By Avenell Dave
I have had the privilege of meeting Arsene Wenger on numerous occasions.
He once made a presentation at a sports conference I was attending and when it was over, stood, alone, at the top of the stairs, looking at his phone messages.
I had no choice but to go over and speak to him.
We were struggling in the Premier League, comparatively, and the criticism he was facing from fans and media was unrelenting.
He recognised me from previous meetings and we stood and talked about the situation and about Arsenal, for 15 minutes.
He was categorical in his belief that the club would, somehow, make it into the top four that season and categorical that the players at his disposal would at least achieve that target.
Wenger's faith in his own ability and in that of his players is in many ways admirable.
I defy anyone who loves Arsenal to deny that there hasn't been a point where we have doubted the "project" as they say in Europe, that our club is failing to do what it needs to in order to win trophies.
I have said almost since I started this blog that Wenger had his resources limited by the club focus on paying back stadium debts.
That doesn't sit well with fans who were subsidising the burden with high ticket prices and wanted to see the team compete.
You only have to look at how Manchester United are doing under David Moyes or even Barcelona under Tata Martino to see how quickly a change of manager can turn a winning team to an also-ran.
Any manager would have struggled to sustain his early success after moving to a costly new stadium that needed repaying.
Wenger stayed. He saw it as his duty to repay a club who had shown faith in him when he had been wasting away in the Japanese league.
He resisted the overtures of clubs who had the resources he had always craved, if not the patience to see them all through.
Yes, he probably has too much power at Arsenal.
Yes, he has made tactical and transfer mistakes.
Show me anyone in any job anywhere who has never made a mistake.
Wenger will go down in the history of Arsenal as one of its two greatest ever managers.
Just as Chapman before him, he revolutionised the club and football in general.
He has stood by us when many would not stand by him.
He protected the club when he must have been desperate to explain why player investment was so limited and he shouldered the pressure and the expectation and the disappointment that we all feel after defeat or failure.
I don't think any other manager, not even Fergie, could have kept us as competitive for as long as Wenger has done, even without the trophies he and we crave.
Many Arsenal fans are too young to remember a time before Wenger.
Those who do, know that there were many many dark days and mediocrity - far worse than anything we have encountered under Wenger.
The next three years, with resources finally able to match ambition again, will bring us silverware I am sure.
To get to 1,000 games for any club is an incredible milestone and one which provokes pride and admiration. Let us hope the team can beat Chelsea tomorrow, which would be a fitting tribute to Wenger's achievements.
Thank you Arsene - enjoy your day.
Sagna Mertesacker Koscielny Gibbs
Flamini Arteta Rosicky (if fit)
Oxlade-Chamberlain Giroud Cazorla