Football Features

The ‘photo album’ of Premier League managers that demonstrates Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal longevity

By Ben Green

Published: 17:14, 7 May 2020

October 1, 1996 is a day that changed English football forever. Arsene Wenger, a relative unknown French manager, officially took charge of Arsenal.

The Gunners, across his first decade in charge enjoyed unprecedented success as well as playing some of the most exhilarating football and revolutionising views toward nutrition. The last decade, which has coincided with a much-needed stadium move, has been less profitable, but, nevertheless, Wenger remained a survivor throughout adversary, reaching a milestone not many back then could have envisaged. He was essentially the last of a dying breed upon his departure in May 2018. The days of the dynastic manager, who remain at one club for a lengthy period of time, are now consigned to history.

To put his achievement into context: at the time of his departure, Wenger was the only top-division European manager who had joined their present club in the 20th century. Other exhibits that illustrate Wenger’s longevity include the selection of pictures of fresh-faced Premier League bosses you’re about to see.

Mikel Arteta (Arsenal)

  • Where: Antiguoko
  • Role: Youth player
  • Age: 14

Arteta was just a teenager with big dreams when his future boss at Arsenal took charge of the London club. The Spaniard was learning the trade with childhood friend Xabi Alonso in the Antiguoko youth set-up and would leave for Barcelona’s La Masia academy just a year later.

Dean Smith (Aston Villa)

  • Where: Hereford United
  • Role: Player
  • Age: 25

It was possibly a year to forget for Hereford United’s then record signing, as Smith experienced relegation from the English Football League after finishing dead last in 1996/97.

Eddie Howe (Bournemouth)

  • Where: Bournemouth
  • Role: Player
  • Age: 18

Howe, a graduate of Bournemouth’s academy, made his first-team debut with his boyhood club in December 1995 and would go on to register 201 official appearances before leaving for Portsmouth in 2002.

Graham Potter (Brighton)

  • Where: Southampton
  • Role: Player
  • Age: 21

Potter joined the Saints from Stoke in the summer of 1996 but would leave midway through the campaign after failing to earn a consistent spot under then boss Graeme Souness at the Dell.

Sean Dyche (Burnley)

  • Where: Chesterfield
  • Role: Player
  • Age: 25

By the time Wenger took office Dyche was in his final season with the Spireites whom he joined from Nottingham Forest, then under the auspices of the esteemed Brian Clough, in 1990.

Frank Lampard (Chelsea)

  • Where: West Ham
  • Role: Player
  • Age: 18

A fresh-faced Lampard was bursting onto the scene at Upton Park under Harry Redknapp when Wenger took charge of Arsenal. He would go on to light up the Premier League for another four years for the Hammers before joining Chelsea and going on to become the club’s record goalscorer.

Roy Hodgson (Crystal Palace)

  • Where: Inter Milan
  • Role: Manager
  • Age: 48

The Nerazzurri were bottom of Serie A when Hodgson took charge of the San Siro club, and he guided them to a seventh-place finish. The 1996-97 was even more successful for the former England manager, finishing third in the Italian league, though it was not enough to keep him his job, as he was replaced by Luigi Simoni.

Carlo Ancelotti (Everton)

  • Where: Parma
  • Role: Manager
  • Age: 37

Before Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, PSG or even AC Milan, a young Ancelotti was turning heads for Parma. In 1996/97, he guided the Crusaders to second in Serie A with a star-studded squad that included Gianfranco Zola – who left for Chelsea a month after Wenger’s arrival in the Premier League – Hernan Crespo, Gianluigi Buffon, Fabio Cannavaro and Lilian Thuram. 

Brendan Rodgers (Leicester City)

  • Where: Reading
  • Role: Academy manager
  • Age: 23

After a a genetic knee condition ended his playing career prematurely, Rodgers worked his way up at Reading in the youth coaching department before being headhunted by Jose Mourinho at Chelsea in 2004. We couldn’t find a photo of Rodgers in his academy role but hope the following tweets will make amends.

