It’s Arsene’s 1000th competitive game tomorrow, so here’s a look back at that time in stats (provided, as usual, by @7amkickoff), and some of the boss’s best quotes.
The two halves of Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal
497 – Game number in which Arsene Wenger last won a trophy at Arsenal (FA Cup 2005)
502 – Games Arsene Wenger has managed since he last won a trophy
Using figures from Transfermarkt.co.uk¹, Wenger has only spent £61.66m on player transfers in his 18 year career at Arsenal. However, that number is hugely front-loaded with his total spend in the first 9 years coming in at £55.5m and his spend for the last 9 years at just £6.16m. Wenger was actually in the black for the last nine years until he stumped up £40m to land Mesut Özil this summer. £33m in the black.
In contrast, during the same 18 years, Sir Alex Ferguson spent £377.5m a figure which was pretty evenly split between the first half (£166.7m) and the second half (£210.8m) of Wenger’s reign. Liverpool have a similar number (£333m) as does Tottenham (£275.7m). Still, each of those clubs has outspent Arsene Wenger by at least a factor of 4 to 1. For every £1m Wenger has spent in the last 18 years Spurs and Liverpool have spent at least £4m to finish consistently behind him.
It will be no surprise to learn that the team who have most outspent Arsene Wenger is Chelsea; according to Transfermarkt they have spent £787m on transfers during Arsene Wenger’s tenure. And their numbers are pretty evenly split among the first (£385m) and second (£402m) halves of Wenger’s reign. Wenger has been outspent by Chelsea at a £7/1 (millions) ratio in the first half of his Arsenal career and a £67/1 (millions) ratio in this second half.
Manchester City’s spending spree didn’t start until 2008. But since then they have spent like a teenager trying to play “catch-up” with his drunk friends at a party. £555m in the transfer market since 2008. Effectively, Manchester City has spent nearly £100 to 1 (millions) that Arsenal have spent in Wenger’s last 9 years.
In the second half of his tenure at Arsenal, Arsene Wenger spent just £6.16m in transfers and did so while his competitors (Chelsea, City, United, Liverpool, and Tottenham) have combined to spend £1.52 billion. That’s £252m for every million pounds Arsene Wenger spent in the market.
And lest you think that these teams give a jot about Financial Fair Play or that it has played any part in their transfer dealings, Arsenal have spent £19m in the last three years while Chelsea have spent £191.4, City £164.8, United £158.5, and Liverpool £110m.
You can sort of understand the touch of venom in his voice when he says: “I went for a challenge that I knew would be difficult because we had to fight with clubs who lose £150 million per year and we had to make £30 million. On top of that we had to stand up with people telling us we had to beat them.”
The difference in spend has made a difference in team performance as Arsenal fans are well aware. Points are often the measure of how strong a team is but it is possible for a team to win the League and not really be the best team and for the best team to lose the League, we all know that as fans.
Instead of points, another way to measure a team’s relative strength is in goal difference (WARNING: serious stats). The team with the best goal difference has won all but 3 of the last 17 League titles during Wenger’s tenure — one was in 2008/2009 when Rafa Benitez let the title slip from his grasp, the other was in 2002/2003 when Arsenal fell away to Leeds United (the thought of Mark Veruca still gives me shivers), and the third was when the Tony Adams captained Arsenal side won the League in 1997/1998 despite being 12 goals worse off than Man U.
In Arsene’s first 9 seasons, Arsenal had three seasons where they had the best goal difference in the land (01/02, 02/03, and 03/04) and one season (98/99) where they were just 1 goal off the top team. In 2004/05 Arsenal began to slip away a bit and they were -6 goals off the eventual winners, Chelsea. The strength of that 01-05 team was such that Arsenal won two League trophies and three FA Cups. They also won the Community Shield twice in that period.
In the first half of Wenger’s tenure at Arsenal, his teams averaged just -10 GD off the eventual winners (two seasons of -22 and -23 are dragging the average way down) but in the last 9 seasons that number has doubled to -20. In fact, the closest Arsenal have been in term of goal difference was last season when the Gunners finished just -8 off Man U.
But the rules have changed dramatically in the last 9 years. In the first 8 full seasons of Wenger’s tenure at Arsenal, the team with the best goal difference topped +50 just twice. In the 8 years since, it has happened 6 times and two teams have gone +64 (Man City) and +71 (Chelsea) in a season.
