By Tony Attwood
In answer to that question, obviously none of us knows. None of us knows anything of the future. But we can make a few guesses based on what happens at the moment and what has happened in the past.
If we take the “big six” as they have become known in the media we can see certain factors
|Last trophy||Year of last trophy||Last manager change||This season?||Last title||Mang since last title|
|Arsenal||FA Cup||2015||1996||FA Cup||2004||1|
|Man U||Lge Cup||2017||2016||Cup Double||2013||3|
|Man C||Lge Cup||2016||2016||FA Cup||2014||2|
|Tottenham||Lge Cup||2008||2014||FA Cup||1961||19|
I think several factors emerge from this. First, the most common thing for the “big six” teams to win is the league cup, which I suspect for those who comment on Arsenal a lot, is “not a trophy” given that the FA Cup no longer counts as a trophy for Arsenal.
Second, if we take the more natural vision of what a trophy is, it is clear that five of the six are still in with the chance of a trophy, given that five of them are still in the FA Cup. But despite this, there is a huge media inspired outcry for a new manager at Arsenal which is curious.
And then looking at managerial changes it is quite clear that changing a manager is not an obvious way of winning the league. Which makes the outcry even more curious.
In 2016, Chelsea, Man U and Man C all changed managers. Inevitably only one of them is going to win the league and the others will be fighting it out for a top four finish – although given that “top four” is not a trophy, and indeed now just tedious, perhaps they won’t bother.
What I am really getting at is that changing managers is not necessarily a way of win the league – or come to that, anything. In fact if we consider last summer’s changeover both Manchester City and Liverpool! were noted as being teams who had captured exactly the sort of manager that Arsenal needed to revitalise the club, and yet neither is likely to win the league this season.
Now the objection to this is that one season is hardly enough, we might need several seasons to turn things around – but as long as we are either winning the league or challenging up to the last few weeks of the season, that is ok. Except, as we showed in a previous article, that is a statistical nonsense, given that there are six teams challenging and that most seasons there is no “down to the wire” (whatever the wire is) end of season challenge.
So if the great Pep and the great Klopp can’t come in and challenge for the league title who can?
That is the problem. Changing the manager isn’t a great guarantee of anything much. In the three years since Man U said farewell to Ferguson, they have come 7th, 4th and 5th, and one the FA Cup once. In those same three years Arsenal have come 4th, 3rd and 2nd and won the Cup twice. In essence Arsenal have done better than Man U each season by sticking with the same manager and yet the cry is still out there – change the manager!
Which raises the question, why does changing the manager not guarantee winning the league, or come to that even give decent chance of winning the league?
There are two broad answers. The first is obvious – the Premier League, unlike leagues such as Spain, Germany and France, is a competitive league in which several clubs do stand a chance of winning the league and the clubs lower down the league don’t just roll over and die when faced by them. Instead of having just two teams that might win the league (or in Germany’s case, most of the time, just one team) and another bunch who despite challenging for a Europa League place are closer to relegation in points total than winning the league, we have a league where there is real competition. Including six clubs that can consider themselves serious challengers for the title at the start of the season.
Second, because there is no magic formula. We live in a most curious society in which daily, people who have never managed a team in their lives even at the most junior levels, pontificate on what managers should do, and how the managers have made the most basic errors which even a two year old dog would have been able to see at a five mile distance. And even more extraordinarily, lots of other people think this is true.
Two years ago I wrote a piece about getting into club management, and how at any time there are hundreds of jobs as managers available, in the lower levels of football. I suggested that those people who really think they know how to manage might take up one such job part-time and let us know what happens.
Of course they didn’t. Managing anything, from a corner shop to a company that trades across the country, from personal finances to the economy of the country, from an amateur team in the 9th tier of football to a club in the Premier League, is complex and without any guarantee of success. Even with unimaginable sums of money at one’s disposal. And on that I can say a little about such matters since I have run companies in advertising, publishing, music and the building trade throughout most of my working life. I can tell you, if it were easy, everyone would do it successfully and we’d all be multi-millionaires.
Indeed this is why Chelsea and Man City, clubs with seemingly unlimited wealth, still don’t win the league as often as Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Barcelona do. It isn’t that easy.
So what will happen next?
Mr Wenger will of course leave – although also, of course, I don’t know when. But his successor will face many of the same problems that Mr Wenger has had. Problems such as
A media that is more anti-Arsenal than it is anti-any-other-club. As we have seen, they are anti-Arsenal because it gets an audience, and that audience brings in the advertisers. In essence, the anti-Arsenal Arsenal supporters are the click bait for the media.
The media that is its own AAA – the Arrogant, Amnesiac and Assumption driven. That is not going to change, and all the criticism that brings will remain. Remember the way the media hounded Mr Wenger when he first arrived at Arsenal? It is not going to be any easier for the next guy.
The competition from the other five teams in the top six, three of whom have a far greater financial pull than Arsenal will still be there.
And above all the referees will still be there. Of course there are many people who don’t believe our referee analyses – although I still have not seen anyone do alternative analyses to those of Walter and co which could show where our figures are so wrong, in any sort of depth. The odd point is contested, but mostly we are just told it all evens out.
But even if that is the case, even if there were to be nothing wrong in terms of ref bias, the reality is that the level of accuracy of refereeing is dreadfully low, and the organisation behind the refereeing remains utterly secretive for reasons that have never become clear (assuming that is, that one dismisses the notion that they are corrupt. And we have to do that because we have no evidence of corruption – only of ineptitude). With that lurking in the background, there is no guarantee whatsoever that quality will win the day.
Sadly, when Mr Wenger goes, all those problems will still remain, and just changing the manager won’t make them go away.
Arsenal History Books on Kindle
The novel “Making the Arsenal” by Tony Attwood which describes the events of 1910, which created the modern Arsenal FC, is now available for the first time on Kindle. Full details are here.
Also available on Kindle, “Woolwich Arsenal: the club that changed football” the only comprehensive history of the rise of Arsenal as a league club, and the attempts to destroy the club, from within and without. For full details please see here.
The latest from the Arsenal History Society
We are currently 90% of the way through the most detailed review of Arsenal in the 1930s (the era that made Arsenal into one of the greatest teams) ever written. The latest articles are
- Arsenal in the summer: 1938. The Nazi salute; the world record signing.
- Arsenal players in the 1937/38 title winning side, and comparisons with earlier seasons
- April/May 1938: from no titles to five in one decade – and the most amazing title of them all.
The Arsenal History Society publishes numerous series of articles exploring different aspects of Arsenal’s history. You can find an index to all the series to date on the Society’s web site