1000 Not Out: Arsene Wenger's Finest 50 Arsenal Moments

Karl Matchett@@karlmatchettFeatured ColumnistMarch 21, 2014

1000 Not Out: Arsene Wenger's Finest 50 Arsenal Moments

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    Arsene Wenger arrived at Arsenal at the beginning of the 1996-97 season, bringing with him ideals on how the game should be played and a calculating demeanour, which would quickly bring him success and admirers both on and off the pitch.

    Almost two decades later, Wenger has overseen 999 Arsenal games as manager—he'll be in charge of his 1,000th competitive Gunners game against Chelsea at the weekend.

    He's had amazing highs and more than a few lows, relatively speaking, but the French tactician is still going strong and his side are within sight of silverware this season after a barren stretch of late.

    Here are 50 of Arsene Wenger's finest moments as manager of Arsenal.

50. Charity Shield Back to London

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    We'll start off with a very minor achievement in the grand scheme of things but noteworthy nonetheless.

    Arsenal won the 1998 Charity Shield, winning 3-0 against Manchester United.

    It was the first time in 36 years, since Spurs in 1962, that a London side had managed to claim the trophy outright, mainly thanks to the dominance of the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United, Everton and Leeds United in the intervening period.

    London clubs have won it another six times since Arsenal got the ball rolling again in '98.

49. Big Premier League Wins: 7-0 vs. Everton and Middlesbrough

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    Wenger's biggest-ever Premier League wins are worth a mention, too.

    On two occasions, his Arsenal side have picked up a whopping 7-0 victory; first they rattled seven without reply past Everton at the end of 2004-05 season, with six different scorers, before Middlesbrough suffered the same fate midway through the next season.

    Thierry Henry netted a hat-trick on the latter occasion.

48. Arsenal's Future Secured with Wave of New Contracts for British Boys

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    Arsenal and Arsene Wenger secured a big boost during the festive period in 2012 when five of their youngest and most talented home-grown stars all signed new contracts together.

    Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey were the stars of the quintet, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Carl Jenkinson and Kieran Gibbs also all renewing their deals with long-term contracts.

    At least three of those are regular starters for Arsenal when fit, four if you include left-back Gibbs.

47. First Champions League Campaign

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    Arsenal first competed in the UEFA Champions League under Arsene Wenger in the 1998-99 season as they returned to the main competition on the continent.

    The Gunners played their home matches at Wembley Stadium instead of Highbury but failed to make it through a group containing Dynamo Kiev, Lens and Panathinaikos, despite going unbeaten in their first three games.

46. Memorable Match Highlight: Kanu's Hat-Trick and the Chelsea Comeback

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    Some games just stick in the mind, especially dramatic victories over rivals, and for Arsene Wenger one of his most memorable fixtures would be the win for Arsenal over Chelsea in 1999-00.

    Two goals down with just 15 mins to go, Wenger's rescuer was Nigerian forward Nwankwo Kanu, who hit a hat-trick in the sodden conditions, including a 90th-minute winner at Stamford Bridge.

45. 3-0 Comeback vs. AC Milan...Not Quite Enough

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    A 3-0 victory over AC Milan (this season aside) in the normal course of things would be a major result to celebrate, so it certainly gets a mention, but Arsenal's win in 2012 over the Italian giants wasn't quite enough.

    A 4-0 first-leg defeat in the round of 16 of the Champions League meant the home win over Milan wasn't enough to stop Arsenal getting knocked out—but it was still one of their top European performances.

44. Mesut Ozil: New Club Record Signing

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    This one could rise far higher yet but less than a season into his Arsenal career, it would be unfair to judge Mesut Ozil any more than as a player who has done well and offers the promise of plenty more.

    Arsene Wenger opted to make the German playmaker his standout, marquee man when he paid a club record fee of more than £40 million for Ozil last summer.

    It was a sign that Arsenal could and would spend—and could attract the biggest names in the game.

