12 October: Arsene Wenger takes control of his first match.



12 October 1996: Arsene Wenger takes control of his first match.


Wenger’s first match in charge of Arsenal was against Blackburn Rovers. Arsenal won with two goals from Ian Wright, making it four wins in a row during the Rice/Wenger handover period.  Here’s the team

Dixon, Bould, Adams, Winterburn
Keown      Vieira
Platt                       Merson,
Wright     Hartson

Subs: Parlour (Hartson 85), Shaw, Linighan, Rose, Lukic

By the time of this first game, Arsène Wenger had said that he thought the Arsenal board were “crazy” for appointing him, and that he had previously been considered for the job in 1995, when they gave the job to Bruce Rioch instead.   Rioch lasted a year.

Tony Adams on hearing the news of the appointment had said something along the lines of “He’s French, what does he know about English football?” 

Later Mr Wenger replied to the old anti-foreigner sentiment in English football by saying, “I believe I contributed to the change in attitude about foreign managers. That can look pretentious but I don’t think it is at all. I can show some articles where people tried to prove that the foreign managers can never win an English championship. That has changed and I have certainly contributed to that. But I am also one of the few who also defends English managers.”

He also reflected on whether he could have done what he has done at another club instead of Arsenal.  He said, “I don’t believe I could only have done that at Arsenal. But I believe I was lucky to find at Arsenal the support I found and that is important for success….

“I was quite successful in the clubs where I worked before [Nancy, Monaco, Grampus Eight], but I have always found support where I worked.”

He became of course the most successful Arsenal manager in terms of major trophies with ten, and the longest-serving Arsenal manager not only in years but also the number of games (nearly twice as many as Bertie Mee).

His results in terms of win percentage is way above the other managers who delivered over 100 games (Herbert Chapman in 403 games delivered 49.88% wins while Wenger’s in 1,235 games was 57.25%.   As of 12 October 2022 Mikel Arteta is on 57.04% win rate.

You can read all the stats concerning all our managers in the managers’ file.

But let’s leave the final comment to Tony Adams, who was Wenger’s captain at Arsenal from 1996 until 2002.   When he (Adams) retired he had the presence of mind to come out and admit his mistake, saying  “At first, I thought: What does this Frenchman know about football? He wears glasses and looks more like a schoolteacher. He’s not going to be as good as George [Graham]. Does he even speak English properly?”  He then acknowledged how wrong he was.

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