Wenger, Monaco and Arsenal : a strange love story

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.


20 Replies to “Wenger, Monaco and Arsenal : a strange love story”

  1. I think the article missed one point. AW’s ability to spot talent, to nurture it and make good players great. The current first team only consisted two expensive superstars. The rest of the players are snips considering the average players bought by Man Utd, Man City, Chelsea, Totty and even Everton for ridiculous price. The performance and stats will prove that. I still don’t believe he got Gabriel for £11.3M. And he is gonna be better than Kos and Per in due time. His economic prudence and responsibility is unmatched until now.

  2. Micheal – I could not agree more. His ability to scout and develop players will have saved Arsenal far more than the cost of the stadium by the time he is finished.

    Very much looking forward to tonight!

  3. Wenger really is quite special and unique. A lot of myths about him have been busted lately. And another one, the club have recently got planning permission to expand their fitness and conditioning facilities, all this with a manager critics say is locked in the late nineties on all things medical and fitness.
    Looking back with hindsight, the only thing I would change, I would have kept wengers friend and master of the dark arts, david Dein on board during difficult times, but that was some board issue and nothing to do with wenger. I wonder if we would have suffered so much with the pgmol if Dein had been around.

  4. Just seen the Welbeck interview on .com where he says “…we have analysed their team…”.

    So just in case there was any doubt that we didn’t…!

  5. My first time commenting on dis site….I just want to appreciate ur good works,hv been reading ur articles,they r all wonderful…..Arsene Wenger? I call him d man born wit football in his head…God bless Arsene

  6. Very enjoyable article. I didn’t know about Arsene Wenger’s first visit to Arsenal.

    I noticed the other day in a press conference he was asked about the players coming back earlier than expected from injury. The questioner implied that Arsene was playing mind games by saying players would take longer to come back than they actually would.

    Arsene replied that he takes the word of the doctor. Why wouldn’t he, as he’s not a doctor himself? But it just bears out the point in the article that he surrounds himself with the best support team and relies on their judgment. He’s not a one-man outfit, just an excellent leader.

  7. Great article Walter. Very enlightening.

    But as you suggest, the second a result goes against us all the same old nonsense will be spouted again.

    “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.”

    Doesn’t bear thinking about.

    To all the naysayers I say, try it, go on, just try it. Try and imagine what Arsenal FC would be like now, had Wenger not fell in love with English football, and Arsenal in particular, on that fateful day.

    Now be honest, it DOESN’T BEAR THINKING ABOUT DOES IT. The thought is just tooooooo horrible to even contemplate.

    So stop your endless whinging and be grateful that we have at our football club one of the greatest football minds in history. One of the greatest innovators. One of the hardest workers you are ever likely to see. A man that is loyal to a fault. The ultimate professional.

    But more, much more for me, is that fact he just seems to be a wonderful human being.

    As you may of gathered, Arsene Wenger is my hero, so I make no apologies for my ‘gushing’ testimony, in my opinion he deserves every word of it and some.

  8. The officials for today seem to be a German team:
    Referee Deniz Aytekin (GER)
    Assistant referee Guido Kleve (GER) , Markus Häcker (GER)
    Additional assistant referee Tobias Welz (GER) , Christian Dingert (GER)
    Fourth official Christoph Bornhorst (GER)


    Stats look like slightly more of a home ref

    He interestingly ended a game in the 88th minute Schalke- St. Pauli (2-0) after a fan threw a beer cup at an assistant ref for calling offside.

  9. Was it not Cecs a few years ago who said that AW does not look at other teams but just focus’s on the way be play?

  10. My recent comment went into moderation, just wanted to say we have a German team of officials today. It will be interesting to see their performance.

  11. Gouresh

    I have heard he said that, but quite honestly I never took it ‘literally’.

    I do believe Wenger’s enormous belief in his own ideas, teams, and individuals, means he approach’s games with the premises that it is more important to focus on what problems we can pose them rather than the other way round.

    But the suggestion he doesn’t do any research into the opponent and make provision for any potential dangers is ridiculous.

  12. Wenger is a man of destiny. His destiny brought him to Arsenal from Monaco. His destiny will take him thru Monaco to CL glory. Dont ask me for evidence Tony, because I dont have any.

  13. Well I don’t mind the CLOSE trophy this season. Just think that our minds play tricks on us sometimes. And as for AW, he found his way home on that faithful 2nd Jan.

  14. I believe Wenger is an enigma. Brilliant, calm and stubbornly consistent. I always believed no one could ever outdo Englishmen at being cool,calm and collected in the face of crises but this French man proved me wrong. Nine years of the worst kinds of abuses and he keeps going.

    Wenger deserves the highest respect, an excellent manager and is a good man whichever way you look at things. I pray that he gets his wish – the CL trophy sooner rather than later, with Arsenal, and probably this year. I dare to believe.

  15. I must admit I did not know anything about Wenger until untold and thank you for all the information about him and arsenal he is definitely a class act!

  16. Walter, the planning application is interesting!

    10.28 ….there are 135 car parking spaces on the site …..

    10.29 ….However, the applicant has indicated that the improved facilities would increase the number of consultants visiting the site. This is anticipated to increase the number of visitors to the site by no more than 5 per day and the existing car parking provision is considered to be sufficient to accommodate this increase.

    I am all agog, to know what state-of-the-art, what super dooper, new must-have equipment requires 5 consultants (?) per day.

  17. Not mentioned above is that Arsene arrived at Highbury for his first visit with the French Championship in his trophy cabinet and spuds great player of his day one Glen Hoddle playing for him.

    Then later they faceed each other as managers! Who would have thought it!

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