- The problems with football in Europe: how they have now come back to England
- The start of last season and the end of this season: the lessons
By Tony Attwood
Last season Manchester City won the league title by one point. I think it is fair to say that at the start of this season a lot of people in the media looked toward Liverpool to challenge again and perhaps even overcome Manchester City. What they were not expecting in any way was an assault on the top position by Arsenal.
Thus it was a great relief for the journalists when Arsenal failed to maintain that challenge over the final weeks. The media could ignore the fact that they universally predicted Arsenal to finish fifth or sixth, and Liverpool to challenge Manchester City at the top. Instead they have since been writing about Manchester City probably breaking the 90 barrier once again, while utterly failing to recognise their incompetence at not recognising what Arteta was doing at Arsenal.
But their predictive failure was much greater than just getting the second placed team wrong. Liverpool got 92 points last season and this season, the season when the pundits all expected Liverpool to run Manchester City close again, they will end up with between 66 and 69 points – a drop of 23 points at best. That’s a huge decline.
Chelsea last season ended up with 74 points. This season it will be between 43 and 49 points. A drop of at least 25 points.
Tottenham Hotspur who were cheered by the media into fourth place with 71 points will end up with 57 or 60 points. A drop of at least 11 points.
Thus as Manchester City have maintained their position not just at the top of the league but also in terms of points, the rest of the top four from last season have sunk down. Not just a bit, but a long, long way. Only Arsenal, fifth last season on 69 points have risen up and will end on 81 or 84. 81 will be the best since 2007/8. 84 will be the best since the unbeaten season of 2003/4 when the club got 90. (You might be interested in our piece on how Arteta became Arsenal’s most successful manager ever, at this point)
So while the media are still focused totally on Manchester City, we might move on to think just how much turnover there has been in the Premier League this season, as the scale of last season’s media predictive nonsense becomes clear with errors of between 11 and 25 points in each and every case. (In case you are interested, Untold predicted Arsenal to come third).
Given this one wonders how any of these people has managed to retain his or her job, but almost certainly they will be there in July and August, once more failing to apologise for their ludicrous cock-up in last season’s predictions, while making further predictions that will more than likely look just as stupid at the end of next season.
Indeed the big mistake virtually every single football journalist made last summer was a dead simple one – thinking that one year would be like the next. And they make such mistakes because they will insist in thinking in terms of imagery rather than finances, trends and tactics.
Arsenal have not just rebuilt their team but also redesigned their entire approach to playing. I won’t bore you with yet another run through the way the club moved from being the most carded team to one of the least carded teams under Arteta, but consider also the goal scoring.
The three lowest-scoring Arsenal teams this century are to be found in the past three seasons. But this season has been the third-highest Arsenal scoring team since the 1960s, an era when defences played as individuals not as a unit.
Of course, Arsenal is not scoring at the level of Manchester City, and there is no doubt that if Arsenal did reach that level Manchester C would simply go out and buy several more forwards at prices no other club could imagine, knowing that their legal team will be keeping the League tied up in knots for years to come.
And as the Athletic points out “The suspicion — asserted by UEFA, denied by the club, partially rejected by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, raised again by the Premier League, denied once more by the club — is that their empire has been built in defiance of the financial regulations. But their rivals can’t do anything about that.”
(Although to be clear the case against Manchester City in the CAS failed because Manchester City refused to hand over documents in a timely manner, and by the time Uefa got hold of them and presented its case, the time-limit on presenting historic cases had passed. A clever ploy by Manchester City, and Uefa fell straight into it).
So what will happen to all these clubs that collapsed in 2022/3? We await the media’s predictions with interest.
- What every football club (and most certainly Arsenal) is aiming for.
- The apparent decline of Tottenham and the question of care for players elsewhere
- Positive injury news for Arsenal ahead Monday’s game with Sheffield United
- Arsenal’s finances stay secure but we can expect more price rises for fans
- How a 14th monk described Arsenal’s failure to buy Moisés Caicedo and Mykhailo Mudryk