How Wenger has influenced the Premier League
Although he’s yet to enjoy the longevity of his greatest nemesis, Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsène Wenger’s reign at Arsenal is still lengthier than all of the other 19 Premier League managers at their respective clubs combined. With Wenger’s future in doubt, we decided to take a look at the impact the Frenchman has made on England’s top division.
Made foreign managers more credible
Prior to Wenger’s arrival at Highbury in 1996, English football had only ever had three foreign managers – and none of them had ever won a trophy. While Ruud Gullit pipped Wenger to that landmark, the Frenchman won the Double in his first full season at Arsenal and instantly buried any lingering doubts as to whether overseas coaches could ever truly “master” the English game. In 2017, 11 of the 20 Premier League managers are from outside the UK, and more could be joining us next season.
Revolutionary diet and training regimes
Prior to Wenger’s arrival at Arsenal, the club had a legendary drinking culture, with club captain Tony Adams the most high-profile exponent. Famously, Wenger banned Mars Bars from the team coach after games and burger and chips from the club restaurant, replacing them with more nutritious snacks and meals. At first, his decisions went down like a lead balloon with the upset Arsenal players, but 20 years on, every top-flight club has followed suit.
Whereas Arsenal training used to be comprised of long, stamina-building sessions without the ball, Wenger came in and introduced small-sided games designed at improving the players’ passing ability. Now, all the top teams play a similar style of football to the one that Wenger espoused in the mid-1990s.
Changed public perception of Arsenal
Although Arsenal have always been one of English football’s great clubs, in the late 1980s and early 1990s they were labelled “boring” by fans of other clubs. Under the management of George Graham, the Gunners would regularly win 1-0, taking an early lead and then relying on the formidable defence of David Seaman, Adams and Steve Bould to grind out a victory. From the beginning, Wenger sought to change this, gradually phasing out the old guard and bringing in foreign stars such as Nicolas Anelka, Thierry Henry and Robert Pirès. The 2003/04 Invincibles side are now regarded as one of the finest in Premier League history (for some interesting facts on the Premier League, see this article by 888sport), while Arsenal are still a shining example of attractive, attacking football – despite failing to replicate that early success of the Wenger period.
Trust in young, foreign players
While Alex Ferguson was slowly establishing his iron grip on the Premier League with his “Class of ’92” youth graduates, Wenger relied on his scouting network to bring in young, unpolished diamonds from overseas. Amongst his many successes: Kolo Touré, Gaël Clichy, Anelka and Cesc Fàbregas all made vital contributions to title-winning seasons and went on to enjoy stellar Premier League careers.
No matter what your opinion is on Arsène Wenger, you cannot deny that in 20 years in charge at Arsenal, he’s changed both the club and English football for the better.
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