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By Tony Attwood
Newspapermen like dreaming up statistics. Not necessarily important statistics, but just statistics.
Many of them don’t get picked up by others and so quietly die a death, but others get repeated and repeated – and so some people start to think that the statistic matters.
A little while ago we had the thing about Arsenal players all being short – we couldn’t defend we were told because our players were shorter than those of previous teams.
Go back to the early days of the Wenger reign, and journalists started counting the number of red cards players go under Wenger. The resultant figures were “shocking!” and “a scandal”, and there were calls for the FA to do something about it.
In fact those figures were completely wrong in every regard. The number of reds quoted was wrong, and just as importantly, there was no reference to the number of red cards gained by other clubs. Arsenal were in fact an average team in terms of sendings-off, but the “50 Red Cards Under Wenger” screaming headline made an impact, and no editor was ever going to go back and say, “ooops, sorry, it was actually 37, and six clubs have had more over the same period of time.”
More recently we’ve had a different game: the mindless repetition of the number of years since Arsenal won a trophy. Now at least in this regard the facts are correct, but there’s still the issue, does it matter?
Supposing we had won the league cup three years ago, so it would now only be three years since we won a trophy. Would that make Arsenal a better team? Would that stop the journalists crowing about Arsenal’s “failure?”
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I doubt it, because the measure itself is rather silly especially when one remembers that Wenger used the League Cup as a part of the process of taking us towards having two teams that could play and stand a fighting chance of winning each match.
To my mind, if you want to have some sort of measure of success, it is better to start with the League, and ask the simple question, how many years is it since each team won the top league in England. That gives a clue as to what the club has been doing over the years.
Strangely, when I started asking people around me if they could draw up a table based on recency of winning the league, I got some very curious results – and no one actually got the order of clubs right.
Here’s how it goes for the 20 clubs most recently to have won the top division in England. Now I have to admit I did this late at night and may well have miscalculated somewhere, but if so the numbers are only going to be out by one or two, and I am fairly confident