Arteta vs. Wenger: Comparing Two Arsenal Managers & Eras

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Regarding football managers who have created a solid legacy, one thinks of Sir Alex Furgeson, Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho, Claudio Ranieri, and Johan Cruyff, to name but a few. These are greats millions of football fans continue to praise, and rightfully so. However, two managers are not only part of this elite manager club but have also made some significant waves in the football arena: Arsene Wenger and Mikel Arteta. Both of their eras are unique and should be celebrated as such. In this article, we will compare the two Arsenal eras, looking at achievements and some challenges.


The Golden Age of Arsenal Football: Arsene Wenger

Few football club managers can say they have had a successful 22-year run. But Wenger can. Wenger’s reign from 1996 to 2018 is regarded as the most successful in the club’s history. Under the tutelage of Wenger, Arsenal’s style of play changed into a more attractive and possession-based style of play. It was later dubbed the Wengerball. Which emphasised fluid passing, being creative, as well as playing attacking football. During this era, Wenger’s Arsenal side would win three Premier League titles: 1997/1998, 2001/2002, and 2003/2004 — which would have been great for football betting fans who support Arsenal. However, it was the 2003/2004 season that genuinely displayed the genius of Wenger. For the first time in Premier League history, a team was unbeaten and was called the Invincibles.

However, following his success in the 90s and early 2000s, Wenger would face an uphill battle until his retirement in 2018. Arsenal was going through a trophy drought and seemed like a shell of their former selves. Wenger was severely criticised for the team’s defensive frailties and lack of performance in critical games. Another area of contention was the departure of key players and Wenger’s inability to replace them correctly. This further exacerbated the team’s challenges. By the time Wenger retired, his success was somewhat overshadowed by his challenges. However, he is Arsenal’s best manager ever and a revered household name.

Rebuilding the Arsenal Identity: Mikel Arteta

Mikel Arteta’s reign started in December 2019. He had plenty to work on, considering the Arsenal side was grappling with inconsistency and a lack of direction. Arteta’s appointment was cited as a shift in Arsenal’s playing style. The reason is that Arteta is focused on defensive solidity, tactical discipline, and an overall pragmatic approach in games. Additionally, this new era manager emphasises the need to build a formidable team, including a strong work ethic. Furthermore, his skill set is what helped him to establish a more tactical and structured approach to gameplay. This has led to modest improvements in Arsenal’s defence records.

For the first time in nearly two decades, the team claimed their first trophy under the guidance of Arteta — the FA Cup in the 2019/2020 season, followed by the Community Shield Cup. These small victories did nothing for the club’s inconsistent performance in the Premier League. They also raised important questions regarding the team’s ability to compete in the big leagues. Fans and pundits have questioned Arteta’s clinical approach to football, saying this highly disciplined approach has left the team too cautious.

Comparing Playing Styles and Tactics

There is a clear difference between Wenger’s playing style and Arteta’s. Wenger emphasised ball possession, creativity, and attacking flair, which allowed his teams to dominate through difficult passes and move as quickly as humanly possible. In contrast, Arteta focuses more on tactics, defence, organisation, and compactness. His structured approach does two things: drives defence and allows for attacking.

But when it comes to attacking, Wenger’s philosophy often left the Arsenal team’s back line exposed. Arteta’s pragmatic approach addresses the team’s defence issues but at the cost of more attacking gameplay. Wenger set the tone for the more traditional style of play Arsenal fans have come to enjoy and expect. However, Arteta’s emphasis on defence stability reflects a desire to transform the club into a new era.

Challenges and Vision

Unfortunately, Wenger’s last years were marred by his team’s inability to progress in the Premier League. This has left fans frustrated. In contrast, Arteta faces restoring Arsenal’s competitive edge in the Premier League — which is no easy feat. Arteta has the challenging task of ensuring Arsenal can sustain success in both the domestic and European Leagues, which puts a lot of pressure on the team to secure a top-four spot to qualify for the Champions League.

Arteta is faced with some hectic challenges. Firstly, he must balance the team’s short-term vision with their long-term goal. Secondly, his limited financial resources and the need for strategic players add so much more pressure and complexity than this manager needs. Can he handle it and win trophies? Absolutely. The 2022/2023 season proved he could, but yet again, so close yet so far.

Football Can Evolve

The comparison between Wenger and Arteta’s Arsenal eras highlights how football can evolve, including the management and the team. While Wenger faced more severe challenges towards the end of his career, Arteta was presented with a mixed bag of issues from the get-go. Wenger’s legacy will remain for decades, and it is a legacy that transformed the club and provided a reign of success. Arteta does not have to replicate this but instead uses his strengths in discipline, strategy, defence, and organisation to create a new era.


