And so it is with a certain Mr Phil McNulty who is described as Chief Football Writer, BBC Sport who announced that the Manchester City victory “was the sort of victory that had Arsenal fans believing they can end a title drought that stretches back to 2004.”
So question one is the usual question: how does he know? Did he ask me? No. Did he ask you? Well, only you know. But I suspect not. I suspect here is yet another gentleman (probably number 10,000 this year that we have discovered) who seriously believes he knows what you and I are thinking.
I rather suspect that this is not what the aaa are thinking. I suspect (but would never dare get close enough to one of them to ask) that they are thinking, “Please God don’t let Wenger win the title. I’ve had my “enough is enough” t-shirt cleaned, and I really want to wear it again.” But that is just what I suspect. I can’t read minds.
But anyway, the man from the BBC continues, “Arsenal have endured years of pain since ‘The Invincibles’ claimed the Premier League title after 38 unbeaten games.”
Really? Among my friends (and only a little group I know but still) we feel we have endured years of mindless gibbering from the media while the club was paying for the most glorious stadium in English football, have utterly amazingly not only avoided the relegation that has faced almost every other club to build a new stadium, but got into the knock outs of the Champions League for longer than any club except Real Mad (who are financed in all likelihood either by the Madrid government or the tax man turning a blind eye over the land deal), and have won the FA Cup more times than anyone else and stand poised on the edge of an unbelievable third successive win.
The BBC then publish their season of two halves table…
A season of two halves?
|Season||Pos after 17 games||Pts after 17 games||Final position|
So the man who can misread minds from the BBC pronounced that Arsenal “have nine more points than they did at this stage last season” which I think we can see for ourselves. I’ve put in red the three times we have had 36 or more.
But this is a misleading analysis. One might also ask, where were Arsenal at this stage in the three seasons that we won the league with Mr Wenger. Here is the answer – carefully not given by the BBC analysis.
|Season||Pos after 17 games||Pts after 17 games||Final position|
So on this analysis in terms of points we are two wins ahead of the double seasons of 1997/8 and 2001/2 and one win behind the Unbeaten Season.
The evidence is indeed that we are in good shape. But even so their chief football whatnot cannot quite get away from his obsession with knowing what people think – and more than this – what they will think in the future. Indeed this is an amazing skill; something that is normally reserved for gypsy women in odd little tents who speak curious English and demand lots of money for telling you things that are so generalised they could happen to anyone.
And yet here, via the BBC, is his prediction not just of the future, but of what people will be thinking in the future.
“this is Arsenal’s best opportunity in recent memory – and one they would never forgive themselves for squandering.”
So there you are. If Arsenal don’t win the league this season THE PLAYERS WILL NEVER FORGIVE THEMSELVES. Got that.
Right, I’m glad you have now learned how to think in the future. Let’s move on for the BBC go on to produce a head to head table – the type of table the media has normally been full of, because it has in some seasons in the past reflected badly on Arsenal. Now the issue is somewhat different.
Head-to-head record this season
Of course things could well change if the merry-go-round of managerial changes that seems to hypnotise some reporters mean that Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho change clubs and take up new posts in England.
The old Gypsy Rose Lee of the BBC also says, “The pieces of Wenger’s jigsaw look to be coming together but they must now fight off what has often been their fiercest enemy – themselves. Too often Arsenal have been the team that cannot be trusted when the pressure is on. Can they change that habit of a recent lifetime?”
Or is it that amazing habit of staying in the top four since the 1990s, even when operating on a budget running at about 1% of Man City or Chelsea?
Anyway, the great Fortune Teller now asks, “What must Wenger do in January?” and he says, (and I find this almost beyond belief)
Wenger was heavily criticised – with some justification – for his failure to spend on a high-class holding midfielder in the summer, as well as on a world-class striker.
Now in a week in which we have had the hilarious “the jury is still out on Ozil” we have the criticism of not replacing Coquelin and Giroud. And this is where we may think the BBC’s own Gypsy has finally lost it. And what is this “justification” of which he speaks?
Apparently in the mysterious world of the Chief Football Writer of BBC sport, “justification” now equals “suspicion”.
Goals have not been a problem, but the suspicion remains his Arsenal squad needed more strengthening and the wisdom of Wenger’s refusal to buy an outfield player will only be fully measured at the end of the season.
Oh. Oh. Hang on. In my dictionary a justification is the action of showing something to be right or reasonable. A suspicion is a feeling or thought that something is possible. This is doubleungoodspeak of the highest order.
And besides what is the justification now a suspicion based on? Not surprisingly, since the piece has descended by this stage into the arena of ramblings and meanderings, he doesn’t say. But instead gives us Arsenal’s January purchases.
January sales: Arsenal’s post-Christmas buys
|2015: Krystian Bielik from L. Warsaw £2.4m, Gabriel from Villarreal, £13.5m||2012: Thomas Eisfeld from Dortmund £420,000|
|2014: None||2011: Ryo Miyaichi from Chukyodai, Wellington Silva from Fluminense £3.5m|
|2013: Nacho Monreal from Malaga £8.5m||2010: Sol Campbell (free agent)|
Well, fine. I’ll have another Monreal any time.
Do we need a replacement for Giroud? Certainly not on his form this season 10 in 17 games in the league. Thierry Henry got a goal to match ratio in his fourth season of 0.65. Giroud is on 0.59. Not the same, but not to be sniffed at. As for Coquelin, we’ve deal so many times with the problem of bringing in another defensive midfielder in the summer as a possible backup for Coquelin. Anyone even vaguely of Coquelin’s ability would know he would not get a game unless Coquelin was injured – and top players don’t come to clubs if they are not going to get games. Look at Debuchy – he is seemingly asking to leave, because he can’t get in the team.
But we have Flamini. And even when the player who plays alongside Coquelin is injured we discover we have Ramsey, who loves to play there, and we have Campbell out wide when we lose Alexis.
I am quite frankly surprised that the Chief Football Writer, BBC Sport doesn’t grasp the fact that just because a club is looking for a better player to be a reserve players of the required caliber are not queuing up.
I doubt that there was on the market a player better than Flamini who would have come to Arsenal as a back up to Coquelin in the summer. The only way you can get these backups is by nurturing them from youth – which is what we did with Campbell. And look what we have got. A stunningly brilliant player ready to slot in.
Anyway, just in case the man from the BBC got anything else wrong, or was holding the league table upside down, here it is.
|8||West Ham United||17||6||7||4||25||21||4||25|
23 December 1976: Alan Ball sold to Southampton for £60,000, having played 177 league games and scored 45 goals. In all he played 833 games, including spells in the US, Canada, Hong Kong, and Australia.
23 December 1978. Tottenham H 0 Arsenal 5. The Brady goal from this game has regularly been used as part of the pre-match entertainment at the Emirates. John Motson’s commentary has also become famous as he said, “Look at that, oh look at that. What a goal by Brady!” Sunderland got a hattrick, Stapleton the other. The result left Arsenal in 4th and Tottenham in 11th place.