Wenger’s legacy looms large over next Arsenal manager

Posted on: April 20th, 2018 | by Daniel Mckeown | No Comments

Arsene Wenger has announced that his 22nd season in charge of Arsenal will be his last, as he steps down at the end of the current campaign.

 

The Frenchman’s departure will leave behind a complicated legacy for whoever succeeds him as manager of the north London club.

 

The new manager could yet have Champions League football if Arsenal are able to prevail in the Europa League, where they face Atletico Madrid in the semi finals. However, 2017-18 has been Arsenal’s first outside the Champions League in 20 years and reflects how their status as Premier League title contenders has waned in recent times.

 

Wenger inherited the Arsenal side from Bruce Rioch, steering them to a third place finish in his first season, 1996-97 and a famous double the following year, winning the league ahead of Manchester United and beating Newcastle in the FA Cup final. Midfielders Patrick Vieira and Emmanuel Petit went on to win the World Cup with France during the summer.

 

Arsenal’s fierce rivalry with Manchester United was emphasised the following season when they finished runners up behind the treble winners and were beaten 2-1 in a pulsating FA Cup semi final, decided by an incredible goal from Ryan Giggs.

 

Arsenal, spearheaded by Thierry Henry, repeated their double in 2001-02 and in 2003-04 they finished the league season as champions without being defeated once, a feat which earned the side the nickname, ‘The Invincibles’.

 

Moreover, Wenger’s side were renowned for the style and tempo of their play, shedding the mantle of ‘Boring Arsenal’, a popular view of the ugly, results-oriented game favoured by previous managers.

 

Although they were runners up again the following year, they never again got close to that standard in the league and, as newly minted contenders for the title emerged to threaten the established order in the shape of Chelsea and latterly Manchester City, Arsenal began to slip away as contenders, although they maintained a remarkable unbroken record of Champions League qualification.

 

In Europe, Wenger’s Arsenal were less formidable they failed to make it past the first round of the UEFA Cup in either of Wenger’s first two seasons and they were eliminated from the Champions League at the group stage in the next two.

 

In the latter, they earned passage into the UEFA Cup, where they made a run to the final, only to be beaten on penalties by Galatasaray after a succession of missed chances.

 

On Arsenal’s sole appearance in the Champions League final in 2006, they eventually succumbed 2-1 to Barcelona, having led at half-time. (This despite having lost goalkeeper Jens Lehmann to a red card early in the match.)

 

This defeat closed the first chapter of a barren spell for Wenger in which Arsenal went eight years without winning a trophy. It is a testament to Wenger’s popularity as a manager that he was able to weather this period, although questions were beginning to be asked about the temperament and consistency of his side.

 

The trophy drought came to an end in 2014 when Arsenal remarkably came from two goals down against Hull City at Wembley to win the FA Cup. they won the trophy twice more in the three years since.

 

 

However, this turnaround was not reflected in their league performance, with a distant second place to surprise champions Leicester City in the 2015-16 season failing to stem the rising tide of discontent among Arsenal fans.

 

None would argue with Wenger’s success in his first decade with the club but many are of the opinion that he has been stubborn and held on too long with his current side.

 

However, if Arsenal are able to win the European trophy that has eluded Wenger for so long in this, his final season, and earn back their place in the Champions League among Europe’s elite, it will be a fitting and a joyous conclusion to the career of one of the giants of the modern game.

 

Who will be next Arsenal manager?

 

The bookmakers’ favourite:

Carlo Ancelotti

 

Worth a punt:

Patrick Vieira

 

Probably not:

Sam Allardyce

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