@LaboGoon previews a day we will all remember for the rest of our lives – superb series of pictures by Stuart McFarlane @Stuart_PhotoAFC of the man last night at the stadium as the sun goes down.
12 October 1996 – Arsène Wenger’s first game in charge of Arsenal, away to Blackburn Rovers.
19 October 1996 – his first home game at Highbury, hosting Coventry City.
Two very significant dates in Arsenal’s history ……. and then there were three.
Arsène Wenger will walk out at the Emirates Stadium as Arsenal manager for the last time as we host Burnley. The 1233th game of his tenure, 2 more to go as we mark the final countdown to him signing off next Sunday at the John Smith stadium.
With both Arsenal and Burnley having nothing to play for except pride, one could be forgiven for anticipating the atmosphere to have that farewell touching feeling.
With ‘Le Professeur’, as he’s affectionately known as, being in charged for the last time at Arsenal’s spiritual home after 22 years at the helm, it’s bound to be an emotional outing for the Emirates faithful. A good chunk of them, us, have never seen any other man in the dugout, an even greater number of those who did has grown very fond of him since that 1996 autumn day… so it leaves one uncertain yet anxious to see how they will react to seeing him leave his (Emirates) seat for the very last time.
The emphasis of today will of course not be about the match, but about One Arsène Wenger. It’s going to be a celebration of an illustrious career with invited dignitaries, amongst them the Arsenal 100 Club and many, many travelling Gooners in attendance to pay tribute to a legendary manager. He himself will deliver a special message to everybody.
On to the game itself; it almost feel like it ought to be testimonial-esque, however we can be sure that each of the Arsenal players taking the field will feel motivated to give their manager, father and confidant a graceful send-off.
Sean Dyche may have ideas of his own though. During his time at Burnley they have played the Arsenal six times (five PL games, one FA Cup), with Arsène on the winning side in all six. The winner in the last three games came during extra time. Should be impetus for him to spoil the party.
The Clarets come into this game off the back of some good form, having lost just once in their last nine PL games – a reflection of an impressive season overall. Being crowned ‘the best of the rest’ they have earned themselves a European jaunt next season, and for a club with so little means it’s something their manager, players and all stake/pieholders can be very proud of.
For the Arsenal players this fixture will not be about our away record, nor Thursday’s result, but about a group of players who will be very honored to gave the great man a positive result for old times sake at the Emirates Stadium – conseptualized in his visions and now a lasting gift to generations of Gooners.
On team news: bar Cazorla, Elneny and Koscielny everyone else is available. Given the momentous occasion I would think a strong line-up will be selected. Still two games after this for younger and fringe players to impress the new man. Might we see a certain Saint on the bench… who knows!
The Emirates faithful will not be saying “au revoir” today, because the great man will forever remain one of us, their message will simply be: