Is winning trophies important? A comparison of titles and success in English football: Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal – The Trophy Data

On Sunday age old questions over the definition of footballing success resurfaced as Arsène Wenger’s current generation of Arsenal players failed in their bid to win a trophy of their own in the Carling Cup final against Birmingham, who prevailed to win their first silverware in forty eight years, against the side who have been waiting a mere six.

Is winning trophies the definition of a good side? Most football fans would agree that it proves something, but there are always those who judge sides on other merits. Indeed the cult of the glorious loser is one that only increases with age.


The pain of defeat: Carsten Jancker in tears after losing 2-1 to United in the Champions League Final 1999, and Jack Wilshere confiding in Eboue after the latest Arsenal defeat.

Say what you like about the Carling Cup, but it represents something tangible, a measure of mental strength, which Wenger’s current side, led by Cesc Fábregas have been accused of lacking time and again. There are those who claim arrogance on the part of Wenger’s charges in their adherence to a certain style of play, but it has to be said that in terms of basic quality the side does have the potential to win something.

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Is winning trophies important? Arsenal trophies since 1925: Graphic Data and Herbert Chapman

With Arsenal’s triumph over Huddersfield Town in the FA Cup on Sunday, passed a fixture of significance few failed to note. The name of Herbert Chapman dominates both clubs, a revolutionary manager who engineered periods of success for each in turn, and pioneered the counter-attacking W-M formation at Arsenal which culminated in back to back title wins in the 1930s, a feat never achieved since.

The great Herbert Chapman. Image courtesy of Adam Bowie under Creative Commons licence.

Not only did Chapman win an FA Cup and two titles for Huddersfield Town, but won Arsenal’s first trophy within five years, the FA Cup in 1930, oddly enough against his previous employers, Huddersfield. Although he suffered a premature death in 1934, Chapman set the side up to continue in winning ways until 1938, after which wartime interruption broke the momentum of the Arsenal.

Only one manager has exceeded Chapman’s reputation at Arsenal, and that is the current incumbent, Arsène Wenger. The first decade of Wenger’s reign was one of success, doubles and Invincibles. Since 2005 however, pundits are quick to remind Arsène that the trophy tally is zero.

In light of this I’ve developed a graphic timeline combining the competitive trophies won by Arsenal since Herbert Chapman joined the club in 1925. The achievements of the first great Arsenal manager are clear, including the first in 1930; Arsenal won five league titles and two FA Cups in eight years.

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