Arsenal fans these days are split. And if you say you're an Arsenal fan, one of the first questions you'll be asked is if you are 'Wenger-In' or 'Wenger-Out'. Even the UK's Shadow Prime Minister has been dragged into this debate; Jeremy Corbyn, when asked by Copa90, was firmly in the 'Wenger-In' camp. The reason he gave was interesting though, he said that Wenger was a man of his word, and that he demonstrated that by waiting until his contract with Japanese side Nagoya Grampus 8 was over before joining the Gunners.

Wenger's short spell in the Far East, sandwiched between his time at Monaco, and his appointment at Arsenal, often gets overlooked. But it had a disproportionate impact on Arsene Wenger's career, without which, he might have struggled in north London.
Wenger's time in Japan was a huge success. He took Nagoya Grampus 8, who were bottom of the league when he arrived, and led them to a second place finish. Nagoya also won the Emperor's Cup, Japan's equivalent of the FA Cup, under Wenger; and Arsene himself won the award for J.League Manager of the Year.

But it wasn't smooth sailing for Wenger at first. When he arrived in the Far East, much like when he arrived in London, he was met with players who were unimpressed and distrustful of a foreign manager. Not only that, but he had to deal with players who came from a very different footballing culture. In Japan, at that time, players were very rigid; they needed detailed instructions, which they usually followed without question. This is the polar opposite of Wenger's approach. According to Sebastian Moffat, in his book Japanese Rules, when one player asked for guidance, Wenger shouted at him to 'think for himself'. After a poor start in Japan, Wenger adapted to the footballing culture. He gave the players more concrete instructions, such as to pass the ball forward whenever possible, while still trying to educate them in his basic football philosophy, showing them videos of AC Milan to point out to them how every player must contribute, even when they don't have the ball.

It was this cultural baptism-of-fire that helped Wenger adapt quickly to life at Arsenal. We often think of the Premier League as a multicultural mix of some of the world's best footballing talents, but in the mid-90s it was very much an English league, with all the unfit players, the reliance on 4-4-2, the big-guy little-guy strike-partnerships, and late-night drinking sessions that come with it. Learning how to manage in the utterly different world of Japanese football certainly helped Wenger bridge the gap between his footballing philosophy and the cultural realities of English football at the time. For example, he made the players cut down on drinking, but he did it gradually, rather than banning booze on day one; and he listened to dressing-room leaders like Tony Adams, rather than alienating them.

Another thing that Wenger received from his time in Nagoya was a renewed love of the beautiful game. He had grown a bit cynical of all the bribery and corruption in French football at the time, and needed a change, one that would remind him that football can be a thing of beauty. When you compare Arsenal's slick passing to the more cynical 'park-the-bus' styles of some of Wenger's rivals, thank Japan, the country that helped Wenger keep to his footballing principles.