Arsenal's Style of Play: Then and Now

Arsenal's Style of Play: Then and Now

Arsenal's Style of Play: Then and Now

Arsenal's style of play has long been known for its skill, pace, and precision passing. Over the years, this style has evolved and changed as the club has moved through different eras, and it is now widely recognized as one of the most attractive styles in the world. In this blog post, we'll take a look back at the history of Arsenal's style of play and how it has changed over the years.

Early Days: The Birth of Personalization

The roots of Arsenal's distinctive playing style can be traced back to the late nineteenth century. It was during this time that Arsenal, then known as Dial Square FC, was formed. The team adopted a progressive approach to the game, with a focus on passing and combination play. The club even employed the first professional coach in English football, Jack Humble, who is credited with establishing the core tactical principles that would become synonymous with Arsenal Football Club.
This style of play was further developed by Herbert Chapman, who took over as manager in 1925. Chapman focused on creating a disciplined and organized system of play, which emphasized attacking football but also emphasized defensive discipline. This became known as ‘WM’ or ‘The Arsenal Way’ and remained an integral part of the team's philosophy for many years.
Under Chapman’s guidance, Arsenal won a host of trophies and set several records. They were renowned for their creative and expressive play, which saw them become the first team to use new tactics such as flank play and overlapping full-backs. This style of play helped create some of the most memorable Arsenal teams in history and laid the foundation for their future success.

The George Graham Years: Winning at All Costs

The period between 1986 and 1995 was an era of great change for Arsenal Football Club. Following the departure of their legendary manager, Terry Neill, in 1986, the club appointed George Graham as their new manager in May of that year. Graham was a no-nonsense character who instilled a defensive mindset into the team, which proved successful as they went on to win the League title in 1989 and 1991.
The style of play during this period was based on defensive solidity. Graham favored a 4-4-2 formation which emphasized tight marking and packing the midfield, creating an organized and efficient structure from which Arsenal could counter-attack quickly and efficiently. This style of play was in stark contrast to the expansive, attacking football that had been previously associated with the club.
This approach was effective in helping the club achieve great success on the field. The ‘1-0 to the Arsenal’ became a regular result during this period as the team was often able to shut out opponents with relative ease and then nick a goal at the other end. While this may have been far less entertaining for supporters than what had gone before, it was certainly effective in terms of results. 
The Graham era marked an important period in the club’s history as it laid down foundations upon which subsequent successes could be built. Although his style of play may have been unpopular with some fans, there can be no denying that he achieved remarkable results with a relatively limited budget.

Arsene Wenger and the Invincibles: A New Era

In 1996, Arsene Wenger was hired as the manager of Arsenal. At the time, Wenger had an impressive record of success at the French club AS Monaco and a deep understanding of the game. He immediately began to change Arsenal’s playing style and mentality.
Under Wenger’s guidance, Arsenal developed a style of play based on technical ability, possession, and speed. This was in stark contrast to the defensive approach that had been popularized by George Graham and other managers. Wenger focused on developing young players with potential rather than signing established superstars. He also implemented a rigorous training program that emphasized fitness, tactical awareness, and skill development.
This new approach paid off in the 2003-04 season when Arsenal went through the entire Premier League campaign unbeaten – a feat that would earn them the nickname “The Invincibles”. This was the first time since Preston North End in 1888-89 that a team had gone an entire season undefeated. The squad featured the likes of Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, Robert Pires, and Patrick Vieira, who have since become legends in the game.
Arsenal’s success under Wenger had an immense impact on the English game. Teams began to emulate their playing style and tactical approach, resulting in a more attacking brand of football. Furthermore, Wenger’s methods showed that success could be achieved through youth development and talented players instead of buying expensive stars. His legacy will remain in the game for years to come.