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Arsenal's Arsene Wenger: I faced resistance as a foreigner 20 years ago

Arsene Wenger says he had to convince people that a foreigner could manage Arsenal after being appointed into the role 20 years ago.

Wenger, who celebrates two decades in charge of the North London club on Saturday, can still reflect on the scepticism he faced on his first day in the job.

"It was a big gamble [by Arsenal], because I was one of the first foreign managers who came to England," Wenger told a news conference.

"I think before me you had [Jozef] Venglos, which had not worked well at Aston Villa. So there was a belief that a foreign manager cannot be successful in England. At that time, I would never have imagined that 20 years later I would still be here."

Wenger's tenure now includes three Premier League titles and six FA Cups, and he has long since become one of the most respected names in world football.

Wenger has been credited with changing aspects of the English game, and his ideas and training methods have been widely copied.

But as a French manager who was arriving from a stint working in Japan to take over one of England's bigger clubs, Wenger said it was natural to face resistance at the start -- even within his own team.

Arsene Wenger celebrates 20 years in charge of Arsenal on Saturday.

"There was a resistance, there was even theories that a foreign manager could never win an English championship," he said. "There was a resistance, yes of course. Which I can understand.

"Maybe [even] from some players. But I can understand that. When I arrived here Arsenal was a very traditional club. When I came here the first time to Arsenal in 1989 [for a visit], the women were still in a different room than the men at the games -- the wives of the directors were in a separate room.

"So that was really a traditional club. So to be brave like they were to take a foreign manager, who was unknown on top of that, was of course a massive gamble."

Wenger's arrival in England was greeted with the famous "Arsene who?" headline, showing how unfamiliar the footballing world was with Wenger at the time.

And that only fuelled more questions about whether he was the right person for the job.

"Yes because the scepticism was higher," Wenger said. "And you have to convince people that you know what you're talking about. And I still have to do the same today."

Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.


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