Wenger – The game changer

> Arse­nal aren’t the only ones to have thrived un­der the French­man - English foot­ball will be for­ever in­debted to him <

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPORTS - BY SA­MUEL LOVETT

LAST WED­NES­DAY

night, af­ter Arse­nal’s im­pres­sive 2-0 win over Basel in the Cham­pi­ons League, Arsene Wenger said some­thing odd.

“I like his­tory but not es­pe­cially my his­tory. I’m more in­ter­ested in what is in front of me and when you get older what is in front of you gets shorter so it is even more im­por­tant.”

Philo­soph­i­cal, ra­tio­nal, self-dep­re­cat­ing – only Wenger would come out with such a line. But such a statement en­cap­su­lates the spirit and men­tal­ity which the French­man has stayed so true to through­out his time as Arse­nal man­ager.

To keep on push­ing for­ward and break­ing new bound­aries has re­mained Wenger’s rai­son d’etre for nearly 20 years now – all the while re­main­ing re­spectably, though some would say frus­trat­ingly, grounded.

This sort of men­tal­ity has borne nu­mer­ous fruits, not just for Arse­nal but for the English sport as a whole.

But when Wenger was of­fi­cially un­veiled 20 years ago on Satur­day as the Arse­nal man­ager, the de­ci­sion was greeted with a gen­eral sense of be­muse­ment.

“Arsene who?” was the ques­tion that ran on the front of the Even­ing Stan­dard as fans and neu­trals alike re­acted with per­plex­ity to the ap­point­ment.

went one bet­ter, re­mark­ing: “Foot­ball’s ex­pe­ri­ence presents a con­trary propo­si­tion – that for­eign coaches are the prob­lem. Those few who have tried to trans­form the manly virtues of our na­tional game into some­thing more aes­thetic have tended to dis­ap­pear up their own in­tri­ca­cies while their teams have dis­ap­peared down the ta­ble.”

But Wenger has done any­thing but dis­ap­pear. Con­trary to pre­dic­tions, the French­man has in­deed trans­formed the pre­vi­ously “manly” qual­i­ties of the English game into “some­thing more aes­thetic”.

Since his ap­point­ment 20 years ago, Wenger has slowly set about build­ing a legacy at the club which, as cliched as it sounds, has rev­o­lu­tionised the game.

From di­etary re­stric­tions to train­ing ses­sions, Wenger turned the English approach to foot­ball on its head and in­tro­duced a de­gree of pro­fes­sion­al­ism that has now be­come sec­ond na­ture to the way of the sport.

Speak­ing nine years ago, Wenger re­called: “I re­mem­ber my first day at Arse­nal when we were trav­el­ling to Black­burn and the play­ers were at the back of the bus chant­ing, ‘We want our Mars Bars!’ They used to eat them be­fore the game but I took them away.

“Food is like kerosene. If you put the wrong one in your car, it’s not as quick as it should be.”

This at­ten­tion to de­tail has em­bod­ied Wenger’s foot­balling phi­los­o­phy. From ply­o­met­rics and os­teopa­thy to di­eti­cians Arse­nal man­ager Arsene Wenger holds both the League and the FA Cup tro­phies at a vic­tory pa­rade in Lon­don on May 17 1998.

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