43. Signing of Freddie Ljungberg

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    One signing who did come through and proved an absolute monstrous success was Swedish midfielder Freddie Ljungberg.

    The attacking midfielder was a massive part of a successful Arsenal side, adding plenty of goals to the team from both flanks or behind the forward. His versatility as much as his technical ability was key to Wenger's lineups at home and abroad.

    For a small sum of around £3 million, he represents one of the best-value deals Wenger completed.

42. Epic 7-5 Comeback vs. Reading in the League Cup, 2012-13

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    This game on 30 October 2012 initially looked like it would be one of Wenger's worst results, with Arsenal 4-0 down to Reading in the League Cup inside 37 minutes.

    A huge turnaround, however, saw the Gunners hit back with four of their own, take the match to extra time—and run out 7-5 winners in the end.

    It was a great show of resilience and strength of character by Wenger's side to come back and take the win after their initial slow start.

41. Biggest Win over Rivals Manchester United

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    Wenger hasn't enjoyed enormous success over the years against Manchester United—who has?—but he has had the odd memorable win.

    The Arsenal boss' biggest win over his great rivals came in 2001-02 when the Gunners secured a huge 4-0 victory over the Red Devils in the League Cup.

    Sylvain Wiltord netted a hat-trick and Kanu scored another.

40. 15 Games Unbeaten Start to the Season in 2007-08

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    Arsene Wenger has always proven capable of inspiring his team to long, impressive, unbeaten runs.

    Several times over the years, he has cajoled an excellent start or finish to the season from his side, with 2007-08 seeing one such beginning.

    The Gunners went 15 games from the start unbeaten, winning 11 and drawing four, placing them top by four points at the start of December after that run.

39. 2013-14 FA Cup 3rd-Round Win over Tottenham Hotspur

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    On its own, this victory doesn't merit too much just yet.

    But given the way the FA Cup has turned out this season, it might just end up as the starting point for Arsenal and Arsene Wenger to end their long overdue run of trophyless seasons.

    Arsenal managed a third-round derby day win over Tottenham in January, followed by wins over Coventry, Liverpool and Everton. Now in the semi-finals, they're favourites to win the competition and should manage a first piece of silverware since 2005.

38. Signing Santi Cazorla

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    Another of Wenger's biggest and best signings is Santi Cazorla. The Spaniard has struggled a little with injury this season, but he made a massive and immediate impact in his debut campaign and brings so much to the team.

    He has been a successful signing for the Gunners and can be a big part of the next iteration of Wenger's team.

37. Finally out of the Group Stages in the Champions League, 2000-01

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    Wenger finally managed to guide Arsenal through the group stages and into the knockout rounds in the 2000-01 season, where they navigated the likes of Lazio, Shakhtar and Lyon in the two group stages.

    The quarter-final tie against Valencia was Wenger's first experience of Champions League knockout football with Arsenal in his fifth season with the club.

36. 4-0 at Leeds United in the Top Two Battle in 1999-00

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    Arsenal didn't win the league in 1999-00, but they performed well enough over the last two months to lift themselves into second place and take the league runner-up spot after even that had looked out of reach at one point.

    One of the big catalysts for that late run was an impressive 4-0 win, away from home, against Leeds United—who eventually finished third, four points behind the Gunners. That came in the midst of an eight-game winning streak to seal second place. Tottenham and Chelsea also fell victim in that run.

35. 5-0 Win over FC Porto in the Champions League Knockout

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    A famous Champions League night was needed in 2010, with Arsenal facing elimination at the hands of Porto after the Portuguese side won 2-1 in the first leg.

    Wenger's men produced one of their finest European showings to date to sweep aside their rivals by a fantastic 5-0 scoreline, winning 6-2 on aggregate.

    Samir Nasri and Emmanuel Eboue scored one apiece while Nicklas Bendtner—yes, Nicklas Bendtner— scored a hat-trick.

34. 21-Game Unbeaten Run in 2008-09 to Salvage Top-4 Spot

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    By mid-November in the 2008-09 season, Arsenal already found themselves out of the title race, but they were also out of the Premier League's top four after three defeats in four games in that month.

