“I’m going to make this the greatest club in the world”
Herbert Chapman stands firmly in Arsenal history as the greatest manager we have ever had. Henry Norris appointed Chapman after Arsenal flirted with relegation at the end of the 1924/5 season and thus followed one of the greatest periods in our history.
Chapman was the original tactical genius, not only did he love Arsenal he loved football too and this showed in his management style. He completely turned the team around and made them into a viable successful club, not only did he change the direction the team were heading towards he also revolutionised the way they played.
He brought in his own formation, the WM (3-4-3) as it was known and that made the team stronger, especially in defence when he created the solid centre back role within the team whilst strengthening the attack with pacy midfielders and wingers, it was that move that provided Arsenal with the perfect basis for their well documented defensive style of play which led to the title of ‘boring boring Arsenal’ that carried on through many generations.
When Chapman died at the age of 55 from Pneumonia it must have been a great loss to the club not only from management point of view but also losing the man who had loved the Arsenal as much as he did and gave them the grounds on which their history was built.
Many a manager succeeded Chapman but in the history of Arsenal manager has an Englishman ever rivalled him or come close to being the manager he was?
I grew up in a George Graham era and have many a fond memory of his time at Arsenal but he generates mixed feelings amongst the Gunners, even today he is still a much debated topic for the fans to discuss on a regular basis. The manner in which George Graham left the club was detrimental to the opinion formed of him in later years and he really did suffer the consequences of his actions.
Graham was a harsher manager than anyone expected and right from the start he meant business and cleared out a lot of the underperforming players who had been their for years in favour of building a team he thought most suited Arsenal.
Misdemeanour aside George Graham was one of our most successful English managers not only in terms of trophies but also with tactics too, rather like Chapman he liked the defensive aspect of football and quickly formulated his famous four guard at the back and perfecting the offside trap they became one of the best defences English football has seen.
He was a strict and tough man, he kept everyone in line and man management was one of his biggest strengths, he injected a tough approach and Arsenal became stronger as a result. Graham was the manager that won it all, the league, FA Cup, European cup and the double, he saved Arsenal from failure and presented a decent team for Wenger to build on in the future. If he had chosen not to accept the £425k bung resulting in the dismissal from his managerial position then GG could have easily have reached the legend status Chapman did.
Bertie Mee was the first Arsenal manager to win a double and part of that double involved winning the title at White Hart Lane in 1971 and ending a 17 year trophy drought. That moment has gone down in history as one of the most league wins we have ever had, that puts Mee up there with the rest of the Arsenal greats.
Bertie Mee wasn’t a traditional coach having come from a physiotherapy background after his playing career was cut short by injury, he was happy in his position as club physio before he was plucked from obscurity to manager the club. He hired Dave Sexton and Don Howe to assist him in this role so he could focus on his strengths and he began creating a better team by changing the environment around them and focussing on what he could get out of the team through passion related avenues.
He didn’t have much confidence in himself and even put a get out clause in his contract which stated if he didn’t like managing he could return to his club physio position after a year-Mee never returned to that role. His love for Arsenal is what made him a great manager, he commanded respect and integrated the “Remember who you are, what you are and who you represent.” philosophy.
Neither Graham or Mee will ever been held in the legend status that Chapman was but all three men had a deep love for the club and tried their very best. However I believe that Graham is the closest we have got to Chapman both in style of play and achievements. They were every similar in a lot of ways and their vision was to make Arsenal the greatest team around, they both achieved domination over the other teams around them and they both had a deep respect for the tactical side of football. The only difference was GG effectively ended his own career way before it’s time and Chapman would never have taken that risk, Arsenal were everything to him.
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