|St Totteringham's Day|
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St Totteringham's Day is the day when Arsenal fans celebrate the fact that Tottenham can no longer catch Arsenal in the League. It is a movable feast, but usually falls in March, April or May. It is the day to collect on bets made by over-optimistic Spurs fans in the close season who think that "this is the year".
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Sun, 12 Mar 2017
Trophy Density: a tale of two Wengers...
So firstly lets look at the club's success rate since our first FA Cup win back in the 1920s. Quick definition: the 1920s go from 1920/1 to 1929/30. Note the 1930s are 9 years long (1930/1 to 1938/9) and the 1940s only 4 years (1946/7 to 1949/50) due to the war. A reminder the bizarrely named Inter-City Fairs Cup is recognised as the early incarnation of what is now the Europa League.
So our most successful league period was either side of the war, and then in the 1990s and 2000s. In terms of tophies it's a close thing between 1930s and 1990s. Both decades were split between two (or more) coaches: the 1930s belong to Chapman and Allison, the 1990s see Graham, Wenger (and Rioch...). So our first note is that change can lead to success. (Our second is that is doesn't always as the 1960s show us!)
So let us take a look at the managers themselves. Some decisions had to be made here: Chapman gets the season he died in (we were top when he died), Whittaker's final season isn't counted, and to makes the maths easier both Graham and Neill's final half seasons are counted as if they completed them. No trophy in either so it makes them look worse.) So sorted by total trophies per season...
Wenger's first decade is remarkable on total trophy count, edging out George Graham who uses a couple of League Cup wins to boost his score. However his second decade is comparable to the seven-and-a-half years of Terry Neill. Overall I was surprised to see him beat Chapman. Something I'll come back to later. If we remove the league cups Graham falls to 0.444 which is much the same as Wenger over 20 years. (As an aside, whatever happens this season for Wenger the maths gets awkward, as I'll have to divide by 21.)
Chapman genuinely built the club. Wenger inherited a squad with league and European Cup Winners Cup medals in. Chapman inherited a team who'd never won a trophy in the roughly 40 years they'd existed, who'd sat round the mid-table mark since their (ahem) controversial reinstatement in the top flight at the end of the first world war. Wenger remoulded the Graham team: Petit, Overmars and Vieira were key parts of our success, but so were the back four/five. It is also worth remembering that Allison's first title was the third of three back-to-back successes, so probably owed quite a lot to Chapman. (Having said that taking on a successful squad doesn't automatically lead to success...)
So what is my conclusion? Wenger was brilliant and is now ok if you were happy with Terry Neill as manager? That the trophyless years have damaged the Wenger legacy? That Graham was surprisingly good?
Without a doubt Wenger is one of our best managers and definitely in the top six! As are Graham, Mee, Whittaker, Chapman and Allison... His first decade is comparable to the 1930s era, albeit with more FA Cups and less league titles (but more doubles!). Whether the first Wenger decade or the ten seasons before the WW2 are the best decade is an argument that is not clear cut: does a back-to-back title (and three-peat) beat doing two doubles? Is five leagues and 2 FA Cups, better than 2 doubles, and a further league title and 2 cups? I can see arguments either way.
This shows it isn't the case that before Wenger we were non-entities. We were a successful football club with a great history. This wasn't just ancient history either, Graham had delivered two league titles (only one less than Wenger) and a European success in the decade before.
So a balanced conclusion: those wanting Wenger to go (which I admit includes me) need to recall how successful he was in the first decade, but those wanting him to stay need to acknowledge that his time at the club, even that first decade, is not necessarily the club's most successful era and certainly not the first or only success. Further those wanting him to go need to look at how many managers Terry Neill was better than (at least nine of our Managers, and four since we won a trophy, won nothing), but those wanting him to stay need to admit that sometimes change can reinvigorate or improve on what came before.
Having said all that I feel it is time for Arsene to go to allow someone else to start the rebuilding job needed to create success. We are in a similar condition to we were after we won the league in 1953: staring at a big reconstruction job that if we don't start will lead to stagnation. That was after over 20 seasons of amazing success too...
Anyway I promise to go back to the countdown to St Ts next post.
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