Week 238 (6 - 11 May 2018)
In a 22-year spell with Arsenal Football Club, Arsène Wenger has witnessed a revolution of British football. He arrived at Arsenal in 1996 from Japanese side Nagoya Grampus Eight but, as a relatively unknown figure in England, his appointment was greeted with scepticism by many. However, Wenger’s influence has stretched far beyond his results with Arsenal; he became synonymous with the modernisation of the sport, from training methods and tactics to globalised scouting and nutrition.
Though the team lost out to Manchester United in Wenger’s first season, the Frenchman went on to win three Premier League titles as well as seven FA Cups and a UEFA Champions League runners-up medal. Wenger’s 2003-04 team, dubbed “The Invincibles”, played the entire 38-game league season without losing a match, a feat that has never been replicated in the Premier League.
Throughout Wenger’s tenure, the battle for trophies between Arsenal and Manchester United became one of the most iconic in world football. Speaking at his final pre-match press conference, Wenger reflected on his time with Arsenal and, in particular, the rivalry with Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United:
“From 2006-2015 I personally think that I did my best job. Maybe not the most glamourous but the most difficult.”
After a football career that has spanned almost 50 years, there won’t be much that still surprises Wenger, but the reception he received at Old Trafford, ahead of his final match against Manchester United last month, must have caught him off guard. After a standing ovation from the home crowd, Ferguson presented his old adversary with a gift to commemorate Wenger’s services to football.
“The job he’s done in those 22 years in terms of the Premier League is phenomenal,” Ferguson said. “It’s not easy in the modern world to manage a club for that length of time, and it takes an exceptional person to do that.”
Wenger has continued to praise Ferguson in the last week, following the former Manchester United manager’s emergency surgery after he suffered a brain haemorrhage last week.
“Before I start, I just want to say, at Arsenal we care and I would like to wish my fellow manager Ferguson well and very quickly,” Wenger said before his final home match against Burnley last week. “We wish him very well and that he recovers very, very quickly. He’s a strong and optimistic man.”
The relationship that Wenger and Ferguson had on the touchline was always fiery, but the mutual reverence between two of the greatest managers the sport has ever seen cannot be understated. The past week has shown that sport can breed respect so strong that it unites even the most dedicated of opposition fans. For his competitive spirit and dynamic approach to the game, Arsène Wenger is JTA Communicator of the Week.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons