Portugal head coach Fernando Santos jumped to the defence of his experienced side after they cruised past Luxembourg 5-0 in their World Cup qualifier thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ronaldo's 58th career hat-trick and 10th international treble put hosts Portugal out of sight at the Estadio Algarve, where Joao Palhinha and Bruno Fernandes also got on the scoresheet on Tuesday.

The five-goal crushing left Portugal a point behind Group A leaders Serbia, albeit with a game in hand, with two matches remaining and the top two teams meet on the final matchday, in what is likely to be a winner-takes-all decider.

However, Santos' focus after the game was on the age of his squad as he quashed suggestions that his veterans were likely to let him down again, after exiting both the 2018 World Cup and Euro 2020 at the last-16 stage.

"I hear a lot about it [the age of the squad], I even understand, but more changes than what we have been done over the past six years are difficult," Santos told reporters during his post-match his news conference, with set to be 37 heading into next year's World Cup.

"Just look at who was at the World [Cup], the European Championship and who is playing now. There are no age restrictions, it doesn't even make sense.

"Players do not have to stop playing for the national team because they are of more or less age, quality is what counts. 

"Fortunately, we have a lot of 30-year-old or 31-year-old players able to get here and play and the players have shown that [quality]."

Portugal will have to wait until November's international break to seal their fate and Santos appreciates the decisive nature of the Serbia clash while imploring his side to still improve.

"We managed to restrain the opponent and take advantage of every situation to transform them into goalscoring opportunities," he told RTP after the game.

"We did very well until the 25th minute, with how we played and what we had seen from Luxembourg.

"After that we also did well, but we started to want to do everything in a hurry, in one touch, two touches, and we even allowed Luxembourg to get ahead.

"The last game will be decisive, whatever happens in the next round, neither team will be out, although I believe we will win [against the Republic of Ireland] – it will be decisive."

Denmark became just the second team to qualify for the 2022 World Cup after defeating Austria 1-0 in Group F.

Joakim Maehle's second-half strike proved enough to edge past Franco Foda's side on Tuesday and claim an unassailable seven-point lead over Scotland with two matches left to play.

The narrow win meant Kasper Hjulmand's team also maintain their perfect record in 2022 World Cup qualifying matches, having won all eight games without conceding a single goal.

Denmark, while remaining resolute at the back, have mustered 27 unanswered goals, with thrashings of Moldova, Israel and Austria in the reverse fixture capping a perfect campaign for the Scandinavian outfit.

Hjulmand's men head to Qatar in 13 months' time with major tournament experience under their belt as well after making it to the semi-finals of Euro 2020 before suffering extra-time heartbreak against England.

Indeed, Denmark – who dealt with the hospitalisation of Christian Eriksen during the opening stages of the competition – started with consecutive losses but defied the odds to reach the last four.

They became just the fifth side in the history of the World Cup and European Championships to both win three games and lose three games in the same edition.

However, Denmark will look to use that experience after exiting at the last-16 stage in the previous World Cup to chase further success in 2022.

Aside from Denmark, Germany are the only other team to have earned qualification so far to join hosts Qatar at the tournament.

Gareth Southgate refused to assess the individual performances of Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling or rush to judgement on Phil Foden's role in the England team after their draw with Hungary.

The Three Lions were held 1-1 at Wembley on Tuesday, ending a run of 21 consecutive home qualifying wins.

They had to come from behind, too, with Roland Sallai dispatching a penalty after Luke Shaw was penalised for a high boot, before John Stones nodded a leveller.

Southgate sought to change the game – avoiding a repeat of the Poland game, where he made no substitutions in an England match for the first time since Euro 96 – but Jack Grealish was an odd choice for the first withdrawal.

Grealish had caused Hungary problems, unlike Kane and Sterling, who both followed.

Although Sterling had two of England's biggest chances, he could not beat Peter Gulacsi, while Kane's run of goals in 15 consecutive qualifiers came to an end without the struggling Tottenham superstar netting.

