Their victory over Olympiakos was the perfect celebration of another landmark in Arsène Wenger's Arsenal reign: frustration followed by brilliant goals. But as the Frenchman today becomes Arsenal's longest-serving manager of all-time, Gaël Clichy said that "Arsenal is Arsenal because of Wenger".
Clichy, 24, and now one of the best left-backs in the world, is the ideal Wenger footballer: fast, athletic, loyal and – dare we say it – French. He was discovered by Wenger at Cannes and became Ashley Cole's successor at left-back. Unlike his predecessor, Clichy has never asked to leave and never will, judging by his tribute to Wenger after Arsenal's 2-0 win on Tuesday night.
"In football, you always want to be the best and win trophies, so when you don't have the results everyone wants, people start to talk," Clichy said. "But you have to realise Arsenal is Arsenal because of him [Wenger] and against Olympiakos we showed we can play great football – the kind that people want to see. I think we have to support him – the players want to play for him and win something for him. I think it is going to be a great season."
There are those who might raise an eyebrow at the certainty of the last statement, although Tuesday's win over an obstinate Olympiakos with two goals in the last 12 minutes did at least prove that they have some staying power. Clichy said his manager had brought the great names to the club – Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry, even Dennis Bergkamp who was actually signed before Wenger arrived – and that he had never lost that connection with his players.
"He has always been supportive to all the players, giving confidence to the younger and older players," he said. "The passion he puts into the game shows and at training he is the first to arrive and the last to leave. For me, he is one of the best managers in Europe. I've been here for six years and he is always pushing for us to play this kind of football."
Wenger has never looked like a relaxed individual on the touchline, in fact he has looked less and less at ease in recent, more troubled, times. Does Wenger get angry? "Yes of course, when you don't play well," Clichy said. "At half-time or at the end of the game we see him angry, but most of the time he waits and talks to you face to face.
"He doesn't like to talk in front of everyone and the players know when they have made a mistake. It is up to us to ask ourselves the right questions to make it good."
Remarkably, Wenger has said that Fabio Capello is free to pick Theo Walcott for England's World Cup qualifiers – both dead rubbers – against Ukraine and Belarus this month. The squad will be announced on Sunday and Capello will be at the Emirates earlier that day, hoping to see Walcott figure in his first game of the season.
Meanwhile, Stan Kroenke has increased his stake in Arsenal to 28.7 per cent. The American billionaire businessman has bought 80 more shares in the company, edging him closer to the 29.9 per cent mark that would trigger a formal takeover offer for the remainder of the club. After more than doubling his stake over the last year, the owner of the Denver Nuggets basketball team bought his latest 80 shares at £8,500 each.
Arsenal results so far: 16 Sep S Liège 2 Arsenal 3; 29 Sep Arsenal 2 Olympiakos 0.
Arsenal remaining games: 20 Oct AZ Alkmaar (a), 4 Nov AZ Alkmaar (h), 24 Nov S Liège (h), 9 Dec Olympiakos (a).Reuse content