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October 2016
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Who is the most successful manager Arsenal has ever had?


By Richard Morgan

Arsene Wenger divides opinion among Arsenal fans, with those who want him out and those who support him. The real question should be: what has Wenger done for Arsenal football club? In this piece on Wenger I will outline what Wenger has achieved and put them side by side with those supposed failures at the end I will put my reason and thoughts on who has been the greatest Arsenal manager of all time.

Before outlining Wenger’s successes I will start with what many say are his failures.  The biggest and the irrefutable is that he hasn’t won the league in 12 years. His second is no champions league trophy or not getting past the round of 16 for six years. The third and fourth (and probably the most refutable claims) against Wenger is that he won’t spend money on transfers and that he is tactically naive; both these are refutable and have been done in previous articles and I won’t spend space and time refuting those claims here.

Now what has Wenger done for Arsenal?  Well, first, he changed the culture at Arsenal football club by bringing in a different type of professionalism. Players stopped drinking and smoking heavily new diets and training regimes were brought in and he improved the technical capabilities of the squad he inherited.  

He has brought some outstanding players for the club during his tenure  which has led to a style and brand of football that not many teams in the world can better.

Secondly, he took the club and has moved it into a modern new stadium with outstanding facilities and near perfect playing surface. Alongside that he has improved  London Colney and the Hales End Academy site transforming them into state of the art  training complexes with fantastic medical centres.

He has slowly transformed the Academy into one of the best in the country which will of course benefit the club in the long run either by having non-expensive top class players for the first team or players of a good enough calibrate that can be sold on to generate a profit for the club.

Thirdly, and what has probably got him more than his fair share of critics is that whilst under the financial constraints of moving to the Emirates Wenger managed year on year to attain a top four finish thus ensuring Arsenal being at Europe’s top table year on year.  Also actually qualifying year on year, a feat not even Mourinho achieved at Chelsea or Ferguson at Manchester United. Remember this was done when selling the best players we had and replacing them with lesser known talents. Of course, in this period, there were the finals that he made but never won.

Last  and probably most importantly it’s the trophies  that Wenger has won in his time at Arsenal. Wenger in his twenty years has won three premiership titles and six FA Cups; nine pieces of silverware in twenty years or a trophy every 2.22 recurring years. Of course, there are as well the five charity/community shields; not an official trophy as it is considered a friendly, but a piece of silverware nevertheless  and if you added that in to honours won  he would have Arsenal achieving honours every 1.42 years.  But let’s leave the Charity/Community Shield out of it.  One in every 2.2 it is.

However, when it comes to judging whether he is the best ever Arsenal manager that is a difficult thing. Part of me says he is the greatest ever manager that has ever graced our great club; but part of me thinks that award title should go to Herbert Chapman because without his successes and stewardship of the club there may have never been an Arsenal football club left. He is however the most successful manager of Arsenal football club.

I will leave it to you to debate whether he is the greatest of all our managers.


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29 comments to Who is the most successful manager Arsenal has ever had?

  • If I may just add the details of Chapman. He managed Arsenal for 8 complete seasons and won three trophies – one every 2.66 years.

    It could be argued however that in his ninth season, during which he tragically died, the club would have won the league had he stayed in charge which would have made him the most successful manager.

    Both Chapman and Wenger did something to the club overall: Chapman took it from being a team that had never one either major trophy, and made them Champions, benefiting from the fact that Highbury already existed and could attract the biggest crowds in football. Wenger kept the club going during the building and paying for the Emirates and continued the top four finishes each year, which Chapman could not do, his lowest finish being 14th.

  • RayB

    I first went through the gates of Highbury in August 1956 which makes 60 years of actively supporting Arsenal. When I remember some of the darker days of those years I get very irritated when I hear younger fans berating Arsene Wenger. We won nothing from the First Division championship in 1953 until the Fairs Cup in 1970 (17 years without a trophy) but the fans still turned up each week and we yelled our lungs out for the team.
    Chapman or Wenger? I don’t know but our club’s history would be immeasurably poorer without the two of them and we still have one of them now. We should thank our lucky stars for that!

  • Felix

    George Graham? 6 trophiés in under 9 seasons excluding charity shield.

  • Vinay

    RayB you could have not summed it up better, absolutely perfect.

  • Wenger has done something lets appreciate him

  • colario

    The facts speak for themselves.

    Herbert Chapman was Arsenal’s greatest manager before War ll. Arsene after World War 11.

    Both had the same affect on English Football the former pulled football into the 20th century and the latter into the 21st century.

    Both managed at a time when corruption was rife in English football.

    As to who is the better of the two?

    Who cares? I don’t I am just glad they brought their managing skills to Arsenal.

