We are less than a week-and-a-half away from Arsenal resuming their season away to Manchester City — nine days to be precise. I did not find any compelling Arsenal facts for “9” in all the time spent scouring the internet, but there were two good facts for forty-nine so we are just going to roll with it.
As of 2011, Arsenal have had players of 49 different nationalities suit up for the club.
Said Arsene Wenger on that milestone:
Many things make me proud of this football club, but something new came to my attention this week – we have now fielded players of 49 different nationalities. I believe Arsenal has become, through these players, a worldwide club that is admired everywhere. The values of the Club are open-minded and down to pure sporting qualities. We can be very proud of that – it’s highly important in the modern world that football can be ahead of society and contribute to a better world tomorrow, so long may this progress continue.
Wenger spurred the international growth of the club; only 12 of the 49 different nationalities played for Arsenal before Le Professeur came to North London. He named both the first fully foreign-born Arsenal squad in history (February 14, 2005 — Lehmann, Lauren, Toure, Cygan, Clichy, Pires, Edu, Vieira, Reyes, Bergkamp) and the first starting lineup with 11 different nationalities represented (December 10, 2005 — Lehmann, Lauren, Toure, Campbell, Senderos, Ljungberg, Fabregas, Gilberto, Hleb, van Persie, Henry).
People forget (or just don’t know) how revolutionary Wenger was. Even if the changes he implemented at Arsenal weren’t necessarily his inventions, he was the first to bring them to the Premier League and implement on a wide scale. He changed health and fitness, international scouting, player development, and playstyle forever.
Bonus Fact: The Invincibles’ unbeaten run stretched beyond the 2003-04 season. Arsenal went 49 Premier League matches without losing.
And if I’m remembering correctly, that run ended in part because of a dodgy penalty award at Old Trafford. Quelle surprise.