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Wenger proud as 1,000th game tributes pour in

AFP | Last Updated: Saturday, March 22, 2014 - 01:42

London: Arsene Wenger said on Friday that it was "a privilege and an honour" to reach his 1,000th game as Arsenal manager, while his contemporaries queued up to praise the achievement.

The 64-year-old will become only the fourth manager -- after Matt Busby, Dario Gradi and Alex Ferguson -- to reach the milestone with one English club when his side visit Chelsea in the Premier League on Saturday.

"It`s a privilege and an honour to manage 1,000 games at this club," Wenger told a press conference at the club`s London Colney training base north of the capital.

"The club has always supported me. Time will tell if I managed to make this club bigger than it was when I arrived, but I hope so."

In the seventeen and a half years since he arrived from Japanese club Nagoya Grampus Eight in 1996, Wenger has led Arsenal to three Premier League titles and four FA Cups.

The London club have not won a trophy since 2005, but this season they trail league leaders Chelsea by only four points -- with a game in hand -- and have reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup.

"We have great players, so I`m confident we can win trophies," Wenger said.

"I`m extremely motivated to stay for as long as possible, but I accept that the next thousand (matches) will be difficult. The next period for us is to deliver trophies and be competing with everyone at the top level."

Wenger`s old sparring partner Ferguson, the former Manchester United manager, professed his "utmost admiration" for the Frenchman.

"I congratulate Arsene in reaching this momentous landmark," Ferguson said in a statement released by the League Managers Association.

"Having also reached the same milestone at one club, I cannot emphasise enough the level of dedication, resilience, as well as sacrifice, required and for that I have the utmost admiration.

"Over the years we enjoyed some fantastic battles and you could say we had survived together and respected each other`s efforts to play good football. I always enjoy watching Arsene`s sides -- Arsenal play the right way."Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho also paid tribute to Wenger, saying: "I admire him and admire Arsenal."

There was a barb, however, about Arsenal`s nine-year trophy drought, as the Portuguese added: "Because it is not possible to have 1,000 matches unless the club is also a fantastic club in the way they support their manager, especially in the bad moments, and especially when the bad moments were quite a lot."

Meanwhile, former Arsenal vice chairman David Dein, the man who targeted Wenger and persuaded him to move to north London, saluted his close friend for revolutionising the Gunners.

"Arsene Wenger transformed the club on the pitch and off the pitch," Dein told Sky Sports 1.

"I will go on record as saying he won`t be a difficult act to follow, in my opinion it will be an impossible act.

"Do you know how long a modern manager stays in his job for? 11 months, and Arsene has been there for 1,000 games which is absolutely astonishing."

Dein also revealed Wenger`s intense desire for success means the pain of defeat lingers far longer than the high of victory.

"We have a ritual that after a home game we go up the road and we normally have dinner together with his wife and my wife - but only if we haven`t lost. If we`ve lost he`s bad company. It`s a monologue instead of a dialogue," Dein said.

"The other day I said to him you`ve probably had 1,000 games with other clubs and 1,000 with Arsenal, you`ve probably had collectively about 2,000 games.

"I asked what does that mean to you? He looked at me and said: `Two thousand sleepless nights`. That tells you a lot about the man."

First Published: Saturday, March 22, 2014 - 09:21

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