Southgate was asked if poor club form, with Sterling out of the first team at Manchester City, had contributed to below-par showings from two of England's most consistent performers.

But he told ITV: "I don't think we should look at individuals, because collectively we didn't perform at the level we needed to.

"When you have that sort of situation, it's difficult for individuals as well."

Southgate took a similar tact when asked about the make-up of his midfield, where Foden again played a central role – as in Andorra on Saturday – but this time joined Mason Mount alongside Declan Rice.

Mount represents a similarly adventurous option, and Southgate had recognised a need to look at "the balance of the team" after Hungary posed England "a tactical problem".

"We've got to go away and reflect," the manager said. "We shouldn't just judge things on one game in terms of that experiment, if you like, because I think right across the board, from the start, we weren't sharp with our play, gave the ball away, we were overrunning things.

"I just think we were underneath it. It's the first time in a long time, but we've got to hold our hands up to that."

Despite the difficult outing, which was further marred by clashes between police and the Hungary fans, one of whom was arrested for a "racially aggravated public order offence", England remain in control of Group I.

And discounting penalty shoot-outs, Southgate's side are now unbeaten in 18 – their longest such sequence since a run of 19 that included their 1966 World Cup win.

England could only draw 1-1 at home to Hungary on Tuesday as another encounter between the sides was marred by crowd trouble.

The Three Lions won the reverse fixture 4-0 last month in this World Cup qualifying campaign but had to endure racist abuse that saw Hungary ordered to play a future match behind closed doors.

At Wembley, the Metropolitan Police told of a "racially aggravated public order offence" by an individual in the away end "following comments made towards a steward". Attempts to arrest the individual led to scuffles between the police and visiting supporters.

On the pitch, meanwhile, England had to come from behind to claim a point that nudges them a little nearer to qualification, with John Stones' strike eight minutes before the break cancelling out a Roland Sallai penalty.

Gareth Southgate's men were in control without truly threatening for the 22 minutes before the spot-kick was awarded against Luke Shaw for a high boot on Loic Nego just inside the area.

After a delay, during which home players protested the left-back's innocence, Sallai sent Jordan Pickford the wrong way.

However, a succession of fouls around the Hungary box built pressure on their goal, and Phil Foden's right-wing free-kick earned a touch on its way through to the far post and Stones, who had a simple finish.

Raheem Sterling's header on the stroke of half-time was parried by Peter Gulacsi, but the England forward prodded a tame rebound wide, before Stones nodded a Foden corner off target following the restart.

Southgate sought to change the game with a series of substitutions – including the withdrawal of Harry Kane – but their best second-half chance came and went when the captain found Sterling, who could not squeeze a finish under Gulacsi.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat-trick as Portugal cruised past Luxembourg 5-0 in Tuesday's World Cup qualifying clash.

Ronaldo took just eight minutes to open the scoring at the Estadio Algarve as he finished from the penalty spot before doubling his tally soon after in the same fashion.

Bruno Fernandes netted a third inside a decisive opening 20 minutes before the Manchester United playmaker assisted Joao Palhinha for the fourth in the second half.

Ronaldo then secured his hat-trick with three minutes remaining to cap the hosts' dominant performance and ensure they remain a point behind Group A leaders Serbia – who have played a game more – ahead of the next international break.

Sebastien Thill and Anthony Moris were the guilty parties for the early penalties with fouls on Bernardo Silva and Ronaldo, the latter clinically converting both.

Things went from bad to worse for the visitors as Fernandes made it 3-0 despite Moris getting a hand to his right-footed drive following Silva's throughball after 17 minutes.

Ronaldo almost claimed his hat-trick on the stroke of half-time but was denied by Moris, who also saved Silva's acrobatic volley.

Danel Sinani brought a rare save from Rui Patricio, with both Palhinha and Fernandes missing the target at the other end after being found by Nuno Mendes' searching deliveries.

