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Mikel Arteta, Arsene Wenger and George Graham: the first 100 games compared.

By Tony Attwood

Last weekend the Arsenal programme for the match against Watford contained a chart of how various Arsenal managers had done in their first 100 games as a manager.  The chart was not complete but nevertheless saved me a fair amount of time in calculating the figures.   I’ve completed it, including adding in Mr Arteta’s 100th game at the weekend, and present the results below.

In this table I’ve used the current system for ranking clubs, which of course differs somewhat from ranking systems in the past, most particularly in terms of the number of points for a win (I’ve applied the current system of three for a win throughout) and the consideration of goals (previously worked out on goal average, but for consistency I have again applied the current system of goal difference throughout).

These figures take into account all competitive matches in the main competitions: League, FA Cup, European competitions, League Cup and (because Arsenal included it in their figures), the Charity / Community Shield.

Here are the results for the first 100 games of each manager in the leading group.

Manager W D L F A GD Pts Trophies
Graham 56 21 23 157 80 77 189 1
Wenger 53 29 18 157 84 73 188 3
Arteta 56 18 26 163 97 66 186 2
Neill 49 24 27 163 111 52 171 0
Chapman 49 20 31 196 168 28 167 0
Mee 39 30 31 141 116 25 147 0

*Trophies: George Graham – league cup. Arsene Wenger – Premier League, FA Cup, Charity Shield. Mikel Arteta, FA Cup, Community Shield.

What is so interesting (to me if no one else) is just how close together George Graham, Arsenal Wenger and Mikel Arteta have been in their first 100 games.  Only three points divides them.

What’s more these are the only three managers to win a trophy within 100 games.  The only other managers to win an early trophy were Joe Shaw, (who took over as manager when Herbert Chapman died mid-season, and won the league title, but only managed 23 games), George Allison, who then took over from Shaw, and won the league in his first season, but then saw results slip, and Tom Whittaker, who also won the league in his first season but again did not maintain the consistency.

Looking at the table above I was surprised to find Terry Neill there – he managed from 1976 to 1983 and won the FA, but nothing else.  Our finishing positions during his early years were 8th, 5th and 7th.

Anyway, based on the first 100 games, Arteta is right up there with the best of them in terms of points gained.  Of course Mr Wenger outdoes him by winning the double in his second season, and I am not sure we’ve moved far enough to win the league this season, but it is worth noting the highest win percentages achieved.

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  • Arsene Wenger: 57.25% win percentage across 1235 games
  • Unai Emery: 55.13% win percentage across 78 games
  • Mikel Arteta: 54% win percentage across 100 games.

These are not only the last three managers we have had but also the most successful in terms of win percentage of any Arsenal manager who has managed for more than 25 games.

And yet all three of these managers have had some fans and the media turn on them and demand their resignation or sacking.  In the case of Wenger there was the disgraceful “fourth is not a trophy” campaign and Emery was sacked for having a bad run.  

So what on earth is going on?  How can people who call themselves Arsenal fans turn on managers who are making a success of things?  

The justification of the vituperative campaigns against all three of our most recent and most successful managers I suppose is that we were not doing well enough.  Wenger’s constant run in Europe – a run second only to that of the infinitely richer Real Madrid, was not seen as enough.   Emery had a poor run of results culminated in his sacking in November 2019 with Arsenal sitting 8th in the league – which is exactly where they finished that season, and the season after.

But what Arteta and Wenger did was utterly transform Arsenal’s approach, by considering not only the players we had, and the players we needed, and by changing the playing style.  Both also have an eye for the unusual and unexpected transfer.

The great worry for Arsenal however is that the campaigns against all three managers were created and then endlessly stoked up by the journalists and copycat bloggers, because having had life so easy for across the years (and there is nothing easier in football journalism that writing simplistic childlike pieces saying the manager needs to go), they could not grasp that something much more complex was happening with each manager.

Thus far the media has managed utterly to ignore the transformation of Arsenal’s style and approach under Arteta, just as they did under Wenger, and ultimately that allowed has allowed the media and their allies to create havoc within the club.  We can only hope that this group of directors have learned their lesson, and won’t let Arteta slip through the club’s fingers through the inevitable anti-Arsenal propaganda that will return after a couple of defeats.

7 comments to Mikel Arteta, Arsene Wenger and George Graham: the first 100 games compared.

  • Emilio Zorlakki

    Wenger had 19 attempts in the Champions League and reached one final and one semi-final. Between 2001-2205 we had the best centre half, the best all round centre midfielder
    and the best centre forward in the world. What a spine! And Pires, Ljungberg, Bergkamp, Cole et al weren’t bad also. Yet Wenger couldn’t get that team into a final, until
    Vieira left ironically. I’m pretty sure Vieira wasn’t the problem. If you don’t aim for the stars, you’re not going to get there. He had to go, even if it meant going down
    the league, because eventually it would be a step in the right direction. No matter how many managers followed.

    The likeable Emery lost the dressing room. Perhaps, never had it. Nothing to add.

    I’m optimistic about Arteta, but there are lots more competitive rivals today.

  • Nitram

    Emilio Zorlakki

    Yes Wenger did have 19 attempts at winning the Champions league, but like all things without perspective you have nothing.

