Farewell: Arsenal’s 22-year transformation under Arsene Wenger
As Arsene Wenger takes to the Emirates dugout for the last time as Arsenal manager this weekend, bettingexpert looks back at the club he took charge of in 1996 compared to what he will leave behind 22 years later.
The cost of success
Wenger has managed an Arsenal side through a footballing era where the prices in the sport have skyrocketed – everything from players to tickets and matchday amenities to TV rights. It is testament to his tenure that he steered.
the club through this period of change and out the other side to where Gunners fans are willing to pay some of the highest ticket prices in Europe’s top-five leagues.
The average price of a ticket for a Premier League game at this Emirates this season is £62.50 which is a far cry from the £14.50 price tag imposed on supporters during the 1996/97 season at Highbury.
Although the increase is partially relative to the times, fans are still paying a lot of money to watch players who cost a lot of money and the difference in price between Wenger’s most expensive first season signing and current season signing is an eye-watering £50m.
A particular Dutchman who went on to become an Arsenal legend was signed in 1997 as one of Wenger’s first and most expensive transfers in a bid to start making the club his own. This man was Marc Overmars, purchased for £6m – a comparatively paltry sum to the £56m+ forked out for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the closing minutes of the January transfer window this year.
Overmars ultimately made 100 appearances over the next three years, scoring 25 goals, while Aubameyang has made ten appearances with six of his attempts on goal finding the back of the net so far. In fact, the man from Gabon became the first ever Arsenal player to score five goals in their first six games for the club.
Millions of memories
Wenger took over an Arsenal side in 1996 who had finished fifth the previous season – he would go on to steer them through a period of immense consistency which would see them finish inside the top-four for the next 20 years, until that record came to an end last season.
Naturally, much of this success comes down to the players that he chose to bring in, let go and the team that he cultivated and, with the money in the football transfer market at elite level rising exponentially over the years, spending strategies had to adjust accordingly.
So it’s not surprising that Wenger spent over five times more on signings in this, his final season, than he did in his first.
Just £22m left the bank on his first spending spree while offloading just £1.2m worth of players, leaving the kitty £20.8m in the red. In contrast, the huge £119m spent just recently by Wenger on players like Aubameyang is offset nicely by the £122m brought in by the sale of the likes of Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
The north London derby
A notable measurement of each season’s success is the north London derby against Tottenham Hotspur, a fierce and passionate showdown that given the Premier League some of its greatest run-ins during Wenger’s time at Arsenal.
In his in augural season at the Highbury helm, Wenger & co. picked up four points against their north London adversaries – a dominant trend which continued throughout much of his time at Arsenal.
Having already played the home and away league fixtures against Spurs this season, the spoils were shared with one win apiece, with both sides winning their respective home game. This means Wenger dropped a point against the Lilywhites compared to his side’s effort in his opening season.
In fact, in the 2014/15 and 2015/16 Premier League seasons, Arsenal picked up just three points across the four games, compared to Tottenham’s six.
But whichever way you look at it, Wenger managed a Premier League club who consistently competed on the European scene and won multiple domestic trophies over 22 years. This, in an era of footballing fickleness and unparalleled spending powers is a legacy in itself. Farewell Arsene.