By Tony Attwood
If you are going to have a rough ride in football it can often be better to get it over with in one game. That was the lesson learned in the first double season of 1970/1 in which Arsenal, complete from Wilson in goal and a team of stars up to Radford and Kennedy up front, lost 5-0 to Stoke. Arsenal had flattered to deceive said the press after that game. (Apart from the Express with an overwhelming burst of originality which said, “Gunned Down”).
The alternative way to have a cock up is to screw up in a whole series of games as happened in the second double season. Undefeated til the 12th game, we then not only managed to win just one in the next six, in five of those six we didn’t score a goal. And that was the team of Wright, Overmars and Bergkamp with a young Anelka popping up from time to time.
In the third double season we managed to combine both. A 2-4 home defeat to Charlton in a run of winning just four in 12.
So it happens, and normally the reaction is to take the last result, claim it is a crisis and call for a new manager. Trouble is, for those who have done this so often before, that they have done it so often before no one listens any more.
The reality is that it is the consistency across time that wins things, not the individual blips – be they one of disasters or a string of bad results.
Certainly seeing the opening games of the season, if I’d been offered second at this moment, just two points off the leaders I’d have taken it. Mind you if I’d been told who the leaders were I would have had a laugh, realised it was a dream, and then experimented with what else I could create in my night time world.
So considering to now, if I’d been offered second at this moment, having been 5th after six games and 4th after 14 I’d have gone with that. The gentle meandering of our league position since we managed to score nil in our first two home games has been in the right direction, and that’s good, because it is rare for a team to go to the top at the start and stay there.
I suppose I am also cheered by the fact that even at my advanced age I can remember all this stuff – or at least remember it better than Paul Wilson in the Guardian today who writes…
Not much of this was being said when Arsenal began the season with a home draw against Liverpool …
I mean, I make cock-ups like that regularly, but I’m not paid a decent salary for doing it. Still he does redeem himself a little by adding later, “Arsène Wenger’s side look as though they might be up for it. Their squad is stronger than that of the current leaders and while Manchester City can match it, Manuel Pellegrini’s side have proved less resilient to absences and still capable of ordinary displays. Arsenal are rarely ordinary.”
And really that is my point. We are not grinding out results in dull games. We are playing without Santi Caz, without Coquelin and without Alexis. As I have said many times, I think we have decent backups, but there is also no doubt that one of those three could have changed the course of the game last night.
But that’s how it goes, and the players who have stood in for Santi, Frankie and Alexis are the players who have taken us to two points from the top. They don’t deserve criticism for one game.
I think I would be far more concerned if we had spent £153m like Man C last summer, or £108m like Man U or even £66m like Chelsea. We know that if the right player comes along to make the squad even stronger Mr Wenger will buy him – as he bought Alexis and Ozil. If all the money had been spent before that would have put us in the same position as those clubs of having spent, spent, spent, and now wondering how on earth to keep the dressing room happy and positive.
So the Mail can run the headline “Arsenal blew the chance to go top of the Premier League on Boxing Day” but it lacks a broader perspective and at this time of year that is exactly what you need.
My old chum Sir Hardly Anyone tells me that Arsenal are going to sign just one player this January. Trouble is all the bloggettas and newspapers he follows tell him that we have already signed him, and its a different player in each case.
But at least we have the option of doing so, without facing a managerial crisis (Man U), a constant morality crisis vis a vis the owner’s home state (Man C), a league position crisis (Chelsea), a “how-the-fuck-are-we-going-to-pay-for-the-stadium” crisis (Tottenham), a vertigo crisis (Leicester and Crystal Palace), a pumped up inflated self-opinion crisis (Liverpool!), a “please-buy-us” crisis (Everton), a “please-dont-spill-the secrets-of-the-stadium-deal” crisis (West Ham), or a crisis resulting from history (Stoke).
But I am sure the aaa can make them up for us.
Topsy turvy Christmases from the olden times
27 December 1902: Arsenal started their record breaking 10 match unbeaten run with a 5-1 home defeat of Burnley. Coleman (3), Briercliffe and Anderson scored in a match which ended a run of three consecutive defeats in which the club scored 2 and conceded 8.
27 December 1904, Nottingham Forest 0 Woolwich Arsenal 3. This was one of five games played in eight days, of which the club won two. In the next three games Arsenal scored nil but conceded nine.