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MOVIES: Arsène Wenger: Invincible - Review

Arsenal made much of my early formulative years in London growing up not too far from what was then Highbury magical, and experiencing the Invincible Season as it happened is something I’ll never forget (it was also my final year of my first stint in London before I moved out for the first time) – I was even back at the Emirates a few weeks ago to watch the Watford game in person, having spent much of the past two years back in London living about a mile away again. Even all these years later – the idea of as Arsene Wenger and Arsenal being one and the same are still basically inseparable, though two managers have since took charge. The fact that current manager Mikel Arteta recently opened dialogue with Wenger to discuss the possibility to return to the club doesn’t help.

To understand the true importance of winning the season unbeaten is a feat that not even the great City and Liverpool sides, or Chelsea with all their money have matched. One of the biggest strengths of Arsene Wenger: Invincible is that it can put images to words and achieve what Wenger’s autobiography did not – sport needs to be seen to be believed, and highlighting the sheer collapse of Arsenal itself during one week in which we (and there’s no way that I can write this review unbiased, so I’m not even going to try) got knocked out of the FA Cup and the Champions League in the same week. The fact that we then went behind against Liverpool destroyed players – so to see them push through, and to see players who played in that game discuss what they were feeling in that crucial week – is something that really highlights the monumental accomplishment of it all.

Wenger himself has always tried to take on too much – he’s a man who needs total control and that has been his biggest weakness that ultimately lead to his demise. His best years came with David Dein at Arsenal so that it makes sense that when writing his book, which came out last year – it lacked something. And in steps the guiding hands of directors Gabriel Clarke and Christian Jeanpierre to bring out his strengths – as an interviewer, selecting the most crucial bits of archive footage that don’t shy away from showing the lows as well as the highs – the loss against Man Unietd is touched on with the sheer anger that came from it, the real intensity of the rivalry between them is only highlighted with interviews with former United boss Alex Ferguson. This film has it all – Pires, Bergkamp, Viera, Wrighty – all key players and Wenger’s favourites are questioned. It’s telling that nobody from the Emirates era is interviewed, nobody still at Arsenal is questioned – the images of the Emirates that we get are of a stadium presented behind trainline fences - the difference between the intimacy of Highbury and the compartive emptieness of the Emirates is harrowing, and we see that fateful day in which Wenger last walked out onto the pitch at the Emirates to take charge of Arsenal in a whole new light. He points out how when everyone was previously against him only to turn, into loving him on his last day now that he was leaving. The way Arsenal fans treated Wenger when he was in charge is nothing short of an embarrassment, especially when considered where we are now.

Framed with flashbacks to his past – the film briefly covers his stint at Monaco and in Japan, as well as his childhood growing up in a different era and I would have liked to learn more about those times because his stay as a manager at Arsenal is so well-publicised those chances are anyone watching this film already will know exactly what’s covered. If you’ve read the book you won’t learn anything new – whilst other players call out Wenger’s weakness in the fact that he could be too nice, the famous top four being a trophy words – well-intentioned but misguided, and that 6-0 defeat to Chelsea in Wenger's 1,000th game in charge – he never says a bad word against his players. It’s how Wenger’s always been – classy from the first day to the last, and this doc does an excellent job at highlighting his core values as a human being as much as a manager.


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