Arsene Wenger Great Manager or an Enigma?

March 15, 2013

There are many Arsenal fans, even those who ‘hate’ Arsene Wenger, who will reluctantly agree, when pressed, that he was — note the past tense – once a great manager.

This admission will always be immediately qualified by the use of such terms as ‘He was good when he first arrived, up until 2005, but he is past his best and doesn’t know how to inspire his players or, how to coach them properly, and he is clueless about tactics’. Yada, yada, yada.

Comparisons are also frequently made between Wenger and famous managers of the past or, rather more gallingly, with contemporary managers like Ferguson and Moaniho.

So, fair enough, let’s look at a fantastic Arsenal manager of the early part of the last century, Herbert Chapman, and see if there are any parallels that may help us decide if Wenger’s reputation suffers by comparison.

It is simply invidious, and unfair, to try and directly compare athletes or footballers of bygone eras with those of modern times. Human beings, generally, have grown bigger and stronger because food and sustenance is in plentiful supply, and medicine has improved hugely with micro-surgery available to combat career threatening injuries of great sportsmen and women, and prescription drugs have been developed to help keep us all fit and healthy, compared to those living in the 1920’s and 1930’s, when hunger and deprivation were the lot of many unfortunate people.

That said, perhaps it is possible, none-the-less, to compare the circumstances under which Chapman operated, and see if there are any pointers that we can discern which would usefully highlight any similarities or discrepancies between the modus operandi of the two managers, despite the different eras in which they worked.

A useful starting place is the 1925-26 season when Arsenal finished a creditable second in the old First Division.

It is well known, that Henry Norris a notorious tight arse, had previously advertised for a manager with the infamous rider declaring that applicant wishing to spend money on purchasing players ‘need not apply’.

As a consequence, after his appointment, Chapman was unable to spend to strengthen the side he had inherited, and had to watch as Arsenal only managed to finish eleventh in the League.

Nevertheless, Chapman gained a wonderful reputation for tactical innovation, and introduced the world famous ‘WM’ formation for setting up his team, coupled with devastating counter attacking play.

This tactical innovation depended upon the abilities of ‘world class’ players such as Alex James, David Jack, Joe Hume, Cliff Bastin, and Jack Lambert, the Messi, Ronaldo Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamps of that long ago era.

Before long, this combination of lateral tactical thinking combined with some of the best players ever to grace the Arsenal, whatever the era, started to produce fantastic results, and trophies began to flow into the Highbury cabinet room.

Sadly, at the beginning of 1934, after a short illness that many ascribed to overworking, in difficult conditions, Chapman died still yoked to the prestigious job he loved, at the club he helped make famous throughout the world, and mourned by thousands.

So, can we see a co-relation between Chapman and Wenger?

Well, both men struggled with a lack of funding, but despite that, and by using players bought cheaply, or by bringing through youth or reserve team footballers, as well as revolutionising the coaching and tactical standards of the day, they each managed to produce trophy winning teams.

In addition, many of us have been concerned with the obvious stress Wenger has suffered recently and the effect on his health is of some concern.

An additional handicap for Arsene Wenger was the building of a fabulous stadium, and the traumatic move from the famous halls of Highbury.

It is enlightening to remember that Ajax, once seen as one of the best and most successful clubs in the world, noted for producing gifted and technically advanced young trophy winning teams, moved stadiums in 1996, and have never won any tournaments since.

So what of Monsieur Wenger when compared with the best managers of the modern era?

Arsene Wenger has a vision for the style and manner of the football all his teams must strive to play, which many have come to liken to a modern day ‘Barcelona’ type.

AW believes in his vision with his whole being, and cannot encompass any other style as being worthy of any team he is associated with.

His early Arsenal career, in some ways, mirrored the Chapman era, as he was forced to develop his idyll while short of funds, and having to revolutionise the playing set up, starting with building a state of the art training facility, changing the players’ dietary regime and training methods.

