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Wenger: I pursued perfection at Arsenal

29 Mar 2023

Manager who led 'Invincibles' reflects on his 22 years in Premier League as he enters Hall of Fame

As Arsene Wenger is inducted into the Premier League Hall of Fame, the Frenchman says his Arsenal "Invincibles" fulfilled his vision of what it means to truly succeed in football, claiming the 2003/04 title without losing a match.

“Winning is not enough,” Wenger states in an exclusive video celebrating his induction. “The obligation of perfection is the most important for me.

“[I said to the players] ‘Do you want to become immortal now or not?'

“When I look back at it today and how the whole season went, I really feel I was crazy. Your craziness can kill you, and as well your craziness can make you achieve remarkable things.”

Wenger is one of the first two Hall of Fame inductees of 2023, alongside former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

Fans will be able to vote for three players to join them when the 15-man shortlist is announced at 10:00 BST on Thursday.

Vote for players to enter Hall of Fame

Wenger’s legendary status is a far cry from the view that many had of him, both inside and outside Arsenal, when he took charge in 1996.

“I cannot say I raised a lot of enthusiasm when I arrived,” he says. “‘Arsene who?’ Unknown. French. No history of success.

"What you want in life is a chance, and I got the chance.”

Wenger quickly revolutionised the players’ training regime and nutrition.

“They chanted in the bus, ‘We want our Mars bars,’” Wenger recalls. “I banned it all.”

Wenger’s approach was emphatically justified as he led the club to three Premier League titles and a record seven FA Cup triumphs, while overseeing a move from Highbury to Emirates Stadium, which he describes as “the biggest challenge of my life”.

Turning down a host of other offers such as the France and England jobs, he spent 22 years at Arsenal, setting Premier League records for the most seasons as a manager and the most matches managed, with 828.

'I gave it all'

“The fans acknowledge that I was faithful to the club, and I gave it all,” says Wenger. “The club is in a [good] position - money in the bank, great stadium, great training centre, and we won as well many trophies.”

Patrick Vieira, the captain of the Invincibles team and a 2022 Hall of Fame inductee, says of Wenger: "He was the only one who thought we could go through the season unbeaten.

"What Arsene achieved with Arsenal and the longevity that he had, I don’t think that will happen again."

Mikel Arteta, who also captained Arsenal under Wenger and is now their manager, adds: “He transformed the club. I don’t think about any other managers that have more impact. He’s been a phenomenal influence in world football.”

Also in this series

Part 1: Ferguson and Wenger inducted into Premier League Hall of Fame
Part 2: Ferguson: my expectation was always to win
Part 4: Ten Hag: Manchester United is Alex Ferguson
Part 5: Arteta: Wenger vision was bigger than any other manager
Part 6: Ferguson's incredible stats as he enters Hall of Fame
Part 7: Wenger's incredible stats as he enters Hall of Fame

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