- Fifa appeal to Swiss courts against Court of Arbitration in Sport ruling
- 6 years late, media finally starts to admit there is a refereeing problem in the PL.
by Admir Pajic
Back in 2002, Arsenal were arguably the best team in England, if not Europe. We won the league & FA Cup double, we ended the league campaign with 13 league wins on a spin, scored in every single league game in the season, stayed undefeated on the road while beating both Liverpool and Man United in the process.
For those who don’t recall, we beat Liverpool 2-1 at Anfield despite playing with 10 men following tragi-comical Van Bronckhorst’s second yellow card. We also beat Man United 1-0 at Old Trafford despite playing without both Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp.
In September 2002, Mr Wenger said: “I think we can go a whole season unbeaten.” Some people laughed at that idea, just like every time when a man with a vision come up with a bold statement.
Mr Wenger didn’t pull that very statement out if his bottom – he had every reason to believe we could eventually go through whole season without a defeat. He was speaking right after our league campaign during which we stayed undefeated away from home. It’s more difficult to play away than at home, with a 2020-21 season as a sole exception because there were no spectators allowed which meant referees weren’t under usual pressure from the stands to give calls for the home teams.
Mr Wenger just put two and two together: “If we can go through the whole season unbeaten on the road, we can do it at home as well!” He even didn’t say: “We will most certainly do it! …I’m positive we will do it.” No. He said: “I think we can go a whole season unbeaten.“ He just stated a possibility and his statements was based on his experience and facts. He didn’t say he had seen it in the crystal ball. He just made a statement.
As we all know, we didn’t stay unbeaten in 2002-03 – we even didn’t win the league – but his statement turned out to be a correct prediction shoved down the throats of all Wenger-haters in 2003-04.
Fast forward to 18th March 2022, six months shy of Mr Wenger’s statement’s 20th birthday.
Only a year ago, when it looked like there are two different universes in Premier League – the first one with Man City and Liverpool pushing each other over 90 points and 90 goals scored and the second one with everyone else – Mr Arteta said Arsenal had to find the way in summer 2022 to “drastically increase their goal output if they are to become title contenders“.
As Nick Ames of Guardian commented that Arteta’s point “essentially stands“ and that Arsenal “will probably have to find another 30 goals”. At that point of the season, Liverpool had 75 goals scored while Arsenal were on 43. Liverpool were second with 69 points in 29 games, Arsenal were fourth with 51 in 27 (although, with two games in hand). Manchester City weren’t far ahead of Liverpool even if pundits want you to believe they are having a mare of a season – they were top of the league with 70 points in 29 games.
Approximately a year after that comment, Arsenal were top of the league with Liverpool sitting 27 points behind Arsenal (although, with two games in hand). Arsenal have scored 66 goals in 28 games which means we have been scoring 2.36 goals per game which over 38 games means…90 goals.
So, Arsenal have been scoring roughly 0.76 goals per league game more comparing to where we were in March 2022 or 21 goals more (0.76 x 28). We didn’t just buy goals – Jesus, Zinchenko, Jorginho, Saliba and Trossard haven’t scored 21 goals between themselves – but rather managed to produce more goals within the squad. That’s why we have had 14 different goalscorers so far, three of them with double digits and our (in my opinion) best striker isn’t even among them!
Also, let’s not forget all the mocking Ben White attracted after completing his £50m transfer from Brighton to Arsenal in the summer 2021. Those who had read Mr Arteta’s words carefully – interestingly, some of his best visions came after our defeats to Liverpool – knew he was a big admirer of defenders who can play long passes forward. In September 2020, after a defeat to Liverpool at Anfield, Mr Arteta described Liverpool pressing game with these words: “When you get past the Liverpool press, you then hit Van Dijk. He then hits a 60-yard pass to Mo Salah, and they are out of the press. That is quality.”
Now, we enjoy a great season from Bukayo Saka who has dethroned Salah as the best right winger in the league while White is arguably the best RB in the league. Not just that, it’s the relationship between two that has been terrorizing opponents’ defences since Day One and our victory at Selhurst Park. White goes forward, opponents know Saka has so many options – picking overlapping White, using White’s shadow run to make a run of his own, releasing a left-footed shot while White draws left back’s attention to himself – so they can’t decide what to do and when they do, it’s usually a wrong choice.
Which is exactly what used to happen to Liverpool opponents – there were too many options for Jürgen Klopp’s team that their opponents couldn’t possibly cover all of them. You break the press and there is Van Dijk who then sends Mo Salah through on your goal with a 60-yard pass.
It’s easy to forget that there was a long way to where we sit now. We haven’t picked a single point against Man City in the league since a draw in 2016-17. We had lost nine out of last twelve league games v Liverpool since the opening day of 2016-17 before beating them in the league this season. It takes time, it takes vision, it takes going through tough times, being mocked by the ignorant before everything finally starts to pay off.
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