Arsenal's 10 Best Moments Under Arsene Wenger
As we yo-yo our way through this, the craziest of football seasons, the stock of Arsene Wenger seems to rise and fall much like the financial markets in recent years. He hit rock-bottom during the early horror weeks, only to make a dramatic recovery as Arsenal went on an extended unbeaten run.
But a couple of disappointing results in the new year against Fulham and Swansea have made the doubters rear their ugly heads again. And with Arsenal doing no further business thus far in the transfer window (Thierry Henry’s dramatic return aside), even more questions are being asked.
And of course, there’s that business of not winning a major trophy since 1991. Oh wait, that would be Spurs…
I am definitely one of those who believes it is too early to be writing Wenger’s footballing obituary. I am convinced that he has not reached his breaking point with Arsenal. There are still plenty of signs to show that he continues to learn and evolve.
This season itself, he has gone against his norm and invested in veterans. There is no doubt that Mikel Arteta and Per Mertesacker, in particular, have made Arsenal better. And at the same time, he has unearthed undoubted talent in the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Carl Jenkinson (and maybe Joel Campbell and Ryo Miyaichi too).
It is easy to disregard the impact of unlimited funds at clubs like Manchester City, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Barcelona. And convenient to ignore the precarious financial state of those clubs that live beyond their means. And stupid to keep paying for new signings when not one transfer of consequence has been made in this transfer window.
So while the rest of football continues to revel in Arsenal’s relative down turn, and Wenger’s in particular, let us take a trip into the archives and enjoy 10 of Arsenal’s best moments under the French maestro.
1. Arsenal 3-2 Manchester United: 9 November 1997
The game that made Arsenal believe that they could win under Arsene Wenger.
Goals from Nicolas Anelka and Patrick Vieira gave Arsenal an early 2-0 lead, but a Teddy Sheringham brace brought scores level just before half time.
United held on till late in the second half, when David Platt met a Nigel Winterburn corner and guided his header past Peter Schmeichel into the top corner of United's goal.
It was a hard-fought win over the dominant team of the times. A win that set the tone for Arsenal's double-charge that season.
2. Tony Adams's Goal V Everton: 3 May 1998
This was the first double winning season under Arsene Wenger. The title was already in the bag. Arsenal led Everton 1-0 at Highbury with a minute left.
Steve Bould, on as a substitute, was playing in central midfield. He picked up a loose ball, and lofted a delicious pass over the Everton defense for an onrushing Tony Adams. Adams controlled the ball with his stomach and smashed an unstoppable left footer past Thomas Myhre in the Everton goal.
The exclamation mark on the season's successes.
And as for that celebration...
3. Sylvain Wiltord Wins Arsenal the Title at Old Trafford: 8 May 2002
I remember that night vividly.
I was an aspiring Chartered Accountant, and had a taxation exam the next day. The game started at 1:30 a.m. local time, and I was obviously up. To ensure that the title was won, and to cram in as much taxation-related information into my brain. Yes, in that order.
My Dad stayed up to ensure that I did study for at least a few minutes. And I did.
But fortunately I was watching when Freddie Ljungberg burst into the box, Barthez saved and Sylvain Wiltord scored off the rebound. Martin Tyler's "Wiltooooooord" will always stay in my memory.
As will my amazement at Kanu's celebratory jump over the Frenchman and his outstretched arm. How did he do it?
Unfortunately, I didn't do quite as well as I would have liked at Taxation the next morning, but when your team has just won a double, does it really matter?
4. Ruud Van Nistelrooy's Penalty Miss at Old Trafford: 21 September 2003
The "Invincibles" season. Arsenal travel to Old Trafford in September to face their biggest rivals.
A game of two incidents.
Ruud van Nistelrooy, as good a finisher as he was a cheat, fouls Patrick Vieira. Vieira, still on the turf, half-kicks out in retaliation. Makes no contact with the Dutchman, whose reaction is somewhat over the top. Vieira gets his second yellow card, and is sent off. Arsenal's blood boils.
