It was 1995 when Arsène Wenger came to Japan. The then young French manager’s mission was to revive Nagoya Grampus Eight, who had been struggling since the opening of the J.League.
Although his success didn’t come immediately, his management skills eventually allowed talents such as Dragan Stojković and Takafumi Ogura shine brightly. After trying many players regardless of their age, Wenger managed to create a team with a winning mentality, and Nagoya started to win consecutive games. They jumped up to the 4th place in the Suntory Series (the seasonal 1st Stage) and to the 2nd place in the Nicos Series (the 2nd Stage). As a result, they finished at the 3rd place in the overall standings of the year.
Wenger was awarded the J.League Manager of the Year’s prize, even though he did not win the league. Then he and his team went on to win the Emperor’s Cup to bring the first ever title to the club.
The Frenchman kept coaching Nagoya the following year and joined the title race until the middle of the season, but he then moved to England in September, to manage Arsenal.
In a year and a half in Japan, Wenger had a high winning rate (38 victories) while losing only 18 times (back then, the league had the golden goal and penalties rule for each game, and there were no draws). His time at Nagoya was not long, but the achievement of turning what seemed to be destined to be a small club into a powerhouse is still remembered.