ArsenalMy Article: An English Premier League success story

A POLL in Britain once rated Arsene Wenger the most influential manager in the English Premier League.

Not to take the shine away from another successful manager in England, but the main reason that Wenger edged that other fellow was he brought about a structural change to the way a football club is run. Not to mention, he won the league title in his first full season, something that took seven years to achieve by his main rival.

For all intents and purpose, Wenger brought about a tsunami of change to Arsenal from the moment he first walked into the hallowed grounds of Highbury. Most important of all, the classy Frenchman is the best thing to happen to English football since Herbert Chapman, another great manager at Highbury back in the 1930s.

Since his entry, the English Premier League (EPL) became more of a competition, as no other club could really measure up to Manchester United’s might in the mid-to-late 1990s on a consistent level.

Leeds United were on the decline after their 1992 success, Blackburn Rovers were just one-season wonders, while Newcastle United had some hope for more than just a season or two but just could not overcome some psychological barriers to achieving greatness.

Then came Wenger in October 1996 and suddenly there was something different in the air, a freshness to the style of play besides a new fitness and health regime at Highbury that transformed and extended the careers of many senior players at the Arsenal.

Within seven months the Gunners were on the brink of Champions League (CL) qualification, but ended up third, just a point behind Newcastle. Back then, only the top two sides in the EPL qualified for the CL.

But just 12 months later, in May 1998, Arsenal had overcome an 11-point lead by MU to win their second Championship of the decade, having won the previous First Division title in 1991.

Not only that, the Gunners also won the rare League Championship and FA Cup double. All this, in his first full season as manager of Arsenal. What more could a true supporter ask for.

Wenger then started work on the second part of his revolution in English football.

Now, many managers come and go in the top flight in England. That has always been the case. It is not a new phenomenon.

The difference between all of them and Wenger is that Wenger truly had a plan, a long-term plan, and he set about getting it all on board with the club’s directors and staff to make sure that Arsenal are a successful club for many years to come, not just short-term glories. Any championship or cup won were just the bonus.

The foundation for that success included the new stadium with an increased capacity (almost double that of Highbury), a scouting network and advanced training facilities that no club in England, let alone Europe, can match. In less than 10 years, Wenger achieved all of this and has increased the value of Arsenal far beyond what trophies can bring in the short term.

With arguably the best set of young players in the land, I know I speak for the majority of Arsenal supporters out there who are more than satisfied with what the gaffer has done. The present and the future both look bright for the Gunners thanks to Wenger’s persistence and efforts from that fateful day he became manager of a club he almost share’s a first name with.

I dare supporters of other clubs to a debate on whether their club has a better formula that has worked consistently well from the start of a manager’s reign till today, and with good future prospects, both financially as well as on the pitch.

To bring it all into perspective, let me refer you to this gem of a quote from the genius himself, as reported on a few years back: "When people say 'you have no trophy for four years', I say ‘yes, you are right’ but in these four years we were in the final of the Champions League and the semi-final of the Champions League too. Had we won the Carling Cup, people would not say that.

"For example, you go out in the first round of the Champions League and you win the Carling Cup, you have one trophy. But for me it’s worse."

These days, football supporters expect their team to win trophies every season. Worse still, the instant-gratification demanding fans of today expect heads to roll if their team doesn’t cut it.

We have to take the ups and the downs, the good times and the lean years. That is what supporting any club is all about — loyalty, positive-thinking and having hope.

Between 1968 (winning the European Cup) and 1993 (EPL), MU won four FA Cups (1977, 1983, 1985, 1990), one League Cup (1992) and a Cup-Winners' Cup (1991). They were even relegated for a season in the mid-70s. Compare that with what they have won since 1993.

Likewise, compare Liverpool’s tally of success in the ‘70s and ‘80s with the lean years since 1991. These are perfect examples of the ups and downs in the fortunes of professional football clubs

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