Greatest Manager – Herbert Chapman or George Allison

Today’s post is a collaborative effort between GunnerN5 and Gooner In Exile and is the first in a series that will be profiling the best managers and players ever to represent the Arsenal.  We will publish a poll at the end of each category to allow readers to choose who they deem to be the best of all time. The end result will establish (after 8 weeks of painstakingly researched articles) who readers believe comprises the best Arsenal team of all time.  

1. Herbert Chapman: 1925-1934

He was born in Kiveton Park, near Rotherham; his father was a coal miner. One of eleven children in a keen sporting family, two of his brothers played professional football. The most successful was Harry, who played for The Wednesday in the 1900s. His older brother Tom played for Grimsby Town and yet another brother, Matthew, became a director of the same club. Herbert’s own playing career was mostly as a journeyman amateur.

His managerial career began with Northampton Town after which he joined Leeds City.

Herbert_Chapman_1During the suspension of league football, during WW1, he decided to help the war effort by becoming manager of a munitions factory in Barnbow. Soon after the end of WW1 Leeds City was accused of making illegal payments to players and as they refused to open their books for examination the club was expelled from the football league. Five officials including Chapman were banned from football for life. However the ban was overturned in 1921, when Huddersfield Town gave him a character reference, he then joined them as assistant manager on February1st 1921 and was appointed secretary/manager the following month. He went on to win the FA Cup in 1924-25 and consecutive League Titles in 1923-24 & 1924-25.

In the 1925 close season, Arsenal chairman Sir Henry Norris placed the following advertisement in the Athletic News.

“Arsenal Football Club is open to receive applications for the position of Team Manager. He must possess the highest qualifications for the post, both as to ability and personal character. Gentlemen whose sole ability to build up a good side depends on the payment of heavy and exorbitant transfer fees need not apply.”

WMHerbert moved to Arsenal soon after, attracted both by Arsenal’s larger crowds and a salary of £2,000, double what he earned at Huddersfield Town. Arsenal’s league form was indifferent but in 1927 they reached the FA Cup Final losing 1–0 to Cardiff City. That same year, Arsenal became embroiled in a scandal over illegal footballers’ pay. Sir Henry Norris was indicted for his part and banned from football, but Chapman escaped punishment.

He showed his cunning during negotiations held in a hotel when looking to buy David Jack from Bolton. Chapman met with the barman and gave him two pounds and then said “This is my assistant Mr Wall; he will drink whiskey and dry ginger. I will drink gin and tonic. Our guests will drink whatever they choose but you will give them double of everything while Mr. Wall’s drinks and mine will contain no liquor.” His cunning worked as Arsenal paid 3,000 pounds less than Bolton had first asked.

He went on to establish Arsenal as English footballs dominate force and his football concepts and ideas served as a template for teams and managers all over the globe. He won the first trophy for the club winning the FA Cup in 1930. His 1930/31 team scored an incredible 127 goals – still a club record. He championed innovations such as floodlighting, European competitions and numbered shirts.

Tragically he passed away from pneumonia in 1934 aged 55 years.

A bronze bust of Chapman stood inside Highbury as a tribute to this outstanding manager.

Herbert Chapman’s league record –

Games 336, Won 157, Drawn 84, Lost 95,

Goals for 736, Goals against 541,

Goals for per game 2.19, Goals against per game 1.61

Points won 59.3%

Average League Position 6.25

Total # of trophies won – 2 League titles, 1 FA Cup, 3 Charity Shields.

2. George Allison: 1934-1947.

Born in Hurworth-on-Tees, County Durham, he played amateur football in Stockton-on-Tees and dabbled in writing as a sideline and eventually became a full time journalist.

During WW1 he worked for the War Office and the Admiralty, producing propaganda, and later joined the Royal Fling Corps (later renamed the Royal air Force). After the war he moved into broadcasting, joining the BBC and becoming the first person to commentate on the radio on events such as The Derby and the Grand National, as well as the annual England v.Scotland international, and the 1927 FA Cup Final. By this time, he had already formed a strong association with Arsenal and he became the club’s programme editor, becoming a member of the board of directors soon after the end of the WW1; he was first club secretary and then managing director.

