Arsene Wenger vs Chelsea: 20 seasons of ding-dong battles, by manager
Ruud Gullit (P4, W4, D0, L0)
Player-manager Gullit took the reins at Chelsea in May 1996 and Wenger at Arsenal four months later, with the pair the only non-British or Irish managers in the Premier League in the 1996/97 campaign. Wenger’s late appointment meant he missed the season’s first clash between the two clubs in early September – a thrilling 3-3 draw – while the reverse fixture ended in a comfortable 3-0 Arsenal win in April. Wenger celebrated three more victories over Gullit the following season, twice in the league and once in the Coca-Cola Cup semi-final, before the Dutchman was dismissed in February 1998 to take his not-so-sexy football to Newcastle.
RECOMMENDED Just where have all the player-managers gone?
Gianluca Vialli (P7, W3, D2, L2)
The 33-year-old Vialli was selected as Gullit’s replacement, with the second leg of that cup tie his first match in charge. The Italian got off to a flying start as Chelsea overturned a one-goal deficit to win 4-3 on aggregate and book their place in the final, where they defeated Middlesbrough 2-0.
Vialli recorded a stunning 5-0 triumph over Arsenal at Highbury in the same competition in 1998/99, although Wenger came out on top in the league: the first game between the sides ended 0-0, but Arsenal ran out narrow 1-0 winners in January. The north Londoners then did the double over Chelsea the following season, before back-to-back draws with Arsenal and Newcastle in September 2000 meant Vialli was sacked.
Claudio Ranieri (P14, W8, D5, L1)
Although Arsenal and Chelsea were both fighting for major honours during the early 2000s, Wenger enjoyed an amicable relationship with Ranieri. Perhaps the most memorable meeting between the two men was the only occasion on which the Italian triumphed, Wayne Bridge’s late strike in the second leg giving Chelsea a 3-2 aggregate victory in the Champions League quarter-final in 2004. Wenger completely dominated other than that, with a 2-0 win in the 2002 FA Cup Final securing his and Arsenal’s second domestic double in five years.