These remarkable changes soon produced astounding results with trophies pouring into the Arsenal, courtesy of a fantastic scouting system which enabled the purchase of cheaply acquired ‘star’ players such as Thierry Henry, Dennis Berkamp, Patrick Viera, Robert pires and many, many more.

In recent years, consequent with the building of the new stadium, finances to purchase new talent or to replace older players have become ever more difficult to come by, and indeed many believe top players have had to be sold, allegedly, to balance the books of account, to enable the club to meet its desired aim of self sustainability.

In turn, this has led to the dimming of Wenger’s football vision of slick, passing, attacking football, for without the brilliance of the aforementioned Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp et al, the team’s results, each year since they left, have become increasingly inferior when compared with other clubs who have recruited the best players from around the world.

What then of his ‘competitor’ managers?

It cannot be denied, that, based on trophy winning, Manure also have a ‘great’ manager and his teams are said to be imbued with his fighting ‘mentality’ which is portrayed by their ability to win games with ‘late’ goals, when needed.

Umm … there is a slight flaw with that view, because they didn’t do that when they were 2:1 down against Real Madrid in the CL recently, did they? Or, let me think, what about in last year’s CL in Basle when all they needed was a draw? Noooo.

Manure has ‘earned’ that reputation mainly against ‘inferior’ opposition in the PL.

Am I being unfair? Well, I am sure he should have also been able to instil this same ‘fighting attitude’ into his players when he managed at East Stirling or St Mirren …… but hold on those clubs were not known for any such attitude, or ability for late revivals. Why?

The answer is simple, it is because he did not have the players with the wit or ability to conjure any such results, or win any trophies.

So, how do Manure, and Ferguson, get away with the unquestioning acceptance that the club and their manager have this ‘fighting ability’ which, by inference, Arsene does not have?

Again, the answer is straightforward …… Ferguson goes out every transfer window, and regularly buys outstanding, expensive, match defining and sorry did I mention ‘expensive’ players capable of producing undoubtedly stunning results, and it is this that has made his reputation.

Who were these players I am thinking of? Think Rio Ferdinand, Ruud van Nistleroy, Wayne Rooney, Christiano Ronaldo, Sheringham, RvP and a whole host of ‘cheaper’ players who are way outside Arsenal’s historical spending limits.

And Maureenio? Well suffice to say, he has only really managed and made his reputation by working for ‘money no object’ Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid.

Buy the best (and most expensive) players, regardless of the cost, and the trophies will come looking for you.

Ask Ferguson – ask Maureen!


Give me Arsene Wenger any day of the week.

Give me a high class club, who eschew oligarchs and oily sheikhs.

Give me the Arsenal!

Written by Red Arse


Dear Mr. Wenger,

March 2, 2013

Dear Mr. Wenger,

Since our last trophy win in 2004/5 you have had to endure a great deal of criticism from both the media and, sadly, many of our supporters. I say sadly because although everybody has the right to their own opinion my belief is that it’s not always an original thought that has created the supporter dissatisfaction but more one that is fuelled by the incessant and ongoing media obsession with demeaning The Arsenal.

Over my 66 years of support I’ve witnessed every manager and team since Tom Whittaker’s team of 1947-1956 and I was very fortunate to be around to watch his team win the League trophy in1947/48 which was my first season of supporting Arsenal. He followed that up by winning the FA Cup in 1949/50 and then another League trophy in 1952/53. It felt good to be an Arsenal supporter, in those days, after all winning 3 major trophies in 6 seasons was something to be proud of and gave us those all important bragging rights.

How could we possibly have known that it would take 16 seasons and 4 different managers before we would recapture that feeling? It was a very, very difficult time to be a supporter, but like true fans do – we just toughed it out and remained solid supporters of The Arsenal.

It was not until Bertie Mee arrived on the scene that we won our next trophy, the European fairs Cup in 1969/70. Then in 1970/71 we had, up until that time, the greatest season in our entire history by winning both the League title and the FA Cup for our first double, the joy of being an Arsenal supporter was almost overwhelming, and the memory of it all is imprinted in my sub conscious.

