On July 12th 1974 the football world was rocked by the shock departure of one of the greatest managers it had ever seen: Bill Shankly resigned from coaching Liverpool.
On April 20th 2018 the football world was rocked by the shock departure of one of the greatest managers it had ever seen, Arsene Wenger resigned from coaching Arsenal.
Although it is unclear whether Wenger will go on to coach anyone else, both statements/ moments seem very alike. Bill Shankly managed Liverpool for 15 years, Wenger managed Arsenal for 22 years and that’s not the only parallel.
When Shankly arrived at Liverpool they had been in the Second Division for five years. Anfield stadium itself was in disrepair with no watering system for the pitch – so Shankly demanded the club rectify that. Shankly described the training ground at Melwood as “a shambles”. The squad he inherited consisted largely of average players and some promising reserves. We all know what happened next for Shankly as he was the one constant at a successful Liverpool during times of great change there. He became an institution, when people thought of Liverpool, they thought of Bill Shankly.
Emlyn Hughes once said “after winning the European cup, I’m thinking we’ve won it but really Shanks has won it because he built Liverpool.”
A history you might be more familiar with is when Arsene Wenger took over Arsenal on September 1996 from Bruce Rioch, a polarising manager who was sacked due to many a disagreement with the board and star players like Ian Wright.
Arsenal were not quite in as bad a state as the Liverpool that Shankly took over, but they were nowhere near the team Wenger would help create. A huge overhaul and evolution at Arsenal took place over the Wenger years, highlighted with a team of Invincibles in 2003-04 and one of the greatest stadiums in the world being built, The Emirates. Just as with Shankly, when you think Arsenal…you think Arsene Wenger…he is Mr Arsenal, he is an institution.
What came next for Liverpool was their most successful person to manage Liverpool, Bob Paisley, who won six Football League titles, five Charity Shields, three Football League Cups, three European Cups, one UEFA Super Cup and one UEFA Cup in his nine-years as manager.
It is never easy taking over from someone who has meant so much to a club, especially one who was so successful but, Paisley did so with ease and class. He inherited a young, hungry team in need of evolution, not revolution and that’s what he saw was need and which he brought to the team, young players were coached, encouraged to reach their potential, some players were brought in to add what was needed and the rest is history, for the man…after the man.
May 23rd 2018 Unai Emery was appointed as manager of Arsenal, in the subsequent months since then he has made five signings so far: he saw a need for a new keeper, he got one (Leno), he saw a need to add steel to the defence – he got Sokratis and Lichtsteiner, he saw a need for a fighter in the middle of the park and he got one of the most impressive performers at the World Cup in that position – Lucas Torreira.
Unai Emery also noticed fitness levels should be improved so the players have been drilled hard this pre-season, players now have muscles they never knew they had.
For all the changes we have seen at Arsenal so far by Emery, the starting line up come August will not be drastically different to the one that ended last season. With Emery this season it is evolution, not revolution, he sees this is a very talented, young team that just needs a few tweaks.
Could Emery be our version of Paisley, carrying on from the great building work of his legendary predecessor only time will tell, but the signs look good.
I got into football as a kid watching Italian football in the afternoons and ever since I’ve been hooked on tactics and the continental side of the game. I’ve written about Italian football in the past among other things but now it’s time to write about, the embodiment of how I see the beautiful game, Arsenal. Hopefully writing things and opinions about the game you haven’t seen before, I like a bit of a joke too.