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    Off topic but our U19s are winning their similar final in the Durban Cup by two nil on 74 minutes played. COYYG

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    Sorry bl..dy auto correct. It is the semi- final today

  • Steve

    Chapman probably just edges it over Wenger due to the stagnation of the club over the last decade.
    The more this continues the more George Graham emerges with credit for his 9 years at the club (2 league titles, 1 FA Cup, 2 League Cups and a Cup Winners Cup – impressive)

    Arsene Wenger has clearly been a great manager for Arsenal and it can be argued that he has been Arsenal’s most influential manager, I just hope his legacy is not damaged in these latter days of his time at the club.

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    U19s win in Durban three nil. Well done lads!

  • Gord

    Thanks Richard.

    And thanks Andrew, for the Durban updates.

  • colario

    I have thought again about who the most successful manager of Arsenal is. If we mean by results then the results speak for themselves.

    However do we count success by the best results.

    In theory the student who comes first in the class is the most successful. It is the natural way to think.

    However what about in terms of effort and ability? As we know hard work and determination without very much ability enables the student to do better than other students with more ability and little determination to succeed.

    We praise HC and AW* for taking a ‘going no where Arsenal’ to the top of football.

    We look back with despair at the George Graham days because he let us down, so we feel and believe.

    We forget that we feel like this about Graham because he was determined to bring back the league championship to Arsenal and he succeeded not once but twice.

    He didn’t have ability of management that HC and AW have but he was determined to succeed.

    Not only that he brought back the belief that the club is still a great club. Of course we knew it was but he washed away the doubts.

    We could look the manures of this world in the eye again with a feeling of pride in our hearts.

    I know it all fell flat but George with out the ability of HC and AW brought back the sentiment
    after 18 years of waiting George made possible to say once again:

    ‘Arsenal’. I am proud to say the name’.

    *A reminder to those who have been around here for awhile and for the benefit of new comers I have been Arsene’s number one fan since 1986. That is ten years before he came to the club. I still am his number one fan.

  • nicky

    You make a valid point.
    Both managers brought success to Arsenal FC during their tenures.
    And both will be remembered for the integrity they added to our Club’s global reputation.

  • Felix, and look where he left the club. Also his win record is considerably below Mr Wenger’s as we showed the other day.

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    Arsenal will play the South Africa U19 squad in the final of the Durban U 19 tournament.. The two stand out teams in the competition, should be a good game. COYYG

  • Pat

    Very exciting about the under 19s!

  • WalterBroeckx

    Gnabry with a goal for Germany on the Olympics and the German reporter absolutely delighted with his performance. Came on as a sub in the second half and all the Germany attacks came from his foot he said.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    All the managers must have in some way contributed to us being in this position of strength today. Let us believe that they did their possible best for the betterment of the club , and thank them for their efforts .

    Just like everyone who one meets or comes in contact during his/her’s life journey must in some way influenced them , so too have our past managers influenced the club in its progress .

    Having said that, it would be amiss of me if I do not admit that Arsene Wenger has not influenced my thinking , over the last two decades , by his words , actions and the way he generally conducts and carries himself.

    I look forward to his next twenty years at the club with great hope .

    ‘Your mind is a garden , your thoughts are the seeds .
    You can either grow flowers , or you can grow weeds .’

  • Brickfields Gunners

    ‘Arguing with idiots is like playing chess with a pigeon , .. no matter how good you are , the bird is going to shit on the board and strut around like it won anyway !’

  • Brickfields Gunners

    ‘FAITH is like a small lamp in a dark forest . It does not show everything at once , but gives enough light for the next step to be safe .’

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Twelve priests were about to be ordained .
    The final test was for them to line up in a straight row, totally nude, in a garden while a sexy, beautiful, big breasted, nude model danced before them.

    Each priest had a small bell attached to his male unit and were told that anyone whose bell rang when she danced in front of them would not be ordained because he had not reached a state of spiritual purity.

    The beautiful model danced before the first candidate, with no reaction.

    She proceeded down the line with the same response from all the priests until she got to the final priest, Paul.

    Poor Paul, as she danced, his bell began to ring so loudly that if flew off, clattering across the ground and came to rest in nearby grass.

    Embarrassed, Paul quickly scrambled over to where the bell came to rest.

    When he bent over to pick it , all the other bells started ringing!

  • Brickfields Gunners


    People ask me why do good when all we receive is bad.. Here is the answer?

    A 6 yr old boy was in the market with his 4 yr old sister……..Suddenly the boy found that his sister was lagging behind.

    He stopped and looked back. His sister was standing in front of a toy shop and was watching something with great interest.

