I can’t be 100% sure about this, because while writing this blog I am not only not at home, I am not even in England, so I am lacking the usual reference materials that are at my disposal as I jot down my thoughts.
But I think it is true that for those who feel Wenger should go now, had they been around in earlier days they would have argued much the same with Herbert Chapman.
Comparatively speaking I think Herbert Chapman spent more on players than Wenger (when one takes into effect the escalation of fees over the years as well as inflation). Certainly I have never seen it suggested that Chapman made a profit on transfers whereas Wenger does it every year.
Wenger as we well know has continued to get us into the top four every year. Chapman had it a lot easier, because when Norris brought him in, he had more money to spend than other managers, and no worries about salaries – everyone was on the maximum wage.
Likewise in Chapman’s day, there was no Abramovich bank rolling a club. There were rich men who paid for things (Norris, less we forget, paid for the building of Highbury out of his own pocket), but no mega rich.
So what did Chapman achieve?
1925/6 – 2nd in the first division
1926/7 – 11th in the first division
1927/8 – 10th in the first division
1928/9 – 9th in the first division
1929/30 – 14th in the first division
On the basis of that I think it is fair to say that today’s catastrophy encrusted viewers would have been calling for his head even though he won the FA Cup in 1930.
I imagine they would also have been calling for the head of Henry Norris, who had come to the club in 1910. Norris’ cv (if they had had such a thing then) would have read…
a) Saved the club from going out of business – summer 1910
b) Moved the club to Highbury at my own expense – 1913
c) Got the club into the first division by standing up against the match fixing activities of Liverpool and Manchester United – 1919
d) Brought in Herbert Chapman – 1925
“And what good is that?” the doom and gloom catastrophists would shout. “Chapman’s rubbish – he’s lost it. He might have been good at Huddersfield but he’s bleedin’ useless here. Get him out. We want a proper manager. Look at all the money he has wasted. What’s he ever done for us?”
And the answer would have been…
- He’s setting up the basis for the next 100 years
- He’s brought in the top players
- He’s changed the name of the club
- He’s changed the name of the underground station.
You can imagine all the sneering. “Underground station?”
Norris – by then Sir Henry Norris (he was knighted in 1919 for services to the Crown during the war as a recruitment officer) would have suffered in the same way. He’s activities of saving the club, and putting his fortune into it would have counted as nothing, and Chapman would have been a disaster.
In fact Norris resigned off his own accord, but in many regards he was hounded out by the mob – by the same sort of mob that is now after Wenger’s throat.
To be fair, we must admit that Sir Henry was always the victim of his own personality, for he would never back off, and when those who hated him, and hated Arsenal (despite calling themselves Arsenal fans) sent documents to the Daily Mail showing that Norris had indeed pocketed the £150 the club received from the sale of the old team bus, he denied everything, only to come unstuck in court. He was banned from football for life.
This was the victory of the Arsenal fans of the day – the removal forever from football of the man who made Arsenal. Of course the fans were able to bask in the glory of what came later – and the parallels are rather too close to the present day.
Chapman and Norris left us the modern Arsenal – the club that for the first time could take London to the top of the footballing tree. Chapman left a club that would go on and on picking up trophies until interrupted by the war.
Wenger has done much the same – we have a new stadium, new training ground, a youth team that just makes the eyes pop out, and 10 years in the top four. And the mob want him out.
It is right that we should say the names of Wenger and Chapman in the same breath, and it is right that those of us with a sense of history and balance should venerate both. But what we have to do is somehow ensure that Arsene Wenger stays to get what Chapman was denied – the benefits of all that hard work.
Untold Arsenal is at www.blog.emiratesstadium.info
The story of how Norris took over Arsenal in 1910 and transformed the club is at www.emiratesstadium.info