By Tony Attwood
We know that Arsène Wenger has done some amazing things, such as…
- Being the most successful FA Cup manager in the last 100 years
- Being the only manager in the last 100 years to win the FA Cup in successive years, twice
- Being the only manager to take a team all the way through a league season (in any Football League division) unbeaten, in the last 100 years.
He’s also won two League and Cup doubles – which is not a bad achievement in itself.
But still there are a few who call for him to leave. So I wondered how the record of Mr Wenger compares with other Arsenal managers, and indeed with past eras in the club’s history. Is Mr Wenger, for example, the most successful manager Arsenal have ever had?
For some time now in my writings on Arsenal’s history I’ve tended to divide our timeline into five periods. Of course this is just my division into the 5 Ages of Arsenal, but other analysis tend to give us similar results to this. (Incidentally if one were to start the Golden Age from 1925 when Chapman arrives, it reduces the effectiveness of that era, and makes the Arsène Wenger era supreme – so I am not picking eras just to suit my case).
Here are the divisions in Arsenal’s history I work with:
The Pre-Trophy Era: 1893 (when we joined the league) through to 1929. This is the era in which we won nothing, our top achievements being one FA Cup Final and two other appearances as losing semi-finalists.
The First Golden Age: 1930-1956, under the management of Chapman, Shaw, Allison and Whittaker. Chapman, Allison and Whittaker each won the league twice and the FA Cup once. Joe Shaw won the league when he took over after Chapman’s death.
The Darkness: 1953-69, reminds us all that a great club can slip away to comparative nothingness. Under the control of Crayston, Swindin, and Wright, the club became perennial residents of mid-table and the early (sometimes embarrassing) exit from the Cup.
The Rebirth: 1970-1997. Mee’s revolution gave us a double and the first European trophy, but his era of promise only lasted four years, and we soon slipped, subsequently flirting with relegation later in his reign. Neill, Howe and finally George Graham, pulled us back from the brink.
The Wenger Years: 1997-? The Wenger years are just one short in length of the First Golden Age. That (as defined above) lasted 19 years and produced 10 major trophies. A trophy this season for Mr Wenger would give him the same – 10 trophies in 19 years. Quite a coincidence. And quite an achievement for one man.
Here’s the details of the eras…
|Seasons||FA Cup||League||Others||Active years||Ratio|
- Others exclude Charity Shield, but include league cup and Uefa Cup and Cup Winners Cup.
- Active years counts the season excluding the closure of the League during the two world wars.
- The Ratio is the number of trophies per year.
Arsène Wenger’s record at Arsenal in terms of games won is indeed impressive: 1066 games, 613 won, 249 drawn, 204 lost – a win ratio of 57.5%. It is the highest of all the managers who have managed over 100 games.
Quite remarkably this figure keeps on going up (which is to say it is not something he established at the start and is letting slip). For example, by the end of the 2013/14 the ratio was 57.23%. If you know a little maths you will know that when you are adding a modest number to 1000 then it is hard to get a ratio to climb at all, so that quarter of a percent growth is not to be sniffed at.
Comparing him to other Arsenal managers is interesting, and has been done in greater depth on the Arsenal History Society site. But here is just one of the tables you will find on that page. This table excludes managers with under 100 games, as some of these had very short runs as temporary managers. But if you want to go further there are four of these tables on the History site, each showing different analyses.
Table of managers in win percentage order excluding those who managed Arsenal for under 100 league games
|Arsène Wenger||October 1996||1066||57.50||3 League
6 FA Cup
|Harry Bradshaw||August 1899||May 1904||189||50.79|
|Herbert Chapman||June 1925||Jan 1934||403||49.88||2 League
1 FA Cup
|George Graham||May 1986||Feb 1995||460||48.91||2 League
1 FA Cup
2 Lg Cup
|Tom Whittaker||June 1947||October 1956||429||47.09||2 League
1 FA Cup
|George Allison||May 1934||May 1947||279||46.24||2 League
1 FA Cup
|Don Howe||Dec 1983||Mar 1986||117||46.15|
|Terry Neill||July 1976||Dec 1983||416||44.95||1 FA Cup|
|The Committee||August 1893||May 1897||118||44.92|
|Bertie Mee||June 1966||May 1976||539||44.71||1 League
1 FA Cup1 Fairs C.
|Phil Kelso||July 1904||Feb 1908||152||41.45|
|George Swindin||June 1958||1 May 1962||179||39.11|
|Billy Wright||May 1962||June 1966||182||38.46|
|George Morrell||Feb 1908||April 1915||292||35.27|
|Leslie Knighton||April 1919||May 1925||268||34.33|
The * indicates that the top 4 finishes were in the second division. (The Committee, shown above, ran Arsenal until the appointment of the club’s first manager, Thomas Mitchell, who lasted just one season with the club, leaving because of “interference” from The Committee.)
If we do include all managers in our analysis, Pat Rice comes out top having managed four games (while waiting for Arsène Wenger to return from Japan), and won three, and Joe Shaw, who as I mentioned took over from Herbert Chapman, after his death, who managed just 23 games in the second half of that season.
In case you are interested in Arsenal’s history, you might like to know that in August the Arsenal Independent Supporters Association will be publishing the sixth in its series of reviews of Arsenal’s history – this one dealing with Tom Whittaker. These publications are given to all AISA members free of charge upon release, and past copies are still available from AISA to non-members and members alike. Details of AISA are on its web site.
Woolwich Arsenal: The club that changed football – Arsenal’s early years
Making the Arsenal – how the modern Arsenal was born in 1910