-Images-a-allison_georgeAfter the sudden death of Herbert Chapman in January 1934, he was appointed Chapman’s full-time successor, in the summer of that year. Arsenal had already won the League Championship twice in a row (1932-33 and 1933-34), and he made it a hat-trick, winning a third successive title in 1934-35.

He famously appeared in a 1939 movie that was set at Highbury, “The Arsenal Stadium Mystery”, where he had a speaking part as himself. Amongst his lines included one uttered at half time: “It’s one-nil to the Arsenal. That’s the way we like It.”, a line which had resonance with the team’s penchant for 1-0 score lines many decades later.

Unlike Herbert Chapman he took a hands-off approach to managing and left Joe Shaw and Tom Whittaker to take care of the training and squad discipline, while he concentrated on transfer policy and the club’s relationship with the media. He was known as being tactful, friendly and good-hearted but it was felt that he fell short in his handling of the squad and lacked a professional’s deep knowledge of the game. However his proponents have cited the amount of trophies won in his reign, although by the end of the 1930s Arsenal were no longer the all-conquering team that they had once been and he was unable to replace many of the stars from the first half of the decade. With the start of WW11 football in England was suspended; after the war ended, many of the players that had made Arsenal great had retired from playing. Arsenal finished a disappointing 13th in 1946-47, by now he was in his mid-sixties and being tired of managerial life, he decided to step down and retire from the game.

He died in 1957 after several years of illness.

George Allison’s league record –

Games 294, Won 137, Drawn 80, Lost 77,

Goals for 552, Goals against 345,

Goals for per game 1.88, Goals against per game 1.17

Points won 60.2%.

Average League Position 4.29

Total # of trophies won – 3 League titles, 1 FA Cup, 2 Charity Shields.

Written by GunnerN5 and compiled by Gooner in Exile


83 Responses to Greatest Manager – Herbert Chapman or George Allison

  1. Mayor of the Woolwich says:

    That M,W formation got me thinking…if we go back to that formation, even, the most attacking teams in the world will be afraid of the mighty arsenal. It’s Herbert Chapman for me.

    Good job GiE and N5.

  2. Mayor of the Woolwich says:

    And, I’m first, and second too!

  3. Manthan says:

    Hi Gn5 & GIE.

    You guys are putting great effort much appreciated…

    Sorry but i don’t have much knowledge of arsenal history i started following Arsenal because of Le Prof.. As I am 23 now and I started following arsenal at age of 18 so for me Wenger is the best manager till date 😀

  4. Norfolk Gooner says:

    Good morning to you all,

    Great work GN5. Comparing these two legendary Arsenal managers is akin to comparing chalk and cheese.

    Herbert Chapman the wheeler dealing, sleeves rolled up hands on, and dare I say it? ‘Arry Redknap type, and George Allinson more the equivalent of a modern day Director of Football.

    The more I read of this excellent series of articles by GN5 the more intrigued I become. Can’t wait for the next.

  5. Norfolk Gooner says:


    Arsene Wenger is your choice based upon your own experience.

    We have a couple of months without any meaningful football, what better way to fill the time than to read up on the history of our famous club. Keep an open mind and consider all the facts, you may be surprised by what you learn.

  6. Simon says:

    Arsenal’s greatest managers are Chapman, Graham, Allison, Wenger – in that order.

  7. Norfolk Gooner says:

    Reasons please Simon.

  8. Manthan says:


    Yes I agree.. I am really looking forward to list.. It will be best learning experience for me about arsenal… I just told my thought 🙂 🙂

  9. GunnerN5 says:

    Morning all,

    It’s still early, 5:39am, here in Canada. Thunder storms kept us awake all night long.

    Enjoy the experience Norfolk.

