English Premiership

Tributes pour in for Wenger

2014-03-21 14:29
Arsene Wenger (AP Photo)

London - Arsene Wenger said on Friday that it was "a privilege and an honour" to reach his 1 000th game as Arsenal manager, while his contemporaries queued up to praise the achievement.

The 64-year-old will become only the fourth manager - after Matt Busby, Dario Gradi and Alex Ferguson - to reach the milestone with one English club when his side visit Chelsea in the Premier League on Saturday.

"It's a privilege and an honour to manage 1 000 games at this club," Wenger told a press conference at the club's London Colney training base north of the capital.

"The club has always supported me. Time will tell if I managed to make this club bigger than it was when I arrived, but I hope so."

In the seventeen and a half years since he arrived from Japanese club Nagoya Grampus Eight in 1996, Wenger has led Arsenal to three Premier League titles and four FA Cups.

The London club have not won a trophy since 2005, but this season they trail league leaders Chelsea by only four points - with a game in hand - and have reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup.

"We have great players, so I'm confident we can win trophies," Wenger said.

"I'm extremely motivated to stay for as long as possible, but I accept that the next thousand (matches) will be difficult. The next period for us is to deliver trophies and be competing with everyone at the top level."

Wenger's old sparring partner Ferguson, the former Manchester United manager, professed his "utmost admiration" for the Frenchman.

"I congratulate Arsene in reaching this momentous landmark," Ferguson said in a statement released by the League Managers Association.

"Having also reached the same milestone at one club, I cannot emphasise enough the level of dedication, resilience, as well as sacrifice, required and for that I have the utmost admiration.

"Over the years we enjoyed some fantastic battles and you could say we had survived together and respected each other's efforts to play good football. I always enjoy watching Arsene's sides - Arsenal play the right way."

Ferguson, whose United side fought a ferocious rivalry with Arsenal, also emphasised the importance of stability, at a time when his own successor, David Moyes, is struggling at Old Trafford.

"Overall this achievement once again shows what stability can bring to a football club and without doubt he has created a permanent legacy during his 1 000 matches with the club," Ferguson added.

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho also paid tribute to Wenger, saying: "I admire him and admire Arsenal."

There was a barb, however, about Arsenal's nine-year trophy drought, as the Portuguese added: "Because it is not possible to have 1 000 matches unless the club is also a fantastic club in the way they support their manager, especially in the bad moments, and especially when the bad moments were quite a lot."

Meanwhile, former Arsenal chairperson Peter Hill-Wood expressed a belief that Wenger has the hunger to remain in the job for many years to come.

Hill-Wood, who stepped down after a heart attack last June, told Friday's Daily Telegraph: "He doesn't think his job is finished yet. I don't think his enthusiasm has diminished at all.

"I don't see him suddenly deserting and starting again at some other club."

On Wenger's impact, Hill-Wood added: "He has transformed the place. Most importantly, really, I think he changed the way football was played in this country."

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