999 games: Wenger versus Ferguson – a statistical comparison

Wenger Ferguson
Photos by Wikimedia Commons and thesportreview.com

(Title photos by Wikimedia Commons and thesportreview.com)

As Arsène Wenger prepares for his 1000th match in charge of Arsenal this Saturday, the time is ripe to compare his record with that of his great nemesis: Sir Alex Ferguson.

Premier League trophies

The former Manchester United manager, who reached the milestone in November 2004 – more than eight years before eventually retiring – has the edge on Premier League trophies, as most of you will know.

Wenger Ferguson PL trophy comparison


Overall results

Yet, when we look at the overall record of each manager in his first 999 games, the result is rather different.

Wenger Ferguson 999 games comparison

Wenger’s superiority stems mainly from Ferguson’s early travails as Manchester United manager – while the Gunners won the title in the Frenchman’s first full season at the helm, the Red Devils had to wait until Ferguson’s sixth full season before lifting the league trophy.

Transfer spending

The figures here support the popular belief in Wenger’s parsimony.

Comparing the net transfer spending of the two managers across their first 999 games, using 2012 prices (i.e. after adjusting for the effects of general inflation), the following results (in £m):

Wenger Ferguson net transfer spend 999 games

Therefore, Wenger’s net transfer spend over 18 years is only slightly greater than the cost of Mesut Özil.

This means that, if we look at each manager’s transfer spending per Premier League trophy, Wenger has the edge, as the following shows (in £m):

Wenger Ferguson net transfer spend per PL trophy

Of course, no-one questions the financial management of the Strasbourg University economics graduate, although it’s hardly something to get fans excited. Yet it remains the case that Wenger, who has qualified Arsenal for the Champions’ League for the last 16 consecutive years, is the prudent chairman’s dream.

The future

After his 999th game, Ferguson went on to win 5 more Premier League titles and another Champions’ League crown, although the period immediately subsequent was his most fallow for a decade. Wenger, who is on the cusp of a fallow decade, has some catching up to do.

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