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Arsenal and the broken phone. Welcome to the 12th round of 125 years of fighting.

By Tony Attwood

This is not the first time Arsenal has suffered from relentless attacks from the mass media, and the “broken phone” metaphor seems to be utterly apt for the regular fights that have beset Arsenal over the years.  In fact it seems to happen every ten years or so, which in a way is what makes the whole thing so much like a disconnected conversation.

In case you aren’t fully familiar with them, here are the 12 major battles.

1: 1892 – The gentlemen vs the workers

Having turned Royal Arsenal into a professional club, a huge split occurred between two factions within the club.  The whole event is described in detail in “Woolwich Arsenal: the club that changed football” and in essence consisted of some of the more middle class members of the club claiming that they, and they alone, had the ability to run the club once it was in the League.   They were supported by the owner of the club’s ground, who, to force through the takeover, proposed a doubling of the annual rent.

When the dominant faction in the club refused and voted the toffs off the committee, the landlord waited for the club to spend all its money on developing a new ground for the first League season, and then tried to buy ground and evict the club – leaving the club homeless and the committee members who had guaranteed the payment of the work, on the edge of bankruptcy.

When that coup failed they set up their own team – Royal Ordnance Factories playing in the Southern League at a ground across the road from Woolwich Arsenal.

2: 1913 – Tottenham on the rampage

Tottenham had opposed Chelsea’s election to the Southern League in 1905, and in 1913 vigorously opposed Arsenal’s move to Highbury.   Unfortunately for them the Football League had already ruled in 1910 that it had no control over where a club played, rather undermining Tottenham’s protests.

But Tottenham were determined to stop Arsenal coming to north London, and so along with Clapton Orient appealed directly to the rest of the league for support, demanded an EGM of the League very actively encouraged the development of the Highbury Defence Committee and a protest group within Islington Council.

There were predictions of a decline in house prices, moral outrages of the worst kind, hooliganism, drunkenness… but the religious college that owned the land wanted a tenant, and the local shopkeepers loved the idea of a football ground nearby.   Henry Norris managed the situation to perfection, and Arsenal got their move.   After the move both clubs blossomed in the local rivalry; Tottenham it turns out were trying to stop an upturn in interest in the area that benefited both clubs.

3: 1919 – Twisting history to manipulate the present

Arsenal applied for election to the first division upon its expansion in 1919.  This time it wasn’t the Tottenham club that objected (although having finished bottom of the League they wanted themselves included in the newly enlarged division rather than being relegated), as relationships between Arsenal and Tottenham had warmed, not least by Arsenal allowing Tottenham to play at Highbury during the war.  But much later some Tottenham supporters, aided of course by the media, did suggest that the election had been fixed.  That case was utterly undermined by… a complete lack of evidence.

4: 1933 – Chapman and the boo boys

Chapman created an Arsenal team that won the league with a record number of points in 1931, and thereafter anything Arsenal did was not good enough.  Hence the arrival of what Chapman called the boo-boys – the 1930s equivalent of today’s aaa.   The media did not join in immediately, but from January 1933 onwards (the time Arsenal lost to Walsall in the FA Cup) nothing Arsenal did was as good as the 1931 team – and they were jeered by a section of their own crowd.

5: 1936 – The luckiest club with the luckiest manager

By 1937 Arsenal had won the league or cup every season but one for seven years running – and the year they didn’t win either they were runners up in both.  But there still had to be criticism – and it poured down on manager George Allison, who, because he had taken over Chapman’s team after his death, was endlessly called “the luckiest manager in the country”.  Arsenal became “Lucky Arsenal” at every ground at every away match and in the newspapers every week.

6: 1950 – I saw your player and he was drunk

In 1953 the crowd turned on Jimmy Logie – a fine Arsenal player who played almost 300 games for the club, with people ceaselessly writing letters to the local papers claiming that they had seen him out drunk, the night before matches.  The scale of the attack on Jimmy – who was actually teetotal – was enormous and deeply upsetting for the player.  Eventually Arsenal for once stopped ignoring the press and turned on them, printing a strong rebuttal in the programme, and demanding that the press allow them to refute the accusations.   It was a powerful move and one that worked.