  10. Manthan says:

    I feel We should always know the history of the club we follow… Thanks GN5 and GIE 😉 ;-).. I never knew about chapman before..

  11. Big Raddy says:

    Norfolk. In reply to your comment about Oz. I believe …..

  12. sai says:

    Manthan, I have been following Arsenal from 18 too 😀 but I am 30 now. But from what I’ve read from this nicely briefed article, I’ll go with Herbert Chapman!

  13. LB says:

    Great read, much appreciated.

  14. Manthan says:

    Sai 😀

  15. Gooner In Exile says:

    Thanks GN5 for a fine opening to the managerial debate, Chapman the foundation for everything great that we as a club represent, also a changer of the game in so many ways, numbers on shirts, floodlights etc.

    Perhaps most importantly renaming the tube station to Arsenal.

    I was unaware of his wheeler dealing at Leeds, Norris is often accused of being the man responsible at Arsenal, but one wonders wether Chapman would have ha the chance to manage again in today’s environment.

  16. Gooner In Exile says:

    Even the Women’s game is corrupt these days, Man City ladies buying their way in to the WSL at the expense of one of the Women’s games stalwarts Doncaster Belles.

    Vic is not happy…

  17. Gooner In Exile says:

    Thinking about Vic maybe he should have got a nod as our Greatest Ever Manager….

    10 FAW Cup
    10 FAW Premier League Cup
    11 FAW Premier League
    1 UEFA Women’s Cup

  18. Big Raddy says:

    GN5. Great story about the signing of David Jack.

    Had it not been for WW2, would Whittaker have continued his winning streak? You suggest that he was not a coach in the current sense nor had much to do with tactics – from your description he appears to be more a Director of Football in the Commoli / Arnesen vein.

  19. Gooner In Exile says:

    One day in and Raddy your talking about tomorrow’s man Whittaker already

  20. Big Raddy says:

    GIE. What an interesting story, and good on Akers for being supportive of Rovers.

    And as you say, he must be the most successful AFC manager and the only one to win the UEFA Cup

  21. Big Raddy says:

    Ooops, I meant Allison! Not my day is it?

  22. LB says:

    I just read that report on Man City women getting promotion for no other reason than having more money. I was outraged.

    But then I stepped back and couldn’t help but see the irony of that situation and the shenanigans of the two men (Chapman and Norris) mentioned above.

    I will now take myself into a dark room and repeat; Arsenal good, City bad, for an hour, that should get rid of these confused morals.

  23. Gooner In Exile says:

    I had exactly the same thought LB

  24. GunnerN5 says:

    “Gentlemen whose sole ability to build up a good side depends on the payment of heavy and exorbitant transfer fees need not apply”

    This sentence from Norris’ ad for a new manager made me realise that our current reputation for being miserly in the transfer market was founded back in the 1920’s

  25. GunnerN5 says:

    As a young lad I remember my Dad and his brothers discussing the merits of George Allison but I never saw him at a game. However I must have seen him going into the ground as I always stood outside at the start of the games, watching the team enter.

    The first manager I saw was Tom Whittaker with his Division One winning team in 1947-48.

  26. GunnerN5 says:

    If you take Chapman’s goals against average of 1.61 per game it would put us in the bottom six in the final 2012/13 PL standings.

  27. Well done GN5 and GIE !

    Hope you’ll forgive me for adding a teensy bit of info…
    Herbert Chapman died ‘mid-season’ (January 1934), but it could be argued that it was ‘technically’ Chapman’s team that won the League at the end of the season (1933-34). Therefore, one could argue whether he could/should be credited with that title. His League titles tally would then stand at three, not two.

    Also, the team that won the League the following season (1934-35) was still pretty much the team that Chapman built, apart from the (admittedly important) additions of Jack Crayston and Wilf Copping. Whilst that title can’t be considered Chapman’s of course, one has to draw the line, that fact needs a mention nonetheless, IMO.

    So, although Gunner N5 and GIE have decided not to ‘award’ the 1934-35 title to Chapman, I feel it’s a moot point, and deserves a mention…

    Great work chaps.

