Mr Wenger’s second season: 1997/8

By Tony Attwood

As we saw in the last article, Mr Wenger started out with the same sort of promise as Herbert Chapman.  But it is what happened then that marked him out as a different type of manager.

We are in an era before rampant match fixing and before the financial corruption that took Chelsea and Manchester City from has-beens up the league.

There was more money in the League than before, thanks to Sky, and on On 15 December 1995 the European Court had ruled that the transfer system placed a restriction on the free movement of workers and was prohibited by Article 39(1) of the EC Treaty.  Bosman had arrived.

The first movement of players at Arsenal in the summer of 1996 had nothing to do with Bosman however – Paul Merson went to Middlesbrough, and he was replaced by Marc Overmars for £5m.

Merson’s own £5 million transfer was the largest amount ever paid by a  non-Premiership club, and also included a doubling of the salary that Arsenal were paying.  . Whilst Arsene Wenger had offered a new two year contract, Middlesbrough offered double the salary.  He had played 423 times for us and scored 99 goals.

It is worth remembering that the critics were out for Wenger already at this time, not just because Arsenal had not offered Merson enough money but also  because Overmars had a knee injury which it was said would make it impossible for him to take the high pressure heavy tackling world that the Premier League was.  Protection from refs, even in those days, was limited and it was said that Overmars simply would not last.  (In fact he had the third highest appearance level that first season with 32 games in the league, and 12 goals.

The manager also brought in two more experienced players: Gilles Grimandi and Emmanuel Petit both from Monaco.  Then he went for youth with Chris Wreh, Luis Boa Morte, Alberto Medez, and Matthew Upson from Luton.

Moving up from the reserves and youth was Nicholas Anelka.  Stephen Hughes who had started his career with us, continued to feature and ultimately made 79 appearances, 42 of them as substitute, between 1995 and 2000.

The opening team for the season was


Garde Bould Grimandi Winterburn

Parlour Vieira Petit Overmars

Wright Bergkamp

Platt and Hughes were the two used subs in a 1-1 draw away to Leeds United.

Looking at that team now the mouth waters – although I suspect many fans will not been excited by the member of Garde and Grimandi.

Remi Garde played just 31 times for the club without scoring, and last year became the director of the training centre of Olympique Lyonnais.

Grimandi played 113 games (including I recall once being asked to play two days running when a league cup match followed a league game) and scored 10 goals.  He is now our chief scout in France – which when you consider the nature of our squad, is one hell of an  important position!

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