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How Arsenal made it big this season

Six months ago the Red Action news group was not the happiest place in the world.  Thierry Henry had gone – and not just gone he had gone for a knock down price in the first week of the transfer window. 

We had just had two years of coming fourth and not a comfortable fourth at that.   The new transfers hadn’t yet come along – but the talk seemed all wrong.   A right back and a centre forward neither of whom we world class names.   OK we knew about Eduardo because we’d seen him play for Croatia – but did we really need to spend some of the Henry cash (paltry though it was) on a right back.  Didn’t we have some of those? 

Meanwhile the opposition were not only looking ready for the next year, they were also being talked up in the press.   Manchester United had made two major signings in the first week of the transfer window.  It was undoubtedly “Sir” Alex Ferguson poking a stick in the eye of his American owners, saying, “you can’t make me give them back” – but still they looked quite nifty buys to go alongside the undoubtedly powerful Rooney/Ronaldo axis. 

Chelsea didn’t seem to be at their best through the summer (a sign of things to come) but there was still plenty of time for them to buy another 35 players at £30 million each, in order to find out which ones might work out.  And Ballack looked as if he could come good, not to mention Shevchenko. 

Liverpool got a lot of the hype, as always, and there was much talk about pushing forward, this being their year, and so forth.   Even the Tiny Totts from down the Lane were being talked about as the natural top 4 team – the team that would take over from Arsenal, who were due (according to every single pundit on TV and on the radio and in the press save one) to be about to decline into mid-table nothingness. 

As one writer on the Red Action news group put it, “If we were offered 4th place for 2007/8 I’d grab it with both hands”. So why did so many people, including devoted Arsenal fans, get it so wrong? 

I think the main point is that the press were knocking themselves over the fact that Arsenal did not buy many players.  But that was not right – because every year Arsenal buy young players who never make the headlines.   Like 15-year-old Gillingham forward Luke Freeman.  Or Gilles Sunu (actually I don’t know if we did get him – there was an issue about him not coming until he was 15).  Or Carlos Vela.  Or Fran Merida. It goes on and on – and this is the point. 

The press are slowly catching up on the conveyor belt that is Arsenal’s youth policy – but they have not yet caught up with the notion that as a result you don’t have to buy and buy.   The money, of course, has been spent on world-wide scouting – and now we see the results. 

Charlie Nicholas got it right on Sky – he was the only one to predict that Arsenal would come good this year.  But then he is close to the club, and knows about the production line.

On the web site: www.emiratesstadium.info – every newspaper made fools of themselves over who would be Newcastle manager, but none managed it quite as well as the Sun.  They’ve got a special mention in the Stupidity Files. 

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