Jurgen Klopp (Liverpool)

  • Where: Mainz 05
  • Role: Player
  • Age: 29

Not exactly the most gifted – Klopp “hated himself” for his lack of technical ability – the current Liverpool boss nonetheless enjoyed a productive career where the seeds of a successful managerial career were being sown in his later years in Mainz.

Pep Guardiola (Manchester City)

  • Where: Barcelona
  • Role: Player
  • Age: 25

Guardiola, towards the backend of 1996, was at the height of his powers. A member of Johan Cruyff’s ‘Dream Team’, he was Bobby Robson’s midfield general as Barcelona vied for the Spanish championship.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (Manchester United)

  • Where: Man Utd
  • Role: Player
  • Age: 23

Sir Alex Ferguson signed the cherubic Norwegian that summer, and he went on to score an impressive 18 goals in his maiden campaign as the North West club clinched the Premier League title. Solskjaer even scored against Wenger’s Arsenal that year in a 2-1 victory at Highbury.

Steve Bruce (Newcastle)

  • Where: Birmingham
  • Role: Player
  • Age: 36

An ageing Bruce dropped down a division to join Trevor Francis’ Blues upon leaving Man Utd in the summer of 1996. He would enjoy two seasons at the club and had a brief stint at Sheffield United before turning to management.

Daniel Farke (Norwich)

  • Where: TuS Paderborn-Neuhaus
  • Role: Player
  • Age: 20

Back in the days when Bundesliga club SC Paderborn were named TuS Paderborn-Neuhaus, Farke was banging them in. He describes himself as a “technical striker” who “knew how to score goals” in the video above (in which you can see a snap from his playing days), if also by his own admission at one point “the slowest striker in Western Europe.” Farke played most of his football in the lower divisions of Germany before moving into coaching.

Chris Wilder (Sheffield United)

  • Where: Notts County
  • Role: Player
  • Age: 29

Ever wondered why Sheff Utd have been so hard to break down this season? Well, it is perhaps down to Wilder enjoying a brief spell at Notts County under Sam Allardyce.

Ralph Hasenhuttl (Southampton)

  • Where: Mechelen
  • Role: Player
  • Age: 29

By the time Wenger took the helm at Arsenal, Hasenhuttl was in the midst of his first spell away from his native Austria, plying his trade for Belgian club Mechelen. He went on to play for Lierse, Cologne, Greuther Furth and Bayern Munich II (see pic above) before venturing across the touchline.

Jose Mourinho (Tottenham Hotspur)

  • Where: Barcelona
  • Role: Assistant coach
  • Age: 33

Initially arriving at the Camp Nou as Robson’s translator (a role he performed during their period together at FC Porto), Mourinho’s job slowly evolved to that of a traditional assistant manager. The lessons he learnt would hold him in good stead.

Nigel Pearson (Watford)

  • Where: Middlesbrough
  • Role: Player
  • Age: 33

The hardened defender was playing in the Premier League when Wenger pitched up, forming a key part of player-manager Bryan Robson’s backline. Unfortunately his efforts weren’t enough to keep Boro in the league as they finished 19th and suffered relegation. He did, however, captain them to promotion the following season.

David Moyes (West Ham)

  • Where: Preston
  • Role: Player
  • Age: 33

Moyes was in his fourth campaign as a player for Preston in 1996. He went on to marshal the Lilywhites’ rearguard for another season before succeeding Gary Peters as the club’s manager. Having completed his coaching badges at the age of 22, Moyes was more than prepared for a life in the dugout.

Nuno Espirito Santo (Wolves)

  • Where: Vitoria Guimaraes
  • Role: Player
  • Age: 22

Wolves boss Espirito Santo did not have the greatest playing career, and in 1996 he was coming to an end a four-year stay with Vitoria Guimaraes playing just 34 times for the Portuguese side.

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