Happy 72nd Birthday to one of the Greatest Managers of All Time
Arsène Charles Ernest Wenger (born 22 October 1949) is a former French football manager and player, now FIFA’s Chief of Global Football Development. He was Arsenal’s manager from 1996 to 2018, and he was the club’s longest-serving and most successful manager. His contributions to English football, including reforms to scouting, player training, and nutrition regimes, revitalized Arsenal and assisted the sport’s globalization in the twenty-first century.
Wenger, born in Strasbourg and reared in Duttlenheim by an entrepreneurial family, was introduced to football by his father, the village club manager.
The nickname “Le Professeur” is used by fans and the English press to reflect Wenger’s studious demeanor. He is one of the most celebrated managers of his generation, has changed perceptions of the sport and profession in England and abroad. His approach to the game emphasizes an attacking mentality, recognizing that football ought to be entertaining on the pitch.
Wenger’s Arsenal teams have been criticized for their indiscipline and naivety; his players received 100 red cards between September 1996 and February 2014, though they won awards for sporting fair play. At Monaco, Wenger earned a reputation for spotting young talent and developing a youth system, which he carried through at Arsenal.
At Arsenal, Wenger has enjoyed a great deal of support and backing from the club board of directors, who demonstrated exceptional faith in the manager and his long-term vision. His arrival at the club prompted a change in their football style once derided as “boring, boring Arsenal” for lack of creativity. Pundit Alan Hansen described the 2004 team as “quite simply the most fluid, devastating team the British Isles has seen.” Brian Clough once quipped: “Arsenal caress a football the way I dreamed of caressing Marilyn Monroe.”
Wenger himself reflected that his most incredible legacy at Arsenal would be the style he implemented. Supporters regularly display banners such as “Arsène knows” and “In Arsène we trust” during home matches, though there became a growing number of protests against his management.
Though Wenger established Arsenal as UEFA Champions League regulars, he never won a continental competition – he was a Champions League and UEFA Cup runner-up with Arsenal and a Cup Winners’ Cup runner-up with Monaco – often considered a blemish on his managerial career. Writer Michael Calvin argues that despite the European failings, Wenger should still be considered one of the greats in football: “[He] has been the best, most influential manager of the modern era. In a world where incoherence is routinely hailed as innovation, he has been a true visionary”.
Wenger was awarded France’s highest decoration, the Légion d’honneur, in 2002. He was appointed an Honorary Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2003 Birthday Honours for services to football. At Arsenal’s valedictory campaign at Highbury throughout the 2005–06 season, supporters showed appreciation by holding a “Wenger Day” as one of the various themed matchdays. It was held on his 56th Birthday, on 22 October 2005, in a league match against Manchester City.
Wenger was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2006, along with former England manager Ron Greenwood. Furthermore, a commissioned bronze bust of Wenger, similar to the earlier version of Herbert Chapman, was unveiled as a tribute to him by the board of directors of Arsenal at the club’s annual general meeting in October 2007.
In May 2016, the Stade Arsène Wenger was officially opened near Strasbourg, where Wenger was born. The stadium is the new home of USL Dippinheim and holds a capacity of 500 people.
His final home game was a 5–0 win against Burnley on 6 May. He received a standing ovation before the game and was gifted the gold mini-replica Premier League trophy he won during the 2003–04 Invincibles season as a departing gift from Arsenal.
He officially concluded his tenure with a 1–0 away win against Huddersfield Town. Wenger later revealed that he wanted to stay at the club until the expiration of his contract, but the club thought it better he left.
The club would surely miss the days the man was managing their affairs as the team has failed to achieve resounding success at the same or beyond the wavelength of the standards Arsene Wenger left in 2018. When will the “Invincibles” find their footing and compete at the top-level they are known for? A question many fans of the club still ask themselves today