Arsene Wenger’s most intense feuds during his time as Arsenal manager

Former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger toasts his 70th birthday on October 22.

The Frenchman was in charge of the Gunners for over two decades, during which time he won three Premier League titles, went a full league season unbeaten and lifted a record seven FA Cups.

Between his appointment in 1996 and departure in 2018, Wenger was involved in some of the most high-profile managerial feuds in the modern era and here, the PA news agency looks at those battles as well as Wenger’s record against each counterpart.

Sir Alex Ferguson – Manchester United

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Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson battled for the Premier League title for years before later becoming friends.
Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson battled for the Premier League title for years before later becoming friends. (Rui Vieira/PA)

Before Roman Abramovich’s billions turned Chelsea into Premier League contenders, many of the previous years had been a duel between Wenger’s Arsenal and Ferguson’s United.

The clashes between the two sides were the heavyweight contests of the season and often led to the drama spilling into the dugouts – with the overall record showing just how evenly-matched their teams often were.

The two bosses were never friends but their rivalry came to a head in 2004 when United ended Arsenal’s 49-game unbeaten run.

Clashes outside the dressing room after the fiery contest saw pizza thrown over Ferguson, who revealed in his autobiography that the rift was not healed until after a Champions League semi-final in 2009 when Wenger congratulated his contemporary on beating the Gunners.

Towards the end of his reign, Wenger said he had “very, very, very heated moments” with Ferguson but now he is “happy to see him” as they share a glass of wine – with Ferguson presenting his former foe with a commemorative trophy on his final trip to Old Trafford.

Jose Mourinho – Chelsea, Manchester United

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The relationship between Wenger and Mourinho also thawed in later years.
The relationship between Wenger and Mourinho also thawed in later years. (Martin Rickett/PA)

With Wenger and Ferguson’s rivalry long established, Mourinho arrived onto the scene at Stamford Bridge and upset the established order – as well as both the Arsenal and United bosses.

But it was against Wenger that Mourinho would focus plenty of his words, even during his press conference after being appointed as United manager himself last summer.

The Portuguese memorably labelled Wenger a “voyeur” and a “specialist in failure”, while the Arsenal boss questioned the tactics of some Mourinho sides.

Their rivalry escalated to a physical one when Wenger pushed Mourinho during a 2-0 Chelsea win in 2014, just months after his 1,000th game in charge of the Gunners saw them humbled 6-0 by Mourinho’s Blues.

Sam Allardyce – Bolton, Newcastle, Blackburn, West Ham, Crystal Palace, Everton

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Sam Allardyce enjoyed some early success in his matches against Wenger when in charge of Bolton.
Sam Allardyce enjoyed some early success in his matches against Wenger when in charge of Bolton. (Tom Hevezi/PA)

A hard-nosed manager who cut his teeth in the lower leagues, Allardyce rubbed Wenger up the wrong way – with their relationship not helped by the fact ‘Big Sam’s’ Bolton became Arsenal’s bogey side.

Between 2003 and 2006, Allardyce’s Trotters played eight games against Arsenal and lost only once as Wenger’s teams struggled to deal with the direct approach of Bolton.

Allardyce said in his recent autobiography that Wenger “takes it all very personally and has an air of arrogance”, while in 2003, the Bolton boss delivered a blow to Arsenal’s title hopes.

A big friend of Ferguson, Allardyce’s side came from two goals down to draw 2-2 with the Gunners and hand the advantage in a tight title race to the Red Devils.

Wenger, who has since defended Allardyce after his controversial sacking from the England post, said he was “scarred for life” by that result – although he did not lose to an Allardyce side after 2006.

Tony Pulis – Stoke, Crystal Palace, West Brom

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Pulis was another manager who fell foul of some harsh words from Wenger.
Pulis was another manager who fell foul of some harsh words from Wenger. (Nick Potts/PA)

Like with Allardyce, Pulis and Wenger were not competing for honours in the same way as his battles with Ferguson and Mourinho – the pair had issues with one another’s approach to the game over the years.

Their rivalry came to a head in February 2010 when Stoke defender Ryan Shawcross broke Aaron Ramsey’s leg in a tackle which Wenger labelled “horrendous”.

Wenger brandished Pulis’ approach as “rugby” tactics as the Potters often rattled Arsenal when they visited Staffordshire, with the Welshman replying that Wenger is only “perceived to be a genius”.

Pulis also defended his side’s record by saying he had not had as many red cards as a manager as Wenger – but after moving on to Palace and West Brom, the pair no longer clashed, with Wenger saying his one-time nemesis “made a miracle” by keeping the Eagles in the top flight during his time at Selhurst Park.

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