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May 2022
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20 April 2018:Arsène Wenger announced his departure from Arsenal.

By Tony Attwood

Henry Norris at the Arsenal:  There is a full index to the series here.

Arsenal in the 1930s: The most comprehensive series on the decade ever

Arsenal in the 1970s: Every match and every intrigue reviewed in detail.

100 Years: 100 Years in the First Division

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 had many more years to do that in than other managers.  So maybe we should measure his win percentage – what percentage 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.

For the record Unai Emery who succeeded him gained 55.13% and at the time of writing Mikel Arteta is recorded at 54.55%.  These figures come from league and cup matches so include Champions League and Europa League games as well as Premier League and FA Cup.

As for the greatly revered Chapman, how did Arsène Wenger compare?   Chapman’s win rate was 49.88%.  Thus for Mr Wenger 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?

Certainly 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 which was Highbury’s capacity before seating was installed.

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 by the media and certain supporters groups, 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, than the League 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.

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

Season League FA Cup
1970–71 1st W
1971–72 5th RU
1972–73 2nd SF
1973–74 10th R4
1974–75 16th QF
1975–76 17th R3
1976–77 8th R5
1977–78 5th RU
1978–79 7th W
1979–80 4th RU
1980–81 3rd R3
1981–82 4th R3
1982–83 10th SF
1983–84 6th R3
1984–85 7th R4
1985–86 7th R5
1986–87 4th QF
1987–88 6th QF
1988–89 1st R3
1989–90 4th R4
1990–91 1st SF
1991–92 4th R3
1992–93 10th W
1993–94 4th R4
1994–95 12th R3
1995–96 5th R3

25 years to win four trophies.  OK if you want to include the League Cup let’s 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 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 – or since.

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.  But the memory of Mr Wenger lives on.  Here is this day in recent

20 April 2018: Arsene Wenger announced his retirement as Arsenal’s manager after 22 years at the club.  It took all of two hours before the first attacks and conspiracy theories about his departure started to appear on the websites of the national press.

20 April 2019: One year on from Mr Wenger announcing his retirement as Arsenal’s manager it looked like the change of manager had worked with the club being 4th in the league with a game in hand over the teams around.  But three defeats in the last five games saw Arsenal drop to 5th, missing the Champions League by two points.

20 April 2020: Two years on from Mr Wenger’s announcement of his departure, and with football being shut down because of the worldwide coronavirus outbreak, Arsenal were 9th in the league with ten games left to play.

20 April 2021: Three years on from Mr Wenger’s announcement, Arsenal sat 9th in the league, nine points behind the derided fourth position, and closer to relegation than to the top of the league and a member of the newly formed Super League.

20 April 2022: Out of both domestic cups and not competing in Europe Arsenal have just suffered three consecutive defeats before facing Chelsea away on this day.  They are fifth in the league and the consensus of media opinion is that they are unlikely to make it back to the “not a trophy” fourth spot.

Day by Day: the videos – An Arsenal video for (almost) every day of the year in order. 

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