7: 1953-69: The sad remnant of a once great club

From 1953 onward the media didn’t have to do much to suggest Arsenal were in trouble, because they were in trouble, not only failing to win anything, but most of the time not coming close.  They were quite simply ignored most of the time, but when not, dismissed as irrelevant.

8: 1972: The Dirtiest team in decline

Arsenal winning the Fairs Cup and then the League and Cup Double was more than most of the papers could take.  Quickly they rounded on the team and labelled them as the dirtiest side.  When the Evening Standard published the article “The Thugs Route to Europe” an Arsenal fan responded writing to the paper and sending a copy to Arsenal, who printed it in their programme.  It is worth a read.

But how the media relished Arsenal’s decline from the double of 1971 they never predicted.  Finishes of 16th and 17th gave them such pleasure and they relished every moment.

9: 1980s – Nothing like they used to be

Part of the media’s ability is to change its story, and so through the 1980s they pretended that they had lauded Arsenal’s achievements of the early 1970s, and that now Arsenal were a team in permanent decline.  When eventually the club started its worst run ever in the League on 27 January 1977 with a defeat to Bristol City, they lapped it up.  11 games without a win including seven successive defeats for a team including Armstrong, Macdonald, Stapleton and Brady.

10: 1990s – Boring boring Arsenal

George Graham was almost the first manager to give Arsenal an unbeaten season in 1991; there was just one defeat.  The best the press could offer was that Arsenal were lucky and had nearly been beaten on 13 occasions.  13 was the number of draws that season – “far too many for a club that wants to be taken seriously as champions” was the consensus of the media’s coverage.

11: Wenger – Welcome to the criminal

Mr Wenger’s arrival was not only welcomed by Tony Adams’ comment “what does he know about English football?” but by a media campaign which accused the manager of the most heinous crimes while in Japan.   Mr Wenger outsmarted the media but to their eternal discredit the Manchester United shop continued to sell a CD of Man U songs which included one “celebrating” the alleged events for at least 10 years.

12: 21st century – fourth is not a trophy.

And so to the present.   From 2006 to 2013 – eight years – Arsenal did not win a trophy.  The media, sensing their chance set up the “fourth is not” monotony.  Considering that Arsenal had gone 16 years without anything in the 50s and 60s it seemed a bit over the top, but then Arsenal won the FA Cup, so immediately the call changed to one relating to the number of years since Arsenal had won the league.  It was ever thus.

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.

22 comments to Arsenal and the broken phone. Welcome to the 12th round of 125 years of fighting.

  • Hunter13

    no no no this cant be…

    im told by elders and proper fans that arsenal was big boss of world football (not only english) before that comical frenchman came and ruined it all

    one champion title between 53 and 89? the 71?

    it cant be..youve got it wrong…surely arsenal is bigger than one title in 3 decades 🙂

    where are the champions leagues ? liverpool got 5…why dont we have any? 🙂

  • John L

    Sorry, Hunter.

    The “elders and proper fans” have misled you.

  • Gord

    OT: Corruption News

    FIFA has banned Ghanaian referee Joseph Lamptey for life, for match fixing.

    http://www.marca.com/en/football/international-football/2017/03/20/58cfed1922601dd54e8b4611.html

    There is no mention of PGMO or 😈 Mike Riley in the article, so it is not known if Lamptey learned any of his tricks from them.

  • gouresh

    Rumour has it that AW will stay at the club. Goes that mean he is going to crack the wip? Or does that mean he it too powerful to be sacked?

