George Graham and Arsene Wenger were hugely successful as Arsenal managers.
They each achieved success in their own way, bringing a unique style to the club, whilst making new history for the supporters to look back on and enjoy.
Graham collected two league titles, two League Cups, an FA Cup and the European Cup Winners’ Cup in eight years.
Wenger was in charge for 22 years and delivered three Premier League titles, seven FA Cups and seven Community Shields.
So, when Wenger was finally prised from his throne, someone was going to get an almost impossible job.
Enter Unai Emery, not the first choice of the fans and it appeared that even the former dark lord of the Emirates Ivan Gazidis wasn’t entirely keen but he was appointed as if he was.
With very little time to assess and rebuild, Emery was flung head first into a season to bring back the good times and unit a fractious club.
It’s worked out rather well for all concerned thus far, not perfect but hey, short of a trophy this year, it’s not been the type of David Moyes disaster that Manchester United experienced after Fergie called time on his career.
So, as we dissect Emery’s first season so far, what’s made him successful in his transformation and is he more George Graham or more Arsene Wenger ?
Well, neither really. If you want to split hairs, then he is more like an amalgamation of both.
Tactically astute like Graham but a believer in the fast, free flowing football of Wenger, without compromising the teams defensive responsibilities.
Graham was certainly a disciplinarian, favouring the team above the individuals within it and although the Spaniard doesn’t appear to be particularly ruthless, he alters the team to suit the opponents before and during the match.
Wenger would more than likely persist with the individuals he favoured, even when they were being difficult or had lost form.
No such concessions from Emery, lose your form and lose your place seems to be the mantra.
Not working hard enough or trying hard enough, warm up the bench !
Problems with decisions or showing lack of intensity, there’s a place with your name on it with the substitutes !
All the players in the side, regardless of their reputations or wages have had to fit into the ‘team first’ ethic.
It may not be popular but it achieves the desired results and has managed to unify a dysfunctional side.
Wenger’s belief in free flowing football was the exact opposite of Graham’s in terms of entertainment. On their day the Arsenal side under Graham could show flair but it was quite acceptable to go a goal up and shut the shop, which lead to taunts of boring, boring Arsenal.
Something Arsenal supporters used to sing themselves when in command of a game by three or four goals.
Wenger produced some of the most exquisite football ever seen by an Arsenal side and in the first ten years of Wenger’s reign, they were the most attractive side in the Country.
Yet winning trophies wasn’t the be all and end all for the Frenchman.
He valued the purity of the beautiful game and how it was played and sometimes that would result in a 4-3 loss because, unlike Graham, he would not secure the points at the expense of the entertainment.
Agree or disagree with that belief if you like but everyone envied Arsenal in the mid 90’s and they set a bench mark that is only now being matched by Manchester City.
Emery has yet to find the success of either but he is as committed as either of his predecessors and with just six months under his belt, who would bet against him bringing back the good times.
Unfortunately, both Graham and Wenger were sent on their way.
Graham was ousted in 1995 after a Premier League inquiry ruled that he had received bungs totalling more than £400,000 from the transfers of John Jensen and Pal Lydersen to Highbury.
Wenger was dispatched because of failing results and the general unrest surrounding the club in the 2017/18 season.
He would never have betrayed his legacy by accepting money for doing a job he loved and lived for and surely, there is no more honest man than he.
If one day, it were discovered that Wenger had taken a bribe, it would be like Santa caught robbing a post office or God somehow being involved in a match fixing scandal.
Hopefully, Emery has a number of years ahead of him at the Emirates and that when it is his time to leave. It’s his decision.