Chapman was the Gunners' greatest manager, not the current incumbent
Wenger’s Arsenal legacy cannot ignore Herbert Chapman’s achievements
Poor Arsene Wenger. Ruthlessly assailed after Arsenal’s dreadful recent maulings. Two 3-0 defeats by an almost contemptuously superior Manchester City. A further defeat at Brighton where the unusually impeccable Petr Cech conceded by his own frank admission the two goals which condemned the Gunners to defeat; by a 2-1 score which certainly flattered them.
That Wenger should go, that arguably he should have gone four years ago, seems plausible enough. But is he really and ultimately to blame for the Gunners’ mishaps this season? His errors have been many and undeniable it is true, but the real culprits surely are those who against all logic renewed his contract for two years at the end of last season. It seemed daft at the time; it now looks suicidal. Unfair alike to the club, the team, the fans. But how in all logic could it have happened?
The American cheap shareholder knows little about the game, and the arrival of his well meaning son has been much too little to remedy the foolish re-appointment. As for the board it is a collection of mere nullities, Chips Keswick and the rest, who feebly support Wenger from season to season.
Wenger deserved admiration for what he had achieved for Arsenal in the past and he maintained his great effectiveness for admirably long seasons. Yet I do not accept, as has been averred in newspaper columns, that he was the greatest manager in Arsenal’s history. That distinction surely belongs to Herbert Chapman, who in 1925 took over an ailing team, lucky to be in the top division at all – it had finished a mere fifth in the last 2nd division played before the Great War.
Chapman arrived trailing clouds of glory, having won the last two Championships with Huddersfield Town, and left behind a team which, though losing him in 1925, were left with sufficient impetus to add a third successive title. After a dreadful start at Newcastle, Chapman, with the shrewd advice of Charlie Buchann – prised by Chapman from Sunderland on a famous £100 a goal contract – devised the so-called third back game – always claimed by Buchan as his own idea – and embarked on a period of sustained success.
In Chapman’s first season, the Gunners finished runners-up to Huddersfield. In 1927, only a bizarre error in the Cup Final by their Welsh goalkeeper Lewis brought defeat by Cardiff City. In 1932 they lost the Final to Newcastle, beaten by the notorious over the line goal, scored when Newcastle crossed a ball which had run out of play. By the time Chapman so sadly and prematurely died in 1934, the Gunners were on their way to a hat-trick of Championships.
He was an expert psychologist long before his time, an inspirational father figure to his players. All credit to Wenger for his Arsenal achievements, but their basis had been built long before by Herbert Chapman.
“He plotted Liverpool’s Istanbul miracle” shrieked a headling in the Daily Mail above a laudatory article on Rafa Benitez. To which the short answer must be, no he didn’t.
The article went on to eulogise: “The miracle of Istanbul will always define Rafa Benitez and fragments of the memory are still coming to mind.”
Unfortunately they are the wrong fragments. At half-time in the European Cup Final against Milan, Liverpool were down and out. Kaka had been playing havoc with the Liverpool defence, largely unmarked and unconstrained. Out of the chaos of that Liverpool dressing room, the wise words of their captain, Steven Gerrard, were heard. Kaka had to be marked, he said, and the man to do it was the German international Dietmar Hamann.
Off the subs’ bench came Hamann, Kaka was duly marked and subdued, and Liverpool went on gloriously to force a draw and win on penalties.
The Football Association continues to shame itself with its bizarre perverse decisions. There is chapter and verse that when it was informed of the paedophilia going on at Crewe Alexandra, in 2001, it brushed the warning casually aside.
Now the FA’s inept chairman, Greg Clarke, has flown to Qatar, successful buyers of the World Cup (to be fair, by no means the only one) to make pleasant noises. Regardless of the fact that Qatar have no football pedigree at all, that hundreds of imported workers have died building their stadia, their passports reportedly taken away from them to prevent escape.