  28. GunnerN5 says:

    Big Al,

    With pretty much every change of manager there will be players that continue to play for the new manager. Yours is the same reasoning that’s used to discredit Arsene Wenger’ s record.

    Personally I don’t buy it as regardless of the quality of the player’s ( think about Man C), it still takes a special manager to motivate the team into believing that they can achieve.

    The statistics that I’ve used are al historically correct.

  29. Rasp says:

    Terrific job GN5 & GiE and some great stories to accompany the achievements of these two. Some people are already jumping the gun without having read your assessment of the other candidates …. I shall keep my powder dry.

    If like Big Al, you only judge based on stats 😆 then George would shade it of the two, but the more earthy approach and innovation of Herb makes him my favourite of today’s candidates.

  30. Norfolk Gooner says:


    You are right Vic Akers the greatest manager ever, and not allowed to get in the communal bath with his team. Shame!! 😀

  31. GunnerN5 says:


    I like both of the pictures and the tactic’s chart, adds a human feeling to the stories.

  32. Gunner N5

    My main point is regarding the season 1933-34, when Chapman died midway through the campaign.
    You give him no credit at all for the success of that season… you completely overlooked it.
    So, question… to whom do you give the credit of that League title?

    I worded said main point very carefully : “it could be argued” … “one could argue” …

    You gave his pre-Arsenal history (quite rightly so) yet overlook his post-death history, that is, even the second half of a title-winning season (1933-34).

    Once again, as regards the following season, I worded my post very carefully …”can’t be considered Chapman’s of course” …

  33. GunnerN5 says:

    Big Al,

    Even though the wording of your comment was courteous it does not me that I should agree with you – and I will not get involved in a debate on the subject.

    Suffice for me to say that the record books give credit for the 1933/34 League Championship to George Allison and based on my previous reasoning – I agree with the record books.

  34. Gunner N5
    Thanks for reply.

    We’ll have to agree to disagree. Agreed?
    Chapman’s team, not Allison’s, whatever the record books say.

    I will, on a final note, not disagree with all on this site…
    excellent job GN5, and GIE!

    Yours courteously 🙂
    Big Al.

  35. GunnerN5 says:

    Big Al,

    I find agreeing to disagree totally disagreeable, but I will disagreeably agree to disagree – agreed?


  36. RockyLives says:

    I’m not saying nowt about nowt until I have read and considered all the candidates.

    So there!

    But I can say I am already enjoying this series very very muchly.

  37. GunnerN5 says:

    Cheers Rocky, so far the series consists of close to 40, 000 words.

  38. RockyLives says:

    Off topic, but it’s amusing watching the Bale saga unfold just like the unpleasant sagas we’ve faced in past summers.

    First there are speculative assumptions that Bale might/could move after a great season.

    Then there are strong noises from the club (and from tame journalists) to the effect that he is “almost certain” to stay in Spudland.

    Then players of an exotic foreign club (in this case Real Madrid) start singing his praises and saying how well he would fit in their team.

    Then – lo and behold – Mr Bale’s agent reveals that his client is “honoured” to be linked with RM and would consider a move…

    I think we all know how this is going to end 😀

  39. GunnerN5 says:


    It will, as always, end to the advantage of the agent – the “suckers
    of soccer” – there is an article just waiting to be written.

  40. RockyLives says:

    True Gn5, but the players don’t do so badly either.

  41. LB says:

    Re Bale: I think the best option for us is that he goes abroad (rejig these words: shit, no, Sherlock) failing that he stays where he is. This might sound odd but far better this than go to another EPL club.

    At present his talent is displaced by the mediocrity of the team that he plays in. If he went to Manchester he would undoubtedly add to their already powerful teams.

    With the right signings we can mount a genuine title challenge next season; given that, the weaker the Manchester teams are the better it is for us.

  42. Norfolk Gooner says:

    GN5, I prefer to call football agents “Loathsome Leeches”.

    Anybody care to add their pet name?

