WHAT do you do when one of your star players refuses to fly? That is one of the many problems that confronted Arsene Wenger when he took over as Arsenal manager in 1996.

According to Wenger, you learn to win without him. In other words you use a substitute. He was, of course, referring to Giberto Silva, the striker who suffers from air phobia.

Wenger has an unusual profile for a soccer manager. Before managing the London club Arsenal, he managed a Monaco and Japanese soccer club.

Born in Strasbourg, France, in 1949, Wenger started off as a professional soccer player. With a degree in engineering from Strasbourg University and the ability to speak several languages, he was dubbed by Manchester United's Sir Alec Ferguson as "the Prof".

So what's he like as a manager?

Management style

Wenger has described himself as adopting a "laissez-faire" approach. In other words, he is not directive. He prefers the players to learn rather than to be told because, in his words, "success is attained by thinking back over what we have achieved".

When he first came to Arsenal in 1996, he did not offer any tactical advice. He simply encouraged the players to play and pass more, engendering a sense of team spirit.

He also helped eradicate the perception that Arsenal played boring football in contrast to Manchester United's exciting games. To Wenger, "football should be entertainment".

However, most players who have trained under him say that his greatest influence is off the pitch.

A new mix

Wenger inherited a team that was ageing. His response was to bring in new and younger players - especially foreign players.

On Feb 14, 2005, Arsenal become the first English club to have an all non-English line-up. This was vindicated by a five to one win against rival London club Crystal Palace.

According to Wenger, "we don't look at their passports, we judge them by their quality and attitude. If English lads aren't up to it, we'll use foreigners".

This met with mix response and controversy. One newspaper commented: "If all first division clubs started to adopt the same tactic, that is, use foreign players, England's World Cup chances would be dashed permanently."

At the same time, Wenger did not simply adopt a policy of ruthlessly culling players. One of his first acts on arriving at Arsenal was to reassure the team that a new manager did not necessarily mean a new side.

He introduced new training routines designed to help improve the performance of existing players. He also encouraged them to act as mentors to new players.

He was also forward-looking and built up the club's youth sponsorship scheme and invested in the club's infrastructure. Within just a few months, in Wenger's word's, "Arsenal had a line-up ready to go to war".

Changing the culture

Wenger is also credited with reversing 70 years of British football culture. Specifically, he changed the "win or lose - get on the booze" mentality.

He brought in a doctor to advise the team on an appropriate diet regime and to caution them of the dangers of excessive drinking. But Wenger admitted: "I can't control their behaviour off the pitch. Ultimately they have to learn for themselves."

Once described as a defender of little distinction, Wenger has achieved greater success as a manager than he did as a player.

In an interview, he attributed his success to four principal factors:

* "Who's my motivator? I just look in the mirror."

* "I care about each of my players."

* "No one gets left behind. If someone falls, we must pick him up."

* "You can only change people who want to change."