On September 30, 1996, David Dein controversially introduced a shy and unknown Frenchman as the new manager of Arsenal Football Club.
Plucked from the relative obscurity of Nagoya Grampus Eight in the Japanese J-League, Arsene Wenger was the first manager from outside the British isles to take charge of a Premier League club.
The Gunners' then club captain Tony Adams, reportedly remarked: "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?"
He was branded a nobody by the media, 'Arsene who?' exclaimed The Evening Standard.
Three League titles, four FA cups and 14 consecutive top four finishes later, the 62-year-old, who has come to define the North London club, has found himself facing the same levels of disrespect.
The former Monaco boss has faced the most testing season of his 15 year stewardship of the Emirates outfit. Early results, including their worse loss for 115 years against Manchester United, saw his capabilities as Arsenal manager called into question for the first time.
And Wednesday's 4-0 humiliation in the San Siro once again brought into alarming focus the frailties of the current Gunners side.
Many observers set the game as a barometer for Arsenal's progress since 2008, when the sides last clashed at the San Siro. The results were unhappy reading for Wenger.
The lack of bite and panache amongst the Arsenal ranks was in startling contrast to the dogged and determined performance provided by the class of four years before. And the Frenchman's claims that his team was better now than four years ago were proved, in hindsight, to be misguided.
Without a trophy in six seasons, Arsenal fans until now have been incessant in their loyal support of the Frenchman. However, this season has brought a change of atmosphere around the club. And, following Wednesday's result, GMF conducted a survey of over 2400 Arsenal fans, and found an alarming 63% of supporters decided they no longer had confidence in Wenger's ability to lead their club.
This is a very sad reflection on today's game. In his worst season in English football, Wenger has; seen his side outlast Manchester United in all the cup competitions, steered his team into pole position in the battle for the final Champions League spot, whilst continuing to keep Arsenal profit margin the right side of the red.
It is is this prudence with the clubs finances that has provided supporters with the biggest proverbial stick to hit the Frenchman with. However, with Uefa's financial fair play rules beginning to take effect, the Gunner's are nicely placed to reap the benefits.
So far Wenger's model has been at the mercy of modern football which has produced the financial might of teams such as Manchester City and diminishing loyalty amongst players. He has nurtured and then lost some of Europe's most exciting talent.
But with accounts from this season onwards being used towards Uefa's new licensing system, the Premier League has begun to noticeably slow down it's exuberant ways, with transfer expenditure in this transfer window 70% down last years record level.
While clubs around them reassess their models and begin to rein in their spending, Wenger's side have able to continue in consistent fashion. And as the spending power diminishes, the vultures that have surrounded the North London club's burgeoning youth development will begin to abate.
However, to justify Arsenal belligerent approach since the move to the Emirates, it is fundamental they secure Champions League football for next season. Without it the money saved through frugality and caution in the transfer market will be wiped out by the loss of revenue generated by involvement in Europe's stellar competition. Players will be given footballing reasons to jump ship and Wenger's legacy will be consigned to history.
Arsenal have hit a crossroads in their history. To stick by and continue to show faith in the long term project put in place by Wenger or to throw away years of patience just as the plan comes into fruition. The only answer is to stick with the professor, and reassess at the end of the season when targets have been hit or missed.
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