October 1st, 1996, a new era at Arsenal begins.

Nearly one month later, on November 10th, a legend (writing this) was born.

Growing up watching English football, Arsene Wenger was the only Arsenal manager I had ever known, and watching my Dad (an Arsenal fan) celebrate in front of the TV almost every weekend massively contributed to me becoming a Gooner myself. The first full Premier League season I watched was our Invincibles season of 2003-04, and at that point I had decided that I was going all in on the red & white of north London. Players like Robert Pires, Dennis Bergkamp, Patrick Vieira, and the ever-iconic Thierry Henry were at the forefront of that spectacular campaign, all being guided by the man who went by the moniker, “Le Prof”.

Exciting, attractive football, fearlessness, and complete dominance, I had found my team. As I grew older, I learned more about the man behind the masterpiece, what he had accomplished before my “arrival” as a fan, and what he meant to the club. Having no other manager to contrast him to, I put him on a pedestal as the greatest my club has ever seen.

I got so many adrenaline rushes watching this team than I could handle: an understanding of the North London Derby and always finishing above Spurs, aggressive head-to-heads vs. Manchester United, and some really memorable Champions League performances (before we started getting Bayern every year). I entered the Arsenal picture late during Arsene’s first decade in charge, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. The peak of that adrenaline was the 2006 Champions League final, against Barcelona. Losing that game was devastating for me, and to this day, remains the worst defeat I’ve experienced as an Arsenal fan to date.

Still, there was a sense of optimism because we were going to be moving to the Emirates, getting “bigger & better”, and all that. Unfortunately, in the last decade or so, Mr. Wenger wasn’t able to replicate his previous form, and we faltered significantly, especially in the last 5 years. The 3 FA Cups helped ease the pressure a bit, but he left the club with a somewhat bittersweet taste; many fans feel his latter disappointments outweigh his former successes. Personally, I still feel he’s our club’s greatest manager, and I’ll always respect him. Even though we never quite reached the standards he had set so highly for himself, there were some great memories in between that will stay with me for life.

In the spirit of the upcoming World Cup, I thought I might as well compile a 23-man squad of Wenger players whom I’ve respected most during his tenure. Assuming the formation is 4-4-2:

GK: David Seaman

RB: Bacary Sagna
RCB: Sol Campbell
LCB: Kolo Toure
LB: Ashley Cole

RM: Robert Pires
RCM: Patrick Vieira
LCM: Cesc Fabregas
LM: Dennis Bergkamp

RS: Robin van Persie
LS: Thierry Henry

GK: Jens Lehmann
DF: Lauren
DF: Thomas Vermaelen
MD: Mesut Ozil
MD: Santi Cazorla
FW: Andrei Arshavin
FW: Alexis Sanchez

GK: Manuel Almunia
DF: Laurent Koscielny
MD: Gilberto Silva
MD: Samir Nasri
FW: Lukas Podolski

NOTABLE MENTIONS: Tomas Rosicky, Aaron Ramsey, Alex Song, Alexandre Lacazette, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Jack Wilshere

Just to add the cherry on top, there’s a collection of Wenger’s greatest victories in Europe courtesy of UEFA TV, heres the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P6nyollHWwQ

Through the highs and the lows, Arsene Wenger has undoubtedly given me some of my greatest footballing memories. For giving me a club to cherish and support, I say, Merci Arsene.

Twitter: @Wenguss
IG: @wengusskhan