Constant revolution: Arsenal become the first Trotskyist team



Leon Trotsky held the view that a new type of state which valued the work of the working classes rather than giving all the benefits to the owners of industry, would not be able to succeed because other states would not allow it to develop.  So he suggested a state of constant revolution was needed.

Using this as a starting point one might also argue that a new type of football team which approached the game in a radically different way might not be able to flourish, because referees, urged on by teams using the old established system would not be willing to allow the new team to flourish.

But then, the question arises, what would the rest of football do, in order to inhibit the development of that team playing a revolutionary type of football?

One obvious approach that has often been used would be to decry the development of the team playing in a revolutionary way (we shall from here on, for the sake of simplicity, call that team “Arsenal”).

Arsenal analysed in this way are in fact now working in a spirit of constant revolution.  The preparation for each match consists of two things, first watching the opposition (which of course is what everyone does) and then evolving a different way of playing which is created to overcome the difficulties perceived.  Thus Arsenal have become a Trotskyist team (and I doubt that you have read that in any other publication).

Of course following such a constant revolution is completely beyond most sports commentators as Sky Sports revealed when they spent a lot of time debating the fact that Saka allegedly took 26 seconds to take a corner against Everton – as if that was relevant to anything – although they were probably sending messages to the referee to demand that Saka should be given a yellow card.

As a result of that emphasis on simplistic timekeeping, what they missed was that Arsenal throughout the season have not delivered a single out-swinging corner at all, and have engaged in more short corners than any other club.  But still you can’t have everything.  Or in the case of Sky Sports, anything.

And indeed the Arsenal approach to corners is growing.  There were eight short corners against Everton, (figures from The Athletic).

This is however an evolution rather than a sudden shift for Arsenal, for in 2022/23 Arsenal did have matches in which there were seven short corners against Bournemouth and six against Aston Villa.

The point here is that Mikel Arteta is continuing his work as a coach that picks up on specific issues and sees them as ways of improving the club.   For example, you might recall that in the early days of his time as Arsenal manager we got rather interested in the way that he cut the number of yellow cards Arsenal got from 86 in 2019/20 to 47 the following season.  That was achieved by changing the way the club defended, and in terms of how that fitted with the rest of the league, it meant in 2019/20 Arsenal had more yellows than any other club, while they slipped to 17th in the card table in 2020/21.

It was out of that revelation that we then discovered the way certain clubs were being treated by referees which gave them a real benefit.  We found for example that in 2019/20 Arsenal got a card for every 6.79 tackles, while for Leicester it was one card every 18.10 tackles.  So Leicester could put in three times as many tackles as Arsenal before getting a card which gave a pretty amazing advantage.

The following season (2020/21) after Untold revealed these figures the numbers changed to one card every 9.70 tackles for Arsenal and one every 11.16 tackles for Leicester.   An unbelievable change from one season to the next, and yet the only thing that really changed was that in 2019/20 no one gave any publicity to these figures, while in the following season we were all over them.

So we are on the lookout for other radical changes, and The Athletic is better than most at understanding what is actually happening on the pitch (which is of course what it is all about) and they do note that Gabriel Jesus in the team Saka and those around him become more liberated.


Club Games played No of players playing in all No of starters % of starters, starting in all games
Arsenal 7 7 19 37%
Tottenham Hots 6 1 20 5%
Manchester United 6 5 19 26%
Chelsea 6 4 22 18%
Manchester City 8* 2 21 9%
Liverpool 5** 5 17 29%
Newcastle United 6 6 17 35%


  • *Includes the Super Cup match
  • **Europa League to be played tonight


What we can see is a huge variety in approaches here.   Tottenham have only 5% of their team playing in all their six games, despite the fact that they have no European football this season.  Arsenal however have 37% of their starters starting in every game across the Community Shield, the League and the Champions League.  Manchester City have only 9% starting in all their matches.

There is clearly a balancing act to be had between over-playing players and changing the team so often that players can’t get used to each other.   Arsenal’s approach seems to be one of allowing players to get to know each other: I think this table might give us some useful insights in the months to come.


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