In the first part of Football Winners and Losers for 2015 I nominated
- Man U – Loser
- Jose Mourinho – Loser
- The Anti-Arsenal-Arsenal – Loser
- Arsene Wenger – Winner
- The Premier League – Winner
So here’s some more.
6. Mesut Özil – WINNER
He was a winner at Real Mad, but now he is up there with the very, very best of them. He reached a record-high 20 assists in the Premier League in 2015, provided the assist that took us to the top of the league, surpassed Thierry Henry in terms of assists in a calendar year, with our Terry Enry getting a mere 19 back in 2003.
He’s the eighth Arsenal player to win the assist chart for a calender year, the others being Bergkamp, Fabregas and Pires (who have each won it multiple times).
He is now certain of his place in the eternal records of Arsenal, and has given us that wonderful opportunity to have a very good laugh at the “nicking a living” turnip, Neil Ashton of the Daily Mail, not to mention David “the jury is still out” Moyes.
To be fair Ashton did actually tweet a couple of days ago… “Those moments when you wish you had taken a deep breath before typing. Thank you for all the retweets this year.” But even so.
7. Fifa – WINNER
You might expect Fifa to have been a big time loser this year, but far from it. Yes ok some of the more outrageous characters have been rounded up and carted off, but Jack Warner is still living the high life and cocking a snook, Qatar still has its world cup, and Russia got away with not handing over its emails.
Worse, not one single solitary member country has resigned from the organisation, and there is a growing sense that Fifa will just sail through, the countries will bid again for more insane world cups, and everyone will pretend that things are all right because Blatter has gone.
Quite honestly, once they get behind their closed doors, the only thing that stops the executives who are left are from crying with hysterical laughter, is that their tears might drip onto the dollar bills.
This was the opportunity to do away with all of it – and that opportunity is slipping away.
8. Bolton, Blackburn, Leeds, Charlton, Fulham, QPR – LOSERS ALL
Clubs that have one way or another really screwed up not just this year but over time. In 2005, Bolton finished sixth in the league, and got into the Uefa Cup. They are now bottom of the Championship and can’t pay their players. It took 10 years.
In 2010 the Venkys bought Blackburn, promised to win the league and made the famous “how hard can it be?” comment. They are 16th in the Championship having been in the Premier League until 2012.
Leeds were at one time one of the top teams in the country and the rivalry between Leeds and Arsenal was singularly intense. Charlton finished 7th in the Premier League in 2004 and the fans pushed for a change of manager, seeking one who could “take us to the next level”… At the moment they are 23rd in the Championship which is a relegation slot.
Fulham were a regular mid-table club in the Premier League until 2013, while QPR thought they could buy success with Arry Redknapp and endless money, and are now 15th in the Championship.
It just shows, if you are looking to change owners, as with managers – be careful what you wish for.
9. The Transfer Window and Deadline Day – LOSERS
There seemed to be no end to the hype surrounding transfers. If you didn’t buy you got nothing. By not buying an outfield player this summer (despite all the transfers of the last two seasons including Ozil and Alexis) Wenger was clearly a disaster. You could measure him on that alone.
As far as I know only one little organisation took up the challenge: Untold. We focussed on evidence based football analysis, and showed that only 25% of big money transfers work in year one, so as a way of solving an immediate problem, that is a very risky business.
We pushed the utterly obvious fact (which no one had previously seemed to notice) that players can’t just be told to leave nor other clubs told to sell. And particularly a top DM isn’t going to come to Arsenal to be backup to Coquelin.
We stressed the phenomenal success we have with players brought through the ranks – either from our youth set up, or bought in early: Coquelin, Bellerin, Ramsey, Gibbs, Wilshere, Walcott, Campbell.
And we started to publish our league table with extra columns showing the amount that each team had spent on transfers – which showed once and for all how little relationship there is between spend and position.
Then along came Sir Hardly Anyone making fun of those tiny blogs (renamed “bloggettas” for no reason other than the fact that we thought it funny) that told us that Arsenal had already signed everyone, only for it to become apparent that they were quoting a disreputable English newspaper that was quoting a tiny Spanish news agency that was quoting a disreputable English… well, you get the idea.
We thought we were just poking fun at a lunatic belief system, but in fact in turns out we were doing a bit more.
For now we find headlines like Winter warnings: 20 summer buys that should give clubs the chills in January window from the Telegraph, and slowly, very very very very very slowly, there is a shift.
