By Walter Broeckx
Yesterday the story was on Arsenal.com about the first time Wenger visited Arsenal. The article can be found clicking on this link
For those who don’t want to click I will tell you that Wenger visited Arsenal at Highbury for the first time in 1989. On 2 January to be exact. As he came from Turkey where he had watched the next opponent for Monaco a few days earlier he decided to fly back to France stopping in London. As the football addict Wenger is and was he knew it was the only place in Europe where they played football at that time of the year.
I sometimes wonder what his wife had to say about him? Spending the new year in Turkey, then not going home directly but make a detour to London and then only then back to the South of France where he lived at the time. Or maybe she was glad he was out the door so she could spend time with friends, family without having to hear him talk about football day and night?
Anyway back to this memorable day. A memorable day because the match itself was a rather important one. It was our home match against Tottenham. And at the end of the day Arsenal won 2-0 with goals from Merson and Thomas. The same Thomas that 5 months later in the last minute of the last match of the season on that memorable day at Anfield would run towards goal with the commentator shouting : “it’s up for grabs now” and grabbing he did. And so did we.
I quote Wenger now as he said: “I immediately thought that football in England was great. There was a fantastic atmosphere at Highbury and I just wondered ‘is everywhere like this? – even at that time I thought it would be great to be part of that.
“Obviously on that day I could never imagine that I would come back one day as manager, it was not even in my head. It was just a coincidence because on that day I first met [former vice-chairman] David Dein and from then on we developed a friendship.”
So that day 02 January 1989 really was a memorable day. It was the day that most of us remember. The day we fall in love with Arsenal. Just imagine one split second if he would have fallen in love for the other team that day. Just imagine….and shiver…. Come to think of it….it is more than shivering. It is shaking as if one is in the biggest earthquake ever.
Wenger meeting Dein on that day decided the way Arsenal would go further in history. A day that you should put in the anniversary files, Tony as the day the modern Arsenal was born. Without us knowing or realising it. In the crowd of 45.129 people sat one man that would change our club. I wasn’t there of course as in those days travelling to London to see a match of football was not really on the agenda. But Wenger was. And that is what mattered most.
How the history of a football club can change depending on the luck of the football calendar, the luck of one person meeting another person and starting a friendship. But that was what made Dein want Wenger to come to Arsenal many years before he actually came in the end. Wenger brought his lucky charm to Arsenal for that season on that day one could say.
And now that we are talking about Wenger and Monaco with the meeting between his current and former club coming soon we could do with a few extracts from a book written by Claude Puel in which he mentions Wenger at Monaco. Let us quote from the book :
“He was the first manager I worked under who did specific tactical training, painstakingly going over video footage in preparation.”
And yet people say that Wenger doesn’t do tactics. Or did he stopped doing tactics somewhere along the line?
“He worked around the clock, constantly preparing the next session or reviewing the drills he’d put us through that day”.
And yet people say that Wenger gives bad training sessions and injures his own players. Would a manager who is so possessed on improving things just refuse to change anything suddenly?
“There would be 45-minute tactical “lectures” before each game, outlining opponents’ strengths and weaknesses, and a reliance upon a data collection program called Top Scorer, a precursor to the modern day ProZone. Every player’s decision on the pitch was analysed: such statistical analysis is a matter of course now but in the late 1980 it was something of an innovation”.
And yet people say that Wenger doesn’t do match preparations before a match and doesn’t give tactical instructions to his players. I think it is interesting to note that Wenger kept this to 45 minutes in total. As I think he realized that after 45 minutes most people would get bored. And Wenger being an innovator, so when did the innovator stopped being an innovator?
“Over time in came new physios, sprint coaches, weight experts, a team doctor, dieticians. Anyone who queried the methodology was offered a detailed explanation and generally saw the light. “
So the myth of Wenger doing it all on his own without listening to anyone else goes down the toilet once again. Why would he bring in all those people if he wasn’t going to use them? Wenger is a manager who will not burden his clubs with spending needless money so why would he let his club pay all those people if he didn’t want to listen or use them anyway? And I can imagine Wenger being all to happy and ready to explain the why to people, after all he is not nicknamed ‘Le Professeur’ for nothing.
Of course all those myths are nonsense but watch out when the first time a result goes against us. All these things will be said as ‘fact’ once again. Without any proof of course.
Two anniversaries of the day – the highs and the lows
25 February 1933: After four successive draws Arsenal signalled their intent on winning the league by beating Blackburn 8-0
25 February 1987: Oxford U 0 Arsenal 0. The first of six consecutive league games in which Arsenal failed to score – the longest such run ever for the club. The manager was… George Graham.