By Tony Attwood
The simplest way to measure a manager’s success or failure is by the number of trophies won – Arsène Wenger won 10. More than anyone else at Arsenal. But then of course he many many more years to do that in than other managers. So maybe we should measure his win percentage – how many of the 1228 league games did he win. The answer is 57.38%. Only those who managed for less than a season (Pat Rice and Joe Shaw) did better. Pat Rice because he only managed for four matches and Joe Shaw because he took over from Herbert Chapman when Chapman died, and managed 23 games to win Arsenal the title.
So speaking of the greatly revered Chapman, how did Arsène Wenger compare? Chapman’s win rate was 49.88%. To maintain a win rate higher than that across 21 years is something very special, and probably won’t ever be seen again at Arsenal.
But what did he give us?
Given the current debate it seems only right to say a continuously full stadium virtually all the way through – something we never had under any other manager, where much of the time the average attendance was in the 30,000’s, not knocking around the 60,000 mark.
And through this he provided the finance for the new stadium that has allowed some of those who now complain about Arsenal, to have the chance to have tickets for games. At Highbury with its 38,000 capacity once the seating was put in, there never was such a chance.
He gave us players the clubs could never have afforded to buy once they were established. Vieira and Henry are the greatest examples but there were many others whose value shot up after Mr Wenger discovered them.
People like Robin van Persie, Cesc Fabregas… the players who would then leave having made their name, in order to get higher salaries than Arsenal could afford either with the smaller stadium, or the repayment of the loans on the Ems.
And he gave us trophies – on average just about one every other year. But such was the hatred engineered against him that this staggering achievement was denigrated by deciding to say the FA Cup was not a trophy. Of course it was always a lesser trophy, but it was still a trophy. It still needed to be fought for and won – otherwise Manchester City, Tottenham and Chelsea would hardly have bothered so much to try and win it last season and been so frustrated that Arsenal, the underdogs came through once again.
And that left Mr Wenger as the man who (I suspect forever) has won the FA Cup more than anyone else in history.
And looking back, what I suppose some people do forget is just where Arsenal were before Mr Wenger. Maybe this table might remind those people a little. We won the double in 1970/1. Then in the next 25 years we won the League twice and the FA Cup twice
25 years to win four trophies. OK if you want to include the League Cup lets add two of them and the Cup Winners Cup. That is seven trophies in 25 years. Mr Wenger outdid that with 3 League titles (as opposed to the two in the previous 25 years), and seven FA Cups (as opposed to two FA Cups, two League Cups and one CWC – which makes five). And he took fewer years to do it too.
And at the same time he provided entertainment enough to fill the stadium most of the time. Indeed although not all the season ticket holders turn up now, the seats are still paid for, and there is still a long waiting list for season tickets, despite all the people who have written in to this site saying they have thrown their season ticket away.
And as a result of his efforts the stadium was paid for by the club. Not by the state as with Manchester City and West Ham. Nor by an oil billionaire as will be the case of Chelsea, but by the club. Maybe Tottenham will be able to pay for their stadium, and win trophies, if so they will deserve credit for that. But no club has been able even to maintain their position in the top league while building a new stadium in the modern era – let alone win trophies – apart from Arsenal.
And Mr Wenger did it while maintaining a place in the top four – something that Arsenal had never done under any other manager in its entire history. So there again, just like the FA Cup not being a trophy, coming in the top four was suddenly of no significance even though it was a greater achievement than the club had ever seen before.
Of course I want the new manager to do well and to win us trophies. Obviously I shall continue to hold my season ticket and do the crazy 175 mile round trip for each home game – although I do know that some season ticket holders travel even further. But I am sad, not just that Mr Wenger’s time is up, but because of the way he has been treated by a small number of fans, and their allies with the blogs and in the media.
And in passing I wonder about our banner that is displayed at the Clock End. I do hope they allow us to retain it in the ground as a memory to the most glorious period in the club’s history – because that is what it has been. True, between 1930 and 1939 Arsenal won seven trophies in 10 seasons; Mr Wenger won five trophies in his first five seasons. But the club in the 1930s was funded as were all clubs – by income from the turnstiles. Everyone was equal in those days.
It’s a different game now. As David Dein so memorably said, “The Russians have parked their tanks on their lawn and are firing £50 notes at us.” They are still there, joined by the Abu Dhabians, or whatever the collective noun is for people from that Emirate.
Whether Arsenal can get back to challenging repeatedly for the league title while money is no object elsewhere and Uefa are halfhearted about FFP, we shall see.
Those of us who support the club, rather than comparing it to a restaurant, will carry on of course. And if we win lots more trophies that will be great. The only certainty however is that I’ll keep going and supporting, until the advance of the years stops me.
In case you are interested, here’s the list of Arsenal managers in the order of their win percentages.
|1||Pat Rice||Sep 1996||Sep1996||4||75.00|
|2||Joe Shaw||January 1934||May 1934||23||60.87||1 League|
|3||Arsène Wenger||October 1996||June 2018||1228||57.38||3 League
7 FA Cup
|4||Thomas Mitchell||March 1897||March 1898||26||53.85|
|5||William Elcoat||April 1898||20 Feb 1899||43||53.49|
|6||Harry Bradshaw||August 1899||May 1904||189||50.79|
|7||James Punch McEwen||April 1915||April 1919||2||50.00|
|8||Herbert Chapman||June 1925||Jan 1934||403||49.88||2 League
1 FA Cup
|9||George Graham||May 1986||Feb 1995||460||48.91||2 League
1 FA Cup
2 Lg Cup
|10||Tom Whittaker||June 1947||October 1956||429||47.09||2 League
1 FA Cup
|11||Bruce Rioch||June 1995||August 1996||47||46.81|
|12||George Allison||May 1934||May 1947||279||46.24||2 League
1 FA Cup
|13||Don Howe||Dec 1983||March 1986[||117||46.15|
|14||Arthur Kennedy||21 Feb 1899||August 1899||11||45.45|
|15||Terry Neill||July 1976||Dec 1983||416||44.95||1 FA Cup|
|16||The Committee||August 1983||May 1897||118||44.92|
|17||Bertie Mee||June 1966||May 1976||539||44.71||1 League
1 FA Cup
1 Fairs C.
|18||Jack Crayston||October 1956||May 1958||77||42.86|
|19||Phil Kelso||July 1904||Feb 1908[||152||41.45|
|20||George Swindin||June 1958||1 May 1962||179||39.11|
|21||Billy Wright||May 1962||June 1966||182||38.46|
|22||Stewart Houston||Feb 1995||June 1995||19||36.84|
|23||George Morrell||Feb 1908||April 1915||292||35.27|
|24||Leslie Knighton||April 1919||May 1925||268||34.33|
|25||Stewart Houston||August 1996||Sep 1996||6||33.33|
|26||Steve Burtenshaw||March 1986||May 1986||11||27.27|
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