Where EVERY current Premier League manager was upon Arsene Wenger's arrival in 1996

Eddie Howe
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Rafa Benitez (36)

Benitez, like Mourinho and Wenger, was never much of a footballer. Instead, he joined Real Madrid’s coaching staff at the age of 26, and 10 years later, as his future Premier League rival started to rearrange the furniture at Highbury, Rafa was the proud owner of two P45s (or the Spanish equivalent thereof).

Sacked by Rayo Vallecano after a couple of dozen games and then by Osasuna after only nine, Benitez must have wondered to himself if football was really his thing. Thankfully for Valencia, Liverpool and now Newcastle, he decided to stick at it.

Mark Hughes (32)

It’s easy to forget that the cheery Welshman played for another four Premier League clubs after leaving Manchester United in 1995. The first stop was Chelsea, and 1996/97 Hughes won the FA Cup, the Blues' first trophy of note since 1970.

After eventually hanging up his boots, Sparky continued his conquest of England by managing six Premier League clubs – a record bettered only by Allardyce. A combined 13 Premier League jobs held since 2001 by the current Southampton and Everton bosses have yielded zero trophies and the highest position of sixth.

Paul Lambert (27)

In 1996, Lambert fancied a change of scenery. So, 10 years on from starting his playing career in Scotland and 10 years before ending it there, the midfielder went to Borussia Dortmund for 15 months and won the Champions League, helping to mark Juventus’s Zinedine Zidane out of the final.

Yet here we are now, with Lambert managing Stoke and Zidane in charge of Real Madrid. There’s no justice in this world.

Carlos Carvalhal (30)

The Swansea boss was a journeyman centre-back in his playing days, and if you think that’s damning him with faint praise, bear in mind that Wikipedia describes Carvalhal’s 1987/88 season with Braga as “one of his best years in the Primeira Liga, appearing in 34 games and only being booked seven times”.

In 1996/97, Carvalhal was playing for Espinho, who later gave him a first shot at management. He’d go on to manage 11 Portuguese clubs – enough to make Hughes and Allardyce look positively picky – as well as two in Turkey and one in Greece before turning up at Sheffield Wednesday, then Swansea.

Mauricio Pochettino (24)

This Espanyol defender would like you to know that there’s nothing wrong with wearing an Alice band.

Javi Gracia (26)

The Running Bull of Pamplona, as we’ve now decided he should be called, probably reacted with a shrug when he saw the news that Arsenal had hired Arsene Wenger. If you told him back then that two decades later, his Watford team would lose 3-0 at the Emirates, he’d say: “What’s a Watford? And who are you? How did you get into the dressing room?”

Darren Moore (22)

Currently acting as West Brom's caretaker, metaphorically and perhaps literally sweeping up the mess that Alan Pardew made. Moore took a Baggies side that had lost nine games on the spin and guided them, in his first three games in management, to draws with Swansea and Liverpool either side of an unlikely win at Manchester United.

Back in October 1996, Moore was a young centre-back watching Doncaster beginning to fall apart around him (well, not literally). Sensibly, he got out before things really collapsed into rubble the following season.

David Moyes (33)

As he plodded around the Preston pitch, perhaps Moyes daydreamed about managing Manchester United one day and taking on this Wenger chap who’s all over the news. Maybe, he mused as an opposition striker scampered past him, he’d fall in love with a tall, dark and handsome stranger called Marianne, or something like that. He could even take charge at West Ham, if they’d have him.

In October 1996, these were mere pipe dreams for the defender. Just 15 months later, however, he’d be named Preston manager – and from there, the only way was up… and then down.

The lives of others...

Elsewhere in England, Wenger joined Arsenal at a time when today’s Hull manager Nigel Adkins had just begun at Scunthorpe as a newly-qualified physio, while Reading’s Paul Clement was a PE teacher in Sutton, where he was apparently coaching a pretty decent school basketball team. Less studiously, a teenage Lee Bowyer – now caretaker manager at Charlton – was being convicted for affray.

As for Wenger’s modern contemporaries abroad, Real Madrid’s Zinedine Zidane was 24 and had recently swapped Bordeaux for Juventus at the time of his compatriot’s unveiling at Arsenal. Diego Simeone was carving out a reasonable playing career, too, representing Atletico with the same furious passion that he shows on the Colchoneros’ touchline today.

Milan coach Gennaro Gattuso was yet to begin his own famous story at the club he now manages: in 1996 he was a teenager in Perugia’s midfield, reading guidebooks to Glasgow and wondering if playing for Rangers might make for a fun gap year. Leonardo Jardim, currently manager of Wenger’s former club, Monaco, was a few years older than Gattuso at 22, yet already commencing his coaching career.

Take today’s roster of Bundesliga coaches to meet their former selves in October 1996 and several of them would be presented with gawky teenagers – if that. Domenico Todesco may be preparing to manage Schalke in the 2018/19 Champions League, but when Wenger rocked up at Arsenal he was still giddy after celebrating his 11th birthday. Hoffenheim’s Julian Nagelsmann, meanwhile, has been touted as Wenger’s successor at Arsenal. When Wenger started work there, Nagelsmann was nine.

And finally, what was today’s England manager, Gareth Southgate, doing in the autumn of 1996? Well...

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