By Tony Attwood
I am not suggesting, through that title, that “after me comes the flood” is a perfect way of forecasting what happens after a manager leaves a league club, but rather I’d like to suggest that changing managers at Arsenal does not result in an immediate change at the club.
In a previous article I looked at what happened when a manager was sacked or resigned. Here I look at what happens next.
Of course telling the future is not much of a science (remembering my favourite adage that economic forecasting only exists to give fortune tellers a good name) and ultimately of course, things do tend to get sorted. But it can take time.
Howard Wilkinson might have been excused for having thought, as he left Leeds in 1996, that Leeds had a permanent place in the elite. The results within the club thereafter didn’t look too bad at first but the turmoil and of the constant revolution approach that they used turned the club that won the league twice in three seasons into a financial basket case at the start of the new century and ultimately delivered five years in the third tier of English football. This season will be the first in six where they have finished above 13th in the championship. Be careful what you wish for was never more true than there.
And this is a story that is repeated so often in football that I thought that having written my little piece about how the Arsenal managers from Mee to Rioch left the club I would do another about what happened in the aftermath.
BERTIE MEE to TERRY NEILL
Betie Mee played out the season after announcing his resignation in March 1976, and the team did rather poorly in the remaining games losing five, drawing one and winning one – a contrast to four wins and two draws in the six games before his announcement that he was going. Arsenal finished 17th.
So having missed relegation by just four points the season before, Mee showed improvement in his final season by getting Arsenal up to six points off relegation.
The following season under Tottenham’s ex manager Terry Neill started badly with a home defeat to Bristol City – it was City’s first ever game in the first division. After 12 games Arsenal were 13th, but ended the season 8th. Better than the two previous seasons when Mee took the club to 16th and 17th, but not quite what us long suffering supporters wanted.
TERRY NEILL TO DON HOWE
Neill was sacked by Arsenal on 16 December 1983 after a bad run of results and Arsenal in 16th.
As with the league table when Mee left, on the day Neill went it looked pretty awful with five defeats and one win in the last six. Arsenal then won three and drew four in the next seven – an improvement, but still not really the form we wanted to see.
When he left the club were in fifth position in the first division with two or three games in hand over the top three.
DON HOWE TO GEORGE GRAHAM
Without Don Howe Arsenal slipped back and finished 7th, and instead of being eight points behind the leaders with two in hand ended up 19 points behind the league winners, Liverpool.
George Graham took over for the 1986/7 season and lasted until 21 February 1995 when he was relieved of his duties. His start at Highbury was not spectacular – Arsenal won just two of the first eight league games, scoring just five goals in those games. However a very positive run (in terms of results if not goals) then took Arsenal to the top of the table, but a 10 match run without a win in the winter, took Arsenal back down and we finished fourth, ending with a home defeat to Norwich.
GEORGE GRAHAM to BRUCE RIOCH
On 21 February 1995 George Graham was “relieved of his duties” and Rioch brought in for one season – 1996/7.
Five wins and three draws in the opening games took Arsenal to fourth in the league and by December Arsenal had made it up to 3rd. But four defeats and just two wins over the Christmas and New Year period pushed Arsenal down to 8th.
The season ended with three draws and Arsenal needing to beat Bolton on the last match of the season to qualify for Europe. Arsenal won 2-1 and secured 5th.
To see exactly what happens when an Arsenal manager leaves, here are two concluding tables. The first compares the final season of the old manager (with both the position of the club when the manager’s departure was announced and the position at the end of the season), and the position at the end of the next season.
|Manager||Year||Pos at announcement||Pos at end of season||Slippage||Next season||Change|
Slippage shows the difference between the position at the announcement of departure and the final position. The big recovery came after the removal of Terry Neill. The two biggest recoveries overall came after the departures of Mee and Graham, both of whom were seriously under performing in the league at the end.
So yes, the change of manager can work, as can sacking a manager before the end of the season – but it is not guaranteed. The big jumps have come from the two times when a manager was removed with the club in the lower part of the table.
Here are the results for the managers showing their first season in each case
|1976–77||Terry Neill||42||16||11||15||64||59||43||8th||Malcolm Macdonald||29|
|1984–85||Don Howe||42||19||9||14||61||49||66||7th||Tony Woodcock||13|
|1986–87||George Graham||42||20||10||12||58||35||70||4th||Martin Hayes||24|
|1995–96||Bruce Rioch||38||17||12||9||49||32||63||5th||Ian Wright||22|
|1996–97||Arsene Wenger||38||19||11||8||62||32||68||3rd||Ian Wright||30|
The key point still seems to be that a change of managers can work, but it is not guaranteed – only two of those five managers went on to win the League. None of our last five managers (stretching back 40 years of Arsenal’s history) has actually won the league in his first season. The best result came from … Arsene Wenger and he is not the model that most people who want managerial change now, are hoping to use.
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