  • Mandy Dodd

    Who knows at this stage Gouresh, but unless we finish strongly, the narrative will be that he is in place at the behest and unconditional support of an owner who knows and cares nothing about the game, not to mention a pretty weak looking board. I think Wenger deserves better, I hope he considers things very carefully.
    It may also be a sign that the club….and manager will never give into the more vocal in the fanbase.
    Personally, I only want Wenger signing on in sporting merit, not due to the owner., that is demeaning to such a man. If he signs, I hope he works to conspicuously turn things around, and freshen up a few staff and ways of playing if he is to succeed. Failure to do so will lead to further deterioration in the match day atmosphere, the narrative being him rather than the team and I fear, an effect on his health.
    Time for Wenger to maybe change a few things he has been reluctant to change in the past, and I wish him well, for so many reasons.

  • Nigel

    Mandy,

    Sums it up well as far as I’m concerned but you usually are on the same wave length as me.

    Tony,

    A nice historical article which shows up a lot of so called supporters over many years. Some things never change!

  • Samuel Akinsola Adebosin

    From the look of things, Le Prof will still be the Arsenal manager next season. For, the Arsenal hierarchies are not willing to succumb to the pressure being mounted on them by the Wenger Out brigade to end Le Prof’s career at Arsenal who has been the club most successful manager in terms of winning titles, qualifying for the Ucl for a record 20th time running just 1 run behind Real Madrid 21 run.

    But for Le Prof to justify his continuity as Arsenal manager beyond this coming summer when his current deal at the club will expire, he has to first and foremost make sure Arsenal get a forth place table finish at the end of this season and strengthened his case by winning the FA Cup again to guaranteed Arsenal Europa spot next season should in case Arsenal failed to make the top 4th place finish in the table.

    In my own thinking if Arsenal failed to make the top 4th table finish and did not win the FA Cup, it wiil be hard convincing how he can justify his continuity as Arsenal manager beyond this season before the Wenger Out brigade who are hell bent to oust him. And even the Arsenal hierarchies hand will become weak to retain him beyond this season.

    If at the long run Le Prof succeeded in achieving these 2 achievements of a 4th place table finish which is looking to be threatened by other top 4 clubs who are seriously contending to make the top four table finish this season, and won the FA Cup, I see no reason why the Arsenal board won’t give him another chance to continue as Arsenal manager beyond his current deal at the club.

    But there must be conditions attach to the offer of a new deal for Le Prof by the Arsenal board. Firstly, he should stop been complacent and taking winning the PL and Ucl titles for granted by doing away with the deadwoods, low grade players whose developments at Arsenal looks to have saturated thus making them not the PL & Ucl winning materials. And he has to replace the aging players now at Arsenal who have looked good before but are never PL and Ucl winning players. He should not be sigh to sell a top right back at Arsenal whose right wing back assault play for Arsenal has been effective. How many goals has he scored or gave assists for this season? He’s just running through the right wing channel and sometimes cut in field but no ciga. What is that? And yet he’s hailed as a top right wing back for Arsenal. This is the kind of players that have been killing Arsenal PL & Ucl titles winning campaign overtime. He’s not the only one whose games for Arsenal are not PL & Ucl winning game quality that Arsenal can depend on next season but replace them with adequate top quality players who are likely to be PL & Ucl titles winning players.

    Le Prof should look at his loanees with a view to recall into his first team next season to replace the deadwoods and the under performers at Arsenal. Chambers who is loaned to Middlesborough is a good CB. So too are Holding and Mustafi. They should all be retained. And of course, while Le Prof signs a top class striker next season, he should keep Ozil & Sanchez because they are top quality players rare to get. But apart of Xhaka and Coquelin at the current Arsenal midfield, the rest are not PL & Ucl winning midfielders imho. Le Prof must upgrade his DM & deep lying players next season with top quality additions from the transfer market or promote from his PL II team or keep any of his loanees who has the potential PL & Ucl winning quality to his first team next season. What I’ve been saying is, he has to build the Arsenal first team rightly next season before we can win the PL or Ucl titles next season and that he hasn’t done in the past 5 seasons.

