The undercover football revolution that could take us all by surprise



By Tony Attwood

I doubt that we have mentioned Wrexham AFC many times in the 12,000+ posts that we have published on Untold Arsenal.  A quick look suggested they had a passing mention about 25 times, so we haven’t ignored them, but even so, they were passing mentions.

But I have over the years been to many non-league and lower-league games either because Arsenal are not playing or because I’ve been living in or visiting a part of the country which makes it impossible for me to get to the Arsenal match.  

Indeed in previous times one would often come across an ex-First Division man playing (sometimes as a “player manager”) in the lower leagues, attempting perhaps to find his way into the liftshaft that could either take him up to the top as a manager or drop him back in hospital with an injury from a journeyman player who didn’t like the notion of these fancy dans from the 1st division coming into “their league”.

In fact it was probably the fear of injury, alongside the much higher wages that top players have received in recent years that has meant an end to the old system.  

So instead we have a bunch of Manchester United old boys buying Salford City, now of League Two but losing quite a lot of money quite regularly en route.

And such thoughts have led me to follow the exploits of clubs that are taken over by wealthy men for no discernable reason, as they spend money buying the club, paying off its debts and then keeping it going.

Which brings me to Wrexham who apparently owe rather a large amount of money to Ryan Reynolds And Rob McElhenney.  About £9m in fact.

But here the club is having a spot of success.   They were in the fifth tier when purchased – although even a fifth tier club can be expensive;  £2.5m was said to be the price.  But they came good and went up to  League Two and are looking like contenders for another promotion.


Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Stockport County 39 21 11 7 78 40 38 74
2 Mansfield Town 40 20 13 7 79 39 40 73
3 Wrexham 40 21 10 9 72 48 24 73
4 Milton Keynes Dons 41 21 7 13 68 54 14 70


And what does this have to do with Arsenal?  Well, not too much except the fact that as we were noting the other day, football clubs at the top end in England are being turned into sporting, dining, and weekend-out establishments which have less and less to do with football, and more to do with finding something for the very rich to get occupied with.  Football is pricing itself out of the reach of many fans was a recent reflection on this, following the news of Arsenal becoming a property company while Fulham  FC seems to be heading toward being a mere backdrop to one of the most expensive restaurants in the country.

But the purchase of Premier League clubs by the very rich as a backdrop to their property enterprises doesn’t explain tw Americans buying one of the oldest clubs in the UK now in the Conference

Yet they seemed to know what they were up to, since it is possible that the club will be in League One next season.  But even if that is the height of their ambition, it is likely that keeping the club in that league is going to cost more and more investment.

Back in 2011 the club was picking up average crowds of just over 3000.   This season the average crowd is over 11,000.  And indeed there has been real progress on the pitch – in 2022/23 winning the National :League and now looking for their second promotion in a row.

But does the story of fine dining and views over the Thames which Fulham are advertising, really link to a club that is in League Two and looking to go to League One?  The capacity of the ground (first opened in 1807) is 12,600, and so as we can see the club is playing to near sell-out crowds at the moment.

But what next?  Building a new ground perhaps?  That sounds crazy, but then the old ground might have some development potential.  I don’t know about that but looking at some of the figures does suggest there are reasons to congratulate the owners on what they have achieved beyond simply promotion.

After all last season in the FA Cup, Wrexham drew at home with Sheffield United before losing the replay in the fourth round.  Prior to that they beat Coventry City of the Championship, away. 

It all suggests to me that this is serious, and it shows that just as Kroenke has plans for all his sporting outlets by taking them ever more upmarket, so there is a revolution happening lower down the leagues as well.  It’s just I don’t quite know where it’s going.


15 Replies to “The undercover football revolution that could take us all by surprise”

  1. OT,

    fascinating how mtch reports are just unable to really give credit to Arsenal for the draw.
    First time in more then 58 games that City did not score at home and all they can say was that it was a no-game or such a thing.
    Haaland did not exist…no credit really to the defense.
    we played them twice this season, they had a total of ONE shot on goal. Can anyone in the PL this season beat that ?!?
    City tried to take the air out of the Arsenal players’ lungs…and they did not succeed.
    So the only thing they can come up with is that Liverpool is profiting.
    Anyway. Had any other team gotten that result it would have been labelled a huge success.

    Not that we are not used to this kind of bias.

    As far as I am concerned. I enjoyed seeing Arsenal play with steel. Knowing them capable of playing Wenger/Arteta ball AND at the sametime shutting down the ‘so-called-beat-team-in-the-galaxy-and-the sa-called-best-manager-in-history’. Any great team must be capable of doing that. Damn the purists.

    As for those who know say Pool! have an open field and will win, let them dream. There are quite a few more games to play, points to loose and to win.

