Wenger celebrates Arsenal milestone

LONDON - Arsene Wenger becomes the longest-serving Arsenal manager on Thursday, celebrating 13 years at the club he has transformed from one of the best in England to one of the best in the world.

Although Arsenal have not won the Champions League during his reign, or any silverware for the last four seasons, they are never far from the major honours and are sure to be heavily involved in the trophy hunt again this season.

After losing two successive Premier League matches at Manchester United and Manchester City, Arsenal have won five games since and should be too strong for Blackburn Rovers when they visit the Emirates Stadium.

Victory would keep Arsenal among the early pace-setters, with second-placed Chelsea playing Liverpool, in third, also on Sunday.

Wenger said this week Arsenal took a huge gamble in appointing him 13 years ago, when the London Evening Standard newspaper famously greeted his arrival with the headline; "Arsene Who?"

It did not take long for those who had not heard of his achievements with AS Monaco and Nagoya Grampus Eight to find out who he was as he led the club to the FA Cup and Premier League double in his first full season in charge in 1997-98.

Arsenal have won the Premier League title twice since and another FA Cup and League double in 2002 while their "Invincible" team were unbeaten in the league in 2003-04.


They have also moved from their homely Highbury ground to the 60,000-capacity Emirates Stadium and now play a brand of exciting, attacking football not seen since the glorious era of the 1930s.

Wenger has said that the Arsenal board were at best brave, at worst crazy, to hire him in 1996.

"When you work abroad it is never easy because, frankly, they do not need you. It is difficult to put into context today because now every foreign manager arrives on a red carpet. It was not like that when I arrived.

"They (Arsenal) needed to be, maybe not crazy, but certainly brave. However I believe I was lucky to find the support I found at Arsenal and that is always important for success."

He added: "I also believe we have the potential here for more success. We have a young team and they have a hunger and great spirit to do well."


The only Premier League manager who has currently served longer than Wenger is his old rival Alex Ferguson at champions Manchester United, who moved to the top of the table for the first time this season last weekend.

United continued their winning run with a 2-1 home success over VfL Wolfsburg in the Champions League on Wednesday, though they lost Michael Owen with a groin strain.

They host Sunderland at Old Trafford on Saturday and could open up a three-point lead, albeit for just 24 hours, over second-placed Chelsea who face third-placed Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

Liverpool were badly off beam in their Champions League defeat by Fiorentina while Chelsea also looked a bit flat, though did secure a 1-0 win at APOEL Nicosia.

At the other end of the table, bottom-placed Portsmouth will be hoping to avoid be