Ronaldo's overhead-kick deserved to complete his treble, but Moris tipped over before Palhinha headed home from Fernandes' resulting corner.

Luxembourg almost grabbed a consolation goal through Gerson Rodrigues, but his left-footed strike was turned away by Patricio and Ronaldo completed the scoring as he headed in from Ruben Neves' deep cross.

Diego Simeone asked Luis Suarez to contact Lionel Messi regarding the possibility of the six-time Ballon d'Or winner joining Atletico Madrid prior to signing for Paris Saint-Germain.

Messi ended a 21-year spell with Barcelona in August as he signed for PSG on a free transfer after the Blaugrana were unable to re-sign the club great due to salary cap restrictions.

Suarez, who Barca surprisingly allowed to join Atletico last year after being deemed surplus to requirements by Ronald Koeman, formed a deep relationship on and off the pitch with Messi during their six years together at Camp Nou.

The pair formed a scintillating attacking trio with Neymar, and Suarez assisted the Argentina captain 47 times – five more than any other player to feature with Messi at Barca.

And Simeone revealed he attempted to partner Suarez and Messi again when the Barca legend became available following confirmation of his departure.

"I'll tell you a detail… With what happened in Barcelona, we called Luis [Suarez]," Simeone told Argentine outlet Ole when asked about any potential move for his compatriot.

"With all due respect, I didn't call Leo [Messi], but I did call Luis to ask how Messi was doing, if he was eager or if there was a slight possibility that he would come to Atletico." 

However, the mission to secure the 34-year-old came to an abrupt end, as Simeone explained: "[It was] something that lasted three hours, because PSG was already obsessed with that [signing]."

It would have been a peculiar feeling for Simeone and the club's fans to see Messi lining up for Atletico, given Los Colchoneros were among Messi's favourite opponents during his time in Spain – his 32 goals against them second only to the 38 plundered in clashes with Sevilla.

Therefore, Simeone knows first-hand the quality Messi possesses. But, true to form, the Atletico head coach insisted the focus would have remained on the team effort even if he had pulled off such a coup.

"He was always at Barcelona, I was always at Atletico [during Messi's career] and we didn't coincide as players in the national team," he continued. "But to me, if you ask me where Messi has to play, I tell you in a team that wants to win, in a team that knows what it has to do to win.

"It doesn't matter where he plays, it matters that the team is prepared to win. Don't think about him, think about the team."

Liverpool forward Diogo Jota has been sent home with an injury and will miss Portugal's World Cup qualifying Group A clash against Luxembourg as a result.

Jota scored in his last game for his country, netting the third in a 3-0 victory against Azerbaijan last week, but Portugal head coach Fernando Santos is boosted by the return of Cristiano Ronaldo to the side.

The 24-year-old has enjoyed a fine start to the season with Liverpool, notching three goals in seven Premier League appearances, only behind Mohamed Salah (six) and Sadio Mane (four) in the competition for the Reds.

Jota has taken fewer shots in the Premier League than his fellow Liverpool forwards, registering just 18 compared to Salah's 28 and Mane's 26, but the Portugal international has the second-highest shot conversion rate of the trio with 16.67 per cent, behind only Salah's 21.43 per cent.

It is unclear what the nature of Jota's injury is and how long he will be sidelined, with Liverpool's next game being away against Watford on October 16, while there is a trip to face Atletico Madrid in the Champions League three days later.

In Jota's absence, Brazil forward Roberto Firmino could return to the starting line-up. The 30-year-old, who scored in the Reds' first game of the season against Norwich City, has only had one start and two shots in the Premier League this season.

As for Portugal, a win for Ronaldo and Co. would take them two points clear of Serbia at the top of their qualifying group with four games remaining.

Raphael Varane is set to be out for "a few weeks" after sustaining an injury in France's Nations League final win, Manchester United have confirmed.

Varane had to be replaced by Dayot Upamecano just before half-time in Les Bleus' 2-1 victory over Spain.

