Arsenal is one of the English Premier League clubs that has a history that extends back to the 19th century. In that time, Arsenal has a record number of FA Cup titles and more than a dozen league titles in England. Along the way, there have been more than two dozen men in charge of leading Arsenal as the club’s manager.
How do those managers stack up, though? We took a look at the records and honours that each manager had and ranked the top five in club history. The number one spot won’t come as a surprise, though the others might be debated. Before we start the list, some of the notable Arsenal managers who just missed the cut include Bertie Mee, Harry Bradshaw, Terry Neill, and Mikel Arteta.
These days, you don’t see many football managers at the highest levels of the sport who didn’t have professional playing careers of their own. In the early 20th century, though, it was fairly common, and one of Arsenal’s greatest managers never played as a pro. George Allison joined Arsenal’s front office in the 1900s and eventually became a member of the board of directors. Following the death of Herbert Chapman, Allison took over as manager and held the position for 13 years.
Allison is the only manager on the list to not reach 300 matches, but he accomplished a lot in his time with Arsenal. In both 1935 and 1938, his squad won the First Division while he also added an FA Cup and pair of Charity Shield titles. For Allison, it was his first and only managerial job.
Aldershot native Thom Whittaker was an Arsenal man through and through, starting his playing career with the club in 1919. Over six years, Whittaker had 64 appearances playing wing half, scoring a pair of goals. After his playing days, Whittaker became a trainer with Arsenal and worked the sidelines for more than two decades. In 1947, Whittaker finally got his chance to be the club’s manager.
Whittaker ranks fourth all-time in Arsenal matches managed with 430. Winning 47.21 percent of his matches, Whittaker was able to take home some impressive hardware. This includes winning the First Division twice (1948 and 1953), as well as the Charity Shield in those same years. In 1950, Whittaker’s squad won the FA Cup.
While Whittaker spent pretty much his entire adult life with Arsenal, that wasn’t the case for Herbert Chapman. During his playing career, Chapman had 14 different stints, none of which were with Arsenal. In 1907, Chapman became a player-manager with Northampton Town, then retired from play in 1909. Chapman left the club and managed both Leeds City and Huddersfield Town before landing his final job with Arsenal from 1925 to 1934.
Chapman is just one of a handful of managers with over 400 Arsenal matches under his belt, and the club won 204 of them. Chapman’s squads won two First Division Championships, three Charity Shields, and the 1930 FA Cup. His winning percentage might not be the highest, but he was a true innovator of the game.
Scottish star George Graham was one of the top players in England during the late 1960s and early 1970s, most notably with Arsenal. Though he had stints with the likes of Aston Villa, Chelsea, and Manchester United, a majority of his time was spent with the Gunners. After managing the Millwall following his retirement, Graham was named the Arsenal manager in 1986, holding the job for nearly a decade.
Graham’s 460 matches managed is third in club history, and Arsenal came away with 225 victories in those matches. Under Graham, Arsenal won the First Division twice in three years, while also winning the 1993 FA Cup and two Football League Cups. Perhaps his most notable achievement was winning the 1994 UEFA Winners’ Cup.
Without a doubt, Frenchman Arsene Wenger is the greatest manager in Arsenal’s history and holds just about every one of the club’s managerial records. Wenger played professionally for a dozen years, then managed Nancy, Monaco, and Nogya Grampus Eight during the 1980s and 1990s, signing with Arsenal in 1996. Wenger would end up sticking around for more than two decades, retiring in 2018.
Wenger was the manager for 1,235 matches, winning 707 of those for a 57.25 winning percentage, ranking him first all-time for managers with at least 200 matches. He has nearly three times as many wins as any other manager, and Wenger’s teams won the Premier League thrice, while taking home seven FA Cups and seven Charity/Community Shields.