  43. Gooner In Exile says:

    Agree with that LB although I am not sure whether I’d want that lot down the road making a large in road into stadium repayment. So stay a year don’t sign a new deal then swan off like Sol.

  44. Gooner In Exile says:

    I would join in with the agent name calling but I fear I would fail the “Peaches Mum” test.

  45. GunnerN5 says:

    The addition’ of Bale and Cesc would make Man U very difficult to dethrone.

  46. Norfolk Gooner says:

    Best to keep mum then GiE. 😀

  47. Rasp says:

    Aren’t agents about as fragrant as and full of the same material found in ‘A Gent’s’

  48. Shard says:

    GN5 and GIE,

    Thank you both very much for the effort and a wonderful idea. I’m excited about this series, and what a great start.

    Herbert Chapman is such a huge part of our history, and either his achievements, or his myth, or both, depending on your outlook, seem to overshadow the achievements of managers who followed him, such as Allison. Still, I’m going to hold off on deciding which way I vote till it’s actually time to vote.

    By the way, I’ve seen the Arsenal Stadium Mystery, and it’s such a cheesy, campy movie (intentionally so I think) but watching footage of the Arsenal manager and players, watching them train and play, genuinely excited me, and despite it being part of a movie, I found myself cheering for Arsenal in the bits and pieces of the game that they showed. 🙂

  49. Shard says:


    Avaricious Ashley-Coles
    Burgling B. Itches
    Cheating Cnuts
    Malicious Mammon-Worshippers
    Noxious Nutsacks…
    Obscene Outhouse Occupying Ogres
    Poxy Parasites
    Rancid roaches
    Unjust Usurers

    Fill in the blanks 🙂

  50. Shard says:

    Haha. My comment describing agents is in moderation 🙂

  51. LB says:

    Hi GIE

    Has Bale only got one year left on his contract?

  52. LB says:

    Oh this is funny.

    If he only has one year left and can walk next year, well if that is correct they are going to sell him now; if not, we are going to have the biggest laugh since Sol swanned out on a free.

  53. LB says:

    And I suppose the up side if he does leave in this window is that they will plummet down to tenth at best.

    They will need a replacement, they already have Gallas and Adebayor, could we sell them Chamakh?

  54. Rasp says:

    I’ll drive him to WHL 😆

  55. Gooner In Exile says:

    LB 3 years unfortunately (according to….according to wiki he signed it at the end of last season.

  56. Big Raddy says:

    Shame. IMO Chimp will be at Spurs next season, but gone the next. Would be brilliant if he had a terrible year and his value halved

  57. 1967ers says:

    Very much looking forward to this series. I spent some time early on this season reading up on the history of the club and there is some excellent material out there, but this looks very promising.

    I began putting together a small collection of the old cigarette and gum cards. I have always liked reading not just what is said of players in hindsight, but what was said in the moment.

  58. Today’s Quiz Question :
    Who replied to following question, and when?

    Q : Do you believe in goal-line technology?

    A : “Goal judges must come. Success in the Cup means so much that it is terrible any side should go out owing to an error. We owe it to the public.”

    You may be surprised…

  59. 1967ers says:

    To GN5 or any who can answer – is the drop in goals for/against from Chapman to Allison part of a stylistic change in the team of part of a greater trend in the league?

  60. Big Raddy says:

    Big Al . Was it Margaret Thatcher? Because that would be a surprise!

  61. GunnerN5 says:


    Hint, hint –his initials are HC.

  62. GunnerN5 says:


    I don’t know the answer to that question but the 3 mangers with the lowest goals against per game are ..

    1. George Graham .90
    2. Harry Bradshaw .92
    3. Arsene Wenger .94

    Stuart Houston and Bruce Roich’s average was .83 but they were only in charge for 46 games between GG and AW.

  63. chas says:

    Superb stuff, GN5.

    Do you think Herbert would have approved of the new stadium?

