Does Wenger owe credit to Graham for Arsenal success?

Lee Dixon has claimed Arsene Wenger’s success with Arsenal is ‘hugely’ down to George Graham.

The French boss took over from Graham back in 1996, and enjoyed widespread success in his opening years with the club.

Lee Dixon is now claiming that Wenger inherited much of the philosophy and defensive stability from his predecessor, and it would take years to fix his current issues.

Dixon said: “George has to take huge credit for setting up the foundations for Arsene.

“When Arsene came in he realised he had this base of what Arsenal was all about – and left it there.

“It had been drilled into us for five or six years. We had this ethos. It was built on a back four that could play blindfolded.

“And it worked for Arsene – as it had for George – for a long period and helped win lots of trophies.

“But for whatever reason, whether it was modern football or that he couldn’t find players to replicate it, this has been lost over time.

“George managed and coached in one way. Arsene was totally different, allowing his players much more freedom.

“But that balance has flipped the wrong way – and that’s the bit which is not right.

“Regaining that balance is very difficult. It takes many years to get it in the first place and you can’t just rediscover it overnight.

“It takes a huge amount of effort and time to get players into thinking that way again.”

Was Wenger the right man at the right time? Was he just lucky to inherit the defenders he did, which would work perfectly with the creative passing and possession policy which he installed?

Pat J

Tags Arsenal George Graham Lee Dixon Wenger


  1. Where does it stop. Mourinho inherited Ranieri team. Di Mateo inherited Mourinho team. Zidane inherited Ancelottii team. I don’t hear it much said about other managers, but when a person reaches certain standards, there will always be someone willing to take him down a size should the opportunity arise.

    Look, I can see why some might want to believe this, but those people obviously never looked into Arsene’s football pre his Arsenal years. The English players who played under him over in Mopnaco, they will tell you something very different about the Arsene that they knew. Somewhere along the line Arsene’s head got turned, some people say it was Barcelona inspired with him trying to rival their total football. Or it could just be that all those plaudits he received for the attacking part of his philosophy went to his head a wee bit. The timing of our move also has a part to play here. He got lost somewhere along the way. Did he inherit a brilliant defence, yes. Did he build a mighty good one himself, yes. Are we a million miles from those days …god yes.

  2. Graham was a top flight player
    Wenger played lower league.
    Before Arsenal Graham managed Millwall
    in the old 3rd tier to promotion to tier 2.
    Wenger managed Monaco ten years in League un
    winning one title.
    Graham 2 (Old) League titles in 9 years. FA Cup. League Cup winners Cup.
    Grahams career spanned the old Div one and
    the start of the Premier League.
    Overseas player restricted to just 5 players.
    For a while English teams were banned from Europe
    after the Heysel disaster. Only 2 English teams made the Champions league.
    Wengers career has spanned most of the Premier League era.
    3 titles in 21 years. One unbeaten season.
    ECL final/semi final /quarter final. 7 FA Cups. Community shield 5.
    The careers spanned different era’s so no realistic comparison can be made.
    Both were successful.

  3. It cannot be denied that George Graham turned Arsenal into a defensive powerhouse. Remember hearing “1-0 to the Arsenal” from us and “Boring boring Arsenal” from everyone else in the late 80’s and early 90’s? Wenger changed the style of play to a more fluid and attacking style, which worked great when we had the superb defensive set-up largely inherited from the old-style Arsenal, and it was a winning combination.

    During the last decade the balance has been far too much towards well-spoken pretty-boys passing the ball sideways, and not enough big scary beasts with good footballing skills terrifying the opposition in the way Keown, Adams, and Campbell used to do.

    Arsenal have become way too obsessed with preaching rubbish about developing players (Which we don’t actually do) and not spending money (Which everybody else does), blaming anything except the manager for our problems (Always the referee & officials) and not being pragmatic enough about winning the big trophies, but only being interested in winning big profits.

    1. Well said mate. Most of fans on here have never seen a George Graham team play they only know wenger, Wenger has been in the right place right time and he was different that’s all. The last 12 years have proved it.

