1996 and is their most successful and longest serving manager in their history.
Wenger´s playing career as a midfielder was very low key. He was born in France in the town of Strasbourg in 1949 and as a youth played for two very small teams by the names of FC Duttlenheim between 1963 and 1969 and Mutzig between 1969 and 1973. Mutzig were seen as the Alsace team with the most attractive style of play and it was there that Wenger would meet his future mentor, the then manager of Mutzig, Max Hild. To increase his tactical knowledge of the game Wenger would read various footballing magazines and accompany Max Hild on trips to Germany where he would be able to study different management and playing styles. By 1972 Wenger had become even more qualified by graduating in politics and economics at Strasbourg University.
His playing career lasted between 1969 and 1981 where he played for Mutzig, Mulhouse, ASPV Strasbourg and RC Strasbourg. He played a total of 67 games scoring 4 goals. But while Max Hild had had a huge influence on Wenger at Mutzig it was at RC Strasbourg where the second most influential person on Wenger´s career, manager Paul Frantz, would influence and strengthen Wenger´s beliefs in the importance of nutrition, isometrics and working on a player´s strong points. The last two years of Wenger´s playing career were spent managing the reserve and youth system of Strasbourg, completing a three week course in English at Cambridge and studying for obtaining his coaching badge in 1981 at CREPS in Strasbourg.
Before arriving at Arsenal in 1996 Wenger had coached at Nancy-Lorrraine between 1984 and 1987, AS Monaco between 1987 and 1994 and in Japan at Nagoya Grampus Eight between 1995 and 1996. At Nancy he had no money to spend and in those 3 years finished in 12th, 18th and 19th with the team eventually losing a relegation play-off. But despite this he managed to catch the eye of AS Monaco who offered him the job of manager.
It is at AS Monaco where his career really started to take shape. After joining in 1987 Wenger identified some key players to create his team. They included Glenn Hoddle, Mark Hateley, Patrick Battiston, George Weah and Jurgen Klinsmann. These players with others during his seven year spell, meant AS Monaco won the Ligue 1 Championship in 1988 and the Coupe de France in 1991. His Monaco team were also losing Coupe de France finalists in 1989 and lost in the final of the 1992 Cup Winners Cup. In 1994 Monaco reached the semi-final of the Champions League but were knocked out. With Moanco starting the season badly in 1994 Wenger eventually left and cited later that the Marseille bribery scandal played a huge role in that decision also.
In 1995 Wenger joined Japanese J-League side Nagoya Grampus Eight. His stay would only be for one year and a half and he was joined there at his side by Boro Primorac who till this day still works alongside Wenger. He won the Emperor´s Cup in his first season and was voted manager of the season in 1995. In his last season Wenger finished second in the league which at the time was Grampus Eight´s best ever league finishing position. What is also well known as that Wenger is very well respected and held with high esteem in Japan. His time there, possibly to do with the influence of the Japanese culture too, taught him how to control his feelings and expressions.
“ 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 ? “
Tony Adams – Arsenal Captain
Then in 1996 Wenger, despite not being well known within England and not being one of the favorite´s was appointed as manager of Arsenal who had sacked Bruce Rioch. This was an inspired decision by Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein as Wenger not only installed new training and dietary regimes and nurtured and introduced some special talents like Thierry Henry but bought Arsenal titles and trophiew which were long overdue. Till today he has won three Premier League titles, five FA Cups, five FA Community Shields and won the special and unique league and couple double twice. This was achieved by bringing unknown players to England such as Patrick Viera and Emmanuel Petit and getting Arsenal to play in a fast paced and attractive style of play.
In the 2020/2003 season Arsenal broke Nottingham Forest´s record of 22 aways games undefeated and broke Manchester United´s 29 game unbeaten record. But it would be in the 2003/2004 season that Arsenal would really make footballing history in England by going the whole season unbeaten. This team would and is still known as The Invincibles. The style of football that Arsenal have been known to play has led them to even have been called the most devastating team in the British Isles.
There should be no underestimating of Wenger´s standing in the game especially in England. His philosophy encouraged not only players at Arsenal to change how they viewed and prepared for a game but also at football clubs throughout the league. His ability to spot a young talent, even one with problems and nurture him into a world class player is exceptional and many great players such as Robin Van Persie and George Weah till this day acknowledge Wenger in the role he had in them reaching the highest level of the game.