Kai Havertz is the Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry and Mikel Arteta of 2023/4



The return of the Anti-Arsenal Arsenal

By Tony Attwood

On 13 December 2020 the league table showed Arsenal in 15th.  Below them two clubs had games in hand – Brighton and Burnley.  If they won their games in hand Arsenal would sink to 17th – one place above relegation.  The website CaughtOffisde ran the headline, “Arsenal manager now odds-on favourite to be next Prem boss axed.”   And, “the inexperienced Spanish tactician 4/5 to be the next to get the chop.”  And, “Arsenal’s big risk when they appointed Arteta has not paid off.”

Although maybe it should have read “Caught Offside’s inexperienced copywriter led up the path”.  

But, as ever, when it comes to the next high-cost transfer “disaster” as it is portrayed everyone wants to join in.

Gary Neville for example said, “You think of the Arsene Wenger era at Arsenal and they had lots of creative players,    At times, you almost said there were too many. But they haven’t got enough now, they haven’t got anyone on the ball who’s gonna find that pass.”

All those people knowing exactly what was wrong!  And yet all the time it was them that was totally out of touch with reality!  But as we know the media made much of sinking to 15th in the league, but nothing at all of Arsenal being the second-best team in the league in the remaining two-thirds of the season.  Yet for those games the table read…  How could everyone have got it so wrong????


P Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Manchester City 24 20 0 4 62 20 42 60
2 Arsenal 24 14 5 5 43 21 22 47
3 Manchester United 24 13 8 3 43 21 22 47
4 West Ham United 24 13 5 6 41 28 13 44


But did they learn a lesson?  No of course not.  This is the media!!!

In fact what happened was Arteta realised that while Arsenal got an average of 1.24 cards per game in that season, four of the five referees who oversaw Arsenal games the most were referees who awarded above-average yellow cards against Arsenal.

So Arsenal’s management decided to stop having fouls given against them all the time, since it harmed the flow of their game, and did this by cutting the number of tackles.  In the final two-thirds of the season, we saw tackles down by 22%, fouls down by 18% and yellow cards down by 45%.

Thierry Henry mocked by media

Now let’s try another view.  In his early days at Arsenal Thierry Henry was mocked by the media and some fans: derided, laughed at was described by some “the French Perry Groves”.  He didn’t score a goal in his first two months.

Or let’s try another.

Dennis Bergkamp, too, was criticised for not being able to score in his first seven games for the club.  And here’s another twist in the tale: lots of websites and papers now take a high-minded position noting that other media started to call Dennis Bergkamp “Hartle-Fool” for not scoring against Hartlepool United in the League Cup.

Except if you go back and try and find the paper that did write that, it is very difficult.  In fact, I’ve not been able to find it, and it is curious that not one of the reports that mention “Hartle-Fool” actually note the source of the comment.   Surely it couldn’t be that no one ever wrote that, and in fact all these people writing retrospectives are just trying to make themselves look good but in fact are quoting something that doesn’t exist.

And now they are playing the same old media game.  Lash out at a player who is taking his time to fit into his new role, and then suggest other media always do that, while making details up.  Another story in the bag.

In fact Havertz is on exactly the right course – if exactly the right course is that which Henry and Bergkamp followed.  He’s playing a lot, he’s trying out everything he can do in this new environment.  He’s getting endless criticism from some fans and from the media.

All those of us with any historical context can do is let the alleged fans with zero information about either history or statistics suggest it is time for him to be dropped, make sure Havertz himself knows that the media and a fair chunk of the attendees at Arsenal matches always call for players to be dropped, and let him play through it.

The media love this of course.  No research, no work, just stoke up the story the morons develop and then when it turns out the player is brilliant after all, just quietly forget the furore caused and go and pick on someone else.  Meanwhile, knock Arsenal.

In fact the whole campaign has all the hallmarks of the return of that subdivision of the AAA – the Anti-Arsenal-Arsenal – and the RNJ – the Raging Negatvie Judgementalists.  Aided by their media friends they all lack any real belief in themselves and so try to bolster their self-image by criticizing others.

They didn’t have an effect when Rioch signed Bergkamp, and when Wenger signed Henry, and there is every reason to think they will fail with Arteta signing Havertz.   And maybe this one won’t last.  Take a look at Kai Havertz faced claims that his performance against Crystal Palace in Arsenal’s 1-0 win in south London was ‘non-existent’ but rewatching the match these accusations are proven untrue.

Please join our supporters’ association: it’s free!

If you enjoy our daily review of Arsenal’s history please do show your appreciation by becoming an associate member of AISA – Arsenal Independent Supporters’ Association.  It’s completely free, but being a member does make a statement that you value our work not just in recording Arsenal’s history but also in engaging with the club over issues relevant to supporters today.   You can join for free at https://aisa.org/associate-membership/

5 Replies to “Kai Havertz is the Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry and Mikel Arteta of 2023/4”

  1. Isn’t it funny…
    Since we took that approach (cutting fouls) to stop getting yellows, the PGMOL have changed the rules so they can hand them out on technicalities (perceived time-wasting) instead!…
    Pure coincidence, obviously (nothing to do with the PGMOL wanting to wrestle back some semblance of control over the outcome of matches, surely)!

  2. Kai Havertz is getting his chances. Experience tells me that they will start to be converted. He seems to move into space well, or create space. I think he’ll come good. You can’t expect him to have an understanding with his teammates after 3 games. They’re all learning, players, manager, coaches. Rice has been advanced and deep as Arteta tries different tactics. It’ll work out. Still not happy with his selections to start v Fulham but I suspect he knows a bit more than me, lol. COYG!!!

  3. well the so-called press were wrong…no Bayern, no Milan

    Sevilla, PSV, Lens

    I personally don’t believe for a second this is going to be easy.
    But we were second in the most competitive league in Europe and will have to rise to the occasion.
    And, yes, it could have been worse.

  4. I’m glad you wrote about Henry and Bergkamp’s travails at the start of their Arsenal careers. I was researching that yesterday. Three games without a goal is…nothing. Fortunately, the manager and players know this and I am certain things are positive in the changing room despite the ChatGPTRubbish being published.

  5. I find the Arsenal fans on Havertz’ back very disappointing, and so short-sighted. Some of the carry-on is frankly ridiculous. He’s being asked to play outside of his comfort zone by an innovative coach who sees something in him. He needs time, especially from our own fans.

    I don’t expect fans to support blindly, but after a decade of being a banter team, one good season and people suddenly expect perfection every week.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *