It seems a day doesn’t go by when someone, somewhere tries to discredit Arsene Wenger’s record.
How many times has it been repeated that George Graham handed Arsene success with that back 4? This is a regular weapon in the armoury of the Wenger Out Brigade and is often repeated in the media. Now this is not to say that back four was not great, it was but was it really so good it guaranteed success?
We also often hear it repeated that Arsene Wenger doesn’t know how to defend. But is this repeated narrative true?
I conducted a bit of research and came up with some amazing findings. In fact, I was surprised by what I found:
George Graham joined Arsenal for the 1986/7 season. The back four at that time consisted of Tony Adams, veteran David O’leary, Viv Anderson and Kenny Sansom. That season the team finished 4th.
In 1987/8 George started rebuilding the back 4. He bought in Nigel Winterburn from Wimbledon. The team finished 6th, that season.
In the 1998/9 season he bought in Steve Bould and Lee Dixon and the famous back 4 was built. The team famously won the League Title at Anfield (but we should have had the title sewn up weeks before).
Here is a season by season breakdown covering the George Graham back 4 that is so revered. It is interested to note the ratio of goals conceded per game:
Season GP GA GA Ratio Pos
1986/7 42 35 1.2 4th
1987/8 40 66 0.6 6th
1988/9 38 36 1.05 1st
1989/90 38 38 1 4th
1990/1 38 18 2.1 1st
1991/2 42 46 0.9 4th
1992/3* 42 38 1.1 10th
1993/4 42 28 1.5 4th
1994/5 42 49 0.85 12th
Goals against ratio: 1.14 Average League Position: 5.1
* The first Premier League season.
So under George Graham, that back four won two titles. Impressive stuff.
However, if that back 4 was so good that it virtually guaranteed success, how did it finish 4th three times and also finish as low as 10th and 12th?
The records will show that the George Graham defence, finished 10th, 4th, 12th and then 5th in the 4 seasons before Arsene Wenger joined the club.
So what of Wenger? Is he really that hopeless defensively as he is often accused?
Well let’s look at the Arsene Wenger seasons:
AW with the GG back 4 he inherited (that had finished 4, 10, 4, 10, 5)
Season GP GA GA Ratio Pos
1996/7 38 32 1.2 3rd (AW joined in September)
1997/8 38 32 1.2 1st (Double)
1998/9 38 17 2.2 2nd
1999/0 38 43 0.8 2nd
2000/1 38 38 1 1st (Double)
Goals against ratio: 1.28 Average League Position: 1.8
The goals against ratio compares favourably to George Graham and the league positions improved three fold, with 2 league titles and 2 second place finishes in his first 4 full seasons.
Arsene Wenger now started to break up the back four and rebuild it. Cole had already emerged as our left back, Lauren came in (2000), Sol Campbell (2001), Toure (2002) and Lehmann (2003). This back four that Wenger rebuilt, went on to be part of the record breaking Invincibles.
The record while rebuilding the back 4:
2001/2 38 36 1.05 2ND
2002/3 38 42 0.8 2ND
2003/4 38 26 1.4 1ST
2004/5 38 36 1.05 2ND
2005/6 38 31 1.2 2ND
Goals against ratio: 1.1 Average league Position: 1.8
So let us look at the goals per game ratio.
Under George Graham, our goals per game ratio was 1.14. The same back 4 under Arsene Wenger averaged 1.28 games per goal conceded, better than George Graham.
Even while slowly rebuilding the back 4, Arsene Wenger still managed to keep the goals against ratio at over 1 game per goal.
In other words, the goals per game ratio of George Graham and Arsene Wenger is virtually identical, despite George Graham having the stability of the same back 4. Yet George Graham is supposedly a much better defensive coach and Arsene Wenger doesn’t do defending?
As Untold often says, where is the ‘evidence based’ reporting? All we get is the same old accusations trotted out by the media and those who do not like Arsene Wenger. As can be seen in the above, it is simply untrue that George Graham handed Arsene Wenger his early trophies. It is also clear that Arsene Wenger can build good defences, his goals conceded ratio is on a par with George Graham. In fact, Arsene Wenger completely rebuilt the back 4 and it was the foundation for the only unbeaten season on record.
Interesting, isn’t it how much rubbish gets churned out and repeated without anyone bothering to check if it is true or not.
- 9 November 1981: Stewart Robson signed pro forms for Arsenal. He went on to play 150 league games for Arsenal scoring 16 goals. He also played 126 games for West Ham and Coventry, and managed Southend for three matches, winning one and losing two of his games, before becoming the arch-critic of Arsene Wenger on TV.
- 9 November 1997: In a game against Manchester Utd in a series in which Arsenal recorded only two wins in eight Anelka scored the first goal in game, as Arsenal won 3-2 after only one victory in five. Game 14 of the 2nd Double Season. The second double: part 1, part 2, part 3. The win over Man U was one of only two wins in eight.
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