  1. You can’t compare the two
    Arteta has to win a title before you can put him in a bracket of Pep or Sir Alex

    Also FA wasn’t our first trophy In a decade

    1. Well said Dan👌. Nothing to compare. Arteta is still an underachiever. He has to win Epl trophy to stand a chance of been compared to the manager who up till date has the only invincible record in Epl. Common no basis for comparison. Two different Era. There seem to be more skilled players in Wenger days than now he competed with best of the best.

  2. Totally agree dan
    MA has given us back belief again
    But he is still a million miles away from what AW achieved
    If he manages to achieves half of what AW done then we can stsrt to compare
    Onwards and upwards

  3. Wenger was a pioneer globally with diet and playing style.

    MA basically has just copied Pep which is quite clear. He’s been very good at it but you simply can’t compare the two at all!

      1. Comparing the two at this moment is borderline farcical, but MA has been successful, although it depends on one’s definition and context.

        Last season was our first genuine title challenge in 19 years! He’s created a fantastic starting XI, with huge value and youth on their side. We finally have discipline and have beaten player power. He’s won an FA Cup. He’s changed the entire culture.

  4. Arteta is enjoying the luxury of the house the great Arsene Wenger built, eating the fruits of the great Arsene Wenger sacrifice and labour.

    There is no comparison between the two unless he achieve the impossible task of taking the club to higher height and level as Wenger did.

    How can he do that when Arsenal is already a global giant and football royalty thanks to Wenger the great?

  5. I like this article. The section on tactics and playing style was very insightful,particularly in light of what Arteta is trying to achieve this season. In the second half of last season,most Epl teams had figured us out and there was need to evolve. This season,Arteta has made us more pragmatic,making us a lot more difficult to beat compared to last season,but like the author,I feel this has taken something away from our attack. So many times I’ve seen fans saying this or that attacker is out of form or not good enough. I’ve been cautious not to join that bandwagon because I feel the current system has something to do with it.

    Saka,Odegaard,Nketia,Martinelli,Jesus,Trossard,Nelson,Havertz – none of these guys is firing on all cylinders. Surely,it doesn’t make sense that all of these guys can become toothless at the same time.I think it is possible that the problem is systemic rather than individual. Basically,you could stick the new attacker fans are craving and still our attack would be blunt,unless something changes. There is evidence that we are creating far more less chances this season. I checked on the Premier League website and Arsenal was 15th when it comes to big chances created in the league. Even Luton Town has created more big chances than us – they are 12th on the table with 16 big chances created ; Arsenal has 13 big chances created all season. It means some of the criticisms on our attackers are unfair-they can’t score if there are no chances being created; and chance creation has a lot to do with the system in place.

    I don’t think many realize how impressive it is that we are only three points off the top of the table when our attacking form is bottom half based on some metrics. Our Expected goals metric(xG) has dropped from last season. That said,I back Mikel Arteta to find a solution that gives us more bite in attack,without affecting our defensive solidity. There’s reason to believe that Mikel has been trying to remedy this problem,but the defense/attack balance remains elusive at the moment;injuries to key players have not helped the situation either.

    Sorry for digressing. I also liked the author’s take on evolution. It is worth noting that both managers evolved their playing styles . Wenger sides notably were different before and after 2005 in terms of style and personnel. Arteta’s style too has evolved three times. There’s always need for constant evolution to keep up with emerging trends. Evolution is also necessary because your opponents,big or small,can do tactics too. With time,opponents learn your tactics and come up with their own tactics to nullify yours . It is why I have a problem with people suggesting we go back to our last season tactics. It won’t necessarily work because our opponents figured it out. One of the things that made us so good last season was Zinchenko inverting-it gave us overloads in the middle and created spaces for us to transition quickly into the attacking third. Well,opponents learnt how to deal with Zinchenko inverting ; even exploiting it to their advantage. Arteta must have realised this and that is why Zinny has been spending a lot more time wide compared to last season. It could also explain why other players like Tomi,Timber,Kiwior have been used there. One thing with evolution is that there will always be casualties. A player who suits one system could be unsuitable to another. I’m looking forward to what Arteta has to offer to address some of the flaws in our current system.

  6. In the article it actually referenced “his limited financial resources…” surely this is a joke.

    What is the spending total since December 20, 2019? Other than FFP, what has limited his resources?

