Arsene Wenger: Top Three Highest Of Highs & Lowest Of Lows
Arsene Wenger is gone. He’s finally thrown the towel in after 22 years in north London and as the tributes poured in for the Frenchman, this is a time to reflect on what’s been a rollercoaster of a career.
You could, essentially, split his tenure into two parts: The first decade, which was filled with title wins and challenging for the biggest of trophies. Then came the second half of his reign, which some fans feel as dented his legacy.
Below, we take a look at the top three highs and lows in Wenger’s career.
3. Ending the trophy drought In 2014
The final against Hull City was a moment many felt would go down as a significant one in the life of the current team, ending the drought which weighed heavily on the shoulders of everyone at the club.
Three years on from that fateful afternoon at Wembley against Birmingham City, Arsenal found themselves two goals down inside five minutes and many thought that the Gunners were set to choke at the final hurdle once again.
Also, Wenger’s contract was up in a matter of days and had he lost that final, especially after a monumental collapse in the Premier League, it would’ve been hard to see him extend his contract.
That didn’t happen, though. Santi Cazorla, Laurent Koscielny and Aaron Ramsey staged a sensational comeback to lift Arsenal’s 11th FA Cup.
2. The First Double In 1998
Arsene Wenger often references this as his favourite title given that it was the one that vindicated him and saw him arrive as a household name in England. From ‘Arsene who?’ to claiming the two main domestic trophies available in his first full season, Wenger’s Arsenal were now a force.
Gary Neville, arguably the most prominent voice in punditry, has often stated that the 1998 team was the best he’s faced in his career. It was built on the defensive foundations laid by George Graham and his famous back five, with the added sprinkling of midfield and attacking talent.
1. The Invincibles
“I am still hopeful we can go through the season unbeaten – a frightening thought” – Wenger, September 2002.
He was laughed out of town and after overseeing a season in which he led Arsenal to an unbeaten campaign away from home, Wenger certainly set the bar high.
However, after creating a sensational XI, the former Monaco boss instilled the belief in that side to become immortal and inc their names in history. Won 26, drawn 12, lost zero – that record has been etched in stone.
Lehmann; Lauren, Campbell, Toure, Cole; Ljungberg, Vieira, Gilberto, Pires; Bergkamp, Henry – The Invincibles!
3. Selling Cesc Fabregas
It may seem far-fetched, but this was the beginning of the end for Wenger at Arsenal. Fabregas was the boy Wenger sold Patrick Vieira for. He’s the player Wenger built his new philosophy around – dominating possession and aiming to pass through the opposition.
Moving into the Emirates, Wenger could always rely on Fabregas as a stalwart despite the fact that players had to be sold to fund the stadium – it seemed the Barcelona academy graduate was off limits.
However, when a return to Barcelona became an option for him, the playmaker couldn’t refuse and jumped at the chance.
Arsenal’s identity has been lost ever since.
2. 8-2 at Old Trafford
The heaviest defeat Arsene Wenger has ever suffered, Arsenal were battered by Man United in a game which signified the differing trajectories in the careers of Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson.
Having sold Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy in a matter of weeks, Wenger took a depleted squad to Old Trafford hoping to kick-start his season and all hell broke loose.
It resulted in a week of trolly-dash method for the remaining days of the transfer window; in came Mikel Arteta, Andre Santos, Yossi Benayoun, Per Mertesacker and Park Chu-Young. Arteta and Mertesacker contribute – the less said about the rest the better.
1. Champions League Final defeat, Paris 2006
It seemed like destiny. Arsene Wenger guided his Arsenal side through a tough Champions League campaign without conceding a goal in the knockout stages to the final – a final played in his backyard.
Despite going down to 10-men early on, the Gunners took the lead early on and held on for 77 minutes – but then Henrikh Larsson happened. The Swede came and claimed two assists in a matter of minutes to end Wenger’s dreams.
The 68-year-old’s expression as Juliano Belletti netted in the winner will forever stick in the memory – it’s almost as if he knew he’d never get that chance again.