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What has been Arsenal’s best period in history, and can Emery replicate that?

By Tony Attwood

During the last 10 years as you well know we have won 3 FA Cups, and this obviously was not good enough for some people who attended matches.  And of course was wholly unacceptable for the media who jumped on this, as they often do with their perceived negatives when reviewing Arsenal.

But how have the last ten years – obviously the final 10 years of the Wengerian reign – differed from other decades in the club’s history?

Now one thing that affects the results of such a qustion is when you count a decade as starting in footballing terms.   Being as how I write the Arsenal History Society blog as well as meandering around topics on this site, I realised that the most logical thing would be to start from the resumption of football after the second world war.

This would also allow us logically also to list to two decades between the resumption of football after the first world war, and the cessation of football for the resumption of hostilities in 1939.

You can do this in other ways, but for now, this is the approach I have taken:

  • Pre-war 1920 to 1929 and 1930 to 1939
  • Post-war 1949 to 1956, 1957 to 1966 etc etc.

And to be clear “1949 to 1956″ means the season 1948/9 up to the season 1955/6”

Now what makes this a rather interesting way of managing the decades is that it also fits quite well with changes of manager.  Not exactly but quite well.

And so here it is, Arsenal decade by decade from 1920 onwards

Seasons Managers League title FA Cups Others Total
1920-1929 Knighton, Chapman 0
1930-1939 Chapman, Shaw, Allison 5 2 7
1947-1956 Whittaker 2 1 3
1957-1966 Crayston, Swindon, Wright 0
1967-1976 Mee 1 1 1 Fairs Cup 3
1977-1986 Neill, Howe 1 1
1987-1996 Graham, Rioch 2 1 1 CWC 2 League Cup 6
1997-2006 Wenger 3 4 7
2007-2016 Wenger 2 2
2017- Wenger, Emery 1 1

Working from the top down, in the decade after the first world war Knighton was manager until 1925, when Chapman came in.  Chapman did raise Arsenal up to second in his first season, and got the club to the cup final in 1927 but couldn’t get a trophy in that decade.

In the second decade everything changed and with seven trophies it was our best decade with Chapman and Allison winning two league titles and one Cup each and Shaw taking the third title.

Post war Tom Whittaker equaled Chapman’s and Allison’s record of two league titles and an FA cup, but then we had a dire decade which finally Bertie resolved with the Fairs Cup and then the first double.

But there was no progression, for Mee’s discipline and cut-back mentality failed the club and by 1975 we were being talked of as relegation candidates … something that went on for two years, until Mee left.

Graham gave us a decade almost as rich in trophies as Chapman, Shaw and Allison in the 1930s, but he was a bit naughty and so then along came Wenger and with two doubles, plus an unbeaten season and another FA Cup equalled the 1930s record.

Then of course along came the new stadium and third is not a trophy, leaving us with just two Cups in the next decade, and then one more in 2017 to make him and us the best FA Cup manager and club of all time.

Interestingly if we look at consecutive decades and so take in 20 year spans, the dynsasty of Chapman, Shaw, Allison and Whittaker got ten major trophies.  A remarkable achievement since when Chapman joined in 1925, Shaw was reserve team coach, Allison was a director and Whittaker was a player who was quickly made a coach following his injury in a pointless B international.

Also interesting is that the only one of these four who was a decent player was Shaw and he took over as manager upon the sudden death of Chapman.

But clearly the greatest era (as opposed to decade) of all was 1987 to 2006, 20 years in which the club won 13 major trophies – an average of around one every 18 months.

So what many supporters of a certain age look back to are the two golden eras which followed one after the other: Graham before he was sacked for financial issues and Wenger before the financial constraints of the stadium took over.

Now there are other issues, such as the sovereign wealth fund of Manchester City, and whether we can press on and win some more trophies remains to be seen.  It might well not be the league because of the sheer unrestricted buying power of Manchester City, but two Cups every three years as in the Graham and Wenger double decade, could be a possibility.

4 comments to What has been Arsenal’s best period in history, and can Emery replicate that?

  • GoingGoingGooner

    I think many will make up their minds after the first two matches of the season. 🙁

  • Goonereris

    No doubt, GGGooner. We do have some fickle fans in the Arsenal. If we win both, some would herald the miracle worker that is Emery, while the media will remind us he was lucky to have most of his team back early for pre-season.

    Agree with the article’s take on the best era but feel Emery will do well to achieve any more than some cup wins, including the Europa league this term.

  • Nitram

    Careful Tony. You do realise you mentioned Wenger at least half a dozen times in that article don’t you, and you know what that means? Yep you got it, a visit from the ‘Wenger Police’.

  • Yes, it is rather hard to write about the history of Arsenal without mentioning Wenger. Bit like Chapman.

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