    I think Arteta has started his managerial career strongly, has show a positive turn for our club, and we should be competitive for a while with our younger squad.

    I consider him to be quite successful so far. However, comparing tactics and philosophy to Wenger is fine, and should end there.

    There is a vast gulf of difference in terms of achievements, and I have always thought it premature to rank Arteta against some of the best managers.

    Let’s win some silverware first, otherwise we should remain humble until we can have achievements with consistency.

  7. It will be quite and undertaking for any current or future manager to match Wenger’s achievements for us.
    Times are much more different today than they were in 1996-2004 before Chelsea – Man City showed up. Now Newcastle might be on the same trajectory.

    Then you have the old guard (United, Liverpool), then a much much stronger Spurs, Brighton and even Villa. You are not sure if you will get points off those teams anymore as they are much more competitive financially and in their scouting systems.

    And Arteta has got to win the league at least once to even be compared properly. He has gotten us back up there after years of decline / stagnation but now has to deliver big trophies. I am very pleased with the way he has gotten us to be taken seriously again after years of just about hanging in there for 4th place etc.. But now we want to see him move us from here to winning the league and Champions league. That’s what I want to see from this season.

  8. I can just see Ken Burns behind the keyboard fingers twitching away as he mulls over the nonsense above. Seriously, there are no comparisons. Wegner changed the international perception of how people view Arsenal. Arteta is simply following in his footsteps trying so far unsuccessfully to carve his own legacy.

    1. @Joe.S
      Wenger revolutionalised our club to the global giant it is today, no one doubts that. We all agree.

      As always we can’t compare one Era vs another Era as circumstances are always different. Sometimes luck plays a role, being in the right place at the right time. In my opinion 1996-2004 was the right place at the right time for wenger and Arsenal. But then then 2004-2018 (Chelsea, United and City) money bags era became the wrong place at the wrong time for both Arsenal and Wenger.

      You only had to look out for Man United back then between 1996-2004.

      Since that time Chelsea (Abramovich) showed up. Then 5 year later City (Arab money). On top of that United were still up there. Spurs became a pain ever since and are a proper tough club.. Liverpool. Now you have Newcastle (Saudi money). Then smaller teams like Brighton / Villa etc..

      Those were the days when you could find Top class players around Europe for about £6 to £12 million etc and be a title contender consistently. Not anymore.

      From 1996-2004 only two clubs (Man United and Arsenal) won the league title. United winning it 5 times and we us 3 times. Since 2004 to 2023 there have been 5 clubs that have won the league.

      Looks like this season (2023/24) we are going to have:
      Brighton etc all being tough games against each team. Did we ever have the league this competitive? Where talent is so spread out amongst clubs. The likes of Spurs, Villa, West Ham, Brighton, Newcastle etc can all spend £40 million on a single player. Hey can spend £80 million on two players. That’s competitive.
      Isn’t it?

  9. Interesting enough article with little t much argue about , at least not GREATLY!
    One puzzling sentence which is plainly UNTRUE though; ” For the first time in nearly two decades,the team gained their first trophy under the guidance of Arteta, the FA Cup in 2020.”
    Now, being astute, I realise that what Ad Pat MEANT to say was that Artetas first trophy was that same FA cup in 2019-20. But that was NOT what he wrote.

    Which illustrates the importance of writing English correctly and saying PRECISELY what you mean to say, instead of using sloppy, incorrect English and thus confusing fans.

  10. No comparison at all, FA cups, league titles, cup/league doubles and Champions League finalists. Not to mention (but I will) league titles won at White Hart Lane and Old Trafford and the achievement of the Invincibles! I also think 20 consecutive seasons in the Champions League. All from the top of my head and not checked, so please forgive me if I’m wrong. Arteta? One FA Cup and runners up in the league, oh and got us back in the CL after a few years absence. As I said, NO comparison…..yet.

  11. Can’t be compared for so “many” reasons, length of management at Arsenal for one. Also Wenger had 12 years of management experience before he came to Arsenal. So you could judge them on their first 3/4 years in their management careers might be better🤔🤔

  12. The level of competition in the league was vastly different, so were their transfer budgets. It’s comparing apples to oranges

  13. Honestly? Comparing Arteta and Wenger?
    I’d have George Graham over Arteta any day. I loved his title winning teams.
    I know it ended sadly, but he still managed to leave a back four for Wenger to build on.
    Arteta had a good season last year. Just as Brendon Rogers had a good season at Liverpool. The season before we crumbled. Whilst the FA Cup was won with Emery’s team

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