Friday, January 27, 2023

Picking the best teams from Wenger’s 1000 games

Morning all, it’s going to be all about Arsene Wenger’s 1000th competitive game in charge for the next couple of days. It really is a massive achievement, especially as other clubs refuse to see stability and longevity as worthy attributes for their managers.

Invest in a 5 year plan with a young, promising manager then, after spending £100m in a summer and when he’s quite obviously targetted by the most bottom feeding hack in all of hackland, simply fire him and replace him with a bloke who thinks tactics are a kind of mint.

I think with Ferguson and Wenger we’re seeing the last of the dynastic managers, men who will stay at clubs over a prolonged period of years. You can’t see David Moyes being at United as long as his predecessor, can you? I mean, I’d like to see him there, whacking in crosses and talking about how they need to work together to find a way out of League Two, but I just don’t think that’s going to happen.

There were lots of Arsene Wenger’s Best XIs going around yesterday. What’s interesting is that there were very few positions over which there was any real debate. Seaman in goal with Adams, Campbell and Cole in the back four. At right back the choices were Dixon, Lauren and Sagna. I was tempted by the former and the latter, but in the end plumped for Lauren – simply because he seemed most Wenger-ish of all them.

Signed from Real Mallorca, where he’d been playing defensive midfield, he was converted into a right back and that kind of summed up what Wenger does – he sees qualities in players that they don’t even know they have. Even Thierry Henry wasn’t sure when Arsene told him he was going to play him as a striker, and look how that turned out.

The midfield mostly consisted of Vieira, Cesc and Pires with a toss-up between Overmars and Ljungberg. The former was probably the better technical player and he was an illustration of another Wenger facet; taking a risk on a high quality player whose stock was a bit low because of injury. Overmars had suffered a cruciate injury the year before joining us, which is why he only cost around £5m, and he added something fresh to the 97-98 team. His partnership with Bergkamp was instant and effective.

I, however, plumped for Freddie. Again he ticked that very Wenger box, the instinctive signing which paid off. There have been plenty which haven’t, in fairness, but watching the Swede play against England, Arsene rang up his club and almost immediately did the deal to bring him to the club. He scored on his debut in a 3-0 win over Man Utd, played a massive end of season role in the title and FA Cup in 2002, as well as the unbeaten season. His longevity is what gets him the nod for me.

Up front Bergkamp and Henry. I didn’t see one person choose anything different there because, frankly, how could you? The idea of seeing them once again, in their pomp, is like looking back on your 20s when you could go out all weekend, stay up all night, go out again the next night, and feel just a little bit tired by Sunday evening whereas now you’d be in a coma by 2am on the Friday night.

Dennis loved feeding Thierry, Thierry loved that Dennis knew what he needed, and it was a privilege to watch them together down the years. No doubt people will have their own little quirks and adjustments to the team, but I think it’s pretty easy for the most part to pick his best eleven.

What we did, over on Arseblog News, was pick a best bargain XI – the players who cost the least and provided the greatest return both on the pitch, and financially speaking too. The only place we spent over £3.5m on a transfer fee was on Bacary Sagna who cost £6m from Auxerre. Right back was the most difficult place to find a ‘bargain’. We could have used £250,000 Kolo Toure there, but we had trouble with another centre-half alongside Sol Campbell.

Anyway, go take a look for yourself, and make sure you check out the total cost of the team versus the profit it generated via sales. It’s quite striking.

For more on the 1000 from a stats point of view, there’s a great breakdown on the official site, with scorelines, appearances, goalscorers and more. For example: we’ve played Sp*rs 43 times during the Wenger era, and lost just 6 of those games over the last 17 years. Top work, you have to say.

Meanwhile, Mathieu Flamini has paid tribute to the boss ahead of this milestone, saying:

It’s an unbelievable achievement. He means so much to the club for the achievements he has done until now. Congratulations to him, first of all. I think it’s someone who knows exactly what he wants. He has a vision since the beginning, he’s moved to Arsenal and he still has the same one. He know exactly how he wants to play. That’s remarkable.

Flamini is one of the few players who has come back a second time, something the manager has been more amenable to in recent years, and he’s another of those archetypal Wenger players: unknown, from France, becomes important, then he buggers off somewhere else. But at least he’s come back with a determination to kick people in our favour.

Anyway, no doubt we’ll see plenty more best and worst XIs for the next day or two (feel free to leave yours in the arses). That’s just about that for today, although do check out the competition win an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain print here.

We can start previewing the Chelsea game tomorrow and, of course, I’ll be here with an Arsecast for your aural pleasure. Until then.

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