Today is the official 20th anniversary of Arsène Wenger starting at Arsenal, as his contract began from 1st of October 1996. He’s won a few trophies in that time, though you’ll be aware that trophy-wise his best years were in the first half of his reign. But this isn’t really about Arsène, this is more about what Arsenal actually count as a trophy.
The BBC proclaimed this week that Arsène had won 15 trophies in his 20 years. By any logical counting method, that’s nonsense. They’ve clearly included the three Premier Leagues and six FA Cups, then added six Charity/Community Shields on. But what about the Emirates Cups? There are four teams in the Emirates Cup and only two in the Community Shield, so which is harder to win? Which one is more of a trophy worth mentioning?
For a large part of its history the Charity Shield was considered barely more important than any pre-season friendly, with very little seriousness attached other than the attempt at fundraising. No club listed it as a trophy alongside the League and FA Cup. Once the League Cup was established in the 1960s, the Shield dropped further down the pecking order, to the extent that some League and FA Cup winners started to decline the invitation to take part. When Arsenal won the Double in 1971 they went off on a pre-season tour rather than play the match against someone who hadn’t even won a trophy.
It was only in 1974 when the Charity Shield was moved to Wembley that clubs started to take it slightly more seriously. Then the TV cameras turned up as well. Then Sky. But even after 42 years of ever-increasing hype my recent twitter poll still showed a majority who didn’t consider it a proper trophy.
Arsenal didn’t include the Charity Shield in their list of honours until 1969, then dropped it again for 20 years from 1983, before reintroducing it to the list. Here’s the full list of what Arsenal have considered to be ‘Honours’ over the years.
From 1930 and the club’s first major trophy, it was FA Cup and then League Championship only all the way to 1969. Two losing League Cup finals in 1968 and ’69 seemed to persuade the programme editor that losing a final or coming second in the League was actually worth a mention. Suddenly all Arsenal’s runner-up positions also featured. Still no Charity Shield, though.
The Fairs Cup and FA Youth Cup were added by 1971, then the Cup Winners’ Cup second place in 1980, then they forgot about runners-up, added them back in, took them out and added them back in again almost season by season.
It all went a bit mental in the late eighties and early nineties – Norwich Hospital Cup mental – before the Cup Winners’ Cup victory in 1994 finally banished talk of second place as an honour. For a while though the likes of the Caltex Cup (a pre-season 4-team competition in Asia if I recall correctly) and losing the League Cup were still considered more worthy of mention than winning the Charity Shield.
Only since 2003 has the Charity/Community Shield been back in the list, but of course no sensible list of numbers of trophies won by a club includes it.
Despite the BBC awarding Arsène an extra six trophies, most Arsenal fans are still more sensible. Witness this new banner commissioned by Ricky G (@geezypeas), one of Arsène’s greatest and most loyal supporters. Even Ricky has stuck to proper trophies. Well done sir.