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How Emery fits into the tradition of appointing Arsenal managers

By Tony Attwood

So Manuel Pellegrini is the new West Ham manager and Arsenal have done their usual trick of keeping everyone guessing.  In fact Arsenal do it so well that even those people trying to write stories about how Arsenal often do the unexpected find themselves stumbling around the club’s history grasping at straws.

In Arsenal’s history the gasps and surprises first came to the fore when Sir Henry Norris finally sacked the incompetent liar Leslie Knighton who had spent six years almost getting Arsenal relegated and then pulling out of disaster at the last moment.  That was no surprise.  What was a surprise was not only that he got Herbert Chapman who had just won the League with Huddersfield Town for the second year running, and had the year before that won the FA Cup, but that he kept Herbert Chapman even when Chapman handed in his resignation to Sir Henry, because the club was doing rather poorly.

When Chapman died suddenly, Joe Shaw, Arsenal’s long service left back who had played at Plumstead as well as Highbury, was given the job of taking over – something generally overlooked by journalists in a hurry.  Another surprise (the appointment, not journalists in a hurry making ludicrous mistakes when writing about Arsenal’s history).

I’m not sure George Allison was a surprise appointment when he came long – he had after all been at the club for over 20 years when his turn came, having started as the club’s first programme editor in 1910.  But once the long stream of men who had served as players came to an end after Tom Whittaker, Jack Crayston and George Swindon had all taken the reigns the club went decidedly weird with Billy Wright.  A great footballer, but a man without even the basic idea of how to run a club.

So horrified were the board at what happened when an “outsider” was appointed they quickly rushed back to promoting from within, and picked Bertie Mee, the physio who was good for a while but then acted as if he had looked at the work of Knighton after the first world war and seen it as a way forward rather than the dire warning of how not to run a club.

After two seasons flirting with relegation Mee went out and another ex-player came in (Terry Neill) who was followed by Don Howe and then George Graham and finally a year of Bruce Rioch before the Lord Wenger.

In short since the resumption of football after the first world war Arsenal have employed  nine permanent managers who were already part of Arsenal, even if in some cases the man in question had gone elsewhere first.  Only five came from without: Knighton, Chapman, Wright, Rioch, Wenger.

So there’s no real lesson to learn here.  External appointments can be truly awful (Knighton, Wright) or excellent (Chapman, Wenger).  Internal appointments can be a disappointment (Crayston, Swindon) winning nothing, or top quality (Shaw, Allison, Whittaker, Graham).

There’s no regular pattern – just that of getting Arsenal men a bit more than not, but nothing to indicate that having an internal appointment is always a good idea.

As for whether “the board have lurched from favouring a 36-year-old former player who had never managed a game to a totally new face in the frame,” as one journo put it today, that’s just journo talk, as is the notion that Arsenal have a tradition of appointing unexpected managers.   Chapman was unexpected, as was Wright, but I’m not sure Graham was that unexpected since he was working miracles with Millwall with no money and he loved the club.  Wenger was unexpected, but to claim Allison was unexpected is just plain ignorant.  Every newspaper was talking about Joe Shaw holding the reigns until Allison could get out of his journalism and commentary contracts.

(Oh and incidentally for the benefit of those journalists struggling to get their history right, George Allison didn’t just win the league.  He equalled Chapman’s achievements: two League titles and one FA Cup.  Joe Shaw got the other league title of the 1930s.  Five league titles, two FA Cups, three managers).

It is an interesting team.  It would be good if we could own the rights to a number of oil and gas fields as well – although if the cost of that is to be associated with a dictatorship that doesn’t even understand the concept of human rights, then perhaps not.  We’ll just have to make do with £50m and a brilliant set o youth players.

