Arsene Wenger was appointed Arsenal boss 20 years ago today: How his arrival transformed Premier League outlook


That was the general reaction of Arsenal fans 20 years ago today after the board announced Bruce Rioch’s permanent replacement as boss would be some French guy who was managing in Japan.

Arsene Wenger was underwhelmingly named Gunners boss on September 16, 1996.

New Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is introduced to the media 22.10.1996.
Arsene Wenger was appointed Arsenal manager 20 years ago today
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New Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger waves to the crowd. Arsenal V Coventry City 19.10.1996.
Arsene Wenger waves to the Arsenal fans on his way to Highbury dug-out for first time
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It had been over five years since the glory days of George Graham, and surely Nagoya Grampus Eight’s manager wasn’t about to bring the title back to Highbury, was he?

Wenger was already blessed with having one of the best defensive units in the history of English football. Now all he had to do was work on the midfield and attack.

Immediately prior to his appointment, Arsenal had confirmed the signings of Frenchmen Remi Garde and AC Milan reject, Patrick Vieira.

In February 1997, he ensured the Gunners beat all their rivals to sign highly-rated 17-year-old Nicolas Anelka from Paris Saint-Germain.

Arsene Wenger beat Europe’s top clubs to sign 17-year-old Nicolas Anelka
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LON27:SPORT-SOCCER:LONDON,17MAY98 - Arsenal's French manager Arsene Wenger holds both the League and the FA Cup trophies at a victory parade in London May 17. Arsenal fans lined north London streets to cheer their team who defeated Newcastle United 2-0 at Wembley stadium yesterday. sr/POOL/Photo by John Stillwell REUTERS Used in The Times Premiership 98-99 Supplement (10.08.1998).
Arsene Wenger holds aloft league and FA Cup trophies won during first full season

Later that season, Wenger proved he really hadn’t read the Premier League rulebook when he took on the one man most shied away from: Sir Alex Ferguson.

With Manchester United in the Champions League semi-finals, the legendary Scot appealed for the domestic season to be extended in order to his weary travellers.

However, Wenger publicly condemned the request — and was labelled a “novice” by an angry Ferguson.

A rivalry was born — and it would become the main feature in clashes between their two sides for the best part of the next decade.

1 Oct 2000: Thierry Henry of Arsenal celebrates with manager Arsene Wenger after scoring during the FA Carling Premiership game between Arsenal and Manchester United at Highbury in London. Mandatory Credit: Graham Chadwick/ALLSPORT
Arsene Wenger transformed English football by signing Thierry Henry
Graham Chadwick/ALLSPORT

And, just a year later Arsenal beat United home and away to wrestle the title away — Wenger became the first non-British manager to win England’s top flight.

Victory over Newcastle in that season’s FA Cup final saw the Gunners become only the second team to win the ‘Double’ for a second time.

Prior to Wenger’s arrival, English football was mainly reserved for the tough rather than the skillful.

But the Frenchman introduced a new style which fused the two.

Vieira brawn in midfield alongside the likes of Ray Parlour and Emmanuel Petit allowed flair players such as Marc Overmars and Robert Pires to flourish.

Face Off. Sky Sports 1 advertisement featuring Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger to publicise the Premiership match between Arsenal and Manchester United on 16.04.2003 at Highbury which is considered to be the decider for the 2002/2003 season.
Arsene Wenger vs Sir Alex Ferguson became the biggest rivalry in English football
Sky Sports
MANCHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM: Arsenal players (L-R:) Martin Keown, captain Patrick Vieira,keeper David Seaman, Ashley Cole,Ray Parlour, and Edu celebrate after a premier league match win over Manchester United at Old Trafford 08 May 2002. The win secured Arsenal the double after winning the cup final 04 May 2002. (Photo credit should read PAUL BARKER/AFP/Getty Images)
Arsenal celebrate after clinching Premier League title in 2002 at Old Trafford
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Prem's foreign-winning bosses post-Wenger

Jose Mourinho — Chelsea ('05, '06, '14)
Carlo Ancelotti — Chelsea ('10)
Roberto Mancini — Man City ('12)
Manuel Pellegrini — Man City ('14)
Claudio Ranieri — Leicester ('16)


On August 3, 1999, the Gunners paid Juventus just £11million in what would turn out to be one of the best pieces of business in English football history.

Thierry Henry had been unhappy in Turin as he had been pushed from his preferred central striking role to the left-wing.

Wenger built the attack around his fellow countryman and was handsomely rewarded.

14 Mar 1998: Patrick Vieira (left) of Arsenal gets away from Teddy Sheringham of Manchester United during an FA Carling Premiership match at Old Trafford in Manchester, England. Arsenal won the match 1-0. Mandatory Credit: Shaun Botterill/Allsport
Patrick Vieira was a stalwart in Arsenal's midfield under Arsene Wenger
Shaun Botterill/Allsport
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger introduces new signings Emmanuel Petit and Marc Overmars to the media. Negative number 1996-992-st3(27a).
Arsene Wenger presents Emmanuel Petit and Marc Overmars at Arsenal in 1997
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Alongside Dennis Bergkamp and Sylvain Wiltord, Arsenal would make history again in 2002.

After three consecutive seasons as runners up to United, they won the title back in style.

They became the first side to score in every match and finish unbeaten away from home.

Even sweeter was the fact they sealed the title at Old Trafford through Wiltord’s goal.

Goals from Parlour and Freddie Ljungberg against Chelsea at Wembley saw the Gunners again complete a ‘Double’.

But the best was yet to come.

Arsenal celebrate clinching the 2004 title at home of arch-rivals, Tottenham
Arsenal celebrate clinching the 2004 title at home of arch-rivals, Tottenham
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LONDON MAY 15: Arsenal Players celebrate beating Leicester City and winning the Premiership season, at Highbury Stadium on May 15, 2004 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
Arsenal complete the entire 2003-04 season without losing a single game
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In 2003-04, Arsenal were determined to win back the title they had blown the season before.

Not only were they crowned champions, they finished the entire campaign without losing a single game.

The ‘Invincibles’ went down in history. In total, their unbeaten run in the league would stretch to a record-breaking 49 games.

The significant cost of moving from Highbury to the Emirates coupled with failure to replace the enormous personalities of Vieira, Bergkamp and Henry has seen the trophy count somewhat dry up since.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 30: Nacho Monreal of Arsenal and Arsene Wenger manager of Arsenal lift the winners trophy following the FA Cup Final between Aston Villa and Arsenal at Wembley Stadium on May 30, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
Arsene Wenger celebrates winning FA Cup for record sixth time in 2015
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With a staggering six viotories, Wenger is the most successful manager in FA Cup history.

In 2016, however, he has become the brunt of anger for many Arsenal fans.

This may be his last season as Gunners boss.

But, whatever happens, it’s important to never forget the Frenchman’s enormous contribution in making the Premier League the global attraction it is today.

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