  • Samuel Akinsola Adebosin

    From the look of things, Le Prof will still be the Arsenal manager next season. For, the Arsenal hierarchies are not willing to succumb to the pressure being mounted on them by the Wenger Out brigade to end Le Prof’s career at Arsenal who has been the club most successful manager in terms of winning titles, qualifying for the Ucl for a record 20th time running just 1 run behind Real Madrid 21 run.

    But for Le Prof to justify his continuity as Arsenal manager beyond this coming summer when his current deal at the club will expire, he has to first and foremost make sure Arsenal get a forth place table finish at the end of this season and strengthened his case by winning the FA Cup again to guaranteed Arsenal Europa spot next season should in case Arsenal failed to make the top 4th place finish in the table.

    In my own thinking if Arsenal failed to make the top 4th table finish and did not win the FA Cup, it wiil be hard convincing how he can justify his continuity as Arsenal manager beyond this season before the Wenger Out brigade who are hell bent to oust him. And even the Arsenal hierarchies hand will become weak to retain him beyond this season.

    If at the long run Le Prof succeeded in achieving these 2 achievements of a 4th place table finish which is looking to be threatened by other top 4 clubs who are seriously contending to make the top four table finish this season, and won the FA Cup, I see no reason why the Arsenal board won’t give him another chance to continue as Arsenal manager beyond his current deal at the club.

    But there must be conditions attach to the offer of a new deal for Le Prof by the Arsenal board. Firstly, he should stop been complacent and taking winning the PL and Ucl titles for granted by doing away with the deadwoods, low grade players whose developments at Arsenal looks to have saturated thus making them not the PL & Ucl winning materials. And he has to replace the aging players now at Arsenal who have looked good before but are never PL and Ucl winning players. He should not be sigh to sell a top right back at Arsenal whose right wing back assault play for Arsenal has not been effective. How many goals has he scored or gave assists for this season? He’s just running through the right wing channel and sometimes cut in field but no ciga. What is that? And yet he’s hailed as a top right wing back for Arsenal. This is the kind of players that have been killing Arsenal PL & Ucl titles winning campaign overtime. He’s not the only one whose games for Arsenal are not PL & Ucl winning game quality that Arsenal can depend on next season but replace them with adequate top quality players who are likely to be PL & Ucl titles winning players.

    Le Prof should look at his loanees with a view to recall into his first team next season to replace the deadwoods and the under performers at Arsenal. Chambers who is loaned to Middlesborough is a good CB. So too are Holding and Mustafi. They should all be retained. And of course, while Le Prof signs a top class striker next season, he should keep Ozil & Sanchez because they are top quality players rare to get. But apart of Xhaka and Coquelin at the current Arsenal midfield, the rest are not PL & Ucl winning midfielders imho. Le Prof must upgrade his DM & deep lying players next season with top quality additions from the transfer market or promote from his PL II team or keep any of his loanees who has the potential PL & Ucl winning quality to his first team next season. What I’ve been saying is, he has to build the Arsenal first team rightly next season before we can win the PL or Ucl titles next season and that he hasn’t done in the past 5 seasons.

    Sorry Mr Tony. I have to insert the single word ‘not’ in the 16th line of the 5th paragraph of my comment posting which I mistakenly omitted. Hence my double posting of my same comment which you are against.

  • gouresh

    When you corner a cat, it generally stricks back. Will this be a turning point for AW? Will he turn for the better? If the rumour is true, that AW is staying, the board better be sure of what they are doing, because AW will have to turn this mess around very quickly because if he doesn’t, the atmosphere will disentigrate very very quickly and what ever is left of AW, will be in tatters. The board will not shoot themselves in the foot. But in their head.

  • Pat

    Calm down everybody. One thing is sure – if Arsene Wenger has decided to extend his contract, it will only be because he has confidence he can achieve more at Arsenal. Given his past record, we surely can believe that of him.

  • Matthew

    “George Graham was almost the first manager to give Arsenal an unbeaten season in 1991; there was just one defeat. The best the press could offer was that Arsenal were lucky and had nearly been beaten on 13 occasions. 13 was the number of draws that season – “far too many for a club that wants to be taken seriously as champions” was the consensus of the media’s coverage.”

