ARSENE WENGER, as he prepares to take charge of his 1000th match in charge of Arsenal today against Chelsea, admitted that delivering consistency would be his lasting legacy.

The achievement was also hailed yesterday by arguably his biggest rival over the years, Sir Alex Ferguson.

Wenger, appointed in late September 1996, has seen and done it all during his 17 seasons at the Arsenal helm, including the unbeaten 'Invincibles' title campaign in 2003/2004.

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Although his side have not delivered a trophy since moving to Emirates Stadium, they remain on course for this year's FA Cup, into the semi-finals against Wigan, and could move to within a point of Barclays Premier league leaders Chelsea if they can snatch victory at Stamford Bridge this afternoon.

Wenger believes just sustaining a side capable of securing Champions League football season after season deserves great credit in spite of all the missing silverware.

"If winning a trophy is winning the League Cup and finishing 12th in the league . . . I think the most important thing for the quality of the club, of the management of the club, is the consistency of the achievement," said Wenger. "After all, the trophies come and go, but I believe you see the quality of the management in the consistency of their achievement. If you finish one year first and the second year 12th, the real quality of management is linked with consistency.

"Of course we want to win trophies, but if you look at the consistency that we have shown, and you compare with all other clubs, that is the most difficult thing to achieve. In finals it is great players who win you games, and we have great players, so I am confident we can win trophies."

Arsenal chairman Sir John Keswick hailed Wenger's impact as the man who had "transformed the beautiful game" and added "long may you continue to lead us" as he presented the Frenchman with a commemorative cannon, based on the original design from the club's founders at Woolwich Arsenal.

Wenger added: "It is a privilege of course to have managed 1000 games in the same club and between the moment I met [vice-chairman] David Dein and he introduced me to [chairman] Peter Hill-Wood a lot has happened at this club."

"I must say for such a long time the club has always supported me and I feel already that I am privileged in that because that's not always usual in our game."

The occasion was also marked by praise from Wenger's biggest rival. Ferguson managed the same feat of longevity at Manchester United and he hailed Wenger's contribution to English football. "I congratulate Arsene in reaching this momentous landmark," Ferguson said. "I cannot emphasise enough the level of dedication, resilience as well as sacrifice required and for that I have for the utmost admiration.

"We enjoyed some fantastic battles and you could say we had survived together and respected each other's efforts to play good football. Playing against them always presented special challenges that I burned many hours thinking about.

"Perhaps the biggest compliment I could give Arsene is that I could never be anything other than competitive with my rival for 17 years."