Arsene Wenger: An icon of English football who represents more than we know 0

When Jose Mourinho made his ‘specialist in failure’ comment, it wasn’t just jarringly disrespectful because of what Wenger has achieved in English but also because of what the Frenchman represents within our domestic game.

Modern football is about money and revolves almost entirely around a series of very wealthy men and extremely affluent families. Managers are hired and fired, players bought and sold, and the atmosphere within which a club operates is almost entirely defined by benefactors - players and managers are transient now, and the game has become so short-term that legacies don’t really exist.

But, just as Sir Alex Ferguson did, Arsene Wenger will leave a genuine legacy.

Arsenal currently benefit from the backing of some very wealthy men, but think back to the 1990s and what they were prior to Wenger’s arrival. The difference between now and then is night and day, and where there was once a cynical negativity, a drinking culture, and a bung scandal, now there’s a purity about this team which their fans have every right to be proud of.

In one of the many interviews he gave during his career, Al Davis - the late owner of the NFL’s Oakland Raiders - was asked which of his accomplishments he was most proud of; emphatically, he answered that it was his success in giving a team its own personality and character.

Wenger is no Al Davis, but he’s had a similar effect on the club he’s spent the last eighteen years managing. Arsenal haven’t just evolved gently during that time, they’ve been given a different identity. The synonyms with Arsenal have all changed, and very, very few managers in history have done that to a football club.

Nobody will ever be given the same creative freedom and the amount of time that Wenger has been allowed, and so subsequently we’ll never again see this kind of individual-inspired metamorphosis. He is a throw-back to a time when clubs rose and fell on their manager’s ability rather than their owner’s bank-balance, and that’s why this thousand-game mark is so important. It’s an astonishing achievement.

The game will miss him when he’s gone - not just Arsenal fans - the game as a whole.

How perversely fitting that the occasion tomorrow will be marked by a game against a club who embody everything that he doesn’t. Jose Mourinho can disparage Wenger until even the press tire of the rhetoric, but the fact will remain that despite his tactical brilliance he is just a manager with medals rather than one with a genuine legacy.

Arsene Wenger has both.

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