Mr Neville continues, “My idea was that by the time you went to bed the night before that game you had played The game and imagined it in your head. You had played every pass and made every movement.” (An interesting capitalisation in “played The game” – not sure what it means unless The game is now a deity. Maybe.)
“Over these past three or four years I don’t believe Arsenal have prepared mentally for the biggest games.”
Again, a spot of honesty with “I don’t believe”. But in the end it is a piece of pure and total supposition. He’s not at the training camp, he doesn’t seem to have talked to any Arsenal players, he certainly never played for Arsenal. It’s pure supposition and attempted telepathy. Honest supposition but nothing more.
How different the world would be if we had a newspaper that engaged in evidence based football reporting. Not wild supposition, not mind reading, not interviews with players and managers who can’t be guaranteed to tell you the truth, but actual analysis of what happened.
Of course I know that people don’t like it, because the sort of things it comes up with is that Coquelin is one of the top defensive midfielders in Europe, that last season Ospina was one of the top goalkeepers (no one denies he has slipped a bit this season, but I can’t find a goalkeeper who never slipped – hell I can remember Pat Jennings being highly criticised by Arsenal fans after a poor match with multiple references to his Tiny Tott past.) Oh yes and that Ozil puts through more passes leading to goal scoring opportunities than any other player in the Premier League.
So by and large evidence is out, because it is awkward.
But Untold has, in a series of articles, tried to overcome this, and we summarised them in the Fear and Loathing in the Media article which aimed to work towards analysing some of the issues in articles such as
- Transfer failure flops
- The List of transfer failures
- Under half the clubs have fans who are satisfied with the transfer window
- Manchester United have wasted more money on transfers than any Premier League side since 2013
- Does the amount a team costs reflect its position in the league
In that series of articles I tried out the idea of analysing the league table by combining the table itself with the amount spent. In the table below I have gone further (and by the way if this table does read neatly on your computer press control and the minus sign (Ctrl -) and this part of the page will get smaller).
So here is the league table as per normal with three extra columns.
- Spend is the net amount (spend minus income from sales)
- After 5 is where the clubs were after five games were played – although a few had only played four games so it is approximate) and the number of points the team was away from the top after 5 games.
- From top reflects how far from the top club each team was in the last league table we analysed after 4/5 games.
|Team||Pl||W||D||L||F||A||GD||Pts||Spend||After 5||From top|
|3||State Aid United||7||4||1||2||15||9||6||13||£27m||10||9|
|15||West Bromwich Albion||7||2||2||3||6||9||-3||8||£21m||13||10|
So what might we conclude from that?
That although spending can help, it is by no means an obvious route even to getting in the top four. That is what all the earlier analyses confirmed – that things like managerial skill and incoming youth players help, and the fact that because a player played well at one club, that doesn’t mean he will play well at the next.
And that the position in the league after five games is only an approximate guide to where one might be in the league after seven games, and that rapid rises up the league are possible.
Now normally when I present ideas like this, those who don’t like anything that tries to take the analysis forwards come up with individual objections. This figure is not right so all your analysis is rubbish. You haven’t analysed everything… etc etc.
And of course there are objections to any analysis, but the point is that these approaches, even when approximate, start to tell us that the simplistic approaches which base future success on spend, and that suggest we can really base what is happening on just one result, or even five results, is meaningless.
But it gets worse than this.
There was a piece in the Telegraph by Charlie Eccleshare recently in which he reflected on Arsenal’s spending in the summer transfer window in which he said that each summer, “The weeks go by and it soon becomes all too apparent that the money will not be spent, or if it is, there will still be gaping holes in the squad that have not been addressed.”
Such a childish analysis is actually not even worth an analysis. In the past three seasons Arsenal have twice been the centre of the big transfer news – Alexis and Ozil. Does he really expect Arsenal to be the key movers in the transfer window every summer?
And of course such “analysis” (I use the word lightly) ignores the arrival of Ospina, (one of the top keepers in the world last season), Coquelin (one of the top defensive midfielders in the world this season) and Bellerin, whose performances must surely be taking him up the rankings very rapidly.
The increasingly bizarre article goes on that “Another key part of Arsenal’s pre-season is a youngster looking the part in the Emirates Cup and being seen as the solution to Arsenal’s problems. For a brief moment his spontaneous brilliance even makes Arsenal fans think maybe Wenger’s right in not signing anyone: think Emmanuel Frimpong, Carlos Vela, Fran Merida and Joel Campbell…”
Now I normally go to the Emirates Cup, and I tend to stay in touch with what other Arsenal fans think (what with running a blog that gets a million page views a month in the transfer window), and I don’t ever recall anyone thinking any of those players were the ready-made business. I thought three of those four were quite good, and hoped they might come good, but never did I invest in them the same thoughts that I reserved for Francis Coquelin, from the moment I first saw him play in Austria – and which are retained on this site (along of course with all my more nonsensical forecasts).
But maybe the journalist was talking to someone else. He continues…
“This summer we had Alex Iwobi and Jeff Reine-Adeleide lighting up the Emirates Cup, and all of a sudden things were going to be alright after all,” and by this time I was losing the will to live. The Emirates Cup is a celebration of possibilities, that is what it is there for. I don’t know anyone who thought either of those players was ready for the Premier League from the off.
But, those of us with a bit of a memory, recognise that Bellerin and Coquelin appeared in the team when needed and did well. Is there mention in the article of either player? No of course not, it is a sneering, sarcastic, dismissive, non-evidential piece of scribble.
I’m going to stop in a second, but let me give you one more – and remember this article appeared just two days ago.
Debate over whether Theo Walcott is a striker
“If you look at my statements I always said that one day he would play through the middle and it grew in his brain,” Wenger said of Walcott.
“On the wing you need a shorter technique against the line, once you play in the middle you can go on both sides. Theo has learned a lot. Now we will sometimes play him on the flanks sometimes through the middle. I like what I have seen through the middle.”
“The above are quotes from Wenger on the forward in December 2012. Three years on it’s fair to say not a great deal has changed.”
So here we have a player who has scored 12 goals in 13 starts, including one that was not only in the FA Cup Final, but utterly transformed the Cup Final, from a game in which we wondered if we were going to have all the possession but they would get a breakaway goal, to a game in which we demolished the opposition.
And this journalist says “Three years on it’s fair to say not a great deal has changed.” What planet is he on?
Of course Untold can’t do this kind of proper analysis on its own – hell, there are three of us on regular duty and our team of half a dozen contributors. I don’t even have time this morning to go back and find the league table after five games at the point in which every team had played five games (as I said, some had played four). So our work is far from perfect.
But I would say one thing. At least we are trying.
From the anniversary files
3 October 1989: Arsenal beat Plymouth 6-1 away in the League Cup in front of 17,360. Thomas (3), Smith, Groves and OG. Having beaten Plymouth 2-0 at Highbury Arsenal went on to beat Liverpool before losing to Oldham.
3 October 1999: The run of three victories through September is disrupted by an away defeat to WHU. Vieira confronted Ruddock and was subsequently charged, banned for six matches and fined a record £45,000 by the FA. He apologises in a very personal commentary about his family and his brother.