Arsene Wenger Retirement: Arsenal manager's greatest achievements

Invincibles - Wenger and Viera hold the Premier League trophy in 2004
Wenger and Viera celebrating winning the Premier League in 2004
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"Arsene who?" the cynics asked in 1996. Twenty-two years and 17 trophies on, as Wenger announces that he will leave Arsenal at the end of the season, here are some of the great man's finest achievements, chosen by Max Liu...

"Arsenal host Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their semi-final on Thursday. They're marginal favourites to win the match but bettors makes the Spaniards [1.48] to qualify."

Winning the double - 1998

Manchester United were the dominant force of 90s football in England but, in 1997/98, the Gunners denied the Red Devils a third consecutive title. It was Arsenal's first full season under Wenger who became the first foreign manager to win the title in England - a fact which is often overlooked in the age of Guardiola, Mourinho, Conte et al.

Arsenal won the title by only one point in '98 but the nine-match winning streak they put together between March and May was stunning and took United by surprise. When Arsenal defeated Newcastle 2-0 in the FA Cup final, they became only the second team to win the domestic double twice. Wenger's first title-winning team included the French players Emmanuel Petit and Patrick Viera who went on to win the World Cup that summer, leading to the infamous Sun headline: "Arsenal win the World Cup."

The Invincibles - 2004

The highpoint of Wenger's career at Arsenal was the unbeaten title-winning season of 2003/04. It had never been done before and has never been done since. Every subsequent year, when one team has taken an early and commanding lead at the top of the table, commentators raise the possibility of an unbeaten season. You heard it this autumn until Manchester City lost to Liverpool in January.

The failure of Guardiola's City, Sir Alex Ferguson's United, Jose Mourinho's Chelsea, or any other title-winning side, to complete an unbeaten season underlines Wenger's towering achievement. To emphasise the point, only one other team has gone all season unbeaten in the English top flight: Preston North End in 1888/89, although they only played 22 games, compared to Arsenal's 38.

Winning the FA Cup - 2017

Wenger's outstanding achievements occurred in the first decade of his tenure in North London, with 11 of his 17 trophies won during this time. If he'd bowed out after, say, the Champions League Final of 2006 (reaching that was no mean feat) then he would go down as undisputed legend. But winners always want to win more, so who can blame him for carrying on? What followed were the FA Cup wins and top four finishes which, with time, might come to look more impressive than they do now. The outstanding cup win came last season when, against the odds, Arsenal beat Chelsea in the final to deny the Blues a domestic double and ensure that Wenger would be around for one more season.

Sticking to his guns

Heroic man of principle or arrogant fuddy-duddy? That's been the debate about Wenger now for a decade, as he has refused to compromise his principles about playing beautiful football and spoken out about the way that other teams are trying to buy success by paying inflated transfer fees. Arsenal fans were behind him at the beginning but, as the years since their last title in 2004 passed, the unrest began to ripple across the Emirates Stadium, to the point that fans have been, for the last couple of seasons, divided between those who are Wenger out or Wenger in.

All would agree that for the first ten years of his tenure, Arsenal played some of the best football ever witnessed on these shores. Ferguson's United and Guardiola's City play delightful football but Wenger's best teams were just as stylish and just as strong. He leaves Arsenal in a fairly good position and he leaves English football much the richer for the years he has devoted to it.

Signing off by winning the Europa League?

Wenger is leaving at the end of the season and, even though it's been a long time coming, the news still feels like a very big moment for the game in England. However, as the tributes flood in from admirers and former-adversaries alike, and potential successors are discussed, the football-obsessed Frenchman will not lose focus between now and the end of May. At least, not while his team are involved in the Europa League anyway. Arsenal host Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their semi-final on Thursday. They're marginal favourites to win the match but bettors makes the Spaniards [1.48] to qualify.

So far, the Gunners' progress in the competition this season has been smooth and it's now their priority for the remainder of the season, as winning it would mean Champions League qualification for next season. That would be a fitting end to the reign of a manager whose Arsenal teams were, for several years, good enough to compete with anyone in Europe.


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