    The boy went back to her and asked, “Do you want something ?” The sister pointed at the doll.
    The boy held her hand and like a responsible elder brother, gave that doll to her.The sister was very very happy…

    The shopkeeper was watching everything and getting amused to see the matured behaviour of the boy…

    Now the boy came to the counter and asked the shopkeeper,

    “What is the cost of this doll, Sir ? ”

    The shopkeeper was a cool man and had experienced the odds of life. So he asked the boy with a lot of love and affection,”

    ” Well, What can you pay ?”

    The boy took out all the shells that he had collected from sea shore, from his pocket and gave them to the shopkeeper. The shopkeeper took the shells and started counting as if he were counting the currency. Then he looked at the boy.
    The boy asked him worriedly, “Is it less ?”

    The shopkeeper said,” No,No… These are more than the cost. So I will return the remaining.” Saying so,he kept only 4 shells with him and returned the remaining.
    The boy, very happily kept those shells back in his pocket and went away with his sister…

    A servant in that shop got very surprised watching all these. He asked his master, ” Sir ! You gave away such a costly doll just for 4 shells ???”

    The shopkeeper said with a smile,” Well, For us these are mere shells.
    But for that boy, these shells are very precious. And at this age he does not understand what money is, but when he will grow up, he definitely will.
    And when he would remember that he purchased a doll with the Shells instead of Money, he will remember Me and think that world is full of Good people.

    It will help him develop a positive attitude and he too in turn will feel motivated to be Good !”

    Mind Mantra – Whatever emotion you infuse into the world, it will further spread. If you do good, goodness will spread. If you do bad, negativity will spread.

    Realize you are a very powerful source of energy.
    Your good or bad will come back to you magnified. Not in the ways you want it, and probably not in the ways you can imagine or understand it. But it will come back.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Our new Japanese signing Asano also scored for Japan in the Olympics. Japan lost 5-4 against Nigeria in what seems to have been a crazy match.
    Osana came on in the second half when Japan was already 4-2 down and scored the third goal for Japan. A nice backheel flick.

  • Nigel

    It is a hard to choose between Chapman and Wenger as to who is the best Arsenal manager and I wouldn’t argue with anyone who picked either. The biggest disappointment for me is George Graham. Up to 1992 he seemed to be the real deal but then instead of expanding his talents he withdrew into a guarded restrictive style. At that time he was ahead of Alex Ferguson in success, but like him or not, Ferguson allowed players to express themselves more on the pitch, Graham didn’t. Both had arguments with top players and got rid of them when it suited but I feel Graham hurt himself more. Dropping flair players like Anders Limpar (who was brilliant in the 1990-91 season) and Michael Thomas for hard working but methodical midfielders was not in my opinion the way forward and although he still won trophies the team was not improving. Tactically Graham could be brilliant, ie Anfield 1989 and European Cup Winners Cup campaign 1993-94, but with his constant aggressive attitude to some of his players and then the bung scandal it all went wrong. A great pity as I think he had done the ground work to become possibly one of the greatest managers anywhere but took the wrong route towards that goal.

  • Robert

    Yet another click-bait headline, content-free post and a link to a “free betting” website, which is click-bait in itself – betting sites exist to suck money from suckers.

    Tony, quantity of posts over quality will, ultimately, lose you readers. And that would be a shame because you used to be better than that.

  • Richard

    Thanks guys for the comments and yes there were many choices and just because I didn’t mention them doesn’t mean they didn’t feature in my thoughts. But I went for more than just trophies and chapman and Wenger took club to other places by new stadiums modernisation etc.

    Robert I did originally have this piece at over 3000 words but felt it heavy and boring and not something anybody would read, so what I did is summarise the main bodies and arguments I had. The hope was people would comment and debate who in their opinion was greatest manager of our great club now for some Wenger wouldn’t be a choice but for others he would be . Now I could have compared chapman and others directly against Wenger but I will take your points on board for next poece

  • westwing

    Maths not good subject on here Arsene no league for 12 year and two poor FA cup. George was better and good player to. Maybe Arsene and Tony need new life say nephew.

  • Robert

    Richard, you posed a question in your headline – then failed to answer it. That, to me, is clickbait: you created a misleading expectation.

    I’d have quite happily read 3,000 words if you’d actually answered your question by setting out the pros and cons of X managers.

  • Richard

    That’s a fair comment and maybe I should have added the other bits in. The headline was not meant to bait but get the reader thinking as was my intention on the article give you the facts as I had laid them out pros and cons and then let the reader decide. I will say I had thought of originally going with who is the greatest Arsenal manager of all time as headline but The above headline read better. But thanks Robert for pointing out what was wrong with my article I will definitely take that forward into anything else I do.