Arsene Wenger’s Highest High and Lowest Low

How do you judge the highest highs and the lowest lows? The peaks that made you giddy? the troughs that had you on the ropes?

Arsene Wenger’s 22 year spell as Arsenal manager has finally ended the rollercoaster ride that has in recent years, kept journalists in a job and fans heading for the exits.

His tenure can be split into sections, with the first decade being the reason why expectations are so very high now, dragging the club firstly into contention, and then ensuring its survival at the forefront of a sport that was transforming rapidly.

Then came what most know as the stadium years, when The Emirates required funding and the fallout from this was the transfer budget had to be created, rather than given. Perhaps his greatest feat was keeping Arsenal in the Champions League during those lean years, when other clubs were burning money to keep warm.

And then came the years of doubt, where Arsenal were supposed to herald in a bright new dawn, free from the albatross of uber-debt around our neck, we could now compete with the big boys, but instead, we slipped further down the ladder as Wenger’s shortcomings in tactics and his recalcitrant approach to these failings meant that not only was a first title since 2004 well out of reach – we also let in clubs that were previously playing perma-catch-up.

If we look at Wenger’s highs and lows on a game by game basis, naturally we’ll look to his first ten years for the best moments, and his last decade will be littered with references to instances when we feared the worst.

But there are matches in every season that could be nominated for either.

Our 8-2 and 6-1 stuffings at the hands of Man Utd are obvious picks when highlighting nightmares. What of our 6-0 hammering by Chelsea though? Or when Liverpool pasted us 5-1? We’ve also racked up a few derby defeats as well, after going so long without one. Let’s not forget our European nightmares too (we don’t talk about Paris).

In terms of high points, our 1-0 win at Old Trafford to win the league in 2002 was golden-hued, and I’ll never forget our recent FA Cup wins. We thumped Inter Milan at the San Siro, we were the first English club to beat Real Madrid in the Bernabeu, and winning the league at the pisshole down the road ranks pretty highly too.

So many of either to mention, but if I had to pick just one of either…

Manchester United 0-1 Arsenal – 14 March 1998

This match broke United’s previously unbowed spirit. We had the perfect gameplan, we had the back 5 as the perfect foundation, Vieira and Petit were patrolling midfield and in Marc Overmars, we had a weapon that was unanswerable. The flying Dutchman chased a flick on and headed the bouncing ball into his own path, before finishing low past Schmeichel. It was a signal, to both Fergie and our own fans, that we were a real force. It was unforgettable, and it was the beginning of the best years as a Gooner for quite some time – if ever.

Arsenal 2-3 Leeds Utd – 4 May 2003

We’d won the double the season before, and humiliated United in the process by winning it at Old Trafford. The next season had been given the perfect platform, and we made it count for the most part, but our slip against an underwhelming Leeds side managed by Peter Reid. Mark Viduka had one of his games where he was unplayable, and we shot ourselves in the foot. It handed the title back to United, meaning we failed to regain the Premiership yet again. This was a title we should have won, but defeats like this hampered us. Thinking about it even now gives off waves of ‘what should’ve been,’ and of massive missed opportunities.

These are just my own choices. Mentioned before, there’s plenty of both to choose from. Our 3-2 defeat to a weak Man United side and subsequent loss to Swansea City in 2015 ran the Leeds loss unbelievably close.

What are your personal high and low matches in Wenger’s reign? Drop me a comment, it should make for interesting conversation!

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “Arsene Wenger’s Highest High and Lowest Low

  1. For me, the highest moment would be ending our trophy drought in 2014. That was magical! As for the lowest, there’s RANGE to choose from, but I would pick out our crushing defeat to Bayern Munich. That was horrendous!

    Like

  2. What a poser – selecting memorable highs and lows over a 20+ year timeframe. Arsene Wenger certainly soared into the stratosphere and plumbed the depths of Hades during his reign.

    The more I ponder the deeper into the labyrinth I got drawn. Even got to the stage where I set a time schedule which allowed refreshment breaks and finish times (and that’s a waste of time whilst you lie on your pillow the pursuit continues and you brush the sheep aside to research another season).

    In the end I decided that the highs sprang to mind more exactly than the lows, i.e. they are more definitive – a great game or great moment seemed easier to tag. The lows seem to be the identification of trends and failings as the bad games became bad patches and the bad patches led to underlying problems, many of them resulting in responses to your articles.

    My conclusions are somewhat fluid and subject to change as the reflection process continues, but I’ve chosen a cut off point and my opinion is:

    Highs:

    The winning of the first double by beating Newcastle in such a dominant fashion, the joy of watching such individual skill and the flowing football those skills created. Caused me to draw comparisons with the pleasure I’d drawn from watching Real Madrid on those golden years when they won the European Cup 5 years in a row.

    That moment when we won the Premiership at Old Trafford, old those nightmares of the past laid to rest in one magnificent moment.

    November 25, 2003 when we hammered Inter Milan 5 – 1 at the San Siro, the ecstasy of cheering each goal as Ljunberg, Henry (2), Edu and Pires found the net. I watched the game in Kazakhstan on TV with a Russian commentary but it didn’t detract from that peak of enjoyment.

    Finally the final whistle on Saturday 15 May 2004, Arsenal 2 – Leicester City 1 the moment of invincibility, capped by two magnificent passes from my favourite player, Dennis Bergkamp. How high can you get without the aid of illicit substances?

    Lows:

    As mentioned earlier the lows largely identify problem periods, not so much moments;

    The perseverance with Manuel Almunia when it was patently obvious that he was never going to become a goalkeeper of the standard required for a team that was seriously going to challenge for the Premiership Title (or any other trophy). Even though Szczesny was a very young prospect at the time he would have been a better choice. So bad was the uncertainty of Almunia’s keeping that I dreaded the ball entering Arsenal’s half of the pitch. Yet the manager persevered – why?

    The dogged attachment to the ‘zonal marking’ system that has failed us so frequently over the years since those years when the defence was directed by that group who led up to and carried us through that invincible year. As I heard one pundit say, “Zones don’t score goals, players do”. However his allegiance to that format remained until the final whistle of his last match in charge against Huddersfield.

    The continued promises of addressing our deficiencies as each transfer window came and went followed by the litany of excuses that became so predictable – constantly generating the question – does he think we’re all fools?, does he really believe he is ‘Le Professeur’?, Can’t he see the desperate need for an accomplished defensive midfielder?

    Perhaps the lowest point of all when all the disappointments, despair and delusions culminated in the realisation that nothing would change until he left Arsenal. His lingering tenure ultimately led to a point of depression where the prospect of another year of his management would dig us into a whole so deep that the unthinkable spectre of relegation began to beckon – the absolute nadir!

    It would not be fair to cancel out all the achievements with negative thoughts so I’ll close with the images of Dennis Bergkamp’s goal against Newcastle flickering through my minds eye as I conclude.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Beautiful stuff, the Almunia section especially seems like a good shout. You’re right though, perhaps the lowest point was realising that nothing would change until he left.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s