Twenty-two years ago Arsène Wenger’s AS Monaco were one of the best football sides in France. The manager, who had been relegated to Division 2 in 1987 at cash strapped AS Nancy-Lorraine, had led his new Monaco team to the French championship in 1988, winning Coach of the Year award and qualifying for the European Cup in the process.
The following European campaign began inauspiciously in Iceland; a 1-0 defeat to giants Valur Reykjavík was attended by only 4,000. However Wenger recovered and led his side, including an in-form Glenn Hoddle and newly signed African starlet, George Weah to a Quarter final against Galatasaray, after destroying Club Brugge 6-1 in the preceding round, with Wenger signing Jose Touré in particularly stunning form.
Arsène Wenger changed the face of English football in 1996. A controversial view, but undoubtedly the statement contains some truth. The Frenchman was one of the first successful foreign managers in the country. He can be credited with the introduction of a unique footballing philosophy which persists to this day, complemented through added nuances after years of experience at the top of the world game.
But what of the past? Much is made of the fact that Wenger managed a young Thierry Henry at AS Monaco, or that he managed Nagoya Grampus Eight in Japan, but there is little widespread coverage of his time prior to Arsenal, what he achieved, and his playing style, apart from the obligatory Wikipedia entries, and cursory histories.
Arsene Wenger is a fantastic manager, and he has a great record at Arsenal, but one constant in his career is underachieving in European competition. This doesn’t sit well with Wenger, and I can see why, he clearly deserves a European trophy and he has come close on several occasions, not least in 2006 when we were 10 minutes away from winning the Champions League.
This article is a bit of Wenger history. It’s interesting to try to look at some of the more distant past to understand what Wenger has been through in his career, and why he is the man he is today.
His first major managerial post was at AS Monaco from 1987 – 1995. He won Ligue 1 in 1987/88, his first season, got his first taste of the European Cup the following year, reaching the Quarter Finals, but losing to Galatasaray 2-1 on aggregate, the team who were to beat Wenger’s Arsenal in the 2000 UEFA Cup Final.
Wenger then won the French Cup in 1991. This led to his first European final the following season in the 1991/1992 Cup Winner’s Cup. His Monaco side played well beating teams such as Swansea City, Feyenoord and AS Roma, who we are facing in this season’s Champions League. Monaco faced Werder Bremen in the Final.
The Final was marred by news of the collapse of a temporary stand in Bastia’s French Cup semifinal with Marseille which left 13 dead and hundreds injured.
Otto Rehhagel, who later led Greece to their 2004 European Championship win, was the Bremen manager, and his side won by 2 goals, even though Monaco dominated possession. Wenger had players such as Petit, Djourkaeff, Thuram and George Weah in his side that day.
Wenger went on to a UEFA Cup Final with Arsenal against Galatasary in 2000, which we lost on penalties (I was crying) and a Champions League Final against Barcelona in 2006, which could have been so different.
I guess the point I’m trying to make is that Wenger has had a great career, but until he puts his name on a European trophy he will not feel like he has achieved his potential. He has had the chances and come close, and this must be frustrating, I’m sure he still remembers these times.
Wenger is a competitive guy, and this season he will want to put right his awful record in European finals and bring the Champions League to Arsenal.