Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Invincibles and Champions League heartbreak – the highs and lows of Wenger´s 20 years at Arsenal

SoccerNews in English Premier League 1 Oct 2016

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Arsene Wenger will celebrate 20 years as manager of Arsenal on Saturday, with his side hoping to mark the achievement with a win over Burnley a day later.

Here we look at a selection of the highs and lows from Wenger’s illustrious time in charge in north London.

 

HIGHS

 

ARSENE DOES THE DOUBLE IN FIRST FULL SEASON

After taking over from Bruce Rioch and leading Arsenal to third in 1996-97, finishing seven points behind champions Manchester United, Wenger ensured the title left Old Trafford for only the second time in the history of the Premier League a season later. Despite signing the likes of Emmanuel Petit and Marc Overmars, Arsenal trailed United by 11 points in March. That deficit was spectacularly overhauled, though, as Arsenal won 10 league games on the bounce – including a 1-0 away win over United – to clinch the title, which was secured with a 4-0 victory over Everton that saw Tony Adams score a stunning fourth. Later that month, Overmars and Anelka netted in a 2-0 defeat of Newcastle United in the FA Cup final to seal the double.

 

WILTORD WINS TITLE AT OLD TRAFFORD

United won three straight titles following Arsenal’s double, but the Gunners wrestled the trophy back in 2001-02 – and did so in incredible fashion. Arsenal scored in every league game of the season, with the most important coming in the penultimate game at Old Trafford, Sylvain Wiltord finding the net on the rebound after linking up with Freddie Ljungberg to give Arsenal a 1-0 win that wrapped up Wenger’s second league crown.

 

MADRID AND JUVE BEATEN AS ARSENAL REACH CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL

Not since winning the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1993-94 had Arsenal progressed to the final of a European competition, but Wenger’s men found form in the 2005-06 Champions League in a wonderful run to the showpiece in Saint-Denis. Arsenal went unbeaten in the group stage before Thierry Henry’s strike at the Santiago Bernabeu saw them knock out Real Madrid in the last 16. Cesc Fabregas and Henry scored in a 2-0 first-leg triumph in the quarter-finals that proved enough to see off Juventus, with Kolo Toure poking home what proved to be the decisive goal in the semi-final tie with Villarreal to set up a mouth-watering final with Barcelona that ended in heart-breaking defeat.

 

TROPHY DROUGHT ENDS WITH SUCCESSIVE WEMBLEY WINS

After so much success in the opening decade of his Arsenal tenure, Wenger experienced a prolonged trophy drought. The 2005 FA Cup final win over United in Patrick Vieira’s final game had been the last time Wenger guided Arsenal to silverware until 2014, when they came from 2-0 down to beat Hull City 3-2 in extra time at Wembley in the same competition. A year later, Arsenal had a much easier time of things, successfully retaining the cup with a 4-0 rout of Aston Villa, a victory that marked Wenger’s sixth triumph in the tournament, moving him level with George Ramsay as the FA Cup’s most successful manager.

 

ARSENAL BECOME THE INVINCIBLES

Arguably the pinnacle of the Wenger era came in 2003-04 as Arsenal became the first English team since Preston North End in the inaugural Football League season in 1888-89 to go an entire league campaign unbeaten. Arsenal’s second league title in three seasons was secured at the home of bitter rivals Tottenham with a 2-2 draw in late April before they came from behind to beat Leicester City 2-1 on the final day of the campaign and complete the term without suffering defeat. Their unbeaten run was stretched to 49 games before it was ended, fittingly, at Old Trafford.

 

LOWS

 

THE END OF THE INVINCIBLES

Having twice won the title at Old Trafford, Arsenal travelled to Manchester looking to make it 50 games without defeat in October 2004. However, the Gunners were undone by United’s forward line as a Ruud van Nistelrooy penalty and Wayne Rooney’s injury-time strike sealed a 2-0 victory for the hosts as Wenger saw his historic run come to an end.

 

BARCA BREAK ARSENAL HEARTS

Arsenal appeared on course to end their superb Champions League run in 2005-06 by lifting the trophy when Sol Campbell headed them in front in the final at the Stade de France in the 37th minute despite goalkeeper Jens Lehmann’s red card 19 minutes earlier for bringing down Samuel Eto’o outside the box. Wenger’s men wasted several chances to double their lead and Arsenal were ultimately made to pay as Eto’o and Juliano Belletti both beat Lehmann’s replacement Manuel Almunia at the near post to give Barca the trophy.

 

COLE AND HENRY SAY FAREWELL

Only three months after the agony of defeat in Saint-Denis, Wenger suffered the ignominy of left-back Ashley Cole being lured away by London rivals Chelsea in a protracted transfer that was finally completed after the deadline had passed. Henry followed less than a year later following an injury-hit 2006-07, making the switch to Barca as key members of the Invincibles team moved on to pastures new. Both Cole and Henry went on to lift the Champions League at their new clubs.

 

MANCHESTER UNITED 8 (EIGHT) ARSENAL 2

Wenger reached perhaps his lowest ebb in 2011 as long-time managerial rival Alex Ferguson and United inflicted a humiliating 8-2 defeat on the Gunners in a devastating display at Old Trafford. Arsenal were only 3-1 behind at half-time, but unravelled after the break as Rooney completed a hat-trick, Ashley Young scored his second and Nani and Park Ji-sung all found the net to complete an embarrassing afternoon for Wenger.

 

WENGER LOSES COOL WITH MOURINHO

The war of words between Wenger and former Chelsea and current United manager Jose Mourinho has been ongoing pretty much since the Portuguese’s arrival in English football in 2004. But tensions between the two boiled over in October 2014 in a confrontation on the sideline at Stamford Bridge. The pair squared up in the first half following Gary Cahill’s challenge on Alexis Sanchez, with Wenger losing his cool and shoving Mourinho. It was a moment that encapsulated just how much Wenger is irritated by the man who helped end United and Arsenal’s duopoly in the Premier League.

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