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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 September 2006, 05:47 GMT 06:47 UK
Dixon on Wenger's 10 years at Arsenal

Lee Dixon
By Lee Dixon
Arsenal defender 1988-2002

Arsene Wenger reminded me of my school geography teacher when I first encountered him at Arsenal's London Colney training ground back in September 1996.

I half expected him to have leather patches on the elbows of his jacket.

Of course he didn't, but that was the image given out by this studious-looking man.

I've got to admit I hadn't even heard of Arsene when he was appointed to take over from Bruce Rioch 10 years ago this week.

I'd tried to do a bit of research on him, but there wasn't much information available.

Arsene Wenger and Lee Dixon
Lee Dixon played under Arsene Wenger until he was 38
What first struck me about him was how calm and softly spoken he was - the complete opposite of George Graham, who had a sergeant-major approach to management.

Arsene made a short speech about how much he was looking forward to working with us and didn't give an inkling of how dramatically he was going to change the club.

It wasn't long before we were doing stretching before, during and after training, and completely changing our diets.

Pretty soon we also had a new state-of-the-art training ground at Colney.

And Arsene had all the players into his office to go over their contracts. He couldn't believe what Nigel Winterburn and me were on.

Traditionally full-backs were the worst-paid players in a football team - and we were no exception.

But Arsene looked at what we were getting paid and said "that's not right" and we were given immediate wage rises.

He also changed the way we prepared for games. In my book, there's nobody better at preparing a player for a match than Arsene Wenger.

If one of his players doesn't go out and play well on a Saturday, he can't blame it on preparation.

Arsene's first signings were Gilles Grimandi, Patrick Vieira, Emmanuel Petit and Nicolas Anelka. None of us had really heard of any of them, but they came in and were absolutely fantastic, on and off the pitch.

Arsene's signings from day one until now have generally been excellent - he's made very few mistakes in the transfer market.

When he arrived at the club I was 32 and the rest of the "famous back four" of Tony Adams, Martin Keown and Nigel Winterburn were over 30 as well.

Yet we were all pretty open to Arsene's new ideas. We were at an age when you begin to get a few niggles and start thinking that retirement isn't too far away.

Arsene told us he could extend our careers if we followed his advice, so we listened.

George Graham taught me the art of defending... but Arsene Wenger released the shackles

Lee Dixon
I played six years under him before I retired, so his methods can't be too bad.

Arsene also encouraged us to be free in the way we played football and to do what came naturally on the pitch.

It was liberating and the style of football we played changed dramatically.

George Graham had taught me the art of defending, both as an individual and as part of a unit, and I've got a lot to thank him for.

He laid the foundations for me to become the player I eventually turned into, but Arsene released the shackles.

I was allowed to venture forward more and told not to worry about making mistakes.

In truth, I think Arsene realised the back four was a little bit better than he had initially thought.

Indeed in the end he probably kept us on a bit too long, because after we left - all at around the same time - there was a dip defensively.

Arsene has undoubtedly been one of the biggest influences on the modern-day Premiership.

His 10 years at Arsenal have flown by, and there haven't been too many bad times.

It was an absolute pleasure to play under him and I'm sure the players who are currently in the squad would agree.

To work at that training ground every day and play at the Emirates on a Saturday, all under the guidance of professor Wenger, where better is there to ply your trade?



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