Flashback to Arsene Wenger's first Arsenal game, 21 years on

Flashback to Arsene Wenger's first Arsenal game, 21 years on
From ESPN - October 12, 2017

This article was first published on Oct. 12, 2016

Arsene Wenger's first game in charge of Arsenal was a fairly routine 2-0 victory at struggling Blackburn Rovers on Oct. 12, 1996. But it heralded a new era at the London club, and was the first step toward an unprecedented period of success for the Gunners.

On the 21st anniversary of that match, ESPN FC looks back at the victory and its significance.

The buildup

Former Nancy, Monaco and Nagoya Grampus Eight boss Wenger had famously come in as a largely unknown manager in England, with the Arsenal players sceptical about the new methods he was bringing in from abroad. And Wenger stunned the team by calling them into the hotel ballroom at 8:30 a.m. on the morning of the match for a warmup and stretching session -- unheard of in those days.

Striker Ian Wright said later: "We were all thinking, 'What is going on here?' It took some time to get used to it because you are talking about a complete left turn when you have been used to straight lines."

The team

Wenger's first team was largely inherited from predecessors Bruce Rioch and George Graham, but one name stuck out as a symbol of things to come. Patrick Vieira was handed just his third league start, having been signed by Arsenal that summer on the advice of Wenger, before the Frenchman was officially in charge of the club. Vieira was the only foreign player in the team that day, aside from Welshman John Hartson, with Dennis Bergkamp not in the squad. The midfielder was the first of many bright foreign talents -- especially French -- brought in by Wenger, and the days of overwhelmingly English teams were soon over.

Lineup: David Seaman, Lee Dixon, Tony Adams, Steve Bould, Martin Keown, Nigel Winterburn, Paul Merson, David Platt, Patrick Vieira, John Hartson, Ian Wright.


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