x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Wenger among the greatest for Arsenal

There will always be debates about who is a club's greatest, be it a player or manager.

There will always be debates about who is a club's greatest, be it a player or manager. Arguments will ensue, each convincing in their own right, but rarely providing a conclusive outcome. Is Sir Alex Ferguson a better manager than Sir Matt Busby was at Manchester United? Was Bill Shankly superior to Bob Paisley at Liverpool?

At Arsenal, it will centre around Arsene Wenger and Herbert Chapman. Both were revolutionaries, from changing the diets and preparation of players to getting numbers on shirts and using floodlights before they were officially sanctioned. Similarly, their sides played with great style. Statues honouring both are at the Emirates Stadium; their names will be forever synonymous with the club. Chapman won two league titles before he died, aged 55, during the 1934 season when the club went on to claim a third championship. Wenger has three titles and four FA Cup wins.

Though without a prize since the FA Cup in 2005, David Dein, the former Arsenal vice chairman who pushed for Wenger's appointment in 1996, said his achievements would stand the test of footballing time. Dein said: "When people talk about Arsene, he will rightly be up there at the top with Chapman. He is a dedicated football man." Wenger's first game in charge of the Gunners was a 2-0 win at Blackburn. His fellow Frenchman Patrick Vieira was the only non-British player in the squad as Ian Wright's double secured victory.

Today, Blackburn are again the opposition as Wenger begins another chapter in his, and Arsenal's, history after surpassing George Allison's record as the club's longest-serving manager. There were nine Englishmen in the starting line up on that day 13 years ago. Theo Walcott, fit after a back injury, could be the only one to figure against Rovers today. But Wenger still sees undeniable quality in both teams. "It is difficult to compare the side then and the one now," he said.

"For sure, it was an outstanding team. Today we are different. But you can say this team is like some former teams, that it is really red and white. A lot of these players arrived at 16 and are now in the first team, and it is something fantastic to achieve that." With five wins in a row, including four clean sheets, after defeats to the Manchester clubs, United and City, Wenger retains hope of a first title since 2004. "To achieve it now would be like winning it for the first time again," he added.

Sam Allardyce would love nothing more than for his Blackburn team to upset the celebratory mood and he warned that the hosts are under pressure to end their trophy drought. "We all know how attractive they are as a football team and we all know what a talent they are, but, ultimately, a club like Arsenal has to win something," he said. akhan@thenational.ae Arsenal v Blackburn, KO 6pm, Showsports 4