The number of wins and losses is yet another measure of the strength of Wenger’s squad. In the first half of his tenure he never once had fewer than 20 wins in a season and maintained above 22 wins in all but one season. In the last 9 years Arsene has only pushed his team on to more than 22 wins twice, 07/08 (24) and 09/10 (23).
This season, Arsenal’s goal difference is only +25 and Man City have the best goal difference in the League with a +44. It’s no wonder, then, that everyone is tipping City to win the League. Wenger is also already on 19 wins with 9 games left in the season, and considering the opposition, my money is solidly on at least getting close to the 24 wins mark. Wenger could pull that off despite having one of his lowest scoring teams in his entire tenure. In his 1000 games for Arsenal he’s averaged 1.85 goals per game and in League games he’s averaged 1.89 goals per game. This season in Premier League play Arsenal are scoring just 1.82 goals per game.
But the League leaders right now are Chelsea and they have just four points, a +8 goal difference over Arsenal, and the Gunners have a game in hand. What better way to celebrate Wenger’s 1000th game in charge than to close all those gaps and hand the Special Onesie his first ever League home defeat at Stamford Bridge?
Two-nil to the Arsenal anyone?
¹Transfermarkt is often criticized for lack of perfectly accurate transfer numbers. For example, they list Reyes’ transfer at £17.6m which is the number that Arsenal would have paid had they forked out all of his bonuses. However, actual transfer costs are almost always hidden and while some sites like to claim they have accurate numbers I have no problem using transfermarkt because I find them to be relatively accurate.
“I realised when I joined Arsenal that the back four were all university graduates in the art of defending and Tony Adams was the doctor of defence.”
Arsene Wenger reflects on the brilliance of the famous back five.
“I tried to watch the Tottenham match on television in my hotel yesterday, but I fell asleep.”
Arsene on our less than entertaining North London neighbours.
“If you eat caviar every day it’s difficult to return to sausages.”
Arsene Wenger reflects on Arsenal fans booing a 1-1 draw with Middlesbrough in November 1998.
“We live a society where everybody knows everything and it looks like it is a shame to say I don’t know.”
Arsene Wenger hits out at the constant sniping in the media.
“We didn’t think he would play on Sunday because he was suspended – that makes me think he has all the qualities to join Arsenal.”
Arsene Wenger talks the arrival of signing Jose Antonio Reyes from Sevilla.
“I think in England you eat too much sugar and meat and not enough vegetables.”
Arsene makes clear what he thinks of Les Rosbifs’ diet.
“A football team is like a beautiful woman. When you do not tell her, she forgets she is beautiful.”
Arsene channels his inner Swiss Tony.
“Everyone thinks they have the prettiest wife at home.”
Arsene Wenger responds to Sir Alex Ferguson’s 2002 claim that Manchester United had been the best side in the Premier League since Christmas that season.
“We do not buy superstars. We make them.”
An Arsene maxim to live and die by.
“What I don’t understand is that he does what he wants and you are all at his feet.”
Arsene takes a swipe at the Fergie fawning of Fleet Street’s finest.
“To remain unbeaten in a championship like the English championship now is really unbelievable. I want to win the Champions’ League but, really, this is more important. It is something amazing, something special. How can you do it?”
Even Arsene Wenger struggled to comprehend how his side avoided defeat for 38 games in 2003/04.
“Sometimes I see it [a foul by an Arsenal player], but I say that I didn’t see it to protect the players and because I could not find any rational explanation for what they did.”
Arsene reveals that sometimes he does see what he says he didn’t.
“He can only cheat.”
Arsene on Van Nistelrooy.
“It looks like you are burned in the village quicker now than before. And the fire is always raging.”
Arsene Wenger reacts to the cutthroat nature of managing at the highest level.
“I don’t kick dressing room doors or the cat or even football journalists.”
Although sometimes you suspect Arsene wouldn’t mind a go at the latter.
“If I go into a season and I say, ‘For fuck’s sake, if we don’t win anything, they will all leave,’ I have already lost. The problem of the media is always to imagine the worst. The problem of the manager is always to imagine the best.”
Arsene Wenger – Ever the optimist, despite the doom and gloom of the last six years.
“When I arrive at the gates of Heaven the Good Lord will ask ‘what did you do in your life?’ I will respond ‘I tried to win football matches.’ He will say: ‘Are you certain that’s all?’ But, well, that’s the story of my life.”
An ageing Wenger turns his mind to more pressing conversations ahead.