The centre-back went to ground off the ball and was quickly withdrawn from the match, with United now confirming he sustained a groin injury.

A brief statement read: "Raphael Varane sustained a groin muscle injury in the Nations League final and has commenced rehabilitation at the club.

"He will be out for a few weeks."

It comes as a massive blow to United and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer ahead of a potentially pivotal few weeks.

While it is unclear exactly how many games Varane will miss, the central defender will be absent for a chunk of what looks set to be a gruelling run of matches.

United face Leicester City, Atalanta twice, Liverpool, Tottenham and Manchester City all in the next four weeks.

After a rather erratic start to 2021-22 consisting of just five wins from 10 matches across all competitions, Solskjaer heads into the upcoming run under pressure.

To make matters worse, there was already uncertainty over the condition of captain – and Varane's regular centre-back partner – Harry Maguire, who missed the clashes with Villarreal and Everton due to a calf injury before the international break that prevented him from linking up with England.

Whether Maguire will be fit to face former club Leicester at the weekend is yet to be determined, meaning the rather haphazard Eric Bailly and the dislodged Victor Lindelof could form an unfamiliar partnership at the back.

Although United have come in for criticism so far this term, Varane's early form has largely been considered positive and he has performed an important function in getting the team on the front foot, with his 7.6 passes into the final third per 90 minutes the most among the club's defenders.

Barcelona are awaiting news on the extent of the hamstring problem sustained by Ronald Araujo while away on international duty with Uruguay.

The 22-year-old was injured during the second half of his national side's 3-0 loss to Argentina on Sunday and has been ruled out of Thursday's World Cup qualifier with Brazil.

Barcelona confirmed on Tuesday that Araujo, who has made 48 appearances for the club in total since his debut in October 2019, will now return to Catalonia to undergo further tests.

Araujo has appeared in all nine of Barca's games this season – seven in LaLiga and two in the Champions League – totalling 615 minutes on the field.

Only Marc-Andre ter Stegen (630), Frenkie de Jong (676), Sergio Busquets (734) and Memphis Depay (809) have featured more regularly under Ronald Koeman this term.

Araujo's passing accuracy of 93.59 per cent is the second-best of any defender to have played at least six times in LaLiga this term, behind Real Madrid's Nacho (93.82).

Koeman's side face Valencia on their return to LaLiga action on Sunday and have a huge showdown with Real Madrid to come the following week, with a Champions League tie against Dynamo Kiev sandwiched in between. 

 

Australia's perfect record in World Cup 2022 qualifying was ended in a 2-1 defeat to Japan on Tuesday.

The Socceroos had won all 11 games on the road to Qatar – setting a record in the process – and each of their last 12 games stretching back into the last campaign.

But Ao Tanaka's early strike in Saitama and a late own goal from Aziz Behich, either side of Ajdin Hrustic's leveller, inflicted a first competitive defeat on Australia since January 2019.

Graham Arnold's side could now see top spot in Group B relinquished to Saudi Arabia, who play later on Thursday. Only the top two sides will qualify automatically for the World Cup.

Japan entered the game unbeaten in seven meetings with Australia and they were ahead inside eight minutes when Tanaka drilled a low shot into the bottom-left corner.

Australia went close to equalising before half-time as Adam Taggart's shot was tipped onto the upright and Aaron Mooy's effort was blocked in front of goal from the follow-up.

The visitors then had a penalty overturned as the officials felt Hidemasa Morita's challenge on Hrustic was outside the box, but the fouled player still made Japan pay as his powerful free-kick crashed in off the underside off the crossbar.

But it was Japan who snatched a winner with five minutes remaining.

Mat Ryan could only parry substitute Takuma Asano's deflected shot into the air and Behich, in an attempt to clear the ball from under the crossbar, turned it into his own net.

Emile Smith Rowe has praised Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta for giving young players like himself and Bukayo Saka confidence as the pair look to improve their production in front of goal.

Smith Rowe (21) and Saka (20) were both on target against Andorra during the international break, the former with the Under-21s side and the latter with the senior squad.

