Soccer

Arsenal boss Wenger learned from Japan experience

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SAITAMA, Japan (AP)

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger credits a bold decision to coach in Japan early in his career with helping him become one of the most successful managers in the Premier League.

Wenger spent 18 months in charge of the J-league's Nagoya Grampus before joining the Gunners in September 1996 and said the move had a significant impact on his career.

The 63-year-old is still highly regarded by Japanese football fans. A near-capacity crowd of 43,000 was on hand when Arsenal beat Nagoya 3-1 in a preseason friendly.

Upon arriving in Japan, Wenger quickly brought respect to a team that in the previous year was at the bottom of the league.

Under Wenger, Nagoya won the national cup competition and the Frenchman received the J-League manager of the year award in 1995.

''Coming to Japan is something that changed me profoundly,'' Wenger said on Arsenal's website. ''It helped me because I took a distance from the pressure in Europe and came back with a different viewpoint. I can take more distance from decisions now than I could before.''

After Nagoya, Wenger went on to lead Arsenal to three Premier League titles and four F.A. Cups.

At the time, the J-League was only in its third season and was a long way from being a competition that would produce the likes of Shinji Kagawa, Yuto Nagatomo and Keisuke Honda.

While he influence the Japanese game tactically, he also learned a lot from the Japanese in areas such as training and diet.

His impact on the game here is still being felt almost 20 years after he left. Nagoya's current manager Dragan Stojkovic played under Wenger in Japan and has gone on to be one of the most successful foreign managers in Japan, having guided the team to the championship in 2010.

''I have learned a lot from (Arsene) over the years,'' Stojkovic said before his team played Arsenal. ''I have visited London many times over the years and will continue to do so.''

Wenger said that had it not been for an offer to manage a big club in Europe, he might have spent many more years in Japan.

''It was quite emotional,'' Wenger said. ''I have so many fond memories from my time in Nagoya.''

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