Wenger's guidance has made me the player I am, says Fabregas

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Ten years ago they beat a nine-man Sunderland team 2-0 at Highbury to launch the Arsène Wenger reign, and a decade later his team marked the anniversary on Tuesday by seeing off the Portuguese champions Porto by the same score. The stadium has changed and so have the players, but the Frenchman's effect on Arsenal is no less profound 10 years on.

The official start date for Wenger's reign is set at 28 September 1996 when Arsenal beat Sunderland, although his first training session was not until the Monday two days later. For longevity, Wenger may still be 10 years behind his old rival Sir Alex Ferguson - approaching his 20th anniversary in charge of Manchester United in November - but there were many on Tuesday night paying tribute to his influence.

Cesc Fabregas was only nine years old when Wenger took charge of Arsenal but he is one more player who is grateful that he did. "He has been the most important influential person in my short career, he believed in his scouts, took me here, he made me train with the first team when I was 16," Fabregas said. "It was odd, I was playing next to Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira.

"I was lucky to learn from the big players when I was only 16 and for me that was a very big step forward. I made my debut when I was 16, he put me in the Champions' League squad and for me it was a big experience.

"When I was 17 I was a bit lucky because Patrick [Vieira] was injured and I had a chance to play. But he still took the risk of putting me in at 17. I have to thank him for that and now I have to try to pay him back for what he's done for me and for what he's done for the club."

It would be for the way that Arsenal play football that Wenger would be remembered said Freddie Ljungberg, plucked from relative obscurity with Halmstads in 1998. "He turned it around quite quickly and since then we have had great success. I can't give him more praise than that. He's done brilliantly," Ljungberg said.

"He's quite open to everything. From what I understand, Arsenal have scouts all over the world. From what I hear, there are not a lot of players that he doesn't know who they are.

"He brought a lot of trophies to the club, but maybe he will be remembered specifically for the way we play. It's a very technical way of playing. I hope the fans enjoy watching it. Not just our own fans, but even the neutrals enjoy it."

Thierry Henry said that he has still not fully recovered from the foot injury that ruled him out the previous Champions' League match against Hamburg and the Premiership victory over Manchester United but that his increasing match fitness had made the difference in his two most recent performances.

"That little thing with my foot is still bothering me a bit, but you saw straight away, when I have legs, it is another story, I can turn and have a go at people," the Arsenal captain said. "Against Porto, I was fresh, and you saw that straight away."

Comments