      1. Well I definitely saw Arsenal way before Wenger and in fact go back to George Swindin , a former great keeper of ours , whom I doubt many younger fans have even heard of , sadly. Many think Wenger is Arsenal but I had seen a thousand games home and away before anyone in this country ever heard of Wenger. This is why us oldies are not taken in by the Wenger hype and so called personal aura, some think he has. Of all thr managers I have seen since 1958 , Wenger is certainly the least able to motivate the whole team to fight. He certainly did inherit our greatest ever post war defence and to his credit, extend their careers by his, then, new methods of dietary control, no drink and stretching . But these were soon adopted right across our Prem and he has never kept up with all the other new developments used by teams and managers who have left him far behind, in the old millenium in fact. He built ONE top defence of his own , in The Invincibles, which was the first title team under him, not to include a George Graham defender, as a regular starter. Over the last decade since 2007, when Dein was forced out by treachery on the board, his great days are now long ago history and he makes so many plain awful buys , plays them in wrong positions, with schoolboy errors in how he plays and manages them. Some tangible evidence of coaching and basic understanding of the need for a defence at all, would be a start. If only! How this stale , unambitious club has kept this now decade long failure as our manager is to me , a mystery and a scandal.

  4. There is little doubt that George Graham brought some success to Arsenal, but at what price? In those days it was ‘Boring Arsenal’ and ‘1 nil to the Arsenal’. The latter was even a chant of the supporters. Today Arsenal are still competing with the considerable egos and financial irresponsibility, of Russian Oligarchs and Arab Sheikhs, whatever the doom and gloom merchants might claim, and they are doing it the right way; the long-term sustainable way. Today we get 60,000 to virtually every game and a queue of punters wanting to lay their money down. The ‘Arsene out’ Brigade might decry that as fueling the owner’s coffers, and to a certain extent they have a point, but it also speaks volumes for the manager and the attacking, technically gifted style of play that he espouses. And let’s not forget why Graham left the club. Wenger not only revolutionised Arsenal and top-flight football in this country, he also restored the reputation of the club and its management.

    1. I agree that only did Wenger restore the club’s reputation, he raised it to new levels both domestically, and in Europe, but equally he’s now lowered the club’s reputation to such a poor level, that we’re now in a worse position than what we were when Wenger took over. We’re a complete joke in Europe, and now the whipping boys, and we’re so bad domestically, that our rival fans sing how much they want Wenger to stay, and they even feel sorry for us!

      I am all for recognising the fantastic things Wenger has done for us, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore all the bad things he has done as well. One has acknowledge what Wenger has done on the whole, and not cherry pick. Wenger is also complicit with Kroenke, which does not sit well with the fans.

      1. The only reason that the rival fans sing about wanting Wenger to stay is because they are well aware the loud mouth minority has taken over on social media and they are winding you up. As for the rest: The only people who ruin the club’s reputation are those same empty vessels who scream for change without even understanding what that change entails. The vast and less vocal minority see the wider picture and know that any club that can still compete with teams that have spent approaching a billion on their line-ups is one to be supported and respected, not undermined and bad-mouthed. As for cherry-picking; that is the only indication of success that any club has. Of course we cherry-pick with records and statistics, or do you think we should be winning a major trophy every year, thereby obviating the need to cherry pick? Show me a club that does that and I will show you a club in a non-competitive league dominated every year by two or three clubs. Don’t listen to the loud-mouths and empty vessels. If there is one thing I have learnt in my life it is that wisdom is rarely screamed.

        1. None of us can predict the future in terms of change. What we need to do is look at what’s happening now, and how will that will affect our future, and it’s not good. As I’ve already mentioned, our performances in the League, and in Europe have been unacceptable, for a very long time. Wenger now makes decisions that are unexplainable. His performances as a manager have been disgraceful, even more so when you consider how much he’s paid, and his consistently ridiculous decisions are no longer excused by the lack of finances. In fact, Wenger’s decisions on match days have nothing to do with finances.

          I cannot predict the future, but I have no doubt there’s hundreds of managers out there that could do better. Not everyone can win the major trophies, but we’re not even competing for them, and that’s the point.

          1. Hundreds of managers out there who could do better????? That comment is so ridiculous that I don’t even know why I’m bothering. . . . . In fact I’m not going to bother with this conversation any more; I have better things to do with my time than try to combat polarised opinion and ignorance with reason. Have a good one.

            1. Well when you have a manager that’s been working with these players for years, and still doesn’t even know what position they’e best suited in, says it all really! When you can’t even do the basics of management, then yes, probably hundreds of managers that easily that could do the basics, and they wouldn’t cost around £10 million a year!