Saka scored the second goal of a 5-0 rout on October 9, while Smith Rowe slotted home the only goal of the game two days later after Rhian Brewster's sending-off had reduced the Young Lions to 10 men.

The pair rank in the top four for both expected goals and expected assists across all competitions among Arsenal players to have played at least 300 minutes this season.

Smith Rowe largely credits Arteta for their development, with senior Gunners stars also taking the time to help them out.

"[Arteta] has spoken to us and given us so much confidence to stay calm," said Smith Rowe.

"[Saka and I] know we're going to be getting into these positions. Because we're both young players we've got to stay as calm as possible and just focus on the goal really.

"We've been practising a lot in training, after training and we get the support from the experienced players in the team as well, they're always helping us. It's really good at Arsenal, we're really happy with the help we're getting."

New England U21s head coach Lee Carsley had special praise for Smith Rowe, believing that the attacking midfielder – who has frequently played on the left for Arsenal – has the ability to score, create and beat his man.

"With any wide player they are always judged on goals and assists and Emile has got the ability to do both," said Carsley.

"I've seen him in training, the way he finds the corners and finishes very calmly, he finishes like a centre forward at times and the opposite to that is that he has got that last pass which is really important.

"That's why I'm keen on getting him in really attacking positions more often, the higher up we can get him and the more we can get him one-vs-one he'll create a lot of problems like he does at Arsenal."

The Gunners will hope both their young Hale End graduates can make a positive impact when Crystal Palace visit Emirates Stadium on October 18 as Premier League action resumes.

Robert Lewandowski is hopeful of landing a first Ballon d'Or, citing his remarkable achievements over the past two years.

Lewandowski was in incredible form as Bayern Munich won a treble in 2019-20, but the award was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the 33-year-old has maintained his incredible standards and was named on the 30-man shortlist for this year's prize.

Last season, the centre-forward broke Gerd Muller's long-standing record of Bundesliga goals in a single season, netting 41 times in the league and scoring seven more across all other club competitions, the most of any player in Europe's top five leagues. 

Lewandowski has not surrendered that position this season, with his 13 strikes in all competitions lifting him above second and third-placed Erling Haaland and Karim Benzema, on 11 and 10 goals respectively.

The Poland captain feels his astonishing level of production makes a good case for him to win the award, despite competition from the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Benzema and six-time winner Lionel Messi.

"The possibility of winning the Ballon d'Or means a lot to me, it makes me feel proud, if you look at everything I've achieved, not just this year, last year as well when they cancelled the ceremony, I've won a lot of titles, scored a lot of goals," Lewandowski told Marca.

"It would mean a lot to me to win it, having won the Champions League, the Super Cup, the Club World Cup. Breaking Gerd Muller's record of [40] Bundesliga goals [in a single season] was also a big achievement, one which made me very proud and happy.

"Everyone can see what I have done and keep doing. My achievements speak for themselves because my last two years have been a big achievement, not just for me but for any player in history."

 

Of his many achievements over the last two years, breaking revered goalscorer Muller's record is one of the most special to Lewandowski, who surpassed the late Bayern legend on the final day of the 2020-21 Bundesliga season with a 90th-minute strike in a 5-2 victory over Augsburg.

"I have to say that I couldn't sleep well [the night I broke Muller's record]," Lewandowski continued. "I remember the week before the game well, I heard I was on the verge of breaking the record. Until then the importance of breaking it hadn't really dawned on me, not just for the Bundesliga but in terms of football history.

"The day of the match I thought "this is mentally tough because it's all anyone is talking about". I knew I was so close, on the verge of making history, it was hard, but after scoring in the final seconds of the game I said to myself, "this is like a Hollywood movie."

"I was very proud of myself, of my team-mates, because they helped me a lot to break the record. To be honest, I still can't truly appreciate the magnitude of it, but I know what it means to people, they remember that record stood for [nearly] 50 years."

