Wenger v Guardiola: A brief history of a one-sided rivalry

Date published: Thursday 1st March 2018 8:15

Arsenal host Manchester City on Thursday evening in what will be Arsene Wenger’s 14th managerial meeting with Pep Guardiola.

As the pressure continues to build on Arsenal boss Wenger, he comes up against a manager who beat him for the seventh time out of 13 in Sunday’s Carabao Cup final.

Jose Mourinho (20 times) is the only manager Guardiola has faced more often than Wenger throughout his ten-year coaching career.

But who has scored the most goals in their meetings? Who has made the most appearances? And who are the only two players to have played for Wenger against Guardiola, and for Guardiola against Wenger?

 

The first meeting

The date is March 31, 2010. Arsenal are third in the Premier League table, four points behind leaders Manchester United and three off the pace of second-placed Chelsea with six games remaining. The Gunners have won six of their last seven games, including a 5-0 demolition of Porto in the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie. But they prepared for a quarter-final clash with tournament favourites Barcelona by drawing 1-1 against Birmingham. Wenger rued Kevin Phillips’ last-minute equaliser for a matter of seconds before changing his focus to a mouthwatering European tie.

“The main thing is the quality of the game you will see on the day, and will not see maybe for 10 years,” the Frenchman said on the eve of the game with Barca, and it was a sentiment shared by many. The two managers were cut from the same cloth, and though their approaches were different, their philosophies were largely the same.

This was professor against student, only the student was already achieving perfect grades and had shown himself more than capable of leading the class. ‘It’s impossible not to choose Pep Guardiola as the best. He won everything and did it with style and class, which I absolutely love,’ Wenger said before their meeting.

After an hour of the first leg, the Frenchman had certainly been taught a few lessons. Barca were dominant at the Emirates Stadium, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic scoring two goals early in the second half. Yet Arsenal somehow fought back, salvaging a draw with goals from Theo Walcott and a late Cesc Fabregas penalty.

“Everyone who came to the stadium and watched the game will have enjoyed it, which is the point. We play football because we want to give happiness to people,” Guardiola said post-match, before declaring Barca’s dominant – and goalless – first half as “the best 45 minutes my team have played”. They shockingly fell behind in the second leg to a Nicklas Bendtner goal before Lionel Messi lit up the Nou Camp by scoring four times.

 

Most goals in games between Wenger and Guardiola
6 – Lionel Messi
4 – Sergio Aguero
3 – Thomas Muller, Theo Walcott
2 – Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Olivier Giroud, Leroy Sane
1 – 22 players

 

Most assists in games between Wenger and Guardiola
3 – David Silva
2 – Pedro, Philipp Lahm, Alexis Sanchez, Kevin De Bruyne
1 – 27 players

 

Guardiola’s biggest win

By the time Arsenal were drawn against Bayern Munich in the group stages of the 2015/16 Champions League, Wenger and Guardiola had already faced each other six times in the competition. Barcelona and Arsenal’s 2010 classics were followed at the last-16 stage the following year, while Guardiola guided Bayern past the Gunners in 2014/15.

It was widely accepted that Arsenal and Bayern would be battling for top spot in Group F, and yet the Gunners transpired to lose their opening two games to Dinamo Zagreb and Olympiakos. In true Arsenal fashion however, they won their third game, beating Bayern 2-0 at home.

They were foolish to expect the Bundesliga champions not to exact their revenge, and they did so in the most emphatic fashion possible. A fortnight after being humbled in north London, Bayern welcomed Arsenal to the Allianz Arena and proceeded to inflict upon Wenger his worst ever Champions League defeat.

Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Muller and David Alaba struck in a first-half rout, with Arjen Robben and Muller goals sandwiching a second-half consolation from Olivier Giroud in a 5-1 thrashing. Welcome to the fünfair, Gunners.

 

Most appearances for Wenger against Guardiola
10 – Laurent Koscielny
9 – Mesut Ozil
8 – Nacho Monreal
7 – Olivier Giroud

 

Wenger’s most used XI v Guardiola

Cech (5)

Bellerin (6) Koscielny (10) Mertesacker (4) Monreal (8)

Coquelin (6) Xhaka (5)

Walcott (6) Ozil (9) Sanchez (6)

Giroud (7)

 

Most appearances for Guardiola against Wenger
5 – Nicolas Otamendi, David Silva, Kevin de Bruyne, Leroy Sane
4 – Manuel Neuer, Dani Alves, Maxwell, Xavi, Yaya Toure, Fernandinho, Sergio Aguero, Lionel Messi, Thiago, Thomas Muller

 

Guardiola’s most used XI v Wenger

Neuer (4)

Alves (4) Boateng (3) Otamendi (5) Maxwell (4)

Silva (5) Xavi (4) De Bruyne (5)

Messi (4) Aguero (4) Sane (5)

 

Wenger’s biggest win

Back to October 2015 and the Emirates Stadium, where Arsenal did the unthinkable. The Gunners were in solid form, with the season-opening defeat to West Ham a mere blip, along with the loss to a genuinely crisis-stricken Chelsea. They were second in the Premier League when they came to host Bayern, two points behind leaders Manchester City.

Yet Bayern had won their previous 12 games in all competitions, scoring five goals against Hamburg, Wolfsburg, Dinamo Zagreb and Borussia Dortmund in the process. They were the best team in the world.

Those aforementioned damaging defeats to Dinamo and Olympiakos left Arsenal’s Champions League hopes hanging by a thread. David Ospina had started both games as Wenger’s goalkeeper rotation reached an infuriating crescendo. Petr Cech was thankfully restored to the starting line-up, while Theo Walcott was entrusted as the sole striker. It was quite the gamble.

And yet it paid off. Bayern had 73% possession and 20 shots, but Arsenal absorbed the pressure before hitting on lightning quick counter-attacks. By the time substitute Olivier Giroud was introduced in the 74th minute, the visitors had been stretched and frustrated, and a rare Manuel Neuer mistake allowed the Frenchman to score the opener three minutes after coming on.

Arsenal continued to thwart Bayern until stoppage-time, when Mesut Ozil converted Hector Bellerin’s cross to seal an unfathomable victory. The Arsenal gamekeepers had turned poachers.

It remains one of Wenger’s three wins over Guardiola; he is the only manager to beat his Barcelona, his Bayern Munich and his Manchester City sides.

 

Most red cards
1 – Carles Puyol, Robin van Persie, Wojciech Szczesny

Yellow cards
3 – Granit Xhaka, Fernandinho
2 – Emmauel Eboue, Alex Song, Andrei Arshavin, Gerard Pique, Tomas Rosicky, Kevin de Bruyne, Nicolas Otamendi, Laurent Koscielny, Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, Jack Wilshere, Robin van Persie
1 – 33 players

 

Ah yes, those two players who have played for Wenger against Guardiola and for Guardiola against Wenger. Of course. That would be the full-back pairing of Bacary Sagna and Gael Clichy. Until Pep finally signs Yaya Sanogo, who started Arsenal’s Champions League last-16 tie with Bayern in February 2014.

Matt Stead

More from Planet Sport: Boris Becker: Tennis needs a fully-fit Andy Murray. (Tennis365)

 


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