              It’s also the same for REAL Arsenal fans like myself trying to convince fans like you about the reality of our situation. I’ve noticed a common trend, and that’s some fans just don’t like facts. I’ll give you some simplistic ones to chew on

              No major trophy for 13 years and counting
              Last time we even saw a QF in the CL was a whopping 7 years ago
              We almost never challenge for a major trophy
              Wenger couldn’t even get close to winning the league even when all rivals finish below him
              Wenger keeps picking a weak starting XI, especially for really tough games
              Wenger loves keeping rubbish players at Arsenal for as long as possible

        2. Your lie about those of us who want Wenger out is given by severqal fan pols all showing in excess of 80% want him out. Anyone can spout lies to support fallacious arguments but honourable fans use facts. The proportion on here and all Arsenal sites who want him gone is perfectly obvious to anyone and it is hugely in favour of Wenger, Gazidis and Kroenke all out. Lie if you will AND IF IT MAKES YOU FEEL RIGHTEOUS BUT THESE ARE FACTS.

    2. The “bung scandal” was used as an excuse at the time, as George Graham was not the only manager involved in these activities. The real reason was the drop in performance in the team and the fact that George Graham (unlike the current manager) stood up to the board requesting further investment in players.
      The “boring Arsenal” tag was one inherited from the Don Howe managed team, which George Graham took over. Investigation of the title winning George Graham managed teams shows the played good football and scored plenty of goals.
      Also people foreget how strong Liverpool were in that era.
      Give me any day players who play with pride in the shirt and are prepared to play with flair or toughness depending on the occassion. No opposition got easy wins against George Graham managed Arsenal.

      1. I have to differ with you there Ozzie, the boring boring chant was started by Liverpool fans as was the donkey chants aimed at Tony Adams, and as much as I loved George was definitely in he’s era, stands to reason with the fantastic defence he built

        1. However I must admit Don Howe was a very defensive minded coach and Tony Adams did make he’s debut under him

    3. mikeB, You and I must inhabit different planets. I see things so oppositely to you. Todays teams pass so slowly most of the time and are more boring than the 1988-92 Graham era by far. Boring Boring Arsenal was always an ironic self chant by Gooners who were proud of the team and when used by other clubs fans, it was in fact an open acknowledgement of our supreme defensive power and borne out of jealousy. You have to be well into adulthood to remember the last time we had a proper and regularly effective defence. The 60000 the club boast(which is often far lower than the regular lie put out by the club of those who actually attend)is merely an acknowledgement of the world wide love of Prem football, which is exciting, mostly elsewhere than with us. In his first decade Wenger played a full part in this increased worldwide love. BUT HIS MODERN TEAMS ARE STALE, SLOW, SIDEWAYS PASSING, UNCOMMITTED AND DRIFTING REMORSELESSLY AWAY FROM THE TOP STRATA WE USED TO INHABIT , A FULL DECADE SINCE. That is my planet Mike, it is called Reality planet. Don’t know about your planet. Planet all our yesterdays , perhaps!

  5. Off course he owes some credit to Graham but Wenger can be credited with prolonging the careers of the back four with mind blowing additions.

  6. ..and we have our own Russian billionaire, other billionaires interested in investing in the club, and lots of younger managers that would relish the chance of taking the club further forward given the right support. It’s just a shame none of that is happening right now, which is why we got overtaken by other clubs, and look like we will be overtaken by more clubs in the near future.

  7. I agree with Dixon. He inherited their fighting spirit that was lost overtime. What Wenger has today id boys not MEN. You can as well say that he relied on David Dein for his success. If you remember the deals David Dein oversaw and Wenger has failed to prove otherwise.

  8. Can anyone tell me who in the invincibles backline was a Graham signing? Or was it also Graham’s defence that took Arsenal to the Champions league final conceding only once before then? Enough of this Arsene inherited Graham’s defence.

    1. @TW14-TH14 by 2003/04 Martin Keown was still there influencing the team even if he did not play much. It has to be said that the Champions League defense without any Graham players was not great. Not as bad as it would become but nothing like it had been. We also finished in Wengers “trophy” position of 4th.

  9. Wenger did a lot when he first arrived with diet, exercise and supplements. He was though lucky to inherit Dennis Berkamp and the best defense in living memory.

    1. 100% right Ivan and had Dennis for the following ten years. As far as I’m concerned the main catalyst behind Wenger’s early success

      1. So right Kenny. The fact that his teams over the last 12 years are so fragile shows he is not capable of creating a team of winners.

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