    Thankfully no Arsenal fan would ever be as hypocritical to accuse another team of winning the league in a “boring” fashion.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    @ Gord – 20/03/2017 at 7:39 pm – Apparently referees are not so well thought of universally , other than in some crooked leagues ! Wink , wink !

    And aren’t we so lucky that the Arsenal fans are not so demonstrative or aggressive ?
    Maybe to show their displeasure they would rather display it with a modicum of class with messages from planes ? And banners .

    http://www.soccernews.com/ugly-scenes-in-croatia-as-hooded-hooligan-chases-ref-with-a-metal-bar-video/224615/

  • Brickfields Gunners

    And wouldn’t it be great if all those millions who are unhappy with the present status quo ,band together ,organise themselves and collect funds and buy out Silent Stan . He could always reinvest his money stateside in a brick factory or two.There is a killing to be made in building THAT wall !

    And kick out the manager, the useless players ,the coaching,the medical and scouting staff . And all those working in the stadium during match days. Tony would for one be overjoyed to be able to get his cuppa of cappuccino .But do spare Nicky’s gran -she’s an icon!

    And as the majority shareholders they could justly and unitedly claim it to be ‘their’ Arsenal , and spend their fucking money on all and WC players their collective hearts desire .And Arsenal will finally embrace financial doping (pun intended !), and be able to the wealth of the other clubs .

    I’m very sure that many are quaking in their boots at the thought of this impending eventuality ! Such a simple but brilliant and foolproof (sorry ,force of habit!)plan -wonder why someone had not thought of it earlier ?

    Be warned AKBs – the end is nigh !

  • Brickfields Gunners

    And being the helpful sort , here is a fine tip – there are some very nervous billionaires that may be persuaded to sell out and buy into a ‘sure thing’.

    http://www.marketwatch.com/story/price-of-bitcoin-plummets-over-threat-that-virtual-currency-will-split-2017-03-19

  • Leon

    Other reports suggest he’s leaving it until the international break to decide & that PSG have made an offer

  • Mandy Dodd

    Wouldn’t rule anything in or out Leon, all strangely quiet from the club….leaked press articles can be true or they can be smokescreens .

  • Pat

    Don’t think the club is being strangely quiet – Arsenal never announces anything until it is absolutely definite. Their hand has never been forced by what is going round in the media, which is a blessing, because some owners sack their managers at the first sign of trouble.

    On the other hand, Arsene Wenger’s amazing run of success, and the fact we now know that he over-fulfilled the task he was given when the stadium was being paid off, have never obliged them to take such action.

    So we can only wait and see what they do now. If Arsene Wenger believes he has more to give our club, I hope the owner will allow him that opportunity.

  • Knobby

    On the radio last night a respected journo who apparently has connections within the club suggested a two year deal has been signed, but due to the recent run of results Arsenal have decided to put off the announcement which explains the silence and Arsenes comments after the WB game.
    This also has to be hushed up because it needs to be announced on the US share market LTD company rules etc.
    He also went on to say that Ozil won’t sign his £270k a week contract and is off along with Sanchez which explains the mystery flu bug that was rife yet only he had and the hamstring injury even though he is playing for Germany on Wednesday.
    Arsene will be given a substantial amount of money to get the club on the right course because he feels he cannot leave the club like this

  • Goonermikey

    “Respected” and “journo”, should never be used in the same sentence I’m afraid Knobby.

  • Knobby

    Goonermikey… Sorry couldn’t think of his name..
    It’s Matt Scott who writes for Inside World Football
    What he said made a fair bit of sense that’s all

  • Knobby

    Here is his site a lot articles are similar to discussions on this untold.

    http://www.insideworldfootball.com/category/columnists/matt-scott/

  • Goonermikey

    Apologies Knobby. I realised after I posted that I had broken my own rule of over generalising. I should have used the word “rarely”.

    Thanks for the link

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