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11 comments to How Emery fits into the tradition of appointing Arsenal managers

  • Samuel Akinsola Adebosin

    The question now that’s demanding for answer from the AFC board is, when will the board announce the appointment of Unai Emeri as the new Arsenal FC manager to stop keeping us the Gooners waiting? West Ham have announced Manuel Pellegrini as their new manager today. So, what is AFC management board waiting for before announcing the name of their new Gunners boss? Yet to put finishing touches to his appointment before announcing it? Or is Ivan Gazidis, the AFG CEO pulling hare wire at the club to stall the appointment of Emeri as the new Gunners boss? Having read in the media that the majority members of the AFC board have refused to be teleguided by the club’s CEO to impose a former Arsenal player and captain, Mikel Arteta on the board to rubber stamp his appointment as the new Gunners boss, expediency now demand the Arsenal board should announced Unai Emeri as the new Gunners boss. For, appointing Emeri as the new Gunners boss will talliy with the wish of the generality of the Gooners to see a new Gunners boss appointed but who is banked with experience in Titles winning experience record on his curriculum vitae. And I think that experience manager for Arsenal FC as their senior team manager should be Emeri.

    Therefore, I implore the majority of the Arsenal board members who’ve given their backing to the appointment of Emeri as the new Arsenal boss to hasten up in whatever remain to conclude the deal to appoint him as Arsenal new manager in charge of the Gunners without further delays so as to prevent his appointment from being hijacked by the AFC CEO who could be hell bent to see his preferred candidate, Mikel Arteta finally appointed as the new Gunners boss in the long run if delaying in announcing Emeri as the new Gunners boss persisted further.

  • colario

    Am I the only one here who doesn’t read long, long and endlessly long para graphs?

    Just thought I would ask.

  • AFC Nemesis

    Agree Tony.

    Arsenal are a class club. Anyone expecting us to do our business via the media is mistaking us for a smaller club. We do things properly and in a respectful way. I know the media don’t like it but tough cheese.

  • Kenneth Widmerpool

    OT? Anyone see the football social media trolls piece on UFF? I havent seen it all, just the trailer.
    Of course this is a normal phenomena in all humans(the ability to bully and feel a victim at the same time) yet whats deeply worrying is that for AFTV claim “victim” and then demand respect on sm etc, whilst they can say and do what they want. That be fascism?
    Im sure many of their experiences have been horrible on social media-but how was it for AW? The lads like Mesut and Aaron? What about people who liked and supported AW?

    Its also odd at whats called “banter” these days? Banter was always slightly ironic and not really full of hate?

  • Gord

    OT: Corruption news

    35 teams in the top 2 divisions of Ukrainian football of fixing games.

    https://www.rferl.org/a/ukraine-accuses-35-football-clubs-hundreds-of-players-officials-with-match-fixing/29243784.html

    The article does NOT mention any names from PGMO, The Premier League or The (sweet) FA.

  • Peter

    Interesting piece by French journalist on BBC site about new manager https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/44204959

  • Pat

    He’s not the new manager yet. I’m waiting for an announcement on Arsenal.com. Who knows, someone completely different might be appointed!

  • Mandy Dodd

    I think this is an excellent appointment, as you say, typical Arsenal, under the radar.
    Let’s all back him. Arteta the romantics choice, but not to be, maybe for good reasons.
    Just hope that unfortunate PSG reversal at Barca in the CL, supposedly the greatest comeback ever, – right- and the refereeing that accompanied it prepares our reported new man for the PGMOL
    If Emery is as good as I think he is, he is a threat, Riley, and his over the hill superannuated , and up and coming refs will do their worst

  • Brickfields Gunners

    @ colario -22/05/2018 at 4:56 pm – You are not the only one – I gave up 2 years ago ! And I don”t feel in any way less informed. And I get more things done !

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Here is the list so far of the fallen in the Game Of Strewn –

    – Zeljko Buvac (Ex-assistant manager at Liverpool)
    – Rui Fari (Assistant manager at Man Utd)
    – Mikel Arteta (Assistant manager at Man City)
    – Thierry Henry (2nd Assistant manager of Belgium)
    – Patrick Vieira (Head coach NYC)
    – Massimiliano Allegri (Manager of Juventus )

    Did I miss anyone else ?

  • Brickfields Gunners

    This is funny in so many levels !

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W_W_sDGspdg