Lamar Jackson is honoured to have matched Dan Marino's record for the most wins by a quarterback before the age of 25 in NFL history after inspiring the Baltimore Ravens to a 31-25 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Monday. 

The All-Pro quarterback, who does not turn 25 until January 7, accounted for all but 19 of Baltimore's 523 yards of total offence, completing 37 of 43 passes for a franchise-record 442 yards and four touchdowns and rushing for 62 more.

In doing so, Jackson became the first player in NFL history to post at least 400 yards passing, 50 yards rushing and four TD passes with no interceptions in a single game.

Jackson led four straight touchdown drives to erase a 19-point deficit against the Colts as he overtook Drew Bledsoe (33) to join Marino on 34 wins before turning 25.

"I'm up there with the guys – those legends," Jackson said. "I appreciate that. It's an honour to be up there with those guys, but I'm focused on winning."

Jackson's effort was described as "one of the greatest performances I have ever seen" by head coach John Harbaugh, the 2019 MVP hitting six straight passes on the drive in overtime.

Despite his side falling 22-3 behind with 3:11 left in the third quarter, Jackson insists he was always confident of fighting back to make it 4-1 for the season.

"To be honest, it wasn't a doubt in my mind," he said. "Our team, we hit that peak that we needed at the right time in the second half. We just knew it was one play at a time – that's all we kept saying in the huddle.

"I was just locked in. I was just calm, everything was moving slow. I was just taking it a play at a time."

Jackson is now fifth in the NFL in passing yards this season with 1,519 through five games, while his 241 rushing yards ranks him eighth.

But Monday's performance was not quite flawless, as he threw his helmet so far into the air after the overtime win that somebody else had to help retrieve it.

"I shouldn't have done that – for real," Jackson said. "I've got to have more restraint, but I was just excited. We had an overtime win in the league and stuff like that. It was pretty cool."

Kalidou Koulibaly says "it is a real shame" Senegal team-mate Edouard Mendy is not in the running to win this year's Ballon d'Or after an impressive first year at Chelsea.

Mendy joined Chelsea from Rennes last September and did not take long to oust Kepa Arrizabalaga as first choice between the sticks at Stamford Bridge.

He played a key part in the Blues' 2020-21 Champions League triumph, the 29-year-old's nine clean sheets the most by a goalkeeper in their debut campaign in the competition.

That includes a clean sheet in the 1-0 win over Manchester City in the final as Mendy became the first African goalkeeper to lift the famous trophy.

Mendy's 19 shutouts in all competitions this calendar year, meanwhile, has been bettered only by Manchester City's Ederson (20) among keepers in Europe's top five leagues.

He was not included on the 30-player Ballon d'Or shortlist last week, however, and Koulibaly has suggested that could be down to his nationality.

"It's a real shame that Edou isn't included. He is the first African goalkeeper to win the Champions League," Koulibaly told reporters while away on international duty with Senegal.

"We must continue to work and move forward. We have to do the double [the work] of some people to be well judged.

"Edou is a very positive person. We talked about it together. He will continue to fight to be part of it. For me, he has a place among these 30 players."

Gianluigi Donnarumma is the only goalkeeper in contention to win football's most prestigious individual accolade after helping Italy to Euro 2020 success.

The Paris Saint-Germain star's save percentage of 70.8 in 2021 is considerably lower than Mendy's 77.23 at club level when taking all competitions into account.

Indeed, only Keylor Navas – who Donnarumma is battling with for a starting spot at PSG – boasts a better save percentage (78.38) than Mendy among those to have played at least 15 times since January 1.

Napoli defender Koulibaly is also not part of the shortlist for the award, with Mohamed Salah and Riyad Mahrez the only African players selected.

Five of Mendy's Chelsea club-mates were included in the shortlist, however, with Mason Mount, Romelu Lukaku, Cesar Azpilicueta, N'Golo Kante and Jorginho nominated. 

From "Arsene Who" to "The Invincibles", via all those things he did not see, Arsene Wenger brought a whole new lexicon to English football.