    Things weren't looking great—but Wenger's ability to turn things round for his side and inspire consistency was on display as they put together a 21-match streak without defeat in the league to, in the end, more than comfortably finish in the top four.

    It's not to say they were always at 100 percent during the run—they drew eight of 11 games at one point—but Wenger managed to see things through, always coming out with some kind of positive result no matter what.

33. Biggest Champions League Win: 7-0 vs. Slavia Prague

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    It's not just Premier League sides who have suffered the wrath of Wenger's team in full flow: Slavia Prague were dispatched 7-0, too, in the UEFA Champions League.

    The game came in the 2007-08 season at the Emirates, with Cesc Fabregas and Theo Walcott grabbing two goals apiece.

    It remains Arsenal's biggest win in Europe under Wenger.

32. Signing Robert Pires

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    Arguably one of Wenger's top three signings at Arsenal, Robert Pires gave so much to the club in his time there after signing in 2000.

    He spent six seasons at the club, playing close to 300 games and scoring nearly 100 goals for the first team as one of the most important parts of Wenger's finest Arsenal sides.

    Five major trophies in those six years proved his worth; Arsenal have not won anything since Pires departed.

31. 2006-07 League Cup Semi-Final Victory over Spurs

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    One of the more epic battles between Tottenham and Arsenal came in the 2006-07 League Cup semi-final, with Wenger once more coming out on top.

    After a 2-2 first leg, the second leg ended 1-1 and extra time was needed. Wenger's side finally managed to win through to the final after Jeremie Aliadiere and an own goal gave the Gunners a 5-3 aggregate victory.

30. Cesc's Emergence and Making Him Captain

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    Cesc Fabregas was seen as the perfect example of Arsene Wenger's preferred philosophy of signing young players, nurturing them in the Arsenal style of play and then bringing them through to become first-team regulars.

    The Catalan attacking midfielder progressed from youth-team player to starlet and eventually to Arsenal club captain in the 2008-09 season.

    Wenger based his team tactics around the Spaniard's ability to attack and create from deep until his return to youth club Barcelona for big money in 2011.

29. Defensive Record in Champions League Campaign 2005-06

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    Arsenal have often been lauded for their attacking instincts and willingness to play great football, but Wenger has also constructed plenty of great defences in his time.

    Their 2005-06 Champions League campaign was memorable for many reasons, but Arsenal's staunch defence—containing the likes of Lauren, Kolo Toure and Ashley Cole—performed admirably throughout.

    Wenger saw his side concede two goals in two games to start but four clean sheets followed in the rest of the group stage. Arsenal then also kept six further clean sheets in their six knockout fixtures, two legs against each of Real Madrid, Juventus and Villarreal.

28. Winning at Real Madrid in the Santiago Bernabeu, 2005-06

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    Famous European wins live long in the memory and Wenger masterminded one mightily impressive one during that 2005-06 season.

    Arsenal travelled to the Santiago Bernabeu to face Real Madrid in the round of 16, where Thierry Henry scored the only goal of the game just a few minutes into the second half.

    Few sides enjoy winning at that famous ground in Spain and Wenger was justifiably proud of that result.

27. Outscored Everyone, Conceded Fewest Goals

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    Striking a balance between a great defence and a great attack isn't easy, but that might be one of Wenger's proudest achievements in one particular standout season.

    In 2003-04, Arsenal finished with 73 goals, more than anyone else in the Premier League...and having conceded 26, fewer than any other side in the division.

    Of course, they also got more points than anyone else too but more on that later.

26. Eight Successive Clean Sheets

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    Arsenal racked up a Premier League record eight successive clean sheets in 1997-98 season, going from 31 January to 31 March inclusive without anybody managing to find a way past David Seaman and Co.

    Southampton, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, West Ham, Wimbledon, Manchester United, Sheffield Wednesday and Bolton Wanderers all fell to the Gunners' remarkable defence before Newcastle United's Warren Barton finally found a way past.