How could we possibly have known that in the next 16 seasons we would win only one further trophy, the FA Cup in 1978/79 under the management of Terry Neil?

Again it was a very rough time for us supporters but by this time our skin had been thickened by the many barren years that we had already endured.

George Graham arrived as manager in 1986/87 and he won the League Cup in his first season. George went on to win us 2 League Titles, the FA Cup, another League Cup and a Cup Winners Cup trophy. Once again our spirits were raised and Arsenal were the talk of the town – after all 6 trophies in 8 seasons was something to be proud of – even though we had the sound of “One Nil to The Arsenal” ringing in our ears. In 1994/95 it all came crashing down, we finished a lowly 12th in the league, which was our worst finish in 19 seasons. To make it even worse George was caught with his fingers in the biscuit barrel and his time at The Arsenal was over. During the 1995/6 season and the first 8 games of 1996/7 Stuart Houston and Bruce Rioch stood in as caretaker managers.

Frankly, Mr Wenger we were all surprised when you were named as our new Manager because many of us had never heard of you – but it didn’t take very long for you to stamp your impressive mark on our team. Incredibly, in your first full season as manager you achieved what had only been accomplished once in our history, you won the League and FA Cup double, the streets of Highbury, and Arsenal fans worldwide were overjoyed.

Since then you have won another double, a further EPL title plus 2 more FA Cups.

Oops I almost neglected to mention the pinnacle of your current successes at Arsenal, how could one possibly forget 2003/4 the year of the unbeatable “Invincilbles”?

Of course there are also our 16 consecutive seasons of Champions League football where we have been privileged to be able to watch Arsenal compete against the best teams in European football.

You envisaged and created a new training ground and training techniques, moved us from Highbury to Ashburton Grove and you have treated us to the joys of “Wengerball” played by some of the most accomplished super stars who have ever pulled on the famous red and white shirt.

Mr. Wenger I could go on and on and on about the accomplishments during your tenure at The Arsenal but suffice to say you will stand proud and tall alongside Herbert Chapman as Arsenal managers whose achievements are both legendary and historic in their very nature.

Herbert Chapman Bust

Arsene Wenger Bust

Mr. Wenger in closing I would like to express my personal regret at the attitudes of the few fans that are simply short sighted glory hunters and the sports reporter’s looking to impress their editors by increasing circulation. You see most of us are not blinded by looking at only your early achievements – we are able to look at your entire career at Arsenal and those of the managers that came before you in an overall perspective and we consider ourselves privileged to have you as our manager.

I sincerely hope that you remain as our manager for many years to come and that when you do decide to retire you grace us with your presence as a Director.



Arsenal’s Best Ever Transfer Manager

June 4, 2012

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 Mee

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.

Arsène Wenger

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 Neill

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.

Herbert Chapman

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 Wright

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.

George Graham

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?


Best manager ever – Herbert Chapman

September 23, 2011

Written by Herb’sArmy

For most of us on AA, it is impossible to separate our emotions from our club, the two are intrinsically linked. It’s probably fair to say that whilst both games caused a lot of pain, the Blackburn game probably wounded us deeper than the one at OT, if only because of the expectation. And apart from one or two predictable ‘Wenger Out’ bloggers, most of us kept a lid on our seething rage.

One comment that stood out for me was RA’s, categorically proclaiming AW is the greatest manager the club has ever had.

Sorry RA, I don’t agree, and here’s why.

Collectively I think we can all acknowledge and celebrate in the wonderful things Arsene Wenger has brought to our club, and there is no doubt that he has raised our profile across the globe. Beautiful football, titles, the Invincibles, Champions League every year without fail (thus far), and a world-class all-seated stadium are the obvious stand-out achievements, along with the plethora of gifted footballers he has given us. Enough certainly to satisfy any Arsenal fan anywhere, me included. But it’s a big call to call him the greatest.

For me it is Herbert Chapman.

He truly revolutionised Arsenal, and laid all the foundations for what we are today.