He also changed the way the game is viewed in England, completely altering the horizons of a largely closed-off football culture to turbo-charge its transformation into the home of the most diverse, globally respected and richest domestic league on the planet.

Wenger's legacy in the Premier League is beyond question and its roots go back 25 years to October 12, 1996, when he oversaw his first ever match in charge of the club.

Across more than two decades, Wenger's Arsenal broke records, moved homes and changed their image forever. Here we look back at some memorable moments and the Opta numbers behind a towering sporting era.

Ton-up strikers

Wenger's initial years in north London saw him skilfully combine the rugged English core of a team that previously enjoyed trophy success under George Graham with his more pioneering ideas – a blend that found full realisation with the 1997-98 double success.

"One of my jobs was to keep faithful to the qualities I had found here. I tried always to maintain the tradition and values of this club," Wenger said on the eve of his final game at Huddersfield Town in May 2018.

That was game 1,235 and game one took place on the other side of the Pennines against Blackburn Rovers.

Foremost among the qualities Wenger found at Arsenal were those of the man who would become the club's record goalscorer on his watch.

Ian Wright scored both goals to get the brave new era up and running with a 2-0 win over a club who had been champions of England a little over a year earlier.

Wright was 33 when Wenger arrived and injury curtailed his involvement in the glorious 1997-98 run-in. However, earlier in that season he broke Cliff Bastin's long-standing Arsenal club record and concluded his Gunners' career with 185 goals in 288 appearances.

The England striker's best mark would, of course, be surpassed by the great Thierry Henry, whose phenomenal haul of 228 all came on Wenger's watch.

Overall, there were five goalscoring centurions during the Wenger era, with Robin van Persie next on the list with 132 before his acrimonious departure to Manchester United in 2012.

Theo Walcott (108), Olivier Giroud (105) and Wright's one-time strike partner Dennis Bergkamp (102) were the other men into three figures.

Glory days at Old Trafford

That first taste of victory was one of 10 wins in 17 visits to Ewood Park, a win percentage of 58.8 per cent. Of the away or neutral venues Wenger's Arsenal played at in Britain, that ratio was only bettered by seven wins from 11 at Fulham's Craven Cottage (63.6 per cent).

Of course, there are other grounds far more synonymous with his reign, not least the home of Manchester United and his great rival Alex Ferguson.

Other than Highbury and the Emirates, Wenger managed his biggest number of Arsenal games at Old Trafford – 31 in total.

It was often an unhappy hunting ground, the scene of an 8-2 defeat in August 2011 that was his worst in terms of goals conceded and joint-heaviest by margin.

Only at Stoke City's Bet365 Stadium (18.2 per cent) and Tottenham's White Hart Lane (24 per cent) was Wenger's win ratio lower than at Old Trafford (W8 D6 L17 for 25.8 per cent). But when the wins came, they were seismic.

In March 1998, Marc Overmars nodded Nicolas Anelka's flick-on into his own path and steered beyond Peter Schmeichel for a 1-0 victory that proved pivotal in that season's title race.

Another iconic Arsenal moment came in May 2002, when Sylvain Wiltord pounced to beat compatriot Fabien Barthez and the Gunners secured Premier League glory on United's own patch.

There were more recriminations than celebrations in September 2003 after an ill-tempered 0-0 draw between the sides. However, had Ruud van Nistelrooy not crashed a penalty against the crossbar – much to Martin Keown's contorted, vein-popping satisfaction – Arsenal would not have been Invincibles.

7-up and springing Prague

An away ground not quite as synonymous with Wenger is the Madejski Stadium.

Nevertheless, Reading are the opponent Arsenal played most often while maintaining a 100 per cent record under the Frenchman, winning 10 out of 10.

The most famous of these wins was a 7-5 triumph in Berkshire in October 2012, where Arsenal averted EFL Cup embarrassment in utterly berserk fashion.