  2. Wrexham’s GK is a Gooner …
    Yesterday, Jeorge Bird pointed out that Arthur Okonkwo kept his 14th (!!) clean sheet of the season for them, in their win against Mansfield Town. Arthur’s loan to Graz last season was highly successful too; he even got himself a title there – the Austrian Cup – and kept yet another clean sheet in the final Graz won against Rapid Vienna (the most successful club in the history of Austrian football).
    We all know Arsène W. loved an Austrian pre-season, and actually there must be something in the Styrian air, which Arsenal loanees benefit from, since Mika Biereth has been piling up goals for Graz since January. Too bad Arsenal’s current management has been regarding Hale End as Hercules was made to regard the Augean stables (which engulfs us, with all the others, in the 21st-century-football-money-whirlpool, btw), so that there’s not a snowball chance in hell we’ll see the lads bloom in an Arsenal shirt; but Arthur and Mika certainly look like they can take care of themselves, they’ll be great bargains for whichever of the “Big-5-Leagues” clubs sign them up.
    But hey! it was great to draw at the Etihad yesterday, and if the two words “sport journalism” really did mean what they’re supposed to mean, awe-stricken articles about the Saliba-Gabriel pair should pop up all over the internet …

  3. Chris

    I couldn’t agree more. If this was an Italian side that did this it would be lorded as an absolute master stroke. But all hope is not lost as I did find one report that was absolutely brilliant, it’s just a shame that it had to come from an American source. But here it is and it’s a fantastic appraisal of just how brilliant our performance was. It’s a must read:

  4. @Nitram,

    not only did we keep Citeh at bay 180 minutes, I just heard a comment on german TV tht Arsenal is the team that got the most points of the top 3 or 4 this season. Don’t have the time to check, but top of my head, it must be right as we beat both Pool! and Citeh and had 2 ties.

    Anyway, it is a good time for us Arsenal supporters however the season ends.


    as you I’d like your youngsters make it to the starting eleven. Then, what would Okonkwo’s future look if he stayed at Arsenal ? Warming the bench for years and getting no experience. He has been playing competitive football, has made great strides and has a great future ahead. Is it at Arsenal ? As long as Raya is here, ahd this looks like a few more years, not a chance.

    So he’ll get a better chance somewhere else, Arsenal may cash-in some day and recoup more then they spent. It takes some luck to break into the first team – or the bad luck of another player. Can’t change that. This is what Hale End is for : making professional footballers out of kids and enabling them for a future be it at Arsenal or someplace else depending on Lady Luck for some of the decisions.

    Faulting Hale End or Arsenal, IMHO, is out of place here.

  5. Chris/Nitram
    All those hypocritical experts and others complaining about yesterdays ‘negative’ defensive tactics are the same ones who would be slaughtering us for not having a plan B if we had lost playing our normal recent all out attacking style.

  6. @Nitram,

    love the picture of the CBS piece….that is just what these 2 games where about : dominating Haaland.

  7. @mick, Nitran,

    in the Guardian there is a piece from Akanji complaining about Arsenal using rotational fouling…. funny.
    They had more the 70% of possession, no surprise the defensive team made fouls.

    That being said, 19 fouls, 2 yellows one of them against the goalie for timewasting is quite a surprising result. So did the referee suddendly change his way of refereeing ? Or did Arsenal foul ‘better’ ? On the other hand, Citeh had 9 fouls and no yellows…

    Honestly I was surprised by the refereeing, but not felt the game was pretty decent and that the ref pretty much kept himself out o the conversation, which is the way it should be, should it not ?

  8. Chris

    Regarding the CBS piece, I thought that not only did it avoid knocking Arsenal , it was an exceptionally accurate analysis of what was required against a team as good as Man City, and a brilliant critique of how it was implemented. Exception piece of journalism I thought.

    If only the British journalists could get over their obvious disappointment that we didn’t get stuffed maybe they could of written something equally as good. Alas, spending all day down the ‘Toppled Bollard’ cant help.

    As for the lack of cards. Despite 20 fouls both our yellows were for time wasting. Raya, as you said, and Jesus for carrying a ball back to the ref when it was obvious another ball had been thrown in from a ball boy. I assume he too was booked for time wasting as City could not restart the game as there was effectively 2 balls on the pitch.

    If I’m honest I think we were fortunate not to get at least 1 yellow as we did foul a lot, but City could of had a card or 2 as well. All I would say is, I don’t think there was 1 ‘nasty’ foul, and a majority of the ‘professional’ fouls were high up the pitch, which often gives you more of a chance of ‘getting away with it’. I too was pleasantly surprised by Taylor, who seemed hell bent on keeping his cards in his pocket.

    mick shelly

    These are the basic stats from last years 4-1 defeat compared to this years 0-0 draw.


