May 13th well and truly marked the end of an era for Arsenal Football Club. An era which will go down as the most decisive one in the club’s history. An era which saw the club bid adieu to it’s old Highbury home and earmarked the start of a new chapter at the Emirates Stadium. An era that was largely dominated by the success and struggles of one man – Arsene Wenger.
Arsene Wenger’s two decades at the club have been a stark contrast to each other. Both need to be measured with different scales. The Frenchman was singlehandedly responsible for changing the face of English football through his methods, ideas and practices in his first decade at the club. His second decade however was a different proportion altogether. One which demands to be viewed from a different angle, a different perspective.
Arsenal, the club we see today finds itself on a pedestal to challenge for honours only because of Wenger’s success in his second decade. A project for which he time and again rejected the advances of some of the biggest names in the game. Something which goes largely unappreciated. Arsene’s job was one which needed to be done with a certain resolve, and one which was done remarkably well.
Over the years, Wenger has treated the club as his own child. He has overseen the development and rise of the club at large, mentored young players whom he turned into superstars that went on to have big careers, he formed teams which challenged and won with style. Wenger’s finest hour in the Premier League came when he led the Arsenal juggernaut of 2003-04 on a 49 game unbeaten streak which has not been bettered till date.
Tale of two strikers?
Arsene Wenger’s first and last signings at Arsenal can be amalgamated as a tale of two strikers having varying effects at the club in the blink of an eye. His first was the then French sensation Nicolas Anelka, who played a huge part in Arsenal's 1998 double-winning side. The funds from Anelka’s sale were later used to build the club’s state of the art London Colney training facility and buy a certain Frenchman named Thierry Henry. A name the world of football knows all too well about.
Wenger’s last signing for Arsenal was another prolific big name in the form of Pierre Emerick Aubameyang who, as destiny would have it, scored the last goal under his reign and someone who could well go on to play a huge role for the club and for Wenger’s successor.
Arsene Wenger won three Premier League titles and four FA Cup's in his first decade at the club yet his most successful period as a manager was from 2006 to 2013 where he achieved Champions league qualification every season which was indispensable in order to pay off the stadium debt. Amidst all that, his teams played the kind of champagne football which Arsenal are to this day known for all around the world.
Wenger’s biggest contribution at Arsenal is giving the club an identity not just on the pitch, but also off the pitch which will remain the defining image of the club till kingdom come.
And as the curtain falls on a career of two remarkably successful and fullfilling halves, Wenger paves the way for Arsenal to embrace a new era after having won three FA Cups in the last five seasons adding to the entirety of a record breaking tally of seven wins in the competition all testament to the innovator, who at his best, gave us the Invincibles and at his worst, took Arsenal to cup finals.
Arsene Wenger’s legacy at Arsenal goes far beyond trophies. History is kind to those who intend to write it, and Arsene Wenger’s story at Arsenal goes down as one of the greatest ever managerial success stories the game will ever see.
Possession with progression was the name of the game for the best part of Wenger’s 22 years in English football as Arsenal bid farewell to the most loyal fan they have and the English game tips it’s hat to a football purist who transformed it’s horizons in more ways than one.