25. Record 10 Straight Wins

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    Part of the upshot of those clean sheets was, of course, a greater opportunity to win matches, and Arsenal did that with great regularity during their march to challenge for the 1997-98 title.

    From mid-March up until the beginning of May, Arsenal swept aside all before them to win 10 consecutive games, leaving the chasing pack behind.

24. 19 Games Unbeaten to Re-Enter the Title Race in 1998-99

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    Another one of Arsenal's great unbeaten runs under Wenger came the very next season as they went the equivalent of an entire half-season without tasting defeat.

    This run was all the more impressive after it came on the back of five games without a win just before Christmas in 1998, leaving the reigning champions in sixth place and way off the pace at that stage.

    A mammoth effort by Wenger and his troops saw Arsenal go 19 unbeaten from that point to the penultimate game of the season.

23. 30 Games Unbeaten Record Broken in 2002-03

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    Arsenal put together an unbeaten run which spanned two campaigns and ended up being a record-breaking one: 30 matches unbeaten in the Premier League, across the 2001-02 and 2002-03 seasons.

    That beat Manchester United's record by one, a big point of pleasure for Wenger at the time.

22. LMA Manager of the Year 2002...and a Clean Sweep

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    The first of two League Managers Association Manager of the Year awards which Wenger has won came in 2002.

    The boss was, of course, the big force behind Arsenal's successful season, though he may have taken just as much pleasure from his players' achievements.

    Arsenal dominated the lot: Thierry Henry won the Golden Boot, Robert Pires won the FWA Player of the Year award, Freddie Ljungberg won the Premier League Player of the Season and even Paul Burgess won Groundsman of the Year!

21. 1999-00 UEFA Cup Semi-Final Win

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    Finals are all well and good but with them comes the pressure and expectancy of the build-up. In many ways, the full-time whistle in a semi-final can be one of the greatest successes to enjoy, in the knowledge that a team has gone all the way, yet with none of the worry or pressure that is yet to come.

    Having been knocked out of the Champions League in 1999-2000, Arsenal dropped into the UEFA Cup and went the distance, travelling back to Wenger's homeland of France for the semi-final against Lens.

    Dennis Bergkamp scored the first-leg winner before a 2-1 win in France sent Arsenal to the final.

20. LMA Manager of the Year 2004

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    Wenger's second LMA award came in 2004 after what could only be described as an amazing year.

    The Arsenal boss led his team through a tough Premier League campaign without defeat, showcasing just what a difference a great manager can make with exceptionally talented players. This was Wenger and his side at their peak, and the award was richly deserved.

    Wenger also won Premier League manager of the season awards in 1998, '02 and '04.

19. 20 North London Derbies Unbeaten

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    Wenger loves a good win against Tottenham.

    Arsenal's biggest local rivals have had little to enjoy since Wenger came to town and the Premier League results record shows it.

    Between 8 November 1999 and 13 April 2010, Spurs did not manage a single league victory over Wenger's Arsenal side, a span of 20 north London derbies in total.

    Wenger has only lost five times in total against Spurs in league play.

18. Unbeaten After Christmas in Domestic Competition

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    We'll get on to what the team achieved shortly, but Wenger's ability to mould tough, unbeatable sides was once again on display in the second half of the 2001-02 season.

    Arsenal went from Christmas onwards, completely unbeaten, in both domestic competitions they featured in.

    The run spanned 28 games across the Premier League and the FA Cup and not one side in England was able to taste victory against the Gunners. This was no easy run either, with the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham and Newcastle all as opposition, some more than once.

17. 2005 FA Cup Win

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    It's a fair bet that when Wenger lifted this FA Cup trophy in 2005, he didn't expect to be close to a decade further along in his life without having repeated the process since.

    Nonetheless, Arsenal's early-2000s affinity with the FA Cup saw them beat Stoke City, Wolves, Sheffield United, Bolton Wanderers and Blackburn Rovers to reach the final where they faced Manchester United.

