London (AFP) – Arsene Wenger celebrates 20 years as Arsenal manager this week. AFP Sports looks back at the high points and low moments from the Frenchman’s memorable reign:
– HIGHS –
Nothing better encapsulated the Wenger revolution than the sight of committed but cumbersome defender Tony Adams reborn as a swashbuckling goalscorer when the Gunners clinched the Premier League title in 1998 with a 4-0 win over Everton before making it a double celebration with an FA Cup final triumph against Newcastle.
A year after Michael Owen’s late goals condemned Arsenal to a painful loss against Liverpool in the FA Cup final, Wenger returned to Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium to regain the trophy in 2002 thanks to goals from Ray Parlour and Freddie Ljungberg. Four days later they beat Manchester United 2-0 at Old Trafford to complete Wenger’s second double in four years.
Although European silverware has eluded Wenger with Arsenal, his teams have still managed some fine flourishes in the Champions League, including a sublime 5-1 win over Inter Milan in 2003 as Thierry Henry and Robert Pires demolished the Italian giants at the San Siro.
In the most memorable chapter of Wenger’s Arsenal reign, the Gunners swept majestically through the entire 38-game Premier League campaign without a single defeat in 2003-04. Henry was at his brilliant best, with Pires and Ljungberg playing memorable supporting roles.
Arsenal were expected to secure Wenger’s first silverware for nine years in emphatic fashion when they faced Hull in the 2014 FA Cup final. Yet underdogs Hull were two goals ahead after just eight minutes. Wenger’s reputation was salvaged as Santi Cazorla got one back and Laurent Koscielny equalised late on before Aaron Ramsey won it in extra-time.
– LOWS –
A moment of magic from Ryan Giggs gave Manchester United a 2-1 victory in one of the all-time great FA Cup semi-finals. In the midst of a ferocious rivalry with United, it was Arsenal who looked set to claim a famous win at Villa Park in 1999 after Dennis Bergkamp cancelled out David Beckham’s opener and United’s Roy Keane saw red. But Bergkamp had a late penalty saved by Peter Schmeichel and Giggs produced an astonishing extra-time winner.
Wenger’s bid for a second FA Cup triumph was ruined by Michael Owen’s late heroics in the 2001 final in Cardiff. After being denied a penalty when Stephane Henchoz handled on the line from Thierry Henry, Freddie Ljungberg gave Arsenal the lead in the second half. But Owen equalised with eight minutes remaining, then produced a superb solo strike three minutes from the end.
After a remarkable 49-match unbeaten run in the Premier League, Wenger left Old Trafford seething as Manchester United derailed the Gunners in October 2004. United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy got the 73rd minute opener when he stroked in a controversial penalty after Sol Campbell’s challenge on Wayne Rooney. Wenger claimed Rooney had dived. The then-teenager slotted home in the last minute to make it 2-0.
Paris in springtime may set tourists’ hearts aflutter, but Wenger left with nothing but tears for souvenirs as Arsenal saw their dreams of Champions League glory wrecked in the 2006 final. Shrugging off the shock of goalkeeper Jens Lehmann being sent off in the early stages, Arsenal took a 37th-minute lead through Campbell. But Samuel Eto’o equalised with 14 minutes remaining before Juliano Belletti’s winner four minutes later.
Back in the thick of the title race, Arsenal collapsed after a dramatic 2-2 draw at 10-man Birmingham in February 2008. Despite the horrific broken leg suffered by Arsenal striker Eduardo, Wenger’s side led 2-1 with moments left but Gael Clichy conceded a needless penalty and James McFadden converted it to leave Gunners defender William Gallas sitting miserably on the turf following the final whistle.
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