The clear lesson from Arsenal and Liverpool as to who the next Arsenal manager should be.

By Tony Attwood

Although neither the anti-Arsenal-Arsenal of the bloggettas nor the Arrogance, Amnesia and Assumption approach of the mainstream media ever look back to the past with a sense of insight and understanding, history reveals that there was, and still is an Arsenal Way of doing things.

Originally there was the notion that Royal Arsenal was the first ever club run by the workers for the workers to make it into the Football League (as Woolwich Arsenal).  Sadly just as this happened, and just as the workers saw off an attempt by the toffs to overthrow the founders and take over the club, the workers solidarity took a severe knock when Arsenal tried to get away with not paying its players when they were not playing.  That case that ended up in court, and after Arsenal won it allowed clubs to run the “retain and transfer” system of modern slavery.

So the club changed and started to appoint managers from outside the club, and eventually after a fair bit of trial and error Sir Henry Norris came up with the idea of appointmenting Herbert Chapman.

From that moment on until 1962, all the subsequent managers were Arsenal men, brought up in the Arsenal way of doing things that Chapman initiated.  Shaw, Allison, Whittaker, Crayston, Swindin.  Only after the failure of Swindin’s period in office did the board decide to break with tradition and appoint the disastrous Billy Wright as manager.

Across four appalling years the club sank, finishing 7th, 8th, 13th and 14th in the league and with crowds at the end as low as 8700 for a game against Stoke and 4,500 for a game against Leicester.  That one appointment of Wright seemed to reveal to the board the magnitude of their cock up and they once more appointed from within: this time Bertie Mee.  Even when Mee took the club to home defeats against Tranmere and Norwich, and finished consecutive seasons in 16th and 17th, they still waited for Mee to retire before bringing in Terry Neill.

With Neill, three seasons in the top five, and three cup finals were as good as it got, but again an Arsenal man was appointed in Don Howe, followed by George Graham.  Even when we sank to being the lowest scoring team in the league it took a clear breach of football rules for Graham to be given the push.  We ended up 10th, below QPR and Norwich.  But Graham had delivered two league trophies.

And that was when for the second time did the board decide to go outside Arsenal and bring in Rioch, before sacking him after one season to bring in Wenger.

The tradition of the club, dating from the tragically early death of Chapman, has therefore generally been appointing from within.  Shaw, Allison, Whittaker, Crayston, Swindin, Mee, Neill, Howe, Graham.  Nine managers of Arsenal lineage against Wright, Rioch and Wenger from outside.

Shaw, Allison, Whittaker, Mee and Graham all won the league (five out of nine internal appointments).  Indeed Allison, Whittaker and Graham all won the league twice.  Only one of the three external men since Chapman in 1925 has won the league.  The history of the club therefore seems to favour an internal appointment.

When the club has broken with this approach of internal appointments the new man has either utterly revolutionised the club or been at best the sort of “top four” success that has been so decried by the aaa and the AAA.   Billy Wright was an absolute an utter disaster from start to finish – not only never finishing above seventh but also never taking the club beyond the 4th round of the FA Cup – including a memorable defeat to Peterborough.

The other external appointment at Highbury who has not been mentioned was the appallingly self-serving Leslie Knighton who in six seasons never took us above 10th and whose season ends included a 17th, a 19th and a 20th.

But that leaves the two great revolutionary figures from without: Herbert Chapman and Arsene Wenger.  Chapman ran the club for six years before winning the league – his lowest finish was 14th, Wenger won it three times early on but then kept the club in the top four while the stadium was built.

All that history suggests that the Arsenal way, if bringing in a manager from outside, is to bring in a great transformer and reformer, not a Wright or a Knighton with their “steady-as-she-goes” approach.  Alternatively, and most commonly, the approach is to promote from within.

But there is one other factor that the new man will have to take on: in terms of the percentage of league matches won, Mr Wenger has the highest of any permanent Arsenal manager.  Clearly the new man is going to have to do better than the best, in order to keep the aaa and AAA happy – if that is at all possible.

I have, for some time, been petitioning the club to celebrate the succession of Chapman – Shaw – Allison – Whittaker through a monument at the Emirates Stadium, although thus far without any visible sign of success.   Liverpool has made a lot about their line of succession through Shankly, Paisley, Fagan, Dalglish, and it is sad that Arsenal has not done the same for our four great heroes.

But it is interesting that for both clubs, four successive internal appointments was as far as it could go.  In more recent years Liverpool has excelled in using external men they have failed to get anywhere near those past glories.

So if history teaches anything in these matters it is that yes, through bringing in a transforming genius like Chapman, Wenger or Shankly a club can be turned around.  But after that the solution really should be promotion from within – up to a maximum of four times.

Arsenal History Books on Kindle and as paperbacks.

The novel “Making the Arsenal” by Tony Attwood which describes the events of 1910, which created the modern Arsenal FC, is now available for the first time on Kindle.  Full details are here.

Also available on Kindle, “Woolwich Arsenal: the club that changed football” the only comprehensive history of the rise of Arsenal as a league club, and the attempts to destroy the club, from within and without.   For full details please see here.

