22nd October – Arsene Wenger

Arsene Wenger probably thought he was not going to have much to celebrate on his birthday as his side trailed 1-0 against Anderlecht but two late goals secured his side the win.

The 65 year old has done a lot for the English game and will always be a legend at Arsenal but up until last season he had been coming under pressure for not delivering a trophy for a long time. However, he has never changed his style and although that has caused frustration from some supporters he has always done the right thing for the club.

Wenger didn’t become a professional until the age of 28 at Strasbourg but even then he wasn’t really considered a player as he did a lot of work managing the youth teams and reserves, restricting him to just 11 league appearances in three years. After he moved on to be assistant manager at AS Cannes in 1983 before becoming manager at Ligue 1 side Nancy a year later. After a good first season where the club finished 12th he struggled and the club were relegated at the end of the 1986-87 season. A few months later he would join Monaco.
Wenger Stras
In his first season he helped them win the title but after this he would become known as a nearly man, leading the club to runners up positions in the league and also in the Coupe De France and the European Cup Winners’ Cup. After a poor start to the 1994-95 season, Wenger was sacked on the 17th September with Monaco in 17th place. In January 1995 he made the move to Japan and became manager of Nagoya Grampus Eight. He had a successful spell at the club, winning the Emperor’s Cup and being named the J-League Manager of the Year. In August 1996 Arsenal sacked Bruce Rioch and Wenger took over winning his first match away to Blackburn Rovers. Arsenal went on to finish third in the league.
Sport. Football. pic: July 1987. England internationals Mark Hateley, left, and Glenn Hoddle with the Monaco Coach Arsene Wenger, the players recent signings for Monaco.
The following campaign everyone knew Arsene Wenger as he led the club to the Premier League and FA Cup double after being 12 points behind league leaders Manchester United at one point. The following seasons were difficult as he again became a nearly man, finishing second in the table and reaching the FA Cup and UEFA Cup final but could not land another trophy. In the 2001-02 season Wenger won the FA Cup and Premier League double for the second time, securing the title at Old Trafford. It looked as though they were going to retain the title when they went eight points clear but lost out on the title. However, they did lift the FA Cup again after beating Southampton.
Wenger Arsenal
The 2003-04 season will forever be in history after his side won the title by going the whole season unbeaten. This run lasted 49 matches but was ended by Manchester United on the 24th October 2004. They could not recover and ended the season in second place but won the FA Cup. This would be his last trophy for a long time as he just could not compete in the league and this was largely down to Wenger falling into the same trap. He would sell a top quality player and replace them with a player that had a lot of potential, unfortunately when they reached their full potential they were then sold. Defeats in the Champions League final and two in the League Cup were tough to take, however they still managed to finish in the top four every season. On the 22nd March 2014 he took charge of his 1000th match as Arsenal manager but they lost 6-0 against Chelsea. They recovered from this and on the 17th May they finally won a trophy after beating Hull City in the final of the FA Cup, making Wenger a five time winner.

The final word can go to long time rival Alex Ferguson. “Over the years we enjoyed some fantastic battles. I always enjoy watching Arsene’s sides. Perhaps the biggest compliment I could give Arsene is that I could never be anything other than competitive with my rival for 17 years.”

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22nd September – Emmanuel Petit

Emmanuel Petit may be more famous for his footballing ability but did you know he was also an actor and starred in a Christmas episode of The Bill?

It may have only been a one off but it is definitely something not many players can claim and adds to his interesting life off the pitch. He also won £17,000 on a fruit machine and kindly gave it all away to charity and after his career had ended he then shaved off his hair for charity in July 2011. He may have been kind off the pitch but when he got on it there were few that could compete with his power and his determination to win.

Petit started his career at the small French side ES Arques-la-Bataille before being spotted by Arsene Wenger. The manager subsequently signed the 18 year old for Monaco in 1988 and he made his debut soon after, featuring in the club’s run to the 1989 French Cup final, which he also played a part in. Petit had a lot of success for Monaco and after becoming a regular in the midfield he helped them win the French Cup in 1991 and reach the European Cup Winners’ Cup final in the following season.
Petit Monaco
In the 1996-97 season he became the club captain and led them to the Ligue 1 title but after 292 games and five goals it was time for him to leave and try his hand in a different league. Petit was reunited with Wenger after Arsenal paid £2.5 million for the midfielder in June 1997. Him and fellow countryman Patrick Vieira formed one of the best central midfield partnerships ever seen in the Premier League and over the next three years they went on to dominate the middle of the pitch. With these two in the side they were a team to be feared and it was unsurprising that at the end of the Petit’s first season at the club Arsenal won the double.
Petit Arsenal
He made 118 appearances for the club and scored 11 goals before signing for Barcelona in the summer of 2000 for £7 million. The midfielder struggled in Spain, largely because he was played out of position and had a lot of niggling injuries that stopped him from reaching top form. In the Frenchman’s autobiography he claims that the Barcelona coach at the time, Llorenc Serra Ferrer, did not even know where he played when he first signed for the club.

After a miserable season, he returned to England and joined Chelsea. He was a first team regular to begin with but Chelsea had a disappointing season and although they reached the FA Cup final it was still seen as a failure. The following season things got a lot better as Petit and Frank Lampard had a fantastic understanding and drove the team forward to a fourth place finish and Champions League qualification.
Petit Chelsea
A knee injury ruined the rest of his career and despite having offers from other clubs he decided to retire on the 20th January 2005.

The final word can go to Arsene Wenger. “I know Manu well enough – because I gave him his start. He was fantastic. I feel his home is at Arsenal Football Club. We were lucky at Arsenal to have Petit at the peak of his career. He was a tremendous player.”