Arsene is 'entwined' at the club, says Gazidis

"Arsene Who?" was the infamous headline which greeted the appointment of a then unheralded French coach at Highbury during the autumn of 1996.

Arsene Wenger, Arsenal

One thousand games later and it is hard to imagine just where Arsenal would be now if the club had not continued to have complete trust in Arsene Wenger.

'The Professor', who holds a Masters' Degree in Economics from Strasbourg University, has of course since gone on to write himself into Arsenal folklore, and recently was honoured by a bronze bust alongside fellow legendary manager Herbert Chapman at the impressive 60,000-seater Emirates Stadium, into which he had so much influence.

Wenger's teams may not have delivered a trophy since the 2005 FA Cup in a testing period of transition for the club, but his legacy is already secure having guided Arsenal to three Premier League titles - including the famous Invincibles campaign of 2003/2004 - along with the FA Cup four times. He also took his side to the 2006 Champions League final.

"You need to go into clubs where they trust you and let you work. On that front I was very lucky," said Wenger, who has made a habit out of moulding world-class stars rather than simply just buying them.

"The highest point was to play a whole season unbeaten. No matter how much money anybody else has invested, nobody else has done that."

It is perhaps the way Wenger has become an integral part of the Arsenal psyche which is the most fitting tribute to his loyal service, and has continued to see him spurn advances from the likes of Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Paris St Germain and even the England national team down the years.

"Arsene is someone who is intrinsically entwined in the club," said chief executive Ivan Gazidis.

"It is difficult to imagine Arsenal without him now. He has redefined the way Arsenal thinks about itself."

It has, of course, not always been an easy partnership over the past few seasons as Arsenal struggled to remain competitive in the title race since leaving Highbury.

Wenger, though, always knew that was going to happen, having to make the best of a impossible financial battleground against the limitless resources of first Chelsea and then Manchester City.

Yet for all his efforts, rarely was Wenger able to unearth a hidden gem.

For every Emmanuel Adebayor, plucked from obscurity at Monaco and transformed into a £30million asset, there were just too many like Gervinho who failed to live up to the faith shown by the Arsenal manager as a top-four finish soon became a much-maligned substitute trophy.

However, finally becoming unshackled from the burden of debt repayment by the stadium as lucrative new sponsorship and marketing deals kick in, Arsenal are now able flex some financial muscle again - crucially they can afford to hold onto key men with competitive new deals and also bring in proven world-class talent like club-record signing Mesut Ozil, while the youth system has produced both England duo Jack Wilshere and Kieran Gibbs.

That, of course, did not stop the pandemonium which greeted Arsenal's opening day defeat at home to Aston Villa, with broken cannon motifs and headlines questioning whether Wenger still had what it takes to build another team capable of lasting the distance.

Roll on six months and it is a different outlook, with genuine belief that 2014 could once again be a vintage Arsenal year, with the Gunners into the semi-finals of the FA Cup against Wembley, where they will face Wigan for the chance to tackle Hull or Sheffield United on May 17.

Indeed, following the 1-0 north London derby win at Tottenham, Wenger will take charge of his 1,000th game - at Chelsea - with his side still very much in the Premier League title race.

Whether or not Wenger's current crop can finally deliver where the faith in past generations was misplaced of course remains to be seen.

However, the desire of the Gunners boss to prove the doubters wrong burns as fiercely as ever.

"I have never had a day when I think I could live without football," said Wenger, who as yet to formally announce whether he will extend his Arsenal contract past the end of the season.

"I know one day it will happen, but you should not live every day knowing you are going to die - you live knowing that you want to live.

"You will know if you are not hungry enough any more, but other people will tell you if you are not good enough any more."

After some 17 campaigns of complete trust, no one at Arsenal is in doubt of that.



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