Arsene Wenger: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Oli Fisher

Arsene Wenger announced on Friday that he will leave Arsenal at the end of the season after 22 years at the London club.

The Frenchman has enjoyed many highs and lows during his trophy-laden tenure, and here Jordan Rushworth recalls the most memorable Good, Bad and Ugly moments.

The Good

The Invincibles season

Almost undoubtedly Arsene Wenger’s greatest moment in his 22 years at Arsenal, was the unbeaten season in 2003-04. The Gunners became the first team since Preston North End, in 1889, to go through the entire domestic league season without defeat.

The 2003-04 side was full of the flair and style that has been synonymous with his time in charge. The side also had the power, defensive discipline and leadership that Wenger’s biggest critics have accused his most recent sides of lacking. This combination proved to be an unstoppable force, as Wenger won his third and last Premier League title in charge.

The unbeaten run extended into the following season, before eventually ending at a record 49 matches.

Arsene Wenger Arsenal 2014 FA Cup final

The FA Cup

The FA Cup, alongside the Premier League title, in 1998 was the first piece of silverware that Wenger won as Arsenal manager, it could also be the last trophy he wins after Arsenal won last season’s competition (depending on their Europa League bid).

Wenger holds the record for the most amount of FA Cup wins as a manager with seven – and the competition has been a consistent source of success throughout his reign. Arguably the most important FA Cup win for Wenger was in 2014. The Gunners came from two goals down to beat Hull City, ending a nine-year wait for a major trophy and potentially saving his job.

The Premier League titles

Arsenal may not have won the Premier League since 2004 – but Wenger’s record of three titles remains one of the best of the Premier League era. His first title in 1997-98 saw him become the first foreign manager to win the Premier League title.

The second trophy Wenger lifted in 2002 was won at the home of their title rivals Manchester United. It marked the beginning of Wenger’s most successful spell in charge of Arsenal, culminating in that famous ‘Invincibles’ season.

The Emirates Stadium move

Arsenal’s move from Highbury to the Emirates Stadium, in 2006, forced Wenger to become ever more shrewd in the transfer market. The cost of the move meant that for around five seasons, Arsenal had to sell their star players to stabilise the club. The likes of Thierry Henry, Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie were all sold to bring in much-needed funds.

Wenger replaced those players with young exciting talent, signed for a fraction of the transfer fees they received for their players. Despite this, Arsenal remained consistently in the top four, an achievement which is often overlooked – but that Wenger deserves huge credit for.

The Bad

The nine-year trophy drought

The most difficult period in charge of Arsenal for Wenger was the nine years that the Gunners went without a major trophy from 2005 to 2014. Although Arsenal reached the finals of the Champions League in 2006 and the League Cup in 2007 and 2011, they failed to challenge for trophies consistently enough.  

The nine-year wait for a trophy was somewhat caused by Arsenal’s transition to the Emirates. However, it seemed that every season Arsenal would suffer a major dip in form, just when the  trophies were being contested.

The heavy defeats to title rivals

Arsenal have struggled away from home against their top-six rivals in recent times under Wenger, taking just 14 points from the last 84 available. However, it is not just the defeats to those sides that has brought criticism of Wenger, but the manner of those defeats.

The Gunners have suffered heavy batterings, such as 8-2 at Manchester United, 6-0 at Chelsea, 5-1 and 4-0 at Liverpool and 6-3 at Manchester City. These results created doubt over Wenger’s ability to compete against the best teams.

The sales of star players to rivals

One of Arsenal’s biggest problems over the last few years has been holding onto their star players. On multiple occasions key players have left the Emirates, only to strengthen a title rival.

The most controversial departure was the sale of Robin van Persie to Manchester United, ahead of the 2012/13 season, which sparked outrage amongst Arsenal supporters. The deal effectively handed the title to United – but it was not the first controversial deal to help a rival.

Bacary Sagna, Gael Clichy and Samir Nasri all left for Manchester City and went onto win the league, while more recently Alexis Sanchez joined Manchester United.

The Ugly

The touchline feuds

Wenger has largely conducted himself in a respectful and professional fashion on the touchline throughout his reign. However, after managing a team of Arsenal’s stature, amongst the pressures and challenges of the Premier League for over 20 years, it is almost impossible to expect someone to avoid some moments of controversy.

Wenger was fined £10,000 after admitting a charge of improper conduct for his role in a touchline spat with Alan Pardew in 2006. His long-standing feud with Jose Mourinho came to a head at Stamford Bridge in 2014, when Wenger pushed Mourinho after the Chelsea manager told him to return to his technical area.

The touchline ban for pushing the fourth official

Wenger was handed a four-match touchline ban after being charged with pushing and using bad language towards fourth official Anthony Taylor. The incident happened in Arsenal’s 2-1 win at home to Burnley in 2017.

The Frenchmen had been sent off for a verbal outburst, after Burnley had been awarded a stoppage-time penalty. As Wenger stood in the tunnel, Taylor gestured to him to leave, before Wenger pushed him in frustration.


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