    Last year

    48% Possession
    8 shots
    2 on target
    1 goal
    13 fouls

    This year

    28% Possession
    6 shots
    2 on target
    20 fouls
    0 goals

    The difference is obvious. Possession. Other than that shots and shots on target, not much difference. Okay we got a late consolation last year, but that’s pretty irrelevant. and okay we fouled lees, but basically that’s because we had the ball more.

    Now here’s the Man City comparisons and this is the important bit.

    Man City

    Last year

    52% possession
    14 shots
    9 on target
    4 goals

    This year

    72% possession
    12 shots
    1 on target
    0 goals

    So as clear as day the big changes are the massive increase in possession, but crucially a massive decrease in shots on target.

    To me it’s clear as day that Arteta knew we couldn’t go toe to toe with City. The stats suggest that is what we tried last season and look what happened. This season the plan seemed to be, let them have the ball, sit deep and restrict them to half chances and long range efforts.

    It may not of been the plan from kick off, but as soon as the pattern of play became obvious it was the tactic that we adopted from then on, and it worked perfectly.

    An absolute masterclass which it seems has rather upset a few people. Oh well, such is life.

  9. @Nitram,

    cheers to that, I agree on all points.
    Mr Arteta is a worthy successor to Mr Wenger and he ain’t done leading Arsenal higher.
    He has given them steel that has been missing for 20 years. And neutered and neutralised the galactic City, at home, in a deciding game.

    I’m looking forward to the Bayern game.

    As for the next 8 games….I have the feeling many a so-called expert may end up eating his words about Pool!.

  10. It’s quite funny, really. As the author and ‘Chris’ pointed out, we are the first team to stop City scoring at home for 58 games. Secondly, as also pointed out here, we are way top of the league of the top 3 title contenders, with 8 from 4, where the other two have 1 point each. We also reduced City to one shot on target in 180 or so minutes of football. We have the best attack, the best defence, the best goal difference and something like 27 goals in our last 9 games in the premiership.
    All that adds up to us being an amazing team and one of the best, probably by far the best team in the world in 2024.
    It’s really sad how pathetic, stingey and unoriginal the majority of the media has decided to be. There are a few more intelligent articles, most from abroad. But the British media seem to be having a love fest over Liverpool right now. So weird. I’m not going to slag Liverpool off, they are a good team. But how the media fail to give us any credit at all for thoroughly beating both Liverpool and City this season is beyond me.
    They may eventually learn to write a little more intelligently. Here’s hoping. It really would make them worthy of a bit more respect.
    All in all, another amazing season for Arsenal and the best team in the world in 2024 without any shadow of a doubt. Why not say it how it is ?

  11. By the way, I read another quite stunning statistic.
    The greatest galactic club were limited to 4 (FOUR) touches in the Arsenal box in the first half.

    Go better that !

  12. Chris

    “The greatest galactic club were limited to 4 (FOUR) touches in the Arsenal box in the first half”

    Which supports exactly what I said:.

    “To me it’s clear as day that Arteta knew we couldn’t go toe to toe with City. The stats suggest that is what we tried last season and look what happened. This season the plan seemed to be, let them have the ball, sit deep and restrict them to half chances and long range efforts”.

    Implemented with perfection I may add.

  13. Nitram,
    Thanks for CBS piece. They actually reported the game as it was played. Saliba and Gabriel ARE the best centre-back pairing, period. Haaland couldn’t get a shot. Gabriel was especially physical with the bigger man and was in his head. He was even physical with him in the box. A shout out to referee Taylor because he let them play. Humorous seeing Arsenal with the hard tackles and the opposition looking for a card. Cards, time wasting for Raya and Jesus, lol. Gabriel, Saliba and the amazing Declan Rice are a formidable spine which Arsenal haven’t had in years. That level of quality is required to compete for titles. Arsenal have that now.

  14. goonersince72

    No problem. We don’t get stuff like that from the Toppled Bollard hacks do we.

  15. Guys,

    we need to sit back and enjoy the next 5 seasons….. because, Arsenal have buit a team for at least that period.
    And we must give credit to them that they are doing it, from all we can see, way better then it used to be and we more financial means then before.

    ‘Tis a good time to be an Arsenal supporter.

    OT, there were a few comments about how difficult it is to play at the Etihad….well, for my part, I believe it ain’t much easier at the Emirates now. We may not have a run as long as City had (yes past tense since Sunday), but no one imagines they can ‘stick it up them’ anymore.

    Arsenal have broken pretty much every voodoo away ground in the PL with Mr Arteta. Just need to do it with Bayern now.

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