Arsene Wenger feels delivering consistency in the English Premier League over 1,000 games could well be his lasting Arsenal legacy. The Gunners boss, appointed in late September 1996, is set to reach his personal landmark against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
The 64-year-old has seen and done it all over his 17 seasons at the helm, including the unbeaten 'Invincibles' title campaign in 2003/2004. Arsenal, though, have not delivered a trophy to the cabinet since moving to the Emirates Stadium, but remain on course for the FA Cup, into the semi-finals against Wigan, and could move to within a point of leaders Chelsea this weekend. Wenger believes just sustaining a side capable of securing UEFA Champions League football season after season deserves great credit despite of all the silverware which went before.
"I can take a distance with that - if winning a trophy is winning the League Cup and finish 12th in the league, (because) I think the most important thing for the quality of the club, of the management of the club, is the consistency of the achievement," said Wenger, whose achievement was marked by a presentation from Arsenal chairman Sir Chips Keswick and League Managers' Association chief executive Richard Bevan before Friday morning's media conference at London Colney.
"After the trophies come and go, but I believe you see the quality of the management in the consistency of their achievement. If you finish one year first and the second year 12th, the real quality of management is linked with consistency.
"Of course we want to win trophies, but I think if you look at the consistency that we have shown in the last 15 or 17 years, and you compare with all other clubs, that is the most difficult thing to achieve. In individual finals it is great players who win you the games, and we have great players, so I am confident we can win trophies."
Arsenal chairman Keswick hailed Wenger's impact as the man who had "transformed the beautiful game" and added "long may you continue to lead us" as he presented the Frenchman with a commemorative cannon, based on the original design from the club's founders at Woolwich Arsenal. Wenger - who has yet to sign a new contract extension - is in no doubt of how he has become enshrined within the psyche of the north London club.
"It is a privilege of course to manage 1000 games in the same club and between the moment I met (vice-chairman) David Dein and he introduced me to (chairman) Peter Hill-Wood of course a lot has happened at this club," he continued. "I must say for such a long time the club has always supported me and I feel already that I am privileged in that because that's not always usual in our game. We have gone through difficult and fantastic periods, but always remain focused on being united at this club.
"That's why I think I acted always with three things in my mind. The first one is that every decision I make is like I own the club, that's always in the interest in the club first. The second is that I think I am in a job where you need to have a clear perception of your ideas and have the courage to transform it into actions. The third that has always guided me is to make this club grow and make sure that the club is bigger when I leave than when I arrived. Time will tell if I managed to do that, but I hope so."
Wenger insists Saturday's showdown with Chelsea will not have any added significance other than in the battle for the Premier League title.
"It is the game of the season for us - it's as simple as that," said Wenger. "We are in a period where every point is vital now, especially against your direct opponents, so it is for us the most important game of the season now."