Arsene Wenger’s longevity is often cited whenever a manager in English football loses their job, with the Frenchman’s incredible tenure at Arsenal continuing to buck the trend of dismissing managers hastily after a poor run of results.
Wenger officially began work at Arsenal on 1 October 1996, meaning he recently celebrated 18 years in charge of the club. In that time, he has won three English Premier League titles, five FA Cups and five Community Shields. He has also overseen the move from the Gunners’ old stadium Highbury to their plush new surroundings at the Emirates, and the relative financial constraints that the move brought about. Remarkably, Wenger has even given a debut to a player born after he took charge at Arsenal, when Gedion Zelalem made a substitute appearance in last season’s FA Cup.
The lengthy tenure of ‘the Professor’ draws stark comparison with London rivals Chelsea who, in the time that Wenger has been in the Arsenal hotseat, have had 11 different managers (who have taken charge of 20 or more league games). As Wenger celebrates his anniversary this weekend with a game against the Blues, FIFA.com takes a look at the Frenchman’s track record against Chelsea’s cosmopolitan line-up of coaches since October 1996.
Ruud Gullit, May 1996-February 1998 (Won 4. Win percentage: 100%)
Wenger’s first match against Chelsea came at Stamford Bridge in April 1997. It proved a comfortable Premier League win, with Ian Wright, David Platt and Dennis Bergkamp on the scoresheet for a 3-0 win in a game that saw Nicolas Anelka debut as a late substitute. Wenger was to play his part in Gullit’s Chelsea demise less than a year later as the Dutchman was defeated firstly 2-1 in a League Cup semi-final first leg and then, in his last game in charge of the Blues a fortnight later, in a 2-0 league defeat at Highbury.
Gianluca Vialli, February 1998-September 2000 (Won 3, drew 2, lost 2. Win percentage: 43%)
Vialli took over as player-manager after Gullit’s dismissal and turned around the League Cup semi-final tie in the second leg, a 3-1 win at Stamford Bridge that set up a Wembley final against Middlesbrough they would go on to win. The Blues faced the newly-crowned league winners in a goalless draw later that year and Vialli’s only other win against the Gunners would also come in the League Cup, a 5-0 thumping in November 1998, with the Italian himself twice on the scoresheet. Wenger would remain undefeated in the league against Vialli until the former Juventus man’s dismissal in September 2000, just six days after a 2-2 draw against Arsenal.
Claudio Ranieri, September 2000-May 2004 (Won 8, drew 5, lost 1. Win percentage: 57%)
A fellow Italian took the reins from Vialli in September 2000 and his first meeting with Wenger came in January 2001, with Robert Pires and John Terry on the scoresheet in a 1-1 draw at Highbury. They met again the following month, as the Gunners swept aside Chelsea in the FA Cup en route to their dramatic Cardiff final defeat against Liverpool. Wenger enjoyed a good record against Ranieri, but his sole defeat against the Italian will live long in the Frenchman’s memory. Arsenal took a 1-1 draw into the second leg of their 2004 UEFA Champions League quarter-final at Highbury and opened the scoring through Jose Antonio Reyes. Frank Lampard equalised before Wayne Bridge stunned the Arsenal crowd with just three minutes remaining to send Roman Abramovich’s newly-acquired side into the semi-finals.
Jose Mourinho, June 2004-September 2007 (Drew 4, lost 4). June 2013-present (Drawn 1, lost 2)
Overall: (Drawn 5, lost 6)
The arrival of Jose Mourinho in 2004 coincided with the ascendancy of Chelsea and the decline of Arsenal in trophy-winning terms. The Portuguese tactician is undefeated against Wenger and, bankrolled by Abramovich’s millions, swept all before him in the Premier League in his early years. However, Mourinho did not get his first win against Wenger until his second season in England, a 2-2 draw at Highbury in their first meeting having been followed up by a goalless stalemate at Stamford Bridge in May 2005 as Chelsea marched on to the title. That first victory, a 2-1 Community Shield win later that year, began a run of three consecutive wins: 1-0 at Stamford Bridge in August and 2-0 at Highbury, thanks to Arjen Robben and Joe Cole goals, in December.
Mourinho’s high-profile departure in September 2007 came despite winning the League Cup final earlier that year against the Gunners. The ‘Special One’ returned in June 2013 and oversaw a 6-0 demolition earlier this year in the side’s most recent meeting.
Avram Grant, September 2007-May 2008 (Won 1, lost 1. Win percentage: 50%)
Mourinho’s exit in 2007 saw Wenger break his Chelsea hoodoo, winning his first game against the Blues since Ranieri’s reign. William Gallas, who scored against Grant’s side in that December 2007 victory at the Emirates Stadium, was in the last Blues team to be defeated by Arsenal, over three years previously. Grant would have revenge in March 2008, a Didier Drogba brace seeing off the Gunners at Stamford Bridge.
Luiz Felipe Scolari, July 2008-February 2009 (Won 1. Win percentage: 100%)
Grant’s departure after his Champions League final heartbreak in Moscow saw Scolari take the reins in an ill-fated spell at Stamford Bridge. The Brazilian faced Wenger just once, with a Robin van Persie double earning the Premier League points for the Frenchman in a 2-1 victory in November 2008.
Guus Hiddink, February 2009-May 2009 (Lost 2)
Scolari’s successor was to have happier times against Wenger’s Arsenal. The FA Cup semi-final in April 2009 saw Theo Walcott opening the scoring before Florent Malouda equalised before the break. It was to be Wenger’s nemesis Drogba, with a winner six minutes from time, who sent the Blues into a final they would win against Everton. Alex, former Gunner Anelka and Malouda were on the scoresheet as Hiddink oversaw a 4-1 victory at the Emirates the following month that rubberstamped Arsenal’s fourth place behind Chelsea, who would eventually finish third.
Carlo Ancelotti, June 2009-May 2011 (Won 1, lost 3. Win percentage: 25%)
The Italian’s 2009 summer arrival from Milan continued Chelsea’s good fortunes against the Gunners, with three league wins in a row racked up. Wenger eventually got his first victory against Chelsea for over two years with a comprehensive 3-1 win in December 2010, thanks to goals from Alex Song, Cesc Fabregas and Walcott.
Andre Villas-Boas, June 2011-March 2012 (Won 1. Win percentage: 100%)
After a two-year period of relative stability at Stamford Bridge under Ancelotti came another spell of short-term appointments, with Villas-Boas facing Wenger just once. A stunning Robin van Persie hat-trick helped secure a topsy-turvy 5-3 victory for the Gunners, the result symptomatic of the defensive problems under the Portuguese manager’s reign before his dismissal in March 2012.
Roberto Di Matteo, March 2012-November 2012 (Lost 1, drew 1)
During his spell as interim coach, Chelsea’s fourth Italian manager oversaw a goalless draw at the Emirates before guiding Chelsea to a remarkable Champions League final win against Bayern Munich. Di Matteo was offered a permanent deal in the summer of 2012 and Wenger’s first meeting with Chelsea’s latest full-time manager ended in defeat, the Blues winning 2-1 courtesy of goals from Fernando Torres and Juan Mata in September 2012.
Rafael Benitez, November 2012-May 2013 (Lost 1)
Wenger’s sole meeting against Benitez as Chelsea’s interim head coach came in January 2013, with Mata once again on the scoresheet along with Frank Lampard, whose penalty confirmed a 2-1 victory in spite of Walcott’s second-half consolation.