Where are they now? Arsene Wenger’s first Arsenal team, October 1996

Amit Katwala remembers the side that started the Frenchman's first game in charge of the Gunners more than two decades ago

Arsene Wenger chose not to tweak Arsenal's starting XI for his first game in charge – a 2-0 win at Blackburn in October 1996 – but upset the players by summoning them to the hotel ballroom at 8.30 on the morning of the game for an unheard of warm-up and stretching session.

He also banned the usual pre-game chocolate bars, leading to a protest on the coach on the way home from the game. He got them onside eventually, though, and we all know what happened next (y'know, before the suggestions of club-killing and #Wexit protests).   

Here's who started the Frenchman's Arsenal opener... 

David Seaman

Seaman missed large chunks of that first season with injury, but was undisputed first choice throughout his time under Wenger

The mustachioed goalkeeper was a firm favourite among Arsenal fans, having signed from QPR in 1990. He played a key part in their success under George Graham earlier in the decade, and furthered his reputation by saving three penalties in the Cup Winners’ Cup semi-final shootout with Sampdoria, despite playing with two cracked ribs.

That feat was tarnished somewhat by the last-minute 45-yard lob by Mohamed Nayim in the final of that competition, but Seaman’s stock was high again by the time Wenger arrived – he’d just been named in the Euro 96 Team of the Tournament, and his facial hair was thick and lustrous.

Seaman missed large chunks of that first season with injury, but was undisputed first choice throughout his time under Wenger, ultimately playing more than 400 games for Arsenal before leaving to join Manchester City in 2003. Since retiring in 2004 at the age of 40, he’s won a series of Dancing on Ice, briefly captained a team on They Think It’s All Over, and kept goal for England in six Soccer Aid matches. 

Lee Dixon

Dixon remained first choice under Wenger until the Double-winning season of 2001/2002, when he retired at the age of 38

George Graham’s greatest gift to Arsenal was that fabulously mean defence, so well synchronised in the offside trap that it was like watching a Seaman routine on Dancing on Ice. At right-back for this first game was the dependable Dixon, who'd been with the Gunners since joining from Stoke in 1988 and had already won two First Division titles, an FA Cup and the Cup Winners’ Cup.

Dixon remained first choice under Wenger until the Double-winning season of 2001/02, when he retired at the age of 38. Since then, he’s built a reputation as one of the better football pundits – first with the BBC and now with ITV – and also owns a restaurant and The Riverside Brasserie in Bray. He's even invested in a smartphone game called ‘I Am Playr,’ which allows users to live out the life of a footballer – although for the sake of playability, hopefully not Dixon himself.

Lee Dixon

Dixon is a popular pundit for his work on ITV

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