I remember when I first heard about Arsenal around 11 years back, I didn't know anything about club football. I didn't know who a manager was, what he did and I certainly didn't know that I was going to love a football club, and above all admire its manager as much as I do today.
Arsene Wenger always looked like a very intellectual person—someone who was intense, witty and made his team play some really good football. But, I was so intrigued by the man that I wanted to find out more. The more I found out, the more I was impressed.
Take for instance, a Telegraph article in 2002, by none other than Lee Dixon stated some very interesting, first hand accounts of someone who had played under him.
"If I were describing him as a person, he is a genuine, honest, intelligent, likeable man. An expert on Bordeaux wines and a speaker of several languages, Arsene has opinions on all things," said Dixon in his article.
And he can speak several languages alright! He apparently speaks fluent German, French, English, Spanish and some Italian and Japanese too. Dixon, then went onto Wenger's footballing side:
"But bring football into it and he becomes the professor." There's no denying that. The way he used to watch his team, and still does, with a certain intensity and the way he analyzes the performances of his players is astounding.
"If we had a run of defeats, a meeting would be called. Then you would get to see the workings behind the man. He had everything written down: graphs, statistics, videos, every facet of our play broken down into minute details. Patterns would emerge through his statistics. It was all about quality control." recalls Dixon.
Wenger paved the way for the likes of Jose Mourinho, Rafael Benitez, and even Sven Goran Eriksson to an extent to enter into managing English teams (and the English national team in the case of the latter). Before him, there was only one foreign coach to take on a job in England—and that was Jozef Venglos at Aston Villa in 1997.
Wenger's teams have always been known to produce some superb football. But, the squad he inherited in 1997 was not all about style and finesse. The likes of Lee Dixon, Nigel Winterburn, Tony Adams, and Ian Wright were not exactly associated with style—they were very good at what they did and that was just it.
Today, the story is so very different. Arsenal is synonymous with style, movement and the pace of the game has increased exponentially. And all that is because of Wenger's foresight.
He has had a massive impact on the English game. He started managing Arsenal in a time when most players used to drink when they were playing professional football.
He kicked out that drinking culture and brought about a "dietary revolution.” He monitored the diet and created a regiment for each player to follow and this has now become commonplace in English football.
Anybody who knows anything about Arsene Wenger would know that his signings are more often than not shrewd to say the least. Arsenal brought Wenger and with him brought a continental brand of football into the Premier League.
I remember reading an interview of Steve Rowley (chief scout at Arsenal) and how he went to an under-17 tournament in Malaysia. He watched a considerable number of players and was impressed by a certain Ivorian.
He called up Wenger to report on his findings and started with the usual, "Ivorian, 19 years old, striker..." and before he could say the name, Wenger replied "Bonaventure Kalou, I know, very talented but will have work-permit issues."
Bonaventure Kalou is the elder brother of Saloman Kalou, who plays at Chelsea. That just goes to show his knowledge of players all over the world. When I read that story, I was simply gob smacked.
Unfortunately for Wenger, things have not quite gone to plan in the last few seasons. But, for him, patience has always remained key. The Arsenal board back him, and why shouldn't they?
He's got their name on the map and today, Arsenal are one of the best-known football clubs in the world. He looks a very agitated, short-tempered figure today—unlike the Wenger of five seasons ago. But, his hunger to win has not diminished. His wittiness in press conferences has not died out. His eye for talent has not been blinded.
He's still the same Arsene Wenger. 99% of the Arsenal fans can't really imagine Arsenal without him, whatever they say. He's the backbone of the club and whoever we lose, the thought of Wenger's loss is something, which should be the real worry for us.
So, when Arsenal fans think that an Adebayor leaving could cause panic—I ask them, what if Wenger leaves? It's just one of those unimaginable things. He's transformed us from being mid-table under-achievers to challenging for honours.
We now have one of the best stadiums in Europe. We have one of the most promising teams in the continent.
So, when everyone asks me, how can you trust the same man for so long? How can he make Arsenal keep challenging for honours with a shoestring budget?
All I'll say is, "Wenger knows.."