Now Arsenal no longer win trophies outside of pre-season, it’s become popular to point to their back four woes under the Frenchman’s stewardship as the reason for their downfall.
Here’s Frank McLintock: “Ever since he lost the great back five Wenger inherited from George Graham, they’ve never really addressed that position. Their centre-half position has been really poor and teams recognise it. But somehow Arsenal haven’t done anything about it.”
And Tony Adams: “That back four; Lee Dixon, myself, Steve Bould and Nigel Winterburn, we were all top of our game. That doesn’t happen by luck, that’s hard work, morning and afternoon and we hated George for it but we reaped the rewards.”
One Gooner asked Differentgame to take a look at Arsenal’s defensive record under Wenger to check it all out. So we did. We started by looking at George Graham’s last 5 years in charge at Arsenal, and comparing it to Wenger’s record. Due to the fact the top flight consisted of 22 teams in Graham’s last 3 years, we had to do the necessary adjustments to project that into a 38 game season. Here’s what we found:
Now that looks suspiciously like that famous back -line performed better for Wenger than they did for Graham.
By the time Arsenal had become the “Invincibles” the old guard had moved on to be replaced by the likes of Sol Campbell and Kolo Toure. In Wenger’s next 5-year spell, Arsenal won the league twice and the new boys at the back were conceding less than a goal a season more than Arsenal did under George Graham between 1990-94.
When William Gallas arrived to partner Toure, things carried on pretty much the same, and only when he left did the figures start to look poor in comparison. It is just the last two years of Wenger’s sixteen years as manager in which Arsenal have developed a defensive problem.
Not only did Wenger improve the old guard, he then spent the next decade successfully phasing in new defenders.
Just to be sure, we took a look at Arsenal’s main competitors during the Wenger era to see how they measured up defensively:
As you can see, Wenger’s record stands up to scrutiny. It is the football fans disputing it that are not of sound mind, memory or understanding.
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