Arsène Wenger is expected to return to Japan next month but this time to face former club Nagoya Grampus. The Gunners will play against Grampus on July 22 as part of Arsenal’s preparation for next season’s campaign. Although Wenger’s return is to improve his current club, the French manager recalls his stay in Japan with fondness.
Before managing English club Arsenal, Le Professeur made an 18-month stint for Nagoya Grampus, an experience he described as “a welcome change in my life, a fantastic experience.” The same can be said for then Nagoya Grampus Eight, which was struggling at 11th place in the J. League when Wenger came on January 1995. “When I arrived, Nagoya were known as the burden of the J.League as they had finished bottom of the league the year before and lost 13 games on the trot, so the only target was to lose fewer games. When I arrived there was no relegation, so they just wanted to avoid humiliation,” the Frenchman recalled. Accepting the challenge, Le Professeur was able to avoid more than humiliation for Grampus. During his stay, Toyota-owned Nagoya Grampus won the National Cup competition and the Emperor’s Cup. Arsene Wenger also received the J. League Manager of the Year award in 1995.
“Certainly, my determination was always the same while I was in Japan: I would only leave Japan if it was for a big club in Europe,” Wenger said. The Frenchman then moved to England accepting the offer to manage Arsenal in 1996. “Then the big club came for me and that’s why I didn’t stay, but I was not opposed to the idea of staying.” The Frenchman acknowledges Japan to have changed his viewpoint, owing it for giving him an “absolutely a deep, profound and very, very positive experience.”