Bob Bradley meets Arsene Wenger as Swansea City start new era at Arsenal

By Dafydd PritchardBBC Wales Sport
Bob Bradley
Bob Bradley succeeded Francesco Guidolin as Swansea City manager on 3 October, 2016

When Bob Bradley became the first head coach of Major League Soccer side Chicago Fire in 1998, Arsene Wenger was orchestrating Arsenal's Premier League and FA Cup double in only his second season at Highbury.

On Saturday, 18 years on, the two will meet in opposing dugouts at the Emirates.

It is a daunting first assignment for Bradley as Swansea City manager, while Wenger will be taking charge of his first game since celebrating 20 years at the helm at Arsenal.

Swansea is Bradley's ninth job - spanning five countries and three continents - since Wenger was appointed Gunners boss.

So, as the Premier League's first American manager prepares for his debut, does Wenger have any words of wisdom for his newest rival?

"No, look, I think Bob Bradley has a big experience - he's not a beginner you know," the Frenchman says.

"He has travelled a lot, he has accumulated experience in the States and he has been in Egypt, he has been in France just recently. He's coming now to England, what is certainly for him, a fantastic opportunity."

Capello, Del Bosque and Wenger

Wenger and Bradley have met once before, the latter watching an Arsenal training session during his time as manager of the United States.

However, Saturday's encounter will be their first as opponents.

And while the 58-year-old's career highlights include leading his country at a World Cup - and topping a group that featured England - Bradley believes his first taste of the Premier League will rank among his proudest moments.

"It's up there," he says.

"I don't usually look back on those kind of things but I have had the chance to coach against some pretty big names - [former England and AC Milan manager Fabio] Capello, [former Spain coach Vincente] Del Bosque - but Arsene is right there with the top managers.

Bob Bradley (left) with Fabio Capello
Bob Bradley's United States drew 1-1 with Fabio Capello's England in the 2010 World Cup

"To be with a club for 20 years where the football that's been played is such a reflection of the man, this is a fantastic thing.

"[Manchester City manager Pep] Guardiola was doing a press conference last week about Johann Cruyff's book and he was talking about Johann Cruyff's influence. You'd have to say, if you look at everything that's taken place in 20 years at Arsenal, it's the same kind of influence."

Swansea's visit to the Emirates is not simply a personal landmark for Bradley - it is a crucial fixture in the team's bid to arrest a slump which has seen them fail to win in the Premier League since the opening day of the season.

The Swans are clear of the relegation zone on goal difference alone, while Arsenal are riding high in third place.

However, Swansea have an excellent record against the Gunners, winning three of their last five Premier League games at the Emirates.

"I'm very aware of it [the record] and the part I love about that is we can go there with confidence," says Bradley.

Swansea celebrating at Arsenal
Swansea celebrating their victory at the Emirates last season

"We have guys who have won there before, but we have to play well. All the details need to be right.

"And I'll always go back to the idea of going there to play, to have confidence on the ball. You've got to have the confidence to have people in front of the ball, to create advantages.

"That will be the football test. We can talk about it all week but it'll come on the day when we're on the ball."

The hardy stare from Bradley's piercing blue eyes tells of an unerring professionalism and attention to detail.

When he steps out on to the Emirates turf and realises a long-held ambition of managing in one of Europe's most prestigious leagues, however, Bradley will allow himself a brief moment to enjoy the magnitude of the occasion.

"Yes, I will take a few seconds to look around, look into the stands and then very quickly get my mind back on the game," he says.

"I won't take a long time but without a doubt. I say the same to the players, then you put it away and get yourself ready for the whistle."

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