George Graham v Le Boss Who “knows” best?
Taking a brief flick through recent comments and controversies from some Insiders and it’s very clear that Mr. Wenger is becoming increasingly under scrutiny from a section of the Gooner faithful. The rebuttal from fans defending Arsene Wenger normally ends in “Arsene Knows”, a retelling of the legendary “George Knows” banner, penned by the famous AFC fan Paul Kaye, as an ode to George Graham. So rather than trying to find some sense in the recent goings on behind the doors of the Emirates and on French radio, I find myself thinking about the differences between the two Arsenal managers of my generation (the thirty something’s), Arsene & George.
I know on the face of it there can be only one winner here, but a look at the facts proves this is a closer dual than you may think and that the man at the helm today could do with taking a look at yesterday’s man.
The Trophy Cabinet
George Graham brought the title home in ’89 and again in ’91, a cup double in ’93 and the next year climaxed with a Cup Winners Cup victory.
Wenger’s cabinet, of course, is pretty full too. League triumph in ’98, ‘02, and ’04 coupled with FA cup wins in ’98, ’02, ‘03 and ’05. Success has so far eluded AW in Europe but under his leadership we have been defeated in two finals.
Score: Wenger has served longer and won more but without European success but I’m still calling this one a home victory for AW, just about = 3 points Wenger.
‘Boring, Boring’ versus ‘Scoring, Scoring’ Arsenal
Most of us believe the “boring, boring” tag came about during the Graham era but it actually first raised its head during the 1930’s, under Herbert Chapman’s stewardship, when his counter attacking style was seen as negative by the press and fans alike. The tag stuck and was joined by the word ‘lucky’ in the ‘70’s. Under Graham with the most solid back four ever seen in the top division, and a powerful midfield, we mastered the art of the one-nil victory, which brought trophies back to Highbury.
Wenger’s arrival changed everything… The famous back four even got the ball down on occasion. The plaudits have flowed since about “Wenger Ball” but style alone wins nothing and Wenger’s teams have always featured a player or two capable of competing with the opposition. One wonders if Wenger would have won his league title quite so quickly had he not had the benefit of the famous four of Winterburn, Adams, Bould and Dixon.
Score: Mr. Wenger win hands down this time. Although, at the time I revelled in our awesome defensive displays under Graham, I wouldn’t swap the football I’ve seen us play in the Wenger era. Home win Wenger = 3 points.
Why are they important? Because they represent their manager on the field, they embody his wishes. Tony Adams will always be Mr. Arsenal, a man mountain, who he never got the international recognition he deserved. He was, in my opinion, the finest defender of his generation and that generation includes German and Italian legends and of course the Cult Villa hero, Paul McGrath.
Wenger, of course, inherited Tony, but he will always be George’s man. Paddy Vieira versus, Titi Henry and now William Gallas all fine players but Tony wins this by a country mile. Wenger also inherited the great Dennis Bergkamp but from Graham’s successor Bruce Rioch. One really wonders if Arsene Wenger would have bought Dennis Bergkamp had he been in post given his passion for not spending big. We will never know. Away win Graham = 3 points.
Other Key Figures
George Graham put together the famous four and brought in Ian Wright Wright Wright but I think his coupe de grace was the signing of Big David Seaman. Seaman is the player Wenger has never been able to replace. A ‘keeper who made his back four feel safe. Jens Lehmann had been great value for money but Seaman was different class. Wenger’s favourite son, Titi, broke Wrighty’s scoring record but he’s never created a long lasting back four like Graham.
Score: You can throw plenty of other names in there, Rocky, Limpar, Freddie & Pires all legends in their own right so this one is a score draw = 1 point each.
George left under a cloud in 1995 but he left behind an awesome back five, England’s finest keeper since Banks, Ian Wright on route to the record books and Palour, Merson and Platt in the middle. He did, also, leave behind a club with a drinking culture, which he had done little to prevent.
Should Wenger leave in the morning and another manager come in, he would leave behind a squad with great potential but without any medals. He has also failed to convince Flamini one of last season’s big performers to stay, and with the departure of Hleb to Barcelona, others are now shrouded in messy tabloid exit rumours. Cesc, Ade and our full backs all feature in this seasons team of the year but the league ended with more questions than it answered.
I’m quite surprised but I’m giving an away win on this one = 3 points Graham.
Final Score: A very surprising 7 a piece.
So back to square; who “knows” best?
For me, it’s got to be the current boss but while he is sorting out the pre-season games and causing loyal Gooners to dispute his transfer strategy and use of young players, I think he could do a whole lot worse than to look up the Graham years ‘86 to ’95 in the Arsenal Archives because there are lessons there to be learnt. As FTK often points out “Success begins at the Back”