Dein says 'secret formula' produced exquisite vintage

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The Independent Football

Arsene Wenger could hardly be any more French unless he took to smoking Gitanes and wearing a Jean-Paul Sartre turtle-neck.

The news that the Arsenal manager has agreed to extend his stay with the Premiership champions will be greeted with cheers in certain parts of north London.

While football in this country has long had its share of gruff Scots, straight-talking Yorkshiremen and wheeler-dealer Londoners, the urbane Wenger was a continental pioneer when he walked through the Highbury gates for the first time.

Although his famous selective blindness to controversial incidents both on and off the pitch is not an endearing quality, the Premier League would be a good deal poorer without his influence.

It is not so long since the Gunners' glory years under George Graham, but those days seem flat compared to the current thrill-a-minute side.

If anyone is responsible for putting the fizz into "Boring Arsenal" it is Wenger, the elegant and articulate Frenchman whose influence on English football has extended throughout the game.

What is his secret? It is a question which has flexed many minds, and Arsenal's vice-chairman David Dein - the man who brought Wenger to Highbury - believes that although some of his attributes are obvious, there are some facets that will remain forever unknown.

Dein said: "If we all knew the secret formula for Coca-Cola it would not be such an exclusive and successful product, and the same is true of Arsène.

"He has so many attributes: his intelligence, his man-management skills, his encyclopaedic knowledge of players worldwide, his complete dedication to the game and his honesty to the players.

"He also speaks six languages - he's fluent in French, English, German, Italian and Spanish and can converse in Japanese."

Thierry Henry is rated by some as the best striker in the world, but it is worth remembering that until Wenger brought him to Arsenal, he was playing as a winger.

Look at the French strikers - Henry, David Trezeguet, Nicolas Anelka and Sylvain Wiltord - who have at some stage come under Wenger's influence.

But English football also owes Wenger a debt, with Ashley Cole blossoming under his influence into a world-class player while Sol Campbell chose the Highbury finishing school to refine his talents.

The recent additions of Jose Reyes, Gaël Clichy and Cesc Fabregas to the Highbury talent bank show Wenger is not losing his touch.

Somehow Wenger manages to extract brilliance from unlikely sources and is also adept at allowing natural talent to express itself to its fullest.

His history is well known - a professional player of modest ability, he flourished as coach of Monaco before moving to Japan.

Dein played a significant role in bringing Wenger to Highbury, and his judgement paid off - the Frenchman transforming his new club on and off the pitch.

Although the shift was underway before he arrived, he changed Arsenal from a team often reliant on long-ball tactics and susceptible to a drinking culture which had already made worrying headlines, into one of near-teetotal athletes with a style to please even the most demanding connoisseur.

Apart from his dietary and fitness innovations, Wenger masterminded the Gunners' state-of-the-art training complex which is regarded as one of the best in Europe.

Although he has had his disappointments, Wenger's Arsenal proved last season they were a match for the Old Trafford powerhouse.

Now that he has agreed a contract extension, Wenger will be able to focus on a continued battle with United adversary Sir Alex Ferguson which exploded into a food fight at the weekend.

At least the menu in north London will continue to have a Gallic twist for the foreseeable future.

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