Arsenal are one of the most successful English clubs in history. The club has had many triumphant head coaches at the helm, so today we have listed the five best Arsenal managers in club history.
Last Updated: 20/06/23 at 12:13
With 48 major trophies in total, including a record 14 FA Cups, 13 First Division/ Premier League titles and two League Cups, Arsenal have a legacy as one of England’s greatest football clubs.
Of course, for any team to be great, they need a great manager. The Gunners have had their fair share of clever leaders who helped the club to their wealth of silverware.
Here we have listed five of their best managers across the years.
1925 - 1934┃Games: 411┃Major Honours: 6
Kicking off this list is Herbert Chapman, who was Arsenal’s first success story as he brought the club their first pieces of silverware.
Between the clubs foundation in 1886 until Chapman came along in 1925, they hadn’t won any significant trophies (a few London-based cups but they don’t count as major honours).
A few years of figuring the team and system out finally led to their first FA Cup in the 1929/30 season, and then just a year later they won their first league title.
They won their second league title in the 1932/33 season, and you can’t forget about the Community Shield (known as the Charity Shield back then), which they won three times in ‘30, ‘31 and ‘33.
Unfortunately, in January 1934, Chapman died suddenly from pneumonia. He was one of the first proper football managers in the modern sense, as he took charge of all duties within the team in a time when board members picked the side.
His legacy lives on as the first manager to bring success and change to Arsenal Football Club.
1934 - 1947┃Games: 279┃Major Honours: 5
A caretaker manager was appointed to see out the rest of the 1933/34 season after Chapman’s death (Joe Shaw was his name, and he still helped the club to another league title that season).
The man chosen to properly take over from Chapman, however, was George Allison. And it’s safe to say that he did a fantastic job at keeping the success going.
Taking over a successful club doesn’t always mean automatic success. Allison still had some work to do, and he did so impeccably, leading the team to the league title in his first season, which made it three consecutive league titles and four in five years.
Over the next few years, Allison would guide the Gunners to another FA Cup victory, two Community Shields and one more league title in the 1937/38 season.
Unfortunately for Allison this time, his tenure was cut rather short due to the breakout of World War II and subsequent suspension of the Football League in 1939 to 1946.
When football returned, most of the players that made the club so successful had retired, and Allison, now in his late 60s, felt his time at the helm was nearing its end, and he left at the end of the 1946/47 season after the club finished 13th in the league.
Allison sits second on the list of longest serving managers in club history, albeit due to a technicality.
1966 - 1976┃Games: 539┃Major Honours: 3
Bertie Mee may not have achieved as many major honours as the others on this list, however he brought the club something they hadn’t won before - a European trophy.
Mee took over in 1966, and unlike the others, he didn't do anything spectacular right away. The club finished seventh in his first season, and then in his second and third years, they were runner-ups in the FA Cup. This actually acted as a precursor to a small period of great success for Mee and Arsenal FC.
He finally won his first piece of silverware a year later in the 1969/70 season, winning the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup. This was a European competition that is often considered to be the predecessor of the UEFA Cup, or as it is now known as, the Europa League.
A year later, Arsenal achieved another first by winning the First Division and the FA Cup to complete the double.
After that, though, there was no more success for the club under Mee, and he resigned from his post in 1976 as the clubs most successful manager in terms of victories with 241, a number that wouldn’t be surpassed until 2006.
1986 - 1995┃Games: 460┃Major Honours: 7
If this list was in order of greatest, George Graham would certainly be in the top three. After 10 years of relative mediocrity after Mee’s departure (just the one FA Cup in that time), Graham came along to bring glory back to the club.
His first season in charge (1986/87), Graham brought the club another first trophy - the League Cup. Two years later in the 1988/89 season, he led the team to their first league title since 1971.
Another league title came two seasons later, and two seasons after that they did the cup double by winning the FA Cup and League Cup.
And one year later in the 1993/94 season, they won their second European competition, winning the European Cup Winners’ Cup, which is now known as the Europa League. One year after that they made the final once again, this time losing out to Real Zaragoza.
Graham was sacked by the club in 1995 after being found guilty by the FA of taking money from transfers. His dismissal was a blessing in disguise for the club, though, as it made way for undoubtedly the best Arsenal manager in history.
1996 - 2018┃Games: 1,235┃Major Honours: 17
Arsene Wenger. An icon of English football who ushered in a new age of football.
“Le Professeur”, as he was known, revitalised Arsenal and aided the globalisation of the sport by introducing changes and improvements to scouting, players’ training and diet regimens, all of which brought success to Arsenal on another level.
By this point, the First Division had become the Premier League, and Arsenal hadn’t won the Premier League yet. It took Wenger two seasons to get their first league title, doing so by also winning the FA Cup the same year.
Wenger won three league titles with Arsenal, including two doubles and, most impressively, he was at the helm when Arsenal became “Invincibles”, winning the 2003/04 league title without losing a single game.
Until the 2016/17 season, the club hadn’t finished outside the top four since Wenger’s arrival. Along with the three league titles, they collected seven FA Cups and seven Community Shields.
22 years in charge, 1,235 games commanded, 707 games won and a 57.25% win percentage puts Arsene Wenger on a level of his own as the greatest Arsenal manager in history.
Honourable Mention: Tom Whittaker
Tom Whittaker was considered heavily to be included in this list. He took over after George Allison retired, taking charge from 1947-1956.
In that time, he commanded 430 games and won exactly the same of trophies as Allison (two league titles, two Community Shields and one FA Cup).
Some would put Whittaker ahead of Allison, for he had to rebuild the team after many retired during war time. However, the impressive feat of picking up from where Albert Chapman left off is what put Allison over in this list.
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