We judge managers on many criteria, the most obvious of which is winning trophies.
But not far behind the acquiring of silverware comes the ability to find great players and bring them to The Arsenal.
In those stakes there are some interesting contenders for the crown of our club’s best ever “picker”.
Read on… then vote for the one you think has been the best in this regard.
Bertie’s appointment from physio to manager in 1966 was a big shock to most people (him included – he insisted on a clause in his contract that he could return to physiotherapy after 12 months if the management thingy didn’t work out). Bertie had a strong core of players to build on, but he brought in (or promoted from the youth team): George Graham (Chelsea), Bob McNab (Huddersfield), Pat Rice (youth), Charlie George (youth), Eddie Kelly (youth), Ray Kennedy (Port Vale), Sammy Nelson (youth), Liam Brady (youth), Frank Stapleton (youth) and David O’Leary (youth). Pick the legends out of that lot! However he also recruited Peter Marinello, Alan Ball and Bobby Gould, none of whom were great successes at Arsenal.
Like Bertie Mee, Arsène was able to build on some great foundations when he got the best job in football in 1996. The George Graham back four was still in place and the club had also acquired a certain talismanic Dutchman. But our new French coach made signings that would really bring back the glory days: Vieira from Milan; Petit from Monaco; Anelka from PSG; Overmars from Ajax; Henry from Juventus; Ljungberg from Halmstad; Campbell from Hell; Toure from ASEC Mimosas and more. In 1998, 2002 and 2004 those players brought us huge success and some stunning football. Since then we have seen many other fine players arrive under Arsene’s stewardship (Van Persie, Fabregas, Vermaelen, Sagna, Walcott, Wilshere, Oxlade-Chamberlain), but seven potless years have also led to questioning as to whether his “picking powers” are on the wane.
Terry was at the helm from 1976 to 1983. During that time he took us to three FA Cup Finals (sadly we won only one of them), plus a Cup Winners Cup Final (lost) and a third place finish in the league in 1980-81. His key signings were Malcolm MacDonald (from Newcastle), Alan Sunderland (Wolves) and Pat Jennings (the Swamp). Graham Rix was his most notable promotion from the youth team. Supermac, in particular, was a great signing who really lifted the club. He scored 42 goals in 84 appearances for us before injury brought an untimely end to his career.
Chapman spent several years failing to achieve much success after joining Arsenal from Huddersfield Town in 1925, but after winning the FA Cup in 1930 he oversaw one of the most successful periods ever in our club’s history – an era of dominance that ended prematurely with Herbert’s sudden death from pneumonia. His most significant signings included such legendary Arsenal figures as Alex James (Preston NE), Cliff Bastin (Exeter), David Jack (Bolton), Eddie Hapgood (Kettering) and Herbie Roberts (Oswestry).
Billy managed Arsenal from 1962 to 1966 and his reign brought no major trophies. However, he helped lay the foundations of the success that would follow a few years later. Billy’s transfers included Bob Wilson who arrived from Wolves and Frank McLintock, from Leicester. Both would go on to be vital members of the 1971 Double side, Frank as the captain. Billy also promoted several promising youngsters into the first team, including Peter Simpson, John Radford, Peter Storey and George Armstrong, so he could certainly spot a player.
The “famous back four” will always constitute Gorgeous George’s most lasting legacy to Arsenal. When he took over as manager in 1986 he found Tony Adams, Paul Merson, Micky Thomas, Paul Davis and David Rocastle all waiting for him. Graham was quick to make Adams his captain and to put his faith in this outstanding crop of young players. But he had to transfer in the other components of the legendary defensive unit: Winterburn from Wimbledon; Dixon and Bould from Stoke and Keown from Everton. When you consider that George also brought us the joy of watching the likes of Ian Wright, Alan Smith, Anders Limpar and David Seaman, you can see how effective his transfer instincts were. However, in his later years the signings (or promoting) of players like Kiwomya, Carter, Morrow, Hillier, Helder, Jensen and Selley provided a bit of a knock to his reputation.
So, who do you think has been our best picker of players ever?