Arsene Wenger’s 11 defining moments at Arsenal: derby delights, power shifts… and Sylvain Wiltord
1. Demolition derby: Arsenal 3-1 Spurs, Nov 1996
Two months after being appointed Arsenal manager in September 1996, the scholarly Arsene Wenger prepared for his first north London derby. Having already set about changing the players' diets, stretching habits and warm-ups, his team faced Tottenham in an almost biblical downpour at Highbury.
With the teams tied at 1-1 after 85 minutes (George Graham would surely have instructed his team to secure the point), the Gunners continued to swarm forwards and skipper Tony Adams volleyed Arsenal into the lead, before Dennis Bergkamp delivered the perfect injury-time coup de grace, curling in a sublime effort to make it 3-1. With passion and panache, Arsenal had finished off the old enemy. “We beat the Scum 3-1,” shouted Gunners fans. Now, Wenger really had arrived.
2. A perfect day: Arsenal 4-0 Everton, May 1998
The high point of Wengerism thus far. On a sun-drenched Highbury afternoon, all the old Arsenal urban myths were laid to rest as the Gunners secured their first title under the Frenchman, hammering the Toffees thanks to a turbo-charged Marc Overmars display.
In the dying minutes, Tony Adams controlled the ball with his chest and smashed the ball home in front of the North Bank to make it 4-0 and win the league in front of his team’s own fans.
Arsenal completed the domestic Double a week later. The defensive shackles had been removed, and taking into account the pyrotechnic nature of modern football, Wenger's fusion of Dutch/French guile and English grit meant that the '98 vintage were arguably the greatest of all.
3. Down and out: Arsenal 1-2 Liverpool, May 2001
"When will this team win another trophy?" ITV's Gary Newbon asked Gunners skipper Patrick Vieira after Arsenal somehow snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in the 2001 FA Cup Final against Liverpool at the Millennium Stadium.
For the third successive season, the Gunners – who took the lead through Freddie Ljungberg and missed a hatful of other chances – had failed to land silverware, and their defensive fragility was painfully evident. The Gunners' torturer-in-chief was Michael Owen, whose two late goals prompted calls for Arsenal’s ageing defence to be dismantled, and Vieira – not for the last time – flirted outrageously with Real Madrid in the close season. But he, Adams, David Seaman and Lee Dixon were far from done at Highbury.
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