By Tony Attwood
In January 2012 Louis Saha joined Tottenham and stated, “I’m joining the most dynamic and exciting team in the country.”
At that moment Tottenham were third in the league just five points behind leaders Manchester City and a massive 13 points ahead of Arsenal, languishing in sixth.
Unfortunately for Saha, with him in the team things for Tottenham turned into the shape of the proverbial pear, for in the remainder of the season Arsenal picked up 34 points to take them into third place. Tottenham however only got 20 points more and slipped down to fourth, and into the Europa where they were knocked out in the group stages. In that period Arsenal scored 35 goals while Tottenham scored 22 goals.
Things got even worse in the following season as Arsenal maintained their record-breaking run of 15 consecutive seasons in the Champions League for an English team. Only Real Madrid have ever achieved a longer run.
So you can see why Saha might be a bit annoyed with Arsenal. Maybe even a bit bitter. Although surely by now that might have passed. I mean it was 11 years ago. But perhaps it was the fact that he only played 10 games for Tottenham before being shipped off to the mighty Sunderland (11 games), and then six games for a troubled Lazio before calling it a day.
Maybe Saha is forgetful, or maybe he just doesn’t look properly at the figures – for I recall that back in 2015 the Telegraph ran the story “Louis Saha: ‘A British bank lost me a six-figure sum. I’m suing'”. I’ve not been able to find the result of that legal case, unfortunately. If you know perhaps you could write in so we can complete this resume.
Anyway these days Saha pops up from time to time giving his opinion on the future, and since the Mirror are never fussy who they talk to, it seems they talk to Saha.
His view is that in relation to 2023/4, “Everybody will probably say Arsenal [will be in the top four] because of what they did last season. But even if they make some good signings this summer, I’ll still be surprised if they finish ahead of Man City, Liverpool, Man United and Chelsea next season.”
Now as we know, Chelsea finished 40 points below Arsenal this past season (yes 40). So I wondered if a club has ever jumped up 40 points from one season to the next, or indeed from 12th in the PL (as Chelsea finished last season) to fourth.
Well yes, it has happened, for in 2015/16 Chelsea ended up 10th in the Premier League with 50 points, and the following season came top with 93 points – a rise of 43 points. But as far as I can see that is the only time a leap like that has been made among the big clubs.
However a little bit of historical context will help here I think by looking at Chelsea’s erratic form at the time, as their management teams played leapfrog with each other.
Let’s compare that with the Chelsea of the last couple of years.
The Chelsea of last season was quite a bit worse than the Chelsea of 2015/16 and of course a lot worse than 2021/22. Will Chelsea manage to rise from the morass of last season into the top four? Everything is possible, but let’s look at the two clubs’ records for last season.
So what we are looking for is a 41 point reduction between the two clubs and a reduction in the goal difference between the two from its current 50 goals down to a Chelsea advantage.
Now while it is possible that one of those two will happen, the question is are both likely to happen at once? And we must remember that to get that fourth spot that would mean that all the clubs between Chelsea and third place would also kindly slip out of the way. This means that Newcastle, Liverpool, Brighton, Aston Villa, Tottenham Hots, Brentford, Fulham and Crystal Palace will allow Chelsea to pass them by.
I can certainly see that for some of them, but all of them? I doubt it.
The point is, this sort of mindless speculation without any reference to reality is allowed by journalists and their editors in order to fill the articles without any reference to the big stories of the moment. One might as well say, “I suspect Chelsea will sign a centre forward who can fly and who will thus collect the ball between his feet and take off over the opposition and deposit the ball in the net. That won’t be against the rules of the game and so the League will have to allow it.”
But there is a bigger point. That article is of course mindless twaddle, and yet there are key issues to be discussed in football which are left uncovered. Like why Arsenal got one referee for six league games last season. Why some referees mostly oversee home wins and others rarely oversee home wins. And why some refs are so heavily influenced by the crowd, as the research has shown. And why is it not considering where all the money that Fifa and Uefa gets actually goes? Or why this years Champions League final was once again such a disaster for fans?
And indeed why the Mirror is not covering any of that but writing up a load of personal opinion which has no foundation in reality?
The most likely explanation is that the two issues are linked. The hope is that articles such as the Saha piece will stop all of us from thinking about the real issues of the day. And that’s a shame, because there is a lot to think about, as I hope you might agree.
- Yesterday’s game: how Arsenal won, and where the journalists got things wrong
- Brentford v Arsenal: past exploits and the Arsenal team news
- French authorities issue arrest warrant over awarding of World Cup to Qatar
- Brentford v Arsenal: the history and the build up, with some extraordinary odds
- Brentford v Arsenal: tackles, fouls, yellow cards and the home v away record