A tale of two managers

After that first match by Dial Square, which quickly became Royal Arsenal, and later The Arsenal, and later plain, old Arsenal, managers came and went. The first truly legendary manager was Herbert Chapman, who joined Arsenal in 1925. He had played on several teams and previously managed Huddersfield Town with some success.

chapman
“You can trust me. No exhorbitant transfer fees from me, no sirree. (‘Exorbitant,’ maybe.)”

Arsenal was clear in its intent in hiring Chapman. It advertised for a manager possessing “the highest qualifications for the post, both as to ability and personal character. Gentlemen whose sole ability to build up a good side depends on the payment of heavy and exhorbitant (sic) transfer fees need not apply.” Chapman must have sold them on the fact that he fit the bill, but once on the ground he disarmed and charmed them, pulling cash bit by bit from the coffers to build his team, player by player. He even funded an early incentive program, offering one player, Charlie Buchan, a bonus of £100 for each goal scored. This was considered by some to be a PR ploy, intended to incite interest by the crowds that had dwindled during the dismal period before he was hired.

Chapman was a visionary and is officially credited with a number of key changes spanning every aspect of the club. A true Renaissance man, lore has it that he influenced the team in the following areas of innovation:

  • Logistics: Convinced the city to change the name of the nearby tube stop to “Arsenal,” the only stop in London not named after a street.
  • Fashion: Changed the design of the home shirt from solid red to red with white sleeves to resemble a shirt under a vest. (The original implementation actually was a white shirt under a vest.) This was supposedly done to help players more easily identify teammates while playing.
  • Lighting: First to light the pitch for night games
  • Identity management: Masterminded the addition of player numbers on jerseys
  • Rule enforcement: Promoted the idea of a second referee and goal judges
  • Formation: Implemented the first WM (3-2-2-3) formation
  • Interior Design:
    • Established the famous clock in the “Clock End” at Highbury
    • Oversaw building of the West stands of Highbury

He took on a team close to relegation and vowed to turn their fortunes around with five years. He struggled to be successful in the first few months. Management showed patience, and he turned it around nicely by the end of the season. Over his tenure, he contended for cups and titles with regularity, won the league twice, won the FA cup, and won the Charity Shield.  He died in 1934 at the age of 55 while still serving as manager, the victim of pneumonia.

The facts above were shared during the Emirates stadium tour we took in our last visit to London and are available on Arsenal.com. However, outside of the club, several of these facts are in dispute. The blog Woolwich Arsenal shares evidence that the tube stop name had already been altered before Chapman’s latest intervention, that several teams had shirts with numbers near the time Arsenal first experimented with it, that other stadiums had lights, and that other teams had formations close to or the same as the famous WM…..and that the WM formation was the result of consultation with many, including Buchan, the player of the £100/goal bonus.

This leaves his accomplishments rather more like this:

  • Logistics: Convinced the city to change the name of the nearby tube stop to “Arsenal,” the only stop in London not named after a street.
  • Fashion: Changed the design of the home shirt from solid red to red with white sleeves to resemble a shirt under a vest. (The original implementation actually was a white shirt under a vest.) This was supposedly done to help players more easily identify teammates while playing.
  • Lighting: First to light the pitch for night games
  • Identity management: Masterminded the addition of player numbers on jerseys
  • Rule enforcement: Promoted the idea of a second referee and goal judges
  • Formation: Invented the WM (3-2-2-3) formation
  • Interior Design:
    • Established the famous clock in the “Clock End” at Highbury
    • Oversaw building of the West stands of Highbury

History, like business, often rewards those with panache and charisma. It is as old as King David. Chapman clearly was an information gatherer, a synthesizer of information, a trier of many ideas and a selector of the best ones, but he also was able to convince others to follow his lead. He received credit for the ideas and changes in a way that perhaps was unfair, but a person who leads others to worthy changes, including those these others have already said they won’t support (As Chapman did, by getting cash out of the club to buy players)? This is a person who wins history.  We are left to quibble over details, but we can’t seriously dent the legend.

mourinhobwThe legend Jose Mourinho himself met with history today, parting ways with Chelsea FC by the kind of mutual consent that is probably neither mutual, nor any form of consent. We cried out to Karma to extract payment for his transgressions and Karma delivered, as she so often does.

Cry not for Mourinho; he’ll land in a new job quickly and undeterred.

And Karma will tell us we just have to deal with it.

6 thoughts on “A tale of two managers

  1. When I saw the phrase “mutual consent” appear on my screen within the ticker format ESPN uses I literally laughed out loud. As undignified as this “arse” conducted himself in recent months everyone should all dispense with any faux professionalism and call it a sacking of the most deserved type. Genius strategist or not there’s no way on Earth that face would be the face of my club.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve written about how the Cult of Personality warps our understanding and appreciation of football, which is the underlying message that you’ve delivered in a much less eggheady fashion. So thanks for showing me up there.

    One “innovation,” if you can call it that, Mourinho brought was his knack for identifying the big spender in a league, maximizing those maximum resources, and promoting himself as a tactical and psychological master. If he’s going to use that approach again, his destinations would have to be City, PSG, or Bayern. Bayern don’t need him, City couldn’t stomach him, and PSG would only use him to win the Champions League. Poor Laurent Blanc.

    Liked by 1 person

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