Arsene Wenger spotted back at the Emirates Stadium for the first time since leaving Arsenal

    Arsene Wenger made his eagerly anticipated return to Arsenal for their Boxing Day clash against West Ham
    Arsene Wenger made his eagerly anticipated return to Arsenal for their Boxing Day clash against West Ham (Picture: Amazon Prime)

    Arsene Wenger returned to the Emirates Stadium for the first time since his departure in 2018 to watch Arsenal’s Boxing Day clash against West Ham.

    The 73-year-old left under something of a cloud with one year still remaining on his contract over four years ago.

    Wenger spent 22 years as Arsenal manager, during which he cemented the north London club’s status as an elite level European force and played a key role in the move from Highbury.

    The Frenchman has turned down numerous offers to return to management and instead has taken up a senior role with world governing body FIFA.

    Current manager Mikel Arteta has spoken regularly of his desire to have Wenger back as a guest to watch his current table toppers.

    ‘Hopefully we can bring him close because I think he would have a great time just seeing the environment that he can create around him when he’s around this place,’ said the Spaniard earlier this year.

    ‘That is because of the respect, admiration and love that everybody at the club has for what he’s done and for what he represents as a person in this club.’

    Wenger almost enjoyed something of a dream return when Bukayo Saka looked to have opened the scoring in the early stages.

    The England international latched onto Eddie Nketiah’s intuitive backheel and rifled the ball first time beyond Lukasz Fabianski but the goal was ruled out with the World Cup star offside in the build-up.

    Wenger was spotted celebrating in the stands but his joy was shortlived and his frustration would have increased when West Ham were awarded a penalty against the run of play shortly before the half hour mark.

    William Saliba made only the slightest contact with Jarrod Bowen but left referee Michael Oliver with little option but to point to the spot and Said Benrahma made no mistake from 12 yards.

    It was only the third time Arsenal had trailed this season but in front of the watching Wenger, back at the Emirates for the first time since his departure in 2018, they launched a spirited second half comeback.

    Bukayo Saka drew his side level just eight minutes after the re-start when he collected Martin Odegaard’s scuffed shot and rolled the ball beyond Lukasz Fabianski.

    Spurred on by a raucous home crowd, Arsenal took the lead just before the hour mark when smart approach play saw Granit Xhaka tee up Gabriel Martinelli and the Brazil international’s low shot beat Fabianski at the near post.

    The victory which helped open up an seven-point lead at the summit was wrapped up with 20 minutes remaining more intricate pass saw Odegaard release Nketiah and, after rolling his marker, the striker steered his finish into the far corner.

    MORE : Arsenal submit £57m offer to sign Mykhailo Mudryk from Shakhtar Donetsk

    MORE : Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta explains why he won’t play Gabriel Martinelli through the middle

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