By Tony Attwood
We have won 16 of our last 18 games in all competitions so we are consistent.
We have won eight league games in a row – and you can’t really do better than that.
We might well also get Champions League qualification for an 18th consecutive season.
These are not bad runs. Not records but not bad runs. And just in passing, in relation to the latter, Manchester United and Real Madrid hold the record number of consecutive participations in the Champions League with 18. Man U did it from 1996–97 to 2013–14 when the actions of Sir F Word in throwing everything into one final championship brought the pack of cards tumbling down the year after. Real Mad however started in 1997–98 to 2014–15 and are still running.
So if we get in next season that will equal Man U’s figure, although of course leave us still one behind Real Mad. We’ve been there since 1998–99. Quite good really. Joint second in the whole of Europe, if we make it.
Thus you might think that even the most cynical hard bitten time-serving yes-man in the newspaper world might actually say, “this Arsenal is doing quite well.” Along the way under the current manager they’ve done a couple of Doubles, become the all time best club in the FA Cup and had the impossible Unbeaten Season.
But no, at least not in the Daily Telegraph. For in an article today, an article which is not even signed by a journalist, but is written by Telegraph Sport they still, even now, even after the failure of all their predictions of doom and disaster, after all their insistent knocking and put downs, and their desperate longing to become the house magazine of the football fundamentalists, they are still knocking, knocking, knocking. Presumably on the basis that if you get it wrong 150 times in a row, eventually you have to be right.
Indeed it has become so laughable that the columns they produce day after day week after week now have actually become must-read, they are so lunatically funny. Which I suppose is one way of getting an audience.
Thus it is that today they have an article with the heading “Alexis Sanchez is wilting away from home for Arsenal” and the sub-heading
The Chilean striker has scored just once away from the Emirates since November and needs a rest – and four other lessons from Arsenal’s 1-0 win at Burnley
It is a fairly quickly cobbled together job, as shown by the twerping errors, as with the opening sentence “Firs things first: nobody is denying Alexis Sanchez oozes quality and has been a key reason for Arsenal’s undeniable progress this season.”
I think the first word they are struggling for is, well, “First”.
Now I know that Untold is packed with typos, but this is a blog written, edited and published by a bunch of Arsenal fans who also have day jobs, and not all of whom have English as their first language, not a professional outlet that claims daily sales of its print edition of half a million.
So what do they say today?
There can also be no denying that Sanchez’s form has dipped dramatically since the turn of the year: having scored 18 goals before Jan 12, he has managed just two in 13 games since.
Now it takes most of us about 2.3 seconds to work out that
a) they are reading “form” as equal to “goals scored” which is just plain sillly and
b) one reason for that is that in the first half of the season rather a lot of our top players were missing – including Giroud – leaving Alexis to take on the mantle of goal scorer all by himself.
For example, if we go back to when we beat Burnley at home on 1 November 2014, there was no Giroud, no Bellerin, no Ozil, no Coquelin, no Koscielny, no Ramsey in the starting line up. So in the majority of positions we had a different team, including not having our star striker. So Alexis did it all.
Thus when the Telegraph says it is “striking that Sanchez has only scored one goal away from home since November – against struggling Queens Park Rangers in March,” what they actually should say is
“This player is amazing. When called upon to be the main goal scoring forward he does it. When he is called upon to be part of an utterly different team, he does it.”
But instead they focus on the negative, negative, negative: “His movement was slightly sluggish, his runs slightly predictable, and his shooting slightly soft.”
They then move onto the question, “Why is Theo Walcott not playing?” because, they say, he is a better right winger than Ramsey. Which is also dumb because Ramsey wasn’t playing right wing, he was playing further back, and Theo is not yet firing on all cylinders. It is coming and going – which is not surprising given the length of time he was out.
But no, the Telegraph wants to claim that it underlined the huge cloud of doubt that hangs over his Arsenal future, with no new contract in the offing. He will have plenty of time to contemplate his options if Arsene Wenger does not undergo a change of heart at the Emirates.
So Alexis is in decline, and Theo is mysteriously frozen out.
And that means it must be time for … “The Premier League can be quite boring”.
Now a debate on the PL vis a vis the top divisions in Spain, Italy, France and Germany might be interesting, but this appears to be beyond the intellectual capacity of “Telegraph Sport” who wrote the piece. So their reason for this bizarre and eccentric claim is …
Seven members of Arsenal’s starting XI cost more than the entire Burnley squad put together, and while nobody could accuse Sean Dyche’s side of lacking heart, the gulf in class was quite painful to behold. There was a moment early in the second half when a stat flashed up on Sky’s coverage pointing out that Arsenal had enjoyed 75% possession in that period – an astonishing figure in any match, but even more so for an away team.
Now given that Arsenal have no debts other than the mortgage of the stadium, given that they have built the stadium and paid for most of it (more than Man City, Man U, Chelsea, Liverpool, WHU, Tottenham etc etc have done in recent years), and yet have stayed in the Champions League each season, I’d say that is fair enough. No oil money, nothing from highly dubious states like Qatar. No gifting of a stadium as with Man C and WHU. Just Arsenal doing its stuff.
But yes, it was a shame that Burnley couldn’t sell all its tickets, but nice to see that Arsenal took the whole of one end. But there’s not much we can do if people from the north west don’t want to go and see PL football in sufficient numbers to fill every seat.
And are Arsenal really to blame for the fact that for one period of the game they had 75% possession? Presumably in the eyes of the Telegraph, yes.
After that, you can tell that the Telegraph writers were running out of ideas because we had the old “not a single Englishman in Arsene Wenger’s starting XI,” (and you can tell how much the Telegraph hates foreigners by the fact that they refuse to use any accents in people’s names. It’s Arsène Wenger you plonkers. With a grave accent.)
But then, just to prove that even the direst bit of political negativity has to have a good point, they find one, right at the end.
Even in games when you dominate possession and have the overwhelming share of the chances, you still need someone to do the dirty work. And in Francis Coquelin, Arsenal had that man. He made 11 interceptions – more than any of his team-mates – and was successful in every one of his tackles. After years of searching for the ‘next Gilberto’, Arsene Wenger finally seems to have found his man – although whether he is yet quite in the same class as Nemanja Matic at Chelsea is another issue.
Nemanja Matić (acute accent note, you Telegraph accent deniers) is 26 years old and has played 216 first class league games, plus 19 times for his country’s first team.
Francis Coquelin is 23 and has played 83 first class league games, and has played for his country at under 17 to under 21 level, but not yet for its first team.
What sort of dumbo, pathetic silly comparison is that supposed to be?
Indeed one can imagine that, if it covered Arsenal on 12 April 1930 the Telegraph was probably saying that Arsenal had come a poor 14th in the league and really ought to be doing a lot better. They probably didn’t note that Arsenal had won the FA Cup for the first time ever and had just beaten Sheffield United 8-1.
But hey-ho. That’s the British press for you.