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From lagers to sugarless tea: How Arsene Wenger changed the culture of Arsenal

After a 2-0 defeat in the north London derby bumped them down to 15th in the Premier League, some Arsenal fans may be feeling nostalgic for the Arsene Wenger era.

The two-time double-winning manager spent 22 years in charge of the Gunners, reshaping the Premier League in the process through aesthetic football and a radical change in mentality.

Speaking on Dream Team Coach TV, club legend Nigel Winterburn explained how the Frenchman implemented a dramatic change in culture at the club, promoting new standards of professionalism.


Nigel Winterburn on how Arsene Wenger changed the culture of Arsenal

“He banned everything,” the former left-back replied when asked if Wenger banned tomato ketchup. “After training we’d all eat upstairs and it was fish, all chicken, all quite plain.
“When we used to travel away we used to use the train quite a lot and you used to see the guy or the lady coming through with the trolley, all the cakes and everything, and he [Wenger] used to just stand up and shake his finger.”

Winterburn revealed that players were occasionally allowed a cup of tea without sugar but chocolate in any form was strictly off limits.

However, the squad eventually bent the rules by devising a sneaky system in which they would buy chocolate bars without Wenger realising and eat them covertly out of their gaffer’s sight.

“Whatever way he was facing,” Winterburn explained, “all the players would sit behind and if he got up everyone would just put their chocolate down on the seat next to them.

“It’s like little kid stuff!”

Winterburn played for Arsenal from 1987 to 2000

Action Images - Reuters
Winterburn played for Arsenal from 1987 to 2000

To illustrate the extent of Wenger’s cultural revolution, Winterburn went on to describe life under George Graham’s stewardship, divulging details of the infamous Tuesday Club.

“I wasn’t a fully-fledged member [of the Tuesday club] and I used to get a load of stick from the players, saying stuff like ‘Is your missus not letting you out?’ or whatever.

“There was probably 15, 16, 17 of us going out regular and we’d have a meal, a few beers, people would stay as long as they wanted.

“But some of the regulars took it to the limits by staying out until five or six in the morning.”

Arsenal won the double in Wenger’s second season

PA:Press Association
Arsenal won the double in Wenger’s second season

Naturally this behaviour raised a few eyebrows as, even during the 1990s, drinking sessions that lasted until 6am weren’t viewed as conducive to optimum football.

“People started to write in and tell George what was going on,” Winterburn revealed. “On one occasion he sent [assistant manager] Stewart Houston out to find the lads.

“He tracked them down to a wine bar somewhere and they could see him peering through the window so they grabbed him and bought him a pint of lager!”

Catch a new episode of Dream Team Coach TV on our YouTube channel every Friday.

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