Mr Wenger’s first season: 1996/7

By Tony Attwood

What we have seen in the previous articles is that the time before Arsene Wenger took over the club was not a period of huge league success.

It has been pointed out however that this is a somewhat unfair analysis since although George Graham’s team slid away in the league, there were triumphs elsewhere.

Here’s the details

FA Cup League Cup Europe
1991/2 3rd round 3rd round 2nd round EC
1992/3 Won Won Did not compete
1993/4 4th round 4th round Won CWC
1994/5 3rd round Quarter final Finalists CWC
1995/6 3rd round Semi final Did not compete

So yes indeed there were some triumphs – three cups in fact in a period of five years, but this was combined with some early departures.  As now, we entered the FA Cup in the 3rd round, and entered the League Cup in the 2nd round.

In the previous article I took a look at the start of the season, with Pat Rice as manager, and was offering the view that it is not reasonable to say that Mr Wenger had it easy, because he inherited the great back five put together by George Graham.    Those players had been there, but they had not delivered the success that was to come later.

Arsene Wenger’s first season brought us these achievements:

The League: 3rd, seven points behind the winners.  We lost eight, but had the best defence in the league with just 38 goals conceded. It was an interesting final table with three teams covering second, third and fourth place, all on the same number of points.

Of the 20 teams in the league that season, ten are no longer in the top division – which shows how easy it is for clubs to fall away from grace.  Indeed several have either mutated or fallen onto very hard times, such as Newcastle, Sheffield Wednesday, Wimbledon, Leicester, Leeds, Derby, Southampton, Nottingham Forest.   (If we look at next season, we would also of course have to remove WHU, which would mean a majority of the clubs who were in the top league when Mr Wenger took over, are no longer there).

The League Cup: lost in the fourth round, 4-2 away to Liverpool.

The FA Cup, lost in the fourth round, 0-1 at home to Leeds.

The Uefa Cup: lost in the first round to Moenchengladbach.

Cup success was therefore not there, but the rise up the league to third was certainly an improvement.

What is interesting is the list of players according to the number of games played – suddenly the names are becoming much more familiar.

  • Winterburn 38
  • Wright 35
  • Bould 33
  • Keown 33
  • Dixon 32
  • Merson 32
  • Vieira 31
  • Parlour 30
  • Bergkamp 29
  • Adams 28
  • Plat 28
  • Seaman 22

Tucked away in the lower numbers is Anelka 4.  And more of him to come.

Did we know what we were going to get in the summer of 1997?  I can remember that summer so well – and remember being on the family holiday and reading the papers about the changes that were going on and thinking: “what the hell is he up to”.  Then in the following season, I found out.

As did we all.


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