By Tony Attwood
The desire of some supporters seems to be to have Arsenal getting results akin to those achieved by Manchester United in the 21 seasons between 1993 and 2013. During that period they won the league 13 times, they came second five times and came third three times. It came after a period of 25 years without a league title – a period which included a spell in the second division.
Or perhaps to be like Liverpool. They won the league 11 times between 1973 and 1990 with seven second placements and a 5th. But they’ve had no titles in the last 26 seasons.
These are the two runs in the modern game in England when one team utterly dominated. The period when our correspondent who wanted Arsenal to win the league each season or at least be challenging until the last few weeks, came about, would have been happy – had he supported the right club.
It is the sort of thing that you see all the time in Germany where Bayern regularly win the title, in Spain where either Barcelona or Real Mad win the title most seasons, or indeed at the moment in Scotland. Indeed if you are not familiar with the Scottish league you might care to look at the table today….
Here you will see that not only have Celtic won 26 out of 27 games, but also that Rangers in third are closer to being bottom of the league than they are to being top of the league. You might also be interested in the crowds that attend matches in Scotland these days.
Now you may have noticed that the English Premier League is a little different from this, for we don’t have a team like the Man U or Liverpool of the past, nor the Arsenal of the 1930s nor indeed a Celtic, Bayern or the Barcelona / Real Mad duopoly in the Premier League. We have half a dozen teams who can cause each other difficulty and have title winning aspirations as well as the occasional upstart club that sneaks in and gets the title before quickly fading away again.
When Arsenal won the league in 1971 under Bertie Mee, Arsenal were the most successful club in the history of the English football, having won the title eight times. Since then the runs of Liverpool and Man U have overtaken us.
So the question is can we have such dominance again by one team such that they are in the top two year after year?
At the moment that seems difficult to imagine for two reasons. One is that there are not just one or two potential winners but half a dozen (a factor that is necessarily for an unexpected winner to emerge as with Leicester last season) and there are teams whose wealth is so overwhelming that they can not only spend anything they need to get the title one year, but they can then do it again next year.
Plus as I mentioned before, while some clubs spend their own money and run up huge debts in building a modern stadium, others are able to take the money from the owners (or in two cases in England be given the stadium by the state) without any Financial Fair Play penalty, and use all their income on transfer fees.
Obviously, like any Arsenal supporter I want another period like 1998 to 2004 or going back before that like 1931 to 1938 (when we won the league five times) but as we have seen it is a struggle to get that. Where I differ from some supporters is that I don’t think there is a simple way to achieve this in an era where there are a number of teams expecting to win the league, and where several of them have access to far greater sums of money than Arsenal have.
And indeed in a scenario where even the richest clubs in the league can’t always turn that into points.
Which leads to the question, what is it that stops the super rich clubs like Man C, Chelsea and Man U walking away with the title every season? How is it with all that money and expertise and recent history of winning the league, could they not become the 1-2-3 of English football year after year?
It is noticeable that only twice this century have the three super-rich clubs come 1-2-3. Of course it can be argued that the massive sums of money they now have were not in place at the start of the century, but we should then also note the last time it happened was 2013, and last season the three super-rich clubs didn’t get any of the top three places.
So that fact gives us hope, but it also gives us a problem. If money (and with it every transfer you want, plus any managerial appointment you want) doesn’t bring a guaranteed top three finish (and remember that third is not a trophy, any more than fourth is) what does?
I certainly think some help from outside can do the business – whether that be luck or some rather dubious refereeing decisions. And on that note, let us also remember that although people regularly write to Untold and announce on radio and TV that blaming the referee is an excuse, it is interesting that no one other than Untold has ever done even one season of detailed analysis of the refereeing of matches – let alone the six seasons we have done. Indeed I don’t think anyone has even done one month of detailed analysis to compare with what we do.
And yet they could – especially for the first 16 or so games of this season where we have presented all the evidence of all the incidents in video form, to prove the accuracy levels and bias we claim for referees. It is all on the Untold website. You just need to go back and do the analysis again yourself. We’ve done the hard work in gathering all the evidence.
But let me finish in a different time zone. The question of referees brings me to the question, has it always been like this? Has there always been dodgy refereeing going on?
In case you never saw it, Walter once did a historic referee review – choosing the notorious game that ended the 49 run unbeaten. It is still on the History of Arsenal web site in case you want to see…
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.
Both books are also available as paperbacks. Please see here.