Many people of today’s generation thought as a joke that Arsenal was named Arsenal because Arsene Wenger created it. Well, even though most of it is false, but the long term Arsenal manager did revolutionize the Premier League in his way.
When David Dean told the Arsenal group of players that a manager from Japan who goes by the name of Arsene Wenger is coming to one of the biggest clubs in England, they were like “Arsene Who?“
I remember (about my first press conference) how bad my English was! And the curiosity that people had about me because I came from nowhere. But I completely maintain what I said there, one of my jobs was to keep faithful to the qualities I had found here. The world has changed, the players are richer as well. I tried always to maintain the tradition and values of this club as much as I could. Overall I believe I was not too bad.Arsene Wenger
We look at certain aspects which led to one of the greatest legacies in English football.
Revamped Training Methods
Before heading into the first training session, almost every player was not sure what to expect from the Frenchman’s methods on the pitch. In fact, they had no idea what to do when Arsene introduced his innovative drills in the training sessions.
Before 1996, we used to see typical English teams focusing on cycling and other aspects to improve stamina and lung capacity. Here comes Arsene Wenger, and here come the innovative stopwatches with sequential passing drills to improve fluidity in the game.
The ball possession was the key to Wenger’s module. He wanted perfection in that department and he would try his utmost best to get it out of his players.
Sharp, Energetic and InnovativeNigel Winterburn on Wenger’s training methods
There were a few players like Lee Dixon who initially were not sure about Wenger’s training methods, but he was wide-eyed by the context that Wenger presented regarding his training.
“Our feeling was that we had not done enough running. We were concerned that the team wouldn’t be fit enough. The manager calmly explained to us that it was all scientific and that the team would be fine. ‘Have faith,’ he said. Sure enough, 10 days later we flew out of the blocks all full of energy and raring to go. That man knows what he’s talking about.”Lee Dixon on Arsene Wenger’s training methods
Diet Changes at the Club
There was one massive thing that was noticed among the Arsenal squad after their first win under Arsene Wenger against Blackburn. When the team got on the team bus, the players were eating chocolates on their way back. This thing was unheard by the Arsenal squad members who were totally exempted from their Mars Bars.
“I think in England you eat too much sugar and meat and not enough vegetables,”Arsene Wenger
Stuff like alcohol and other leverage drinks were out of their menu. Inspired by the food he’d eaten in Japan, the 7 time FA Cup winner ordered the club cafeteria to stop serving burgers and chips and replace it with fish or chicken, mashed potatoes, and steamed vegetables. Even the apple pie for the dessert was made healthier by scrapping the custard.
Tony Adams said in 2011 that the key of prolonging his career was down to the diet integrated by Arsene Wenger. Furthermore, Paul Merson also gave a detailed insight about the impact Wenger’s diet made on players.
“The vitamins, the diet, everything we were doing was like clockwork. You’d walk in, the physio would be there. Orange juice: bang. Creatine would go in: bang. Stir it, drink it, walk off. It was a machine. He wouldn’t let you do it, he wouldn’t trust you to do it, just in case you forgot.”Paul Merson
Style Of Play
Before Arsene Wenger, Arsenal was a team that was built on being a solid unit. The defensive and pragmatic approach of George Graham brought chants of “Boring Boring Arsenal” across the entire North London which never sat well with the Arsenal faithful. However, things were about to change forever once Arsene came from Japan.
Even though Arsenal still relied on long balls under Wenger, they managed to play some of the best frightening and quick passing games which brought the fans to the edge of their seat. The long ball game took a major turn once he signed Denis Bergkamp which allowed the Dutchman to be the focal point of every attack they created.
The result of this beautiful brand of football? Possibly the greatest Premier League side ever lived in 2003/04 when they went the entire season unbeaten i.e. Invincibles.
The Emergence of Foreign Managers
“When he first arrived, we didn’t know too much about him and one or two of the boys were asking ‘Who is this French guy?”Ian Wright
When Arsene Wenger came to the Premier League in 1996, only him and Chelsea manager Ruud Gullit were the only non-British managers in the League. Arsene Wenger paved the way for numerous non-British managers to become greats in English football.
Jose Mourinho, Jurgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola, Carlo Ancelotti, Claudio Ranieri are some of the notable names who came after Arsene Wenger into the Premier League and wrote their names in the history books of English football.
Fast forward 24 years after Wenger’s first day as Arsenal manager, and now we are running out of English managers in the League as Eddie Howe just left Bournemouth after not being able to survive them in the Premier League. After Arsene Wenger’s artistry, we saw the solidity and unity of Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea, the intense high-pressing game of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, the concept of 3 at the back with Antonio Conte;s Chelsea and one of the greatest underdog stories of all time with Ranieri’s Leicester.
Giving Youth a Chance
One of the greatest aspects that Arsene Wenger brought through was his progression with the academy. Even though the Premier League’s greatest ever academic breakthrough was the 1992 class of Manchester United with legends in Giggs, Scholes and Beckham breaking through at Old Trafford and becoming world beaters, Arsene showed the world the potential of Arsenal’s academy as well as brought through some of the finest French talents to the club.
Aaron Ramsey was snatched away from Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United, he had setbacks in his career with an ACL. However, he broke an 8 year trophy drought in 2014 after Arsenal came back from 2-0 down against Hull City to win 3-2. He also was integral to Arsene Wenger’s final trophy as Arsenal beat Chelsea 2-1 in the FA Cup final in 2017 as Ramsey scored the winner.
Vieira was then little more than a promising 20-year-old who was coming off an unsuccessful stint at AC Milan, which was reflected by his £3.5 million price tag. He went on, of course, to be one of the pillars of Wenger’s title-winning teams and is widely regarded as one of the best central midfielders of his generation.
Nicolas Anelka, Thierry Henry, Robin Van Persie, Cesc Fabregas, Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertasacker were some of the other names that brought through the team and wrote their names into the fabric of Arsenal FC history.
The second decade of Arsene Wenger divided opinion. Even though in the stadium transition, Arsenal sold so many of their great players, Arsene guided the club through that period, continuously got to the Champions League places and remained competitive. However, fans had enough of him as the results continued to decline after the transition was complete.
Many fans think that what he did in the second decade outweighs the first decade, but in the history books, Arsene Wenger will definitely be one of the first names who revolutionized the Premier League in his way.