    Chapman statue

  64. Merersacker captain of Germany tonight they are 3 up pod got two

  65. BR
    Close, but not close enough 🙂

    Gunner N5
    Yes indeed. Herbert Chapman on the subject of goal-line technology, would you believe. The Q+A appeared in a 1934 book “Herbert Chapman On Football”, apparently.

    Some brilliant pics… cheers.

  66. colario says:

    To all those who think they know or know the history of this great club should go to untold arsenal there is also untold referee and history. History not myths facts not fancies.
    Allison was a modern director of football Whittaker also was more director than manager as we understand the terms. Joe Shaw was the one who worked with the players directly as did Don Howe when Berti Mee was boss. Arsenal sort of pioneered the concept of football director. This was in part because of the a stupid rule of the football league only the club Secretary could contact them. So Arsenal appointed their managers as secretary manager. A bit like ‘you can’t have a 45 minute clock in stadium because the players will know how much there is.’ said the Football league. So Mr Chapman had a 12 hour erected so the spectators would know the time!
    Technology has changed but not the mind set of those at the top. – short sighted then – blind sighted now!

  67. GunnerN5 says:


    Innovation was his forte, but I think if he were able to see The Emirates he would be flabbergasted with his Highbury and AW’s Emirates. But would no doubt give the nod of approval.

  68. Hi all

    Neither Rasp nor I are around in the morning so I’m going to schedule the new post to appear all by itself but will need someone to announce it on here at 9.30.

    Hopefully someone will be around.

  69. Gooner In Exile says:

    Colario I didn’t know that’s why the Clock was installed.

  70. chas says:

    Arsenal celebrating the fourth place trophy in 1936.

  71. chas says:

    Shot from the North Bank, with the West Stand up and East Stand still to be built.

  72. Big Raddy says:

    Love the commentators

    Really enjoying the Pathe News site

  73. evonne says:

    me too Raddy. For some strange reason I am all gooey and weepey watching old Arsenal clips; it’s humbling to see our heritage and what we are part of. Terribly proud me

    60 000 at Highbury watching a game v Derby County, wouldn’t get 20k these days

  74. Big Raddy says:

    Hughes – manager of Stoke. Perfect!

    Hughes record:

    Blackburn. In his 4 season B’burn were bottom of the Fair Play League 4 times

    Man City. Spent hundreds of millions signed Robinho, Bellamy, Bridge, SWP, Jo, Roque Santa Cruz. Adebayor, Kolo etc etc Finished 10th and bottom 6 when sacked.

    Fulham: Finished 8th. Al Fayeed described him as “a strange man and a flop”

    QPR: First season – just kept them up. Second, Bottom when sacked after 12 games without victory despite spending a shedload of money. leading to relegation

    But Stoke employ him. Astonishing.

  75. Morning all, we have a summer of epic posts in front of us thanks to the efforts of GN5 and GiE and I can say well done for their commitment – I whinge endlessly about the couple of hours I take to knock up a post so the dedication has to be applauded.

    I was wondering if/when the chimp does Bale out of the the Tiny Totts will the Spuds regard him as public enemy number 1 ?

    Apologies to Mdi89, but the video made my laugh and think of Bale.

  76. evonne says:

    Raddy – I didn’t hear the name of the caller, but someone high up at Fulham was talking about Hughes yesterday and it was shocking to listen. He said that MH is the most arrogant man in the profession, that nobody thinks higher of MH than Hughes himself, that he was a flop wherever he went and at Fulham he undid all the good work of Ray Hodgson.

  77. evonne says:

    chary – it aint Bale, he cannot drive

  78. Ha ha Evonne, but I’ll bet he can peel bananas with his feet 🙂

    I hear Madrid zoo has some free monkey pens.

  79. evonne says:

    New post……

  80. Gooner In Exile says:

    Half the exercises in the keep fit video are probably banned now due to back issues.

    Anyone remember doing the leg raised at 6 inches? (Lie flat on you back and lift your legs straight off the floor and hold it, supposed to strengthen abs but in reality just put ridiculous strain on your lower back!

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