These books are also available as paperbacks.  Please see here.



34 Replies to “The clear lesson from Arsenal and Liverpool as to who the next Arsenal manager should be.”

  1. “The Arsenal way” is non existent since the departure of the Hill-Woods, Bracewell-Smiths, Fizman & Dein.
    What we have in their place is device run by the Kroenkes & Gazidis to suck the soul out of a club once known admired & respected worldwide as honest, progressive & charismatic.

  2. good morning tony. Interesting read and a few questions (If you know the answers please)
    Our internal appointments (Shaw, Allison & Whittaker), logic would say that these men were actually interested in coaching and had managed other teams or had they just qualified as a coach? excuse the ignorance here as I nothing much is made of our previous managers apart from Graham and Chapman).
    If so, who do we have “internally” today that are qualified or managed to some degree of success elsewhere? Obviously todays game and set up is very different to back then so would be interested to know what our options are. I know Henry and Ljunberg are wanting to become full time coaches but that’s about it.

  3. Apologies for my dodgy shift key. gives me capital letters as and when it feels like it haha

  4. How about Steve bould? It’s not like assistants don’t go on to become managers themselves without succeeding.

  5. BTW Tony I really think you guys should start a podcast. I’m sure there are people that would really love to hear more of your insight.

  6. If Arsenal want to appoint from within – internally, is there anyone as qualified as Steve Bould who has been at the club as a player, a youth team coach at the club and currently an assistant manager to Arsene Wenger?

    Arsenal are still in one title race of the FA Cup and still have one of their legs in this season’s Ucl while they are a long shoot to win the PL title now this season after losing to Liverpool last Saturday. My suspicion is, Arsenal will knockout Bayern Munich at the Emirates Stadium tomorrow Tuesday night God willing.

    I don’t blame Le Prof for dropping Alexis to the bench in our last away Liverpool game last Saturday. For Alexis’ act of insubordination to Le Prof and for haven a row with his team mates in the dressing room later who might have cautioned him on the issue, as a disciplinary action, Le Prof should have excluded him altogether from his 18 man match day squad to serve as a deterrent to would be insobordinator at Arsenal in future. Even with his coming on as a substitute in the second half of the match, Arsenal did not beat Liverpool neither did they get a point from the match. So, what the cry about in the media of Le Prof benching Alexis? Alexis is not bigger than his manager nor the club who employed him. Arsenal cannot afford to have another Samir Nasrir in the form of Alexis in their dressing room and in their training ground again anymore. If Alexis does not apologize to Le Prof and his team mates for his unruly behaviour to them, let him go to wherever he wants to go. Soldier comes to Arsenal and Soldier leaves Arsenal, but Arsenal remain.

  7. When Alexis tried to talk to Gabriel on the bench next to him, there was a stony silence and no reply from Gabriel, in fact Gabriel turned away from Alexis and ignored him.

    Don’t know if anyone caught that? There seems to be something going on in the dressing room a.t.m.

    So, i still have a little hope that Arsenal can beat Bayern tomorrow, call me silly if you want, but this is really the time to do it, when no one expects it, but if there is some sort of split in the dressing room, well!

  8. Well, who doesn’t want to go through tomorrow. Sad fact is we’ve got a mountain to climb. I can honestly see us winning 3-0 and coming up just short making us all wonder what if……again.

  9. That would be so typical of us. Pressure off, not expected to get anything or go through so we play with freedom instead of bottling it and get a near result.

  10. para
    Gabriel did appear a bit awkward (although that’s probably his natural look), but as one speaks Spanish & the other Portuguese and neither very good at English who knows what he made of it.
    The story going round is that Sanchez fell out with a “very senior” player which limits it to Kos, Cech, Mertesacker & Theo. My money would be on Theo, who despite his pretty boy looks and charm can be a bit confrontational (so they say).

  11. I think there are a lot of fans like us who haven’t abandoned Arsene. But the mass media and the social media only give the others a hearing. Sickening!

  12. @ Arsenal 13

    When the club needs the fans most, their glory hunting toys out of the pram behaviour kicks in.

  13. Abandoned Arsene sounds a bit weird to me .

    I personally feel he should go end of season for all concerned .

    I will be there tomorrow night and Saturday because I will not abandon Arsenal .

  14. Good on you Shoot. Why should Wenger abandon Arsenal? If you can show your love for our club why shouldn’t Wenger?

    I will be back at the Ems soon & I will support just as loud as I do here many miles away. Lots of piss taking fans of other clubs but I am a Gooner & don’t give a toss for those who have only Arsenal losses to celebrate. Wenger does what he does & is right most of the time. In fact even when he is wrong, he is right.

  15. It’s all very last supper in the garden on here. He ia just a football manager ffs Arsenal is forever! I am sure Arsene will get over it unless of course he still likes football. His body language says he would rather be on a beach in Brazil. That’s where the end began so he could complete the circle and find liberation! Yeah!

  16. I don’t pass judgement (good or bad) on other people when I have neither the experience, the knowledge nor the expertise to do so. Even when I could, I don’t believe it always has any value.