Last minute of the game. Gary Neville swings a cross in. Diego Forlan, being marked by Martin Keown, dives and wins United a penalty. Up steps van Nistelrooy, and his adrenalin probably gets the better of him, as he smashes the penalty against the crossbar. The final whistle goes. 0-0.
Keown, Ashley Cole, Lauren, Edu and the other Arsenal players converge on United's No. 10, politely sympathizing for his penalty miss!
Many rate this as the game that gave the squad the unity and belief to go through that season unbeaten. I do as well.
I also rate it as the day the diver was paid his dues...
5. Inter Milan 1-5 Arsenal: 25 November 2003
Robert Pires tucks home Arsenal's fifth
Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Arsenal traveled to Milan needing a win against high-flying Inter to keep their Champions League hopes alive. The Gunners were without stalwarts Patrick Vieira and Martin Keown, and the writing seemed to be on the wall.
What followed next, however, was unadulterated brilliance from Arsenal, as goals from Freddie Ljungberg, Edu and Robert Pires, punctuated by a spectacular double from Thierry Henry gave them a shock 5-1 victory.
They went on to top the group, but lost to Chelsea in the quarters courtesy a late Wayne Bride (who?) screamer at Highbury.
If you'd like to relive that spectacular night at the San Siro, look no further...
6. Tottenham 4-5 Arsenal: 13 November 2004
No win over the old enemy can fail to bring a smile to a Gooner's face. But this one was one of the best of the lot.
You go to White Hart Lane, concede four goals in what was a quite woeful defensive performance (talk about susceptibility to set-pieces!), but come away with all three points after smashing in five of your own.
7. Real Madrid 0-1 Arsenal: 21 February 2006
Arsenal traveled to the Bernabeu for the second leg of their Champions League second-round tie, protecting a 0-0 scoreline. No home advantage gained, but crucially, no away goals conceded.
Arsenal's squad had been ravaged by injuries, and their young side was expected to be rolled over by the Galacticos, featuring the mights Raul, Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos, David Beckham, Robinho and Zinedine Zidane.
The Gunners had the better of the chances, however, and their wasteful finishing would have been punished had it not been for a couple of wonder saves by their maverick German keeper Jens Lehmann.
It was one goal that settled it, and it was a classic by Arsenal's talisman, Thierry Henry. Picking up the ball in the center circle just before half-time, he strode past four Madrid defenders before applying a cool left-footed finish past Iker Casillas.
A wonderful result away from home en route to Arsenal's first ever Champions League final.
8. Arsenal 4-2 Wigan Athletic: 7 May 2006
This was the last game at Highbury, but that isn't why it's on this list.
Thierry Henry scored a hat-trick, but that isn't why either.
Arsenal's win over Wigan took them into the following season's Champions League, but even that by itself wouldn't have justified its selection.
But do do it at the expense of Tottenham, who couldn't do the business against West Ham because of a stomach bug (yes, you read it right, a stomach bug)—that's the stuff that dreams are made of...
9. Arsenal's Move to the Emirates Stadium
Tom Shaw/Getty Images
It doesn't have the atmosphere of Highbury.
Arsenal haven't won a trophy there.
It's too modern and lacks character.
Yes, I've heard all of those things being said, and more, but this is Arsene Wenger's single most significant contribution to our great football club. An increase in capacity from 38,000 to 60,000 has taken Arsenal's commercial potential to a new level already, and after the current deals with Emirates and Nike conclude in the next two years, it will free the Club of every possible financial shackle.
And to have managed a top four finish every single year in spite of the debt undertaken by the Club—genius.
There's only one Arsene Wenger....
10. Chelsea 3-5 Arsenal: 29 October 2011
You know that despicable character, John Terry?
Yes, the one who accepts pay-offs for giving tours of the Chelsea training ground. Yes, the racist. The one who sleeps with his teammate's fiance. The one who's mother is a kleptomaniac and father a drug peddler. The one, who by some miracle, is still captain of England. Yes, the very same "JT."
Well, do you remember the recent game against Arsenal when he fell flat on his face?
So do I, my friends, so do I....