I am not saying that as yet everyone recognises that transfers are actually just a small part in the whole evolution of a team, but there has been a slight change in direction. We’ll keep up the pressure, and see if we can make things move along a bit more.
10. Untold Arsenal – WINNERS
Untold began on 15 January 2008 with the post Arsenal witness the end of football I think it might have got a few dozen readers at the time – mostly my mates and the odd robot.
Just under eight years on we have these figures for 2015
Page views (ie the number of times people have looked at an article on this site in the past year):
Users (ie the number of different people who have come to the site in 2015).
But there is more than that. In my note above I suggested we may have had a bit of an impact on the way people see transfers. That doesn’t mean that Sky and BT etc won’t be full of the transfer window – but rather we have just changed the emphasis a little.
I’ve also noted that I think Walter and his colleagues have had some influence on the way people think about refereeing in the Premier League.
Of course I can’t call a witness into the box and have him say, “Yes guv it was the Untold what made me change my mind” but either one can believe in endless coincidences or say that our campaigning approach maybe has made a bit of a difference.
It first occurred to me that we could make a difference when I saw the Daily Telegraph run an article on why England does so badly in internationals, which used the figures and analysis that I had sat down one Saturday and patiently worked out on my computer. I know for certain those figures did not exist anywhere else, because I searched for them before writing my piece. But there is was, the Telegraph reversing the conventional wisdom that to win the World Cup we need more English players in the Premier League, and instead saying “actually it is all to do with the number of coaches.”
It is an interesting example because the FA constantly proclaim the need for stronger “Home Grown” rules while ignoring the fact that analysis shows this is an irrelevant factor – and it does it to hide the fact that unlike virtually every other country it uses its courses for coaches as a money making venture, rather than as a way of improving the England team.
The same has occurred with the media’s approach to refereeing. The phrase “it all evens out in the end” is used far less now, people are aware of PGMO, and all that it stands for.
There have even been some attempts at direct rebuttals of positions taken up by Untold, and virtually no one else. Our constant view that Barcelona were guilty of serious offences in the child trafficking scandal may not have led the Independent to publish a press release from the President of the club as an investigative interview.
So it goes on.
Apart from the campaigns I have mentioned and our constant vision that Wenger is a totally brilliant manager, we’ve looked at
- Having more refs and a more evenly balanced regional selection
- More transparency concerning the accuracy of referee decisions
- Exposing sloppy journalism that tells us what we are thinking or might think at some time in the future (rather than actually going out and doing some real research)
- The ignoring of key issues by TV companies and instead only showing issues that fit their own agenda and support the retention of their licence to show football.
- Exposing the gross incompetence of FA, the way it wasted money given to it for grassroots football (eventually leading to its grant being withdrawn), its massive redundancies following the throwing of endless money at Fifa, etc etc. etc.
- Financial corruption in football and the use of football clubs for money laundering.
- The way in which clubs manipulate the transfer market with phantom transfers, vapour transfers and the like – which the bloggettas and mainstream media seem to be quite ignorant about.
- The fact that injuries at Arsenal were not to do with Arsene Wenger. Indeed I think our work on this not only discredited Raymond Verheijen’s assertions but also influenced the thinking of some poor saps who might have employed him.
I could keep writing this all day, but I’ve already bored you enough.
So to wrap this up…
Particular thanks to Walter for his tireless support, his numerous articles on refereeing, and his constant covering for me when I vanish, to Blacksheep for his all his ideas, most especially his notion that we should have a banner in the stadium – a banner that is now on permanent display in the ground, to Andrew for his work on the refereeing analysis, youth teams and women’s team, to every other contributor throughout the year, and of course to all the people at Arsenal who have supported what we do and our ideas.
If you were reading in 2015, very many thanks.
PS: There will be more on the transfer of Mohamed Elneny shortly – he hasn’t yet signed as he doesn’t have a work permit.
New on the home page of Untold Arsenal: Insult of the day.
From the anniversary files. More of today’s anniversaries on the home page
- 1 January 1995: News of the World ran the headline “After 98 games, two years, four months, two weeks, two days, one hour and 19 minutes Jensen scores!”
- 1 January 2001 Charlton Athletic beat Arsenal for first time in 44 years. On 3 February 2001 Bergkamp scored to give Arsenal their first away win since November. Within a year there was early talk of Arsenal going through a whole season unbeaten away from home.