    Wenger joined Arsenal in 1996.

    He turned Arsenal into a Major force in the Premier League and turned us into a Champions League team. Not a Champions League winning team obviously but there were reasons, and that is what perspective gives us.

    We were never the richest club in Europe, not even the richest club in the PL. At a time when match day revenue was crucial we had a massive disadvantage, not only to Man Utd but to Liverpool, and others, in this respect due to the capacity of Highbury.

    In Wengers first 10 years his net outlay was around 50 Million. Not a season, over the 10 years. Manchester Utds was double that at around £100 Million This may seem paltry sums now but at the time they were big, and whatever it was Man Utds was DOUBLE Wengers.

    Just for some more ‘perspective’ Liverpools net spend over those years was also over £100 Million, Again DOUBLE that of Wengers spend.

    So just to make this clear, Wenger was already over achieving in the domestic field.

    In Europe he come up against all the might of the richest clubs in Spain, Germany, France and the rest.

    In Europe I agree Wenger fared less well. In my opinion he only achieved par for our status and wealth, or spend if you prefer. He didn’t fail, he just didn’t over achieve, at least not by enough to win the thing. But that is NOT failure.

    Then we built the stadium. Then the austerity really kicked in.

    Over the next 7 years, up until 2012/13, his net spend was a PROFIT of £40 Million. That’s a PROFIT.

    This was at a time when Man Utds net spend was over £100 Million, Chelseas net spend was North of £230 Million and even Liverpools net spend was £122 Million, and of course we now had Man City on the scene whos net spend over this period was North of £400 Millon Net.

    Just achieving Champions League qualification was a miracle let alone expecting us to win it.

    Then Wenger had a 5 year period were he could spend some money and he did. Over the last 5 years of his reign, 2013/14 to 2017/18 his net spend rose to £168 Million. But all those above were still spending as much, if not more than us, making Champions League qualification still as difficult as it ever was, and then when we did qualify we still had the usual mega rich suspects to face, as well as PSG, now a new mega spending kid on the block.

    Of course we all hoped Wengers genius, and that what it was genius, would somehow lead us to champions League glory, but alas it didn’t. But to call it ‘failure’ is to utterly miss exactly what he was up against.

    Personally I feel, despite not winning the Champions League, given our financial status or net spending power, we actually slightly OVER achieved in Europe, and we certainly didn’t fail, even though it may feel like that because of what we all hoped for.

    The problem was that Wenger, by being the genius he was, raised expectations so high it was always going to be difficult to reach them.

    The bottom line is Wenger could achieve miracles, alas the impossible was beyond him.

    Oh, and just for a little more ‘Perspective’ how about this.

    Since Pep joined man City in 2016 he has a net spend of around HALF A BILLION quid and he still hasn’t won the Champions League.

    Do you think he has to go ?

    Honesty, Iknew this article would bring em out and it didn’t take long.

  • mick shelley

    We could well have beaten Barcelona in the one final we contested if VAR had been around. One of the Barca goals was offside but not given. If the goal had been disallowed who knows we may have gone on to win. It’s not only the PGMOL who screw us!

  • GoingGoingGooner

    I don’t believe that Wenger ‘had to go’. Certainly, given his age, one day he would have stepped aside as manager but ‘had to go’ is extremely harsh. Certainly, there was a loud number of Arsenal fans that were dissatisfied with our results and thought he was out of touch. I disagreed and believed then (and now) that he would have adjusted to new trends and the players available and we would have stayed at the top.

  • Nitram

    GoingGoingGooner

    Wengers last 5 years

    PL: 4 3 2 5 6

    FA: W W X W X

    CS: X W W X W

    It is true that as far as the PL was concerned Wenger was having a tougher time of it in his last couple of years. But 2 years ? 2 years in which he still won an FA Cup, and if you want to include it a CS. That is still more than Spurs have managed in over 20 Years.

    The problem was that despite Wengers miraculous achievement of continually getting us into the CL on a minuscule transfer budget he got nothing but abuse. This meant the latitude he should of earned when he needed it wasn’t there.

    Personally I believe in the end he had to go. Not because of his ability as a manager. Not because of the results. Simply because the Media, the blogs and the AAA had poisoned the Arsenal fans to such an extent there was no where else to go.

    I love Arsenal FC as a club and will always do so. I loved them under Bertie Mee, Terry Neil, Don Howe, George Graham, Emery and now Arteta. I will love them under our next manager, whoever that may be.

    Never the less I feel the Club and the fans let Wenger down terribly.

  • Chris

    @Nitram,

    fully agree.

    Pleas add to th achievement that apart from Real Madrid, no other club had a consecutive run of so many seasons in the CL (19 ? )

    And add to the mix, by one manager, with just one club he so loved he stayed faithful to it all the time.

    And finally, as it happens, he did not get fired like quite a few other managers were.

    So… specialist in failure ?!?! The guy who said that can always look in the mirror and think about his failures… spending money with no end and leaving all the teams so ‘destroyed’ they could not win anymore and needed another influx of tens or hundreds of millions to ‘reboot’

  • GoingGoingGooner

    @Nitram

    “Never the less I feel the Club and the fans let Wenger down terribly.”

    I agree fullheartedly.

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