Football: Wenger confirmed as Arsenal manager

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Arsenal finally named their new manager yesterday, two other managers and six weeks after they first decided to hire him. Given Highbury's descent into farce, it would have been fitting if the new manager had been named Rix - Brian, not Graham. In the event it is, as expected, Arsene Wenger, who becomes the first Frenchman to manage in England.

However, the farce has one final act - Wenger will not be taking over until the end of the month, by which time Arsenal will probably be out of Europe (they have already lost their Uefa Cup home leg 3-2 against Borussia Monchengladbach).

Until then Pat Rice, who took over as caretaker-manager when the previous caretaker, Stewart Houston, resigned on Friday, will be in charge. He will oversee the return leg with Monchengladbach and league games against Middlesbrough and Sunderland and will then become Wenger's assistant - Arsenal have denied approaching either Rix (Graham) or Chris Waddle for that post. However Houston - who was yesterday appointed manager of Queen's Park Rangers - could yet entice Rice to Loftus Road.

Wenger's first official day at Highbury is to be on 30 September. He will have 12 days' grace before the first competitive match - away to Blackburn Rovers on 12 October. The 47-year-old becomes the 19th and highest- paid manager in Arsenal's history; he is believed to be receiving pounds 2m over three years. He will also be given millions to spend on rebuilding the team.

The move has created an international managerial merry-go-round which underlines the global nature of the modern game. Wenger will be replaced in Japan by Carlos Queiroz, a former manager of the Portuguese national side who is currently coaching the New York/New Jersey Metrostars.

Nagoya Grampus Eight, the J-League club Wenger transformed from laughing stock to serious force, had originally intended to retain Wenger until November, still two months before his contract expired. The situation changed, said Masaharu Teshima, a Grampus Eight spokesman, when Arsenal sacked Bruce Rioch.

Interestingly, it suggests Arsenal sacked Rioch in the hope it would lead to an early release for Wenger. Peter Hill-Wood, the Arsenal chairman, said: "We have paid them [Grampus Eight] nothing for his early release. They have acted like gentlemen and accepted that he so badly wanted to come to us."

Few would suggest Arsenal have behaved like gentlemen during the affair, but although his appointment has been badly handled, Wenger remains a bold, even admirable, choice. He comes with a high reputation for his work at Monaco and a glowing testimony from Glenn Hoddle, who played under him there and who was inspired to coach by Wenger.

The Frenchman becomes only the fourth non-British citizen to manage at the highest level in England. Two of the others - Ossie Ardiles and Ruud Gullit - played here. The third, Josef Venglos, did not and the Czech lasted one season at Aston Villa. Arsenal expect Wenger to be more successful.

"This signals a new era for us," Hill-Wood said. "I believe Arsene Wenger is going to be a great success and drag football in this country into the 20th century. There is no doubt in my mind we are blinkered and backward as a sporting nation.

"Look at the British results in Europe, they were not good, including ours. We keep telling ourselves we have the best league in Europe, but it is not true. We need to catch up with the Continentals and we think Arsene is the man to help us."

Wenger, speaking from Japan, said: "It is my dream to take over a club in a top European league and if I didn't take the opportunity now, it may never happen."

Football and alcohol, page 3

Houston in control, page 24

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