WATCH: Let's take you back to Arsene Wenger's Arsenal debut

He was unveiled 20 years ago today and Blackburn Rovers was his first league match weeks later

Arsene Wenger

A rare smile from new Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger as he sees his team beat Blackburn Rovers. Photo by Paul Barker/PA Picture by: by Paul Barker / PA Archive/Press Association Images

It's the start of Autumn 1996.

Mayo and Meath are about to go head-to-head again in the All-Ireland final after drawing first time out and Mayo could well end a 45-year wait for Sam Maguire.

On the other side of the water, the air still shimmers to the words of "Football's Coming Home".

But something else was "coming home" to England. A foreign manager no less.

A thin, tall bespectacled figure had landed at The Arsenal and judging from the reaction at the time, the press were not sure what to make of him.

On September 24th, 1996, Glenn Moore pens a piece that includes the lines "when Arsene Wenger's name emerged as Arsenal's favoured candidate for their vacant manager's job many supporters were asking: 'Arsene who?'"

Twenty years on from Arsene Wenger's unveiling two days prior to the 24th and we all think we know him all too well: A purist, unwilling to compromise on his ideals and unable to decisively fix problem positions in his team... as well as a wonderful trend of keeping Arsenal in the Top Four without actually finishing Top.

These are all the things he is accused of and while some may be fair, others are certainly not - particularly that "specialist in failure" line thrown out by a Jose Mourinho who is currently targeting "football's Einsteins"

Photo dated 22/09/1996 of New Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger at Highbury Stadium, London. Picture by: David Cheskin / PA Archive/Press Association Images

From September 22nd, it would be a few weeks before Wenger's first official league match in charge which was against Blackburn Rovers on October 12th.

In the meantime, he had started to make his mark on the training ground but also when it came to players' lifestyles including clamping down on drinking and junk food.

This would reap dividends in the long run especially with some of the older players like Tony Adams whose careers at the top were extended as a result. And it would also slowly become the norm in an up-to-then old fashioned English football sphere.

But let's take you back to the Blackburn match at Ewood Park in front of 24,000 onlookers. A French revolution had already started to take place just ahead of the new 1996-97 season with Patrick Vieira and Remi Garde both arriving on August 14th.

The Gunners have been unbeaten since losing to Liverpool 2-0 on August 19th and by his October debut, Wenger is able to name a team of Seaman, Dixon, Keown, Bould, Adams, Winterburn, Platt, Vieira, Merson, Wright, Hartson to face Blackburn.

Fortunately, Blackburn are in hopeless form just 18 months on from becoming Premier League champions. The first eight matches before the Arsenal game yield a measly three points after five defeats and a trio of draws.

Easy pickings for Arsenal, who are missing Dennis Bergkamp but have an in-form Ian Wright alongside a John Hartson also in decent form.

Wright scores twice, the first showing wonderful composure to control the ball and cut inside and then racing clear for his second thanks to an excellent ball through from Vieira.

That double are his seventh and eighth goals of the 1996-97 season, although Arsenal then hit a stuttering run of fixtures in the league.

The 2-0 win at Blackburn are followed by a goalless draw against Coventry at Highbury, a 3-0 win at home to Leeds, a 2-2 draw at Wimbledon and a 1-0 loss at Manchester United.

But a 3-1 victory in the derby against Tottenham on November 24th is the first in a three-game winning run, before a run of three draws and a defeat in four games to round out 1996.

By May 1998 though, Wenger is a double winner and kicks off one of the longest and most successful managerial spells in world football.

Arsene who, eh?