By Tony Attwood
For the predictors of doom, always circling on the first day of the season, it was a godsend. Not that I particularly mean the result, but the fact that increasingly people do judge everything by the last couple of hours. And of course by the fact that increasingly even when faced with contrary evidence some people will cling on to cherished past beliefs.
Losing to Liverpool at home on the opening day of the season, without our centre forward (but that wouldn’t matter anyway because apparently he isn’t any good), without our lead central defender and without Master Mesut in the middle, was widely predicted. What wasn’t predicted was that this utterly, totally, useless attack (remembering that “only” two players got into double figures last season) scored three.
Of course I’m sad we lost, I’m always sad when we lose, but I don’t go home and kick the cat or beat up the wife nor indeed do I get too depressed. Indeed on this occasion, by the time I got home, very, very, late I was more depressed by the state of the UK’s roads than anything else. Imagine the situation: we’ve lost on the opening day of the season, I pick up my car at Blacksheep’s house and head towards the M1 only to find that there is a one hour queue between junctions 12 and 13, and junction 13 to 14 is shut. True my resultant journey which involved leaving the motorway before the trouble started and meandering around Dunstable and Woburn was a pleasant deviation through the English green and pleasant, but even so…
As I drove I contemplated last season’s opening defeat, and the one two years before that to Villa and started to think about the pattern – which on checking this morning looks like this:
2015/16: Lost 0-2 to State Aid Utd
- Opening Results Sequence L W D W W L W W W W
- By Match day 10 we were top.
2014/15: Beat Crystal Palace 2-1
- Opening Results Sequence W D D D W D L D W W
- Never higher than second, by matchday 10 we were 4th.
2013/14: Lost 1-3 to Aston Villa
- Opening Results Sequence L W W W W W D W W W
- By matchday 4 we were top.
2012/13: Arsenal 0 Sunderland 0
- Opening Results Sequence D D W W D L W L W L
- By matchday four we were third, our highest position.
2011/12: Newcastle 0 Arsenal 0
- Opening Results Sequence D L L W L W L W W
- Byu matchday 10 we were 12th
2010/11: Liverpool 1 Arsenal 1
- Sequence: D W W W D L L W W W
- By matchday 16 we were top.
I am not sure why Arsenal have become poor starters, save perhaps because Mr Wenger insists on giving players a month off so they are never quite as ready as some of the players we play against who come back after a couple of weeks. Now that is the sort of thing (giving the players a longer rest) the Guardian would pick up on, as a negative, (at least based on their currently approved style of writing), but if it means that the players perform better over time, then it seems like a fairly good arrangement.
But poor starts have often been the Arsenal way. In the league winning 1997/8 season we opened with two wins and three draws in August. The year after that it was one win and three goalless draws to get us going. In 1999/2000 Mr Wenger started us off with two single goal victories a draw and a defeat.
Indeed, opening wins themselves can be misleading. In George Graham’s last season we started out with a superb 3-0 win over Manchester City at Highbury, before hitting a run of four games without scoring a goal.
This sort of thing goes all the way back through the club’s history. I am currently writing a history of Arsenal in the 1930s – should you be interested it is on the Arsenal History Society site – and am just coming to the end of the 1932/3 season. The opening two games that season were a win and a defeat both to mid-table clubs, and of course we went on to win the league – although not without a spell in February and March of just one win in eight. This stuff happens, vagaries are typical.
Clubs that win the league as often as not don’t just win the opening match and stay there month after month – although now it seems many people behave as if this is what should happen.
I’ve been arguing all summer that having goals coming from everywhere is a much better idea with the current style of play than having goals that primarily come from one main man, and I’ll stick with that.But clearly the loss of Mert, Gabriel and Kos for the opening game was always going to make life tough.
For next week I imagine we shall have our three missing players back. And just from my own very much non-expert view, Callum Chambers looks to me like a very promising centre back indeed. I remember my pal Ian and I having a debate about Koscielny during his first season of 2010/11, with Ian expressing the opinion that Koscielny was not up to the standard we needed. He was right – in that first season Kos was not continuously on the sort of form we have seen much of the time since. We just had to be patient for that year and let him learn his way into our style.
I guess this is rather similar to the wild rantings of Jamie Redknapp in the Daily Mail today who wrote “Why on earth did Arsene Wenger not rush Laurent Koscielny back?” and I can well imagine that such an understanding of the answer to this question is quite beyond Redknapp. But I suspect just as we saw the absolute benefit in Koscielny by allowing him to continue after a few disappointing displays in his first season, so we will see the benefit this season by having given him that extra week after the Euros to get his body back to full fitness.
- Arsenal – Liverpool 3 – 4
- Arsenal v Liverpool. Now even the Guardian is being utterly misleading in order to knock Arsenal.
- The cult of the manager: thoughts as the season begins.