We had been in existence for 44 years before Chapman won us our first trophy in 1930 (which puts this current ‘drought’ into real perspective!). He built the Huddersfield side that won three successive titles (they’ve never won it since), and then made Arsenal the most famous club in the world. He built a side that achieved something no Arsenal side has done since, dominating our domestic league with five titles and three FA Cups between 1930-39. Tragically he died January 6th 1934 with Arsenal on the way to the second of their three successive titles, and of course George Allison took over, but it was Chapman’s team, formation and tactics.

And though he only had nine years at the club, he died with his team top of the table, and with trophies still waiting to be won.

He didn’t change the club crest or over-see a massive stadium move (he didn’t have to, Highbury was a world-class stadium in it’s hey-day), but what he did do was re-define who and what Arsenal Football Club stood for. He revolutionised the whole football culture with his visionary W-M tactics, and showed the world how football should be played, with stand-out legends such as Eddie Hapgood, Wilf Copping, Alex James, Cliff Bastin, David Jack and Ted Drake.

He was the first manager to advocate floodlights, the use of shirt-numbers, and quite literally put Arsenal on the map by getting Islington Borough Council to change Gillespie Road tube station to Arsenal tube station.

Chapman’s vision all those years ago is exactly why we are in a position to appoint the likes of Arsene Wenger today.

Arsene Wenger has undoubtedly earned his legendary status at our club, but the accolade as the club’s greatest manager, for me personally, has to go to Herbert Chapman..

Breakfast at the Emirates

January 30, 2011

I usually have a good moan about early kick-offs and that’s when they’re at 1.30 so todays midday start is going to feel really strange. I like to look forward to going to football – well for at least a few hours anyway but today it’s up, washed, dressed and out the door before my coffee has a chance to hit the sides of my stomach.

You have to feel sorry for the Huddersfield Town supporters who must have left home in the dark  this morning and wonder why our game had to be scheduled at midday while spuds only have to travel to Fulham for a 4 o’clock ko – the decision making of the TV scheduelers astounds me. But midday it is and I’m hoping its not too early for a loud throng to make their way to the Emirates for this fourth round FA Cup tie.

We go into this game unbeaten in 9 apart from the Carling Cup tie away at Ipswich having scored 21 goals and conceded 5 but its the loss at Ipswich and the draw at Wigan with the ‘B’ team that will worry many gooners about the team selection for todays game. I feel the team might be  set up like this :-

Subs – Almunia Clichy Squillacci Fabregas Theo van Persie

Why have Shea on the bench if you’re never going to play him Arsene? Arshavin made two great assists on Tuesday night and maybe, just maybe today will be his day to hit the back of the net. Chamakh needs to get back to scoring ways too and if he’s been watching Robin he’ll know how to put his work-rate to good use and be in the right place for Niks fabulous crosses. Tuesday night’s win against Ipswich should set the ‘A/B’ team up for this game, Arsene loves the FA Cup, Arsenal love winning the FA Cup and this team needs to keep on winning.

The best thing about the ‘A’ team hitting a rich vein of form is that the others will have been watching, watching them score, watching them win and they’ll want some of that. No lapses in concentration, no underestimating the opposition, just come out and work for each other and play the best football on the planet – well in the UK at least.

Huddersfield Town are sitting third in Division 1. They’ve won 13 out of 26 games scoring 42 goals but conceding 32 so there’s hope – joking! They are very excited about this fixture against us but will be without their top goal scorer Jordan Rhodes who has 16 goals to his name but was injured last weekend. You may remember that Arsenal were invited to play at Huddersfield’s Centenary match for the Herbert Chapman Trophy in August 2008. Our very own Herbert Chapman had managed Huddersfield Town and led them to a FA Cup trophy in the 1921-22 season before being prized away by Sir Henry Norris in 1925 to join Arsenal.

There’s not going to be too much time to agonise over how the team will set up and those going to the game will out early but we’ll also be back early so catch you all later. Enjoy the game.


Written by peachesgooner