Arsene Wenger arrived at Highbury 18 years ago, and ahead of his 1000th game in charge of Arsenal, the 64-year-old French tactician has revealed he “can’t believe its such a long time”, and every time he looks back he asks where did the time go.
Wenger, who was appointed Arsenal manager in September 1996, added that “focus” was pivotal to his longevity at the club, stressing that the “next game was his drug” – the desire, hope and zeal to win the next match were the driving forces, which makes him feel like he started yesterday.
Ahead of his landmark celebration of ten centuries of games in charge of the Gunners, which he will complete on Saturday lunchtime at Chelsea in a Barclays Premier League fixture, Wenger has described managing the club as an “honour”, and he thanked everybody involved – players, coaching and non-coaching staff for their roles and for giving him the “confidence” to forge ahead.
Also, a special award presentation will be held today in Wenger’s honour during training at Arsenal’s Cobham base. And the longest-serving manager does not intend to allow himself much time for nostalgia, as he aims to keep his side in the title hunt.
Knowing fully well that a win at Stanford Bridge would take them to within a point of the league leaders.
“It makes you feel ‘where did the time go?’. It looks to me like I started yesterday, I can’t believe it is such a long time,” Wenger said.
“Why? Because you’re always focused on looking forward to the next game and when you look back you think ‘I made quite a distance there’.
“Despite that, your only interest is the next game, our drug is the next game, the hope for the next game, the desire to win the next one. You go step by step and finally when you look back it’s a long time.
“I would just like to say for me it’s an honour to manage a club of this dimension for such a long time, and I would like to thank everybody who is
involved in the club for giving me such a confidence for such a long time.”
During his early days, Wenger who is famous for his love for young talents raised an array of stars and world beaters. The likes of Emmanuel Petit, Marc Overmars, William Gallas, Cesc Fabregas – who spent eight years at the North London club before moving to Barcelona, Robin van Persie now at arch-rivals Manchester United, Nwankwo Kanu, Thierry Henry – the clubs highest goal scorer with 174 in all competitions.
A French trio of boss Wenger, Robert Pires and Henry made Arsenal a formidable force in the early 00’s, a period which saw the Gunners go 49 matches unbeaten, which berthed the ‘invincibles’, an European record they’ve held but was broken recently by German champions Bayern Munich, who have gone a step further, with 50 matches unbeaten and still counting.
Nothing lasts for ever as they say, and the last time Arsenal won a trophy was in 2005 – the FA Cup. Since then they’ve gone on a trophy drought that is now fast approaching a decade.
But there is genuine belief 2014 could finally be the year they’ll eventually break the deadlock, with an FA Cup semi-final against Wigan next month, and they are still very much in contention for the league title.