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  • Mc Mc Sep 26, 2006 09:30 Flag

    Nuff Said - Arsenal - Next Generation

    Ten years after being greeted by the headline "Arsene who?", Arsenal's hugely successful manager Arsene Wenger will certainly be able to savour the milestone which awaits him on Thursday.

    Unknown in north London before his arrival on September 28 1996, the 56-year-old son of an Alsace restaurateur can look back on a decade that has brought his club three Premier League titles, four FA Cups and an historic unbeaten season in 2003-04.

    The Frenchman has transformed Arsenal in terms of the football they play and, off the pitch, has been a driving force behind their modern training complex and the new 60,000-seater Emirates Stadium.

    Bespectacled, urbane and looking very much the French intellectual on his arrival after two years in Japan, Wenger wasted little time ringing the changes from Bruce Rioch's reign.

    His attention to detail in terms of players' diet, fitness regime and lifestyle went well beyond simply banning chocolate bars in his first week in charge. His approach set new standards for the English game, let alone for Arsenal, whose then captain Tony Adams subsequently admitted to being an alcoholic.

    REAL FLAIR

    Wenger took Adams's disclosures in his stride, standing by the player and going on to build a side that combined a vastly experienced defence with real flair going forward.

    Arsenal gradually evolved into a side of fluid passing and movement, inspired by some shrewd moves on the transfer market that were topped by the signing of Thierry Henry from Juventus in 1999.

    Going nowhere during a short spell in Turin, Wenger signed Henry as a left winger and promptly converted him into one of the deadliest centre forwards of his generation and the Premier League's top scorer in four of the last five seasons.

    Dutch forward Dennis Bergkamp, already signed by Rioch, was able to flourish in a 'French revolution' which put a premium on individual technique, while the grit came from Patrick Vieira, signed at Wenger's request before he had even arrived.

    Striker Nicolas Anelka provided the goals before leaving in 1999 for Real Madrid, who paid more than 22 million pounds ($41.86 million) for a player who had cost only 500,000 pounds two years previously.

    Wenger's ability on the training pitch and in the transfer market paid dividends in his first full season, 1998, when Arsenal won the league and FA Cup Double -- a feat they went on to repeat in 2002.

    They added two more FA Cups in 2003 and 2005, along with that unbeaten league title in 2004 -- English football's first since Preston's "Invincibles" in the inaugural 1888-89 season.

    Steve

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