After 35 minutes, Reading were 4-0 up thanks to Jason Roberts, a Laurent Koscielny own goal, Mikele Leigertwood and Noel Hunt. Afterwards, their manager Brian McDermott, a former Arsenal player, would reflect upon the "worst" defeat of his career.

Walcott reduced the arrears before the interval and the England winger's second of the match deep into injury time, after a goal from Giroud and one at the right end from Koscielny, forced an additional half hour.

Marouane Chamakh put Arsenal ahead for the first time in the tie and, although Pavel Pogrebnyak made it 5-5, the Moroccan forward scored his second after Walcott completed his hat-trick to crown what Wenger dubbed "maybe my greatest comeback", with a touch of understatement.

It was not the only time Arsenal scored seven under Wenger, and the biggest wins of his tenure came when they kept the back door shut, with Everton, Middlesbrough and Slavia Prague all beaten 7-0 in a spell spanning May 2005 to October 2007.

Coincidentally, Slavia's neighbours Sparta are next on Wenger's perfect record list after Reading, losing six out of six against Arsenal in the Champions League.

Mourinh-woe

Over time, an underlying warmth revealed itself in the Wenger-Ferguson rivalry. It was hard to say the same when it came to his jousts with Jose Mourinho.

Wenger was a "voyeur" and a "specialist in failure" according to Mourinho's acidic tongue and the older man could be similarly biting.

"When you give success to stupid people, it makes them more stupid sometimes and not more intelligent," he witheringly observed after Mourinho announced himself in English football with his 2004-05 Chelsea sweeping all before them.

It will therefore have stung deeply when Wenger's 1,000th game in charge of Arsenal saw them ransacked in a 6-0 demolition at Stamford Bridge on March 22, 2014.

If the manner of the loss was humiliating, the defeat itself was one to be expected. In 19 encounters with Mourinho, Wenger won two – a 10.5 per cent win ratio that is by far his worst against another manager, with 30.6 per cent thanks to 15 victories from 49 attempts versus Ferguson next on the list.

Those paltry returns against the self-styled 'Special One' mostly come within a wider context of decline.

Wenger's first decade at Arsenal – spanning 1996-97 to 2005-06, their last at Highbury – yielded 11 trophies out of the 17 he won overall in north London, including all three Premier League titles.

Arsenal's win percentage dropped slightly after the move to Emirates Stadium, going from 70.2 per cent to 67.9 per cent, though they did score slightly more often, with their goals-per-game figure up from 1.8 to 1.9 in the latter period.

By this point, Wenger was joined in the Premier League by the finest coaching talents from across Europe. It was a far cry from his own appointment, when he became only the fourth manager in England's top flight to hail from outside the British Isles.

Mourinho, Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp and others had all come along to raise the bar Wenger set to even greater heights, although he would enjoy one last defining triumph at the expense of one of their contemporaries.

FA Cup specialist

Chelsea entered the 2017 FA Cup final as hot favourites to complete the double after romping to Premier League glory in Antonio Conte's first season in charge.

A 3-0 defeat to Arsenal the previous September inspired Conte to revert to his favoured 3-4-2-1 system and was the catalyst for a dominant revival.

This turn of events seemed to encapsulate the futility of the late Wenger years, when every small success appeared only to serve as a precursor for a greater disappointment.

You could even say the same for his last final in the competition he dominated, given it preceded his lowest ever Premier League finish of sixth in his farewell campaign.

But Arsenal were stirringly brilliant that day at Wembley. Per Mertesacker was wheeled out of cold storage to put in a colossal display at centre-back as Alexis Sanchez and Aaron Ramsey sealed a deserved 2-1 win.

Ramsey ranks 10th among Arsenal's top scorers of the Wenger era with 58 and two of those were FA Cup final winners, the Wales midfielder also netting decisively against Hull City in 2014.

Those were Wenger's fifth and seventh successes in a competition he has won more than any other manager in history, where his incredible Arsenal tenure means his position is ensured for posterity.

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