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Wenger and Ferguson are the first managers to be entered into the Premier League’s hall of fame.
And rightly so I believe. But there will be dissenters. Not with Fergie, but with Wenger, mainly it’s on the basis that over both their tenures Wenger’s CV is just a shadow of Fergie’s. And yes, taken over that period of time they do have a point. This is how the relative CV’s read.
- 13 Premier Leagues
- 5 FA Cups
- 4 League Cups
- 2 European Cups
- 1 European Cup Winners Cup
- 3 Premier Leagues
- 7 FA Cups
But taking their respective careers at Arsenal and Man Utd as a whole is very unfair to Wenger. The only way to put their relative achievements into perspective is to split Wenger’s Arsenal tenure into two distinct halves. Pre-Emirates and post-Emirates. Because of the financial restrictions associated with the building of Emirates Stadium Wenger’s nett spend on players was a big fat ZERO for the following 10 years.
As such, I believe the only way to make a true comparison between the two great managers is to compare them pre-Emirates. In other words over Wengers first nine seasons, running from season ’96/’97 to season ’04/’05. This is how they compare over those nine seasons:
- 3 Premier Leagues
- 4 FA Cups
- 1 Champions League Runner Up
That’s seven domestic trophies.
- 5 Premier Leagues
- 2 FA Cups
- 1 Champions League
That’s also seven domestic trophies.
Obviously with Fergie’s five titles compared to Wenger’s three, and the CL victory compared to Wengers ‘oh so close’, Fergie edges it, but they are not a million miles apart, and there’s nothing like the gulf that developed over Wenger’s next 10 years of austerity.
But when we compare those first nine seasons there was a massive discrepancy in player spending even then. Wenger’s nett spend on players over those nine seasons was just £47 Million. Compare that with Fergie’s £140 Million and you begin to realise just how big an advantage Fergie had when it came to player acquisition. And just to put that level of spending into some sort of perspective, Pep’s nett spending during his seven-year tenure at Manchester City currently stands at £550 Million.
Finances apart there are other factors to consider when making these comparisons between the two. For a start, Fergie was well-established at Old Trafford and had been building for 10 years prior to Wenger’s arrival. And indeed let us not forget it took Fergie eight whole years to win his first title. It took Wenger just two.
So trophy-wise, especially when finances are taken into account, Wenger’s haul compares very favourably with Fergie’s. But of course trophies are not the only reason for Wenger’s induction into the Premier Leagues Hall of Fame.
Wenger was a revolutionary. He completely changed the face of English football, and arguably football well beyond our shores as well. Here are just a few ways in which Wenger changed the game beyond all recognition. (As ESPN have pointed out).
In fact the ESPN article lists no less than 17 different factors that Arsene Wenger focussed on. He changed the way the players trained, got rid of the drinking culture, changed what was on the menu, created in Invincibles, and made Arsenal regulars in the Champions League (which is what actually paid for the new stadium) so much that only Real Madrid has exceeded Arsenal’s 18 consecutive years in the elite competition.
Plus he brought in players the likes of whom we had never seen before. Thierry Henry was an unknown when he arrived, Patrick Vieira had been frozen out in Italy, no one had heard of Freddie Ljungberg before he turned up… of course the media kept on telling us who Arsenal were going to buy… and they got it wrong every time.
But it wasn’t all slash and burn. Wenger inherited the famous back four, and he embraced them, and then built subsequent defences around their style. And through doing all this he became the first non-UK manager to win the league. More than that, before Wenger the media truly believed that English players and British managers were the best in the world. Suddenly we saw this was not so.
Meanwhile, Wenger gave chances to the kids: Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Wojciech Szczesny, Kieran Gibbs and Theo Walcott – they all got their chance as the old media line of “Boring Boring Arsenal” began to be sung by Arsenal fans as a taunt against the media that had propagated that line through the Graham years. In place of the old defend – defend – defend approach we got “Wengerball” – a style of play that is continued now under the guidance of Mikel Arteta.
And there is more, because Wenger took on the referees and the media. When in his early days at Arsenal the media stood outside Highbury shouting “What about the rumours?” he went out, looked down on them and replied, “What rumours?” The pressmen couldn’t say, because if they did Arsenal and Arsene could sue for slander. They wanted him to say it first so they could report it. He wouldn’t, they went back to their lairs empty-handed. They hated him thereafter.
He also took on the referees. When accused of molesting a referee at the end of the game early on in his time at Highbury, he sent in a written defence saying it was all nonsense, and there were no witnesses. The PGMO rubbed their hands with glee and banned him for 10 games. Recognising just what the PGMO were, Wenger appealed, ran the case in person, and sent PGMO away with their tails between their legs. Of course PGMO never forgave that humiliation, and Arsenal suffered thereafter, but he’d made his point, and referees were more cautious thereafter.
Yes, Arsene Wenger took over at Arsenal and took on English football, and turned both into something much better. We are all forever in his debt.
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