By Tony Attwood
It is amusing to see the way the media twists and turns in its opinions, as if somehow we won’t remember what they said yesterday, let alone last week.
And dare I suggest that a small number of the scribblers are at least getting someone else to read Untold for them, if not directly reading it themselves. Just to see.
That certainly seems true when it comes to the “fact” that we are in an “injury crisis”. Some of them are still pumping that out, but the realisation that actually our injury list is not that much different from several other clubs slowed a few newspaper editors down.
Another issue they’ve picked up on is the insanity of the fuss about Arsenal should be doing better than they are. Indeed I’ve just been perusing a newspaper that announces that it took 20 years in the first division before we won the league. One might almost thing the writer had glanced at the Arsenal History Society site.
(Incidentally if you are interested we’ve recently published a more fulsome review of 1969/70 and the winning of the Fairs Cup, with a look back at the 18 year gap between the last victory in the League before the Double of 1971. It’s the first part in a new series on Arsenal in the 70s – has someone in the media actually read it already?)
In fact as the last article on Untold showed there were a handful of journalists around who were tipping Arsenal at the start of the season. Since then we have had the demise of Chelsea. Now they are generally agreeing that Man United are playing a cautious methodical game, without any flamboyance. Not what their fans are used to.
In short there is a feeling that Man U are still in a transitional phase, not a league-winning phase. The new players need more experience but will be a challenge in the future – that’s the growing view. And Chelsea are a busted flush
Man City do on the other hand have lots of top players of high quality, but when we had two reviews (the whoscored numbers – see below – and the more personal Telegraph review), one gave Arsenal seven players in the top 20 and the other five while no other club got more than two.
Besides this season Man C have been beaten by West Ham and Tottenham. OK we got beaten by WHU on the opening day, and that was not good, but opening days after often different from the rest of the season, and the City games, it is said, showed a sort of “flakiness”.
Man City only have four injuries to our eight at the moment, but that can change in a weekend, or indeed in an international break. And they will probably be making a success of the Champions League in coming months, while we might well either be out of it or in the Europa, and hopefully playing the youngsters, they certainly could pick up one or two more injuries.
We normally do well in the second half of the season once the Champs League is out of the way, which is why some of us have not joined in the frenzy that usually surrounds a defeat in the round of 16. Not worrying about Europe, or even only sending half a team to the Europa games, could be just what we need.
Then there are the referees – not a subject that the press will touch of course, which leaves the field open for us. We were slaughtered by the ref in the Chelsea game, not by Chelsea; hence the 100,000 signatures. But since then…
Last season I suggested we were getting slightly less nasty treatment from the refs – my chums on Untold begged to differ. And I am not a ref, so I defer to them, but there is still something that is suggesting to me the path is getting a bit fairer.
Of course the contact injuries we are getting does not suggest this is so, but I still think there is a slight decline in some of the more lunatic decisions being made. Have they finally realised that we are watching – and publishing?
Plus – and this is the bit the press are only just getting, we are doing what we are doing, in the midst of a huge “injury crisis” to use the media’s favourite phrase. Tomas Rosicky, Danny Welbeck, Jack Wilshere, David Ospina, Aaron Ramsey, Mikel Arteta, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Héctor Bellerín and Laurent Koscielny. And we are still equal top with City.
All we need is for our list to go down a bit, and for Man City’s to rise from their modest four (not that I am asking for anyone to be hurt, I’m talking more abstractly than that) and some interesting developments might occur.
What it also means is that as our regulars get tired, we will have returnees coming back in all fresh and enthusiastic.
And if not, if the injuries continue, we might buy in January, being able to say to whatever player comes in – look, you are sure to play with this injury list. Your chance to show what you can do and secure your place.
Next, I am going to defer to the Telegraph who have actually picked up a point I have completely missed. “Patrick Vieira and Dennis Bergkamp were at the same stages of their Highbury careers as Alexis Sánchez and Mesut Özil,” when the magic started happening. “Sánchez is in his second season with the club – like Vieira was 18 years ago; Özil, like Bergkamp, is in his third.”
As the paper says, “Sánchez and Özil are world-class talents who now know the English game. This is their year to pull the team with them.” Indeed both have also won the league in Spain – although of course that is a two, or at best three team affair.
Mathieu Débuchy and Olivier Giroud have won Ligue 1 in France. Arteta won the Scottish Premier League with Rangers and Özil and Per Mertesacker have won the World Cup, Petr Cech’s has won the Premier League four times. That’s experience under pressure.
But there is still more, because although Sánchez has been a dream signing from the start, Özil has taken longer but is still only 27. We are still short of seeing where Ramsey can take his incredible talent too, and even though lots of people don’t like to see it, Giroud actually is a number 9 of talent, Bellerín is one of the best full backs around, Monreal has developed in a way we didn’t expect, and that long term Untold favourite Francis Coquelin has proved that even I can occasionally spot the talent a youngster might have. As for Santi Caz… well…
But here is one more thing. Consider our best ever players in certain positions and think how the current team compares. Is Cech better than David Seaman? Is it totally sacrilegious to compare Tony Adams with Koscielny? Have we ever had a player like either of Alexis Sánchez and Mesut Özil?
Maybe, but here’s my point:
This, once again, is the Whoscored top 20.
|1||Riyad Mahrez Leicester,||9(1)||779||7||5||8.29|
|2||Jamie Vardy Leicester,||11||982||11||1||7.87|
|3||Santi Cazorla Arsenal,||11||979||–||3||7.80|
|4||Mesut Özil Arsenal,||10||848||1||9||7.79|
|5||Dimitri Payet West Ham||11||988||5||3||7.72|
|6||Alexis Sánchez Arsenal,||10(1)||867||6||–||7.72|
|7||Kevin De Bruyne Manchester City,||6(1)||560||3||4||7.68|
|8||Virgil van Dijk Southampton,||7||630||2||–||7.66|
|9||Laurent Koscielny Arsenal||9||810||2||–||7.65|
|10||Nicolás Otamendi Manchester City||6||540||1||–||7.62|
|11||Anthony Martial Manchester Utd||6(1)||565||3||1||7.55|
|12||Ross Barkley Everton,||11||990||3||3||7.55|
|13||Nacho Monreal Arsenal,||11||990||–||2||7.54|
|14||Yaya Touré Manchester City||10||799||2||4||7.53|
|15||Christian Eriksen Tottenham||7(1)||632||2||3||7.52|
|16||Francis Coquelin Arsenal,||10||790||–||–||7.49|
|17||Jordan Amavi Aston Villa,||8(1)||746||–||2||7.48|
|18||Mousa Dembélé Tottenham,||7(1)||524||2||–||7.48|
|19||Héctor Bellerín Arsenal,||10||900||–||1||7.46|
|20||Fernandinho Manchester City||11||969||2||1||7.46|
We know that no other team has that many top players in one squad. But at any time other than in the Unbeaten Season, did we really ever have more players of that sort of quality?
- How to Become a Football Scout: the first in an exclusive series for Untold by the man who discovered Joel Campbell
- 6 November 1980: Lionel Smith died (this is also quoted as 8 November in some sources). After leaving Arsenal he moved to Watford,and then became player-manager at Gravesend & Northfleet where he won the 1957-58 Southern League title. He retired from football in 1960.
- 6 November 1991: Arsenal lost to Benfica in extra time. It proved to be the club’s last appearance in the European Cup until 1998.