Following the dismissal of Bruce Rioch after just one season at the club, Arsene Wenger was unveiled as new Arsenal boss on September 22nd 1996, but did not officially take over the reins until October 1st due to his contractual obligations with Japanese club Nagoya Grampus Eight. Wenger had expected to appoint former Gunners’ left-back Stewart Houston as his number two, but he had unexpectedly left to become manager of QPR so the Frenchman turned to the former right-back Pat Rice as his assistant.
On a flying visit to Europe from Japan, the ex-Monaco coach travelled with the Arsenal party to Cologne a couple of days later for the return leg of their UEFA Cup tie with Borussia Moenchengladbach in which they trailed 3-2. He would be in the dressing room before kick-off, and on the bench during the match, but would not have a hand in team selection or tactics. In that game, after going a goal behind, Arsenal hit back through Ian Wright and Paul Merson to level the tie on aggregate, but two late goals by the German side saw them through 6-4 over the two legs.
After the match, Wenger flew back to Japan to take charge of Grampus for the last time before returning to London. His first game in charge was away at Blackburn on October 12th which the Gunners won 2-0 thanks to a brace from Ian Wright, who was to thrive under Wenger after a difficult spell when Rioch was at the helm, at one stage even handing in a transfer request. The win saw Arsenal sitting second in the table and ultimately the Gunners finished in third spot, seven points behind champions Manchester United.