Arsene Wenger was in a reflective mood ahead of Arsenal’s game against Blackburn this weekend, with the Frenchman looking back fondly over his largely succesful 16 years in charge of the north London.
“I wish that in the next 16 years it will be exactly the same for the club and that the fans will be happy.” Wenger told reporters while admitting he had suffered his fair share of lows as well.
With the current season proving to be one of the most challenging of his career, GMF runs down the best and worst moments of Wenger’s time with Arsenal.
Consecutive Champions League
There are few statistics Arsene Wenger holds in higher regard than Arsenal’s record of appearing in the Champions League for 15 consecutive seasons.
The remarkable feat of consistency is a testament to not only the consistency achieved under Wenger but how well the Frenchman has worked within tight budgetary constraints placed upon him.
That record may be in danger this season thanks to the Gunners poor start to the season and recent blip in form, but for a club struggling to make an impact on the continent before his arrival it remains one of his greatest achievements.
The pinnacle of Arsene Wenger’s football philosophy, the 2003/04 season was the one in which everything came together perfectly for the Gunners.
Not since the Preston North End of the 1880’s had a team gone an entire league campaign unbeaten, and it the was the Gunners who wrote their name into the record books as their successors as they went unbeaten for all 38 games of the Premier League season.
To make the deal even sweeter, Arsenal fans rejoiced as they clinched the title with a 2-2 draw at White Hart Lane in April.
Emblematic of everything good about Arsene Wenger’s time in charge of Arsenal, Thierry Henry was the heartbeat of the Gunners during his eight year spell at the club.
Wenger’s influence helped transform Henry from an unfulfilled talent out on the wing at Juventus to Arsenal’s leading goalscorer of all time having switched to a more central role.
The Frenchman was immortalised in stone outside of the Emirates Stadium as a series of statues commemorated his contribution to the Gunners’ history as part of the club’s 125th anniversary celebrations. He deserves his place in Arsenal’s history, but owes a huge debt of gratitude to Wenger for helping to turn his career around.
2006 Champions League final defeat
One of Wenger’s lowest points came courtesy of a potentially defining moment during his time in charge of Arsenal. On the brink of history, Wenger had guided his side the Champions League and to the edge of glory in 2006, with only Barcelona standing in the way of Arsenal’s first ever European Cup success.
Sol Campbell’s thumping header had given the London side the lead early on while Thierry Henry had chances to further extend their lead, but two Barca goals in the final 14 minutes of the game meant they stumbled to defeat in the cruelest of fashions.
End of 2010/Start of 2011 season
What started with a shocking Carling Cup final defeat against Birmingham thanks to a defensive howler extended to Arsenal’s worst start to a league campaign for 58 years. With the Gunners another season ending trophy-less last time round hopes were high that they could scratch that six year itch.
The departure of Gael Clichy, Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas made matters worse for Wenger as demoralizing early season defeats against Blackburn and Tottenham came after a humiliating 8-2 defeat against Manchester United.
For the first time, Arsene Wenger incurred the wrath of the club’s supporters, before an eight game unbeaten run put them back in contention for a top four finish.
Cesc Fabregas’s departure
Another player bought up in the image of Wenger, Cesc Fabregas was the heart of Arsenal – but it was only a matter of time before the Spaniard could resist the call to return home no longer.
Fabregas was Arsenal’s youngest ever captain and the epicentre for Arsenal’s slick passing style – it remains one of the greatest shames of Wenger’s time in charge that the talented playmaker’s time in north London only rewarded him with a single trophy, the 2005 F.A Cup.
Season after season Arsenal and Wenger were forced to dismiss rumours that Fabregas would leave the club, and eventually they succumbed, allowing him to return to Barcelona over the summer of 2011.