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How Arsene Wenger changed English football and their perception of foreign coaches forever





By Kieran Gill for MailOnline

Published: 03:00 EDT, 21 April 2018 | Updated: 05:16 EDT, 21 April 2018

Arsene Wenger will leave English football after more than 800 Premier League games, three titles, seven FA Cups, as many Community Shields and an unmistakable influence on our game.

Arsenal’s manager was appointed in 1996 and Ian Wright has admitted a few members of the squad were asking at the time: ‘Who is this French guy?’

Yet they would soon bow to Wenger’s demands and discover the benefits as they were left feeling like their new club chief could see into the future.

Arsene Wenger altered the landscape of English football over his 22-year spell with Arsenal
Arsene Wenger altered the landscape of English football over his 22-year spell with Arsenal

Arsene Wenger altered the landscape of English football over his 22-year spell with Arsenal

Here, as the Frenchman prepares to leave the Premier League behind, Sportsmail looks at five ways Wenger helped shape English football.

DIET 

While on England duty, the Manchester United players would look over at the Arsenal table and wonder why they were always eating so differently from them. It was the Wenger diet. 

One of the first changes that Wenger made was to the menu at Arsenal. Less sugar, less fat, less meat, more vegetables. Chips and burgers were scrapped from the canteen. 

Wenger made huge changes to the canteen menu at Arsenal after his appointment in 1996
Wenger made huge changes to the canteen menu at Arsenal after his appointment in 1996

Wenger made huge changes to the canteen menu at Arsenal after his appointment in 1996

Alcohol was not banned completely but it was frowned upon, despite English changing rooms at the time being known to enjoy bonding over a few beers. 

Wenger’s year in charge of Japanese side Nagoya Grampus had taught him a lot about the benefits of being on a good diet and he brought that to England with him. 

Nowadays, nutritionists are nothing extraordinary. Plenty Premier League players hire their own and have personal chefs. Even some in the Championship do. Back in 1996, it was. 

ATTITUDE TOWARDS FOREIGN COACHES 

Before Wenger’s arrival, there was a sceptical attitude towards head coaches from abroad. There was an overwhelming belief that they could not be successful on these shores. 

It was a ballsy call by Arsenal to appoint Wenger in the first place. The players were unsure of who he was, and a headline in the Evening Standard asked: ‘Arsene who?’ 

Sir Alex Ferguson hit out at Wenger by questioning what he knew about English football?
Sir Alex Ferguson hit out at Wenger by questioning what he knew about English football?

Sir Alex Ferguson hit out at Wenger by questioning what he knew about English football?

Sir Alex Ferguson even said in response to Wenger commenting on Manchester United in his early days at Arsenal: ‘What does he know about English football, coming from Japan?’ 

Wenger, without question, was one of the leaders in changing the opinion towards foreign coaches. As Wenger himself has joked with reporters, the ‘red carpet’ is now rolled out when we get a new Italian or Spaniard these days. It wasn’t back then. 

TRAINING AND FITNESS

 In Wenger’s first pre-season with Arsenal, there were concerns about the fitness of the team, so Lee Dixon and Tony Adams decided to let the new boss know. They told him they were worried because they had not been doing a lot of running, like they usually do. ‘Have faith,’ Wenger answered them. 

A little more than a week later, in their first game against Leeds, Arsenal flew out of the blocks. They went unbeaten in their first 12 Premier League games and won the Double that season. Wenger was meticulous. 

Wenger introduced new drills and methods on the training ground that improved fitness
Wenger introduced new drills and methods on the training ground that improved fitness

Wenger introduced new drills and methods on the training ground that improved fitness

The Frenchman (pictured with Cesc Fabregas) paid attention to statistical analysis in training
The Frenchman (pictured with Cesc Fabregas) paid attention to statistical analysis in training

The Frenchman (pictured with Cesc Fabregas) paid attention to statistical analysis in training

He introduced new drills and methods from day one, with a focus on stamina, passing skills and ball control. The players would be told to stretch, stretch, then stretch some more and the Frenchman also paid particular attention to statistics and science in a time when they weren’t overly popular. 

It sounds strange to marvel at this in the modern era, but the majority of this was brand new for Arsenal. Now, it is the norm at each and every club in England. 

STYLE OF PLAY 

Arsenal’s back four of Tony Adams, Steve Bould, Nigel Winterburn and Lee Dixon was the bedrock on which Arsenal's success under George Graham was built. When Wenger arrived, he realised he should not simply rip up the blueprint and start from scratch. 

He used it as a foundation, then went about getting rid of their ‘boring, boring Arsenal’ reputation. Wenger played attacking possession-based football whenever possible and allowed his defenders freedom to force their way forward. 

Wenger rid Arsenal of their 'boring' reputation and ensured his teams played attacking football
Wenger rid Arsenal of their 'boring' reputation and ensured his teams played attacking football

Wenger rid Arsenal of their 'boring' reputation and ensured his teams played attacking football

They became England’s great entertainers in doing so. Though it risked leaving them exposed, Arsenal’s back four were formidable when they won the English Double in 1997-98, with Sportsmail’s Martin Keown one of their old-school defenders. 

Wenger’s Invincibles back line of Lauren, Kolo Toure, Sol Campbell and Ashley Cole were an attacking unit too. It helped shape a new way of winning and taking the game to an opponent. 

STATISTICAL SPENDING

Similar to his use in training, Wenger liked to focus on statistics when it came to signings too. The film Moneyball shows how the Oakland Athletics would use stats to sign new players and Wenger was not above trusting numbers either as he unearthed undervalued superstars. 

Thierry Henry arrived from Juventus for £11million and became the club's record goalscorer
Thierry Henry arrived from Juventus for £11million and became the club's record goalscorer

Thierry Henry arrived from Juventus for £11million and became the club's record goalscorer

It didn’t always work of course, but it did when it came to Patrick Vieira (signed from AC Milan for £3.5m), Robert Pires (from Marseille for £6m) and Thierry Henry (from Juventus for £11m). In the modern era, a club is missing a trick if it does not extensively use this system. 

There are analytical staff whose livelihoods revolve around it, although it is more difficult to do these days. Leicester managed it when they signed N’Golo Kante from Caen but remember, Wenger revealed the French midfielder was on Arsenal’s radar too before he went to the King Power Stadium.

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