    Wenger and his side won out on penalties in the end, giving the French maestro a fourth title in the competition.

16. Signing and Sale of Nicolas Anelka

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    Wenger's policy of buying and developing young players has often borne fruit and is lent further credence when those players are sold on for big money.

    Never was that early philosophy so well documented and praised as in the case of Nicolas Anelka.

    Wenger signed the striker as a teenager for just £500,000, but two-and-a-half years later—after less than 100 games for the club—he moved to Real Madrid for more than £22 million.

    A good eye for talent, an ability to nurture it and the appreciation to take big profits from deals marked Wenger out early on in his time in England as a top all-round manager.

15. Consecutive St. Totteringham's Days?

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    For the uninitiated, St. Totteringham's Day is the name given by Arsenal fans to the date when Spurs can no longer mathematically catch them in the league table.

    Arsene Wenger joined at the start of the 1996-97 season, seeing out a full 17 campaigns so far, with Gunners fans enjoying...17 St. Totteringham's Days.

    Spurs have simply very little to hold over Wenger. Nine points behind at present, it's likely to become 18 times within the next six weeks or so.

14. Consecutive Seasons in the Champions League

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    Back in 1997, Arsenal suffered defeat in the UEFA Cup first round to PAOK of Greece, 2-1 on aggregate.

    Arsene Wenger commented at the time that he wasn't too unhappy about it and that the only European competition which interested him was the Champions League...which would soon grow far bigger, he predicted.

    How right he was.

    The Gunners first played in the Champions League under Wenger the following season, 1998-99, the first of 16 consecutive seasons that Arsenal have featured in that competition with Wenger at the helm.

    Decide for yourself if it's the equivalent of a trophy or not, but that's an astonishing record nonetheless and one which Wenger justifiably points to as a sign of consistency.

13. Signing Patrick Vieira Even Before Taking over

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    Wenger didn't officially join Arsenal until October 1996, but he was already in consultation with the club over his appointment during the summer and nodded them toward the signing of AC Milan midfielder Patrick Vieira.

    A bargain at just £3.5 million or so, the powerful midfielder went on to be one of Wenger's mainstays in the team for years, captaining the club and leading them to titles.

    Not a bad first decision for the soon-to-be boss.

12. Club Record Signing of Thierry Henry

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    There was one other signing Wenger made which stands out above others, though, that for a then-club record capture of Thierry Henry.

    Having played for Wenger at Monaco initially, Henry joined up with him again at Arsenal in a club record £11 million deal from Juventus in 1999.

    Over an eight-year period with the Gunners and with Wenger as his boss, Henry became club captain, won trophies and became the all-time club record goalscorer before moving to Barcelona in 2007.

    He also had a short loan spell back at the club in 2011-12, but his main stay at the club surely makes him Wenger's greatest-ever success in the transfer market—and he even made a profit on him.

11. Making the Move to the Emirates Stadium

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    Wenger was one of the big forces behind Arsenal's move to their new Emirates Stadium, which was finalised in 2006.

    The Gunners have yet to win a trophy since moving to their new stadium, but Wenger was always conscious of the fact that the club needed bigger revenue streams to compete with other clubs in the future, with the stadium a big factor in that thinking.

    Several times he was clear on one of his reasons for staying at Arsenal, with it being that he wanted to lead his team into the new ground; he has done so to good effect and Arsenal have only lost once at home in the league so far this season.

10. Reaching the UEFA Champions League Final 2006

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    Winning a European trophy might have been the pinnacle of Wenger's Arsenal career, but it didn't quite happen for him. In 2006, he took his Arsenal team all the way to the Champions League final where they faced Barcelona.

    The final was all the more special for Wenger as it took place in Paris, in his home country.

    Though his team had done extremely well to get so far, including that run of clean sheets against great sides including Real Madrid, Barca proved one step too far after Arsenal played most of the game with 10 men and lost 2-1 to two late goals.

