Wenger celebrates 17 years in style as Arsenal turn back the clock

On the day the Frenchman celebrated his 17th anniversary as Gunners boss, his side swatted aside Napoli with a scintillating 2-0 home win in the Champions League
By Greg Stobart

On the day that Arsene Wenger celebrated his 17th anniversary as Arsenal manager, the class of 2013 produced a performance that rolled back the years.

This was Arsenal at their best, a display that harked back to the famous unbeaten Invincibles side in the inventiveness of their passing, movement off the ball and resilience at the back.

The attacking midfield triumvirate of Mesut Oazil, Aaron Ramsey and Tomas Rosicky whirred and blurred in the final third, made Napoli players dizzy as they interchanged positions and popped up all over the pitch.

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Ozil put the Gunners ahead with a brilliant, almost carved, finish from 18 yards in the eighth minute before darting behind the Napoli defence seven minutes later to put the second goal on a plate for Olivier Giroud.

Wenger has now, with Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement, been around far longer than any other Premier League manager and, on this evidence, a contract extension beyond next summer is guaranteed.

The build-up to the match was dominated by stats surrounding Wenger’s reign but the team's brilliance in his 965th match in charge showed why there is more to come.

Arsenal have now won 10 games in a row in all competitions, the talk of the Gunners being in crisis after just one game of the season - the opening day defeat to Aston Villa - exposed as nonsense.

Wenger has gone eight years without a trophy but the first-half against Napoli was as good as a performance as he would have seen during the barren spell. He described it afterwards as "the best for a long time".

What a way to celebrate a man who has come under so much pressure and faced so many questions in recents years.

It was a reminder of what Wenger has brought to the club over the last 17 years, of why the geeky looking professor was seemingly plucked from nowhere to take charge of one of the biggest clubs in English football.

Wenger, 17 years on, is still giving the fans nights to remember.

In Ozil, he has a player who can compare to the great Dennis Bergkamp. The £42 million summer signing sparkled under the lights in north London, scoring his first goal for the club in a performance described as “absolutely amazing” by his manager.

The German tired in the second-half but he had done his job by half-time, the team roared off at the break like heroes by fans used to spitting poison towards the players in recent years.

Off the bench came Jack Wilshere. Soon Santi Cazorla will return from injury, too. Wenger sides are characterised by technical, inventive players and this team is no different.

Matthieu Flamini snapped in to tackles and protected the back four; Laurent Koscielny never gave Napoli’s forwards an inch of space; Giroud led the line with skill and confidence.

17 years, not always at the top but always in the mix. A few downs, but far more ups. Wenger marked this anniversary in style - and with a performance that showed why Arsenal fans are now hoping for far bigger celebrations at the end of the season.