Posted: 9/1/2009


          What a load of nonsense on Saturday with a billion football fans world wide watching Manchester United v Arsenal at Old Trafford in the match of many a day.  Arsene Wenger, Arsenal's greatest ever manager sent to the stands with less than 30 seconds of added time remaining, on the word of an ERMO (easily replaceable minor official), the match 4th official. I won't mention his name, to save his shame for whatever other profession he decides to pursue. "Would you like fries with your burger?"  Let us call him Herman Ermo!!

         It also spoiled what I thought was an understated but ellegant performance from referee Mike Dean.  To send a high profile world famous manager into the hostile environment with rivals fans could have resulted in a disaster, but the Old Trafford faithful thought it a bit of a laugh. IT WAS ANYTHING BUT !

        Arsene Wenger was brought up in one of my favourite places in the world, Alsace, and the quiet village of Duttlenheim near the River Rhine 20km south of Strasbourg. His family ran a bistro, LA CROIX d'OR, and after many moves he has brought success to the Gunners and changed their beer swilling greasy chips menu to an athletes diet that has prolonged the life of many players.

        Starting with his home village team he grew to 6' 3" and moved on to AS Strasbourg, who he helped to the French championship, and played one EUFA match.  Possibly France's greatest ever manager, Guy Roux, who took unfashionable Auxerre to high places, saw genius in him early. He eventully moved to the Mediterranean to be assistant coach of coach at AS Cannes for 300 a week before Aldo Platini (father of Michel) brought him to Nancy Lorraine, and then the plumb job at AS Monaco. La Turbio, Monaco's 480 metre high training ground was his lab. Meanwhile he was studying at CREPS, a regional sports training college for his coaching qualifications.

        For two seasons he was in Asia with Nagoya Grampus Eight, before he moved to North London on the advice of Gerard Houllier and others.  It was a marriage made in heaven for both club and manager and before long he became a legend and the first non British coach to win the double, EPL Title and F.A. Cup, and also the first ever unbeaten EPL season. He even has a bust of himself in The Emirates foyer alongside that of former manager Herbert Chapman, a Legion d'Honor from his homeland, and an honoray C.B.E. from the Queen of England.

        While many English managers study racing form in The Daily Mirror, Arsene, who has a degree in electrical engineering and a Masters in Economics from University of Strasbourg, is daily reading L'Equipe, plus France Football and The Economist, while listening to classical music and Nora Jones

         Melvyn Bragg  says ' Inside this austere, dedicated high priest is a raving fanatic'.   He lives in a modest home in Totteridge, North London with his wife Annie, a former basketball player, and daughter Lea. My only meeting was at the FIFA suite of Allianz Arena at the World Cup Semi-Final, Portugal v Italy in 2006 when he was dressed as elegant as ever.  He has been accused of having too many foreign players, but his standards are high and with young Jack Wilshere (17),and Aaron Ramsey(18), he has Brits with promise. 

         At Monaco he signed Glenn Hoddle, George Weah, Jurgen Klinsman, Yori Djorkaeff, and at Arsenal  bought Patrick Vieira, Emmanuel Petit, Marc Overmars, Nicolas Anelka and Thierry Henry. For  Anelka he paid 500,000 to Paris St. Germaine and sold him to Real Madrid for 22.3 million.

         It was thought that when his good friend David Dein was forced out of the boardroom that he might leave, with the power shifting to foreign share holders such as US billionaire Stan Kroenke and even wealthier Russian, Alisher Usmanov. With over 700 matches at Arsenal and finishing 1st or 2nd in the EPL in 8 out of 11 seasons, you would think that he was safe. After masterminding a French Revolution across the channel, he might be reminded of Maximilian Robespierre, who did the same in the French Revolution- only to finish up on the guillotine in 1794!!  Of course, Wenger only kicked a water bottle !