The failure of managers: how has Arsenal got it so right?




By Tony Attwood

Football, it is said, is a funny old game.   If that’s true then making predictions as to the outcome of the season is total hilarity.   But some of us keep doing it.

However the predictions for this season were rather odd in that so many pundits predicted that this season would turn out, at the top at least, to be pretty much the same as last season.

And just to remind ourselves, this is how last season ended here is the table for the end of last season.   Although now with the benefit of around three quarters of the season gone we have now added a new column at the end – XP, standing for “Expected points” – based on the remaining quarter of this season being much the same as the first three quarters.

Team P W D L F A GD Pts XPts
1 Manchester City 38 29 6 3 99 26 73 93 87
2 Liverpool 38 28 8 2 94 26 68 92 58
3 Chelsea 38 21 11 6 76 33 43 74 51
4 Tottenham Hotspur 38 22 5 11 69 40 29 71 66
5 Arsenal 38 22 3 13 61 48 13 69 94
6 Manchester United 38 16 10 12 57 57 0 58 72
7 West Ham United 38 16 8 14 60 51 9 56 37

Sports Mole predicted Liverpool would end up 2nd and West Ham 7th.   And that is not to knock Sports Mole – they did incredibly detailed analyses of what each club was doing and reached the conclusion that by and large this season’s table would in many regards look the same as last.  (Untold incidentally predicted Arsenal would come third this season, based on the previous season’s results, without the first three league games).

And of course last season isn’t like this season..   And this raises the question why not?   But since most scribblers don’t go back and review their predictions as the season draws to an end we never quite know why they felt as they did, and why they feel they got it wrong.  Or in the case of West Ham so very wrong.

If you are a regular reader you will know that our predictions about Arsenal are based on two things: one is the work-in-progress approach – seeing what the manager has done and seeing if it is likely to move forward.  Thus as I have so often mentioned, we took great note for example, of the Arsenal approach under Arteta to reduce the number of yellow cards and take Arsenal right away from the top of the yellow card table.

What we also noted was Arsenal’s reluctance to get rid of managers quickly – although Emery had been sacked to make way for Arteta.   So one might expect other predictors to take this into account – but I am not sure they do.  Changing managers is something that is increasing with the majority of clubs this season now having new managers.

Then again no one asks if this works.  Which they should since we find that in the entire history of Tottenham Hotspur only one of their managers has had win percentage higher than Arsene Wenger.

Wenger hit a win percentage of 57.25% – which is remarkable since he maintained that across 1,235 matches.   The one Tottenham manager who exceeded that was Frank Brettell who did it in the 19th century when the competition was less fierce and Brettell achieved this across just 63 games.

But perhaps even more alarming for Tottenham Hotspur and its choice of managers across the centuries is the fact that since Arsene Wenger Arsenal have had a manager who has exceeded Tottenham’s all time win percentage manager.  And that is a certain Mr Arteta.

Here is the list of the top managers in terms of win percentage for Arsenal – and I’m including them irrespective of the number of games they managed

Name From To Games W D L F A Win %
Pat Rice 1996 1996 4 3 0 1 10 4 75.00
Unknown  1898 1898 9 6 2 1 21 8 66.67
Joe Shaw 1934 1934 23 14 3 6 44 29 60.87
Mikel Arteta 2019 Present 170 102 24 44 300 171 60.00
Arsène Wenger 1996 2018 1,235 707 280 248 2,156 1,147 57.25
Unai Emery 2018 2019 78 43 16 19 152 100 55.13

Pochettino for Tottenham is the one long-term manager that they have had in recent times with a decent win percentage.  He managed 293 games and got a win percentage of 54.27%.  Arsenal sacked Unai Emery when he had a win percentage of 55.13%.

The fact is that the only way forward appears to be one in which the club takes its time to find the right manager and then appoints him, and has faith in him.   Arsenal wobbled a bit in this determination by getting rid of Emery when they did, and his work with a very ordinary Aston Villa side suggests that he is able to manage here as well as he has in Europe.  But of course it might well be that his departure was hastened by the awareness that Arteta would be available.

But overall the fact remains, endless going around changing the manager does not guarantee suceess.   Just look at Chelsea.  Or Tottenham.  



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