  17. I don’t subscribe to any of the media shite promoted by our natural enemies and fuelled by people like Ian Wright parading their personal bitter agenda against the club (he is of course, entitled to his view, but a genuine Arsenal “legend” would not be spouting such bile in the news media.)

    I hope that Arsene stays. If PSG etc are after him, he can’t be as useless as the Piers Morgan school of football appreciation would have us believe.

    People who have criticised the decision to put Sanchez on the bench no doubt include some of those who, not so long ago, were criticising the manager for wearing him out by never resting him. (For all that we were poor in much of the first-half at Anfield, we were not far off gaining a point, -until yet another “goal” conceded at the end. – to add to the two against Man City – only “fractionally” off-side, according to the Guardian and presumably therefore allowable – if its against Arsenal.

  18. @Para

    I too believe Arsenal will probably have a good win against Bayern.

    It does sound silly to suggest a victory but I think Arsenal will score two goals in the first half. Bayern will then panick and become defensive in their approach.
    Arsenal could then get a 3rd goal in about the 65th minute.
    Bayern Munich will then lose their composure.
    And in the last 10 minutes Arsenal will start bombing forward looking for the killer goal. The result of this all-out attack could either be Arsenal scoring the needed 4th goal or Bayern hitting us on the break and scoring their away goal.

    I really hope the team can make Arsene Wenger proud by playing very well and getting a victory.

  19. Ian Wright behaves like a Spurs fan (or a sell-out). He doesn’t behave like an Arsenal legend.

    Ian Wright and Paul Merson behave towards Arsene Wenger and Arsenal in a similar and very bad way.

    Both Ian Wright and Merson also have something in common. Both wasted the vast fortunes they earned as football players. Both are now desperately in need of the cash that the media companies pay to pundits.
    And we all know that he who pays the piper calls the tune.
    Are Merson and Ian Wright simply singing for their supper?
    What a shame if that’s what’s happening.

  20. I would rather follow the wisdom of the Arsenal board that has successfully been running a billion Pound enterprise , rather than follow the suggestions of certain individuals whose life choices have been less than perfect.

    A piece of shit is just that, a piece of shit – however you try dress it up !
    And on here most of ‘them’ deserve all the scorn and ridicule that they so often deserve .
    May be it didn’t quite strike you that if you are not qualified , nor experienced in a particular field, maybe you should just shut the fuck up ?

    If you are the owner of a Fortune 500 company or of a Blue Chip one , do feel obliged to advice the board how to move forward . If not just carry on entertaining the crowd at your local pub.

  21. A very cold winter is coming !

    It was autumn, and the Native Americans asked their New Chief if the winter was going to be cold or mild.

    Since he was a Native American chief in a modern society, he couldn’t really tell what the weather was going to be like.

    Nevertheless, to be on the safe side, he replied to his Tribe that the winter was indeed going to be cold and that the members of the village should collect wood to be prepared.

    But also being a practical leader, after several days he got an idea. He went to the phone booth, called the National Weather Service and asked, “Is the coming winter going to be cold?”

    ” It looks like this winter is going to be quite cold indeed.”, the weather man responded.

    So the Chief went back to his people and told them to collect even more wood. A week later, he called the National Weather Service again. “Is it going to be a very cold winter?”

    ” Yes,” the man at National Weather Service again replied, “It’s definitely going to be a very cold winter.”

    The Chief again went back to his people and ordered them to collect every scrap of wood they could find.

    Two weeks later, he called the National Weather Service again.

    “Are you absolutely sure that the winter is going to be very cold?”

    ” Absolutely,” The man replied. “It’s going to be one of the coldest winters ever.”

    ” How can you be so sure?” the Chief asked.
    The weatherman replied, ” The Native Americans are collecting wood like crazy.”

    This is how stock markets and currencies work.

  22. Our champions league run has come to a predictable end – Round of 16. Are you surprised?

  23. This attitude of yours is the reason for the statis. Your loyalty is to one man, not to Arsenal. Sadly, there are many of you out there otherwise this clown would have been out many years back.

  24. If you believe any top club wants him, then I can sell you a castle in the moon.

  25. Unfortunately, football is a sport, not rocket science. Mourinho proved many years ago that a non footballer can succeed in management. Nothing special in knowing that Song, Dennilson, Kalstrom, Bentner, Gibbs, Jenkinson, Theo, Coq, Diaby, Sylvestre, Ebue, are essentially average players with overpaid contracts.

  26. Jokers!!! No context, no perspective, just one way reasoning! I would have loved to see the way some of you run your lives. Now the manager is useless and they are the better experts at spotting talent, doing tactics, running a football team, selecting a winning side and on and on… ad nauseum. Give me a break.

  27. Mourinho a non-footballer? The man was a professional and has been involved in football for his entire adult life. His father was also a football manager.

  28. Bobome – you want a break? wear an Arsenal shirt & play football. Someone will break you leg.

    Not afraid gunner – man you’re good. You must practice looking at yourself in the mirror. Turn around & look back you might see a planet – Uranus!

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