9. Best Football on the Planet? Arsenal in 2002-03

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    Arsenal's footballing ability has never really been in question under the guidance of Wenger, even if some seasons have seen more efficient methods of playing than others.

    There was a spell, though, perhaps in the 2002-03 season most of all, where his side arguably played the best football anywhere in the world.

    Few opponents could live with their passing, movement, intelligence of play and speed of thought, with the entire team seeming to know each other's next move. It was seamless, fluid, fantastic football to watch and it was the hallmark of Arsene Wenger's coaching ideals.

8. 2003 FA Cup Retained

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    Arsenal won the 2003 FA Cup at the end of that fantastic season of football in the aforementioned slide, their silverware just reward for a campaign of excellence.

    The Gunners beat Oxford, Farnborough Town, Manchester United, Chelsea, Sheffield United and Southampton to lift the cup in 2003—the first back-to-back winners of the trophy since Tottenham in '81 and '82.

7. 2002 FA Cup

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    A year earlier, Arsenal had dispatched Watford, Liverpool, Gillingham, Newcastle and Middlesbrough to reach the final.

    There they faced London rivals Chelsea, and Ray Parlour and Freddie Ljungberg scored the goals to lift the FA Cup trophy.

    The way the season had been aligned meant the final took place some two weeks before the end of the league season, meaning this was the first silverware the Gunners lifted.

6. 49 League Matches Unbeaten Run

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    Some of those earlier unbeaten runs were impressive, but the longest stretch spanned two campaigns and saw Arsenal go almost 50 league games unbeaten in a row.

    A full 49 matches across 2002-03, '03-04 and '04-05 saw Wenger lead his side away from defeat to the tune of 13 draws and 36 victories in that span of games.

    Manchester United finally ended the resistance in October 2004 with a 2-0 win, but Arsenal's players and coach had already made history.

5. 1997-98 Title, Wenger's First Arsenal Triumph

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    Into the top five now and we kick off with one of Wenger's big moments, his first taste of major silverware with Arsenal.

    Just three seasons after taking over, Wenger led his side to the 1997-98 Premier League title, winning by one point ahead of Manchester United in the end. The telling victory came three games before the end of the season in a 4-0 win over Everton.

    It was Arsenal's first league title since 1991.

4. First Non-British Manager to Win the Title

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    Not only was it a major achievement for Arsenal, but Wenger himself also made history: He was the first non-British manager to lift the league championship title.

    Wenger might be too team-oriented to attach any real significance to that, but it should be remembered in the era of constant managerial changes and overseas appointments that before Carlo Ancelotti, Roberto Mancini or Jose Mourinho came Wenger—he won it first and he's still there now, while most of them have since departed.

3. Completing the 1997-98 Double

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    Another piece of history was made that season after the league triumph.

    After sealing the title against Everton, Arsenal lost their last two league games as they rested players ahead of an FA Cup final. That final ended in victory over Newcastle United, with Marc Overmars and Nicolas Anelka scoring the goals at Wembley.

    It gave Arsenal and Wenger the rare accolade of the league and cup double.

2. 2001-02 League Championship and FA Cup Double

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    Rare, but not that rare—Arsenal went and did it again just four years later!

    The FA Cup was already in the bag this time as Arsenal went to Manchester United on the penultimate day of the season to decide the destination of the league trophy.

    A tense game ended in a 1-0 win for Arsenal, meaning they won the title and therefore the double once more. A double double for Wenger to celebrate.

1. The Invincibles Season of 2003-04

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    There can be only one greatest achievement amongst all his successes though, and Arsene Wenger's most dramatic and amazing moment so far has to be his 2003-04 Premier League title triumph where he led his team through the campaign unbeaten.

    Arsenal's Invincibles won 26 and drew 12 of their 38 games, finishing 11 points clear in the title race.

    Wenger had not been bested by any manager in the league that season, a full 38-game campaign where he had gained the upper hand or at least seen off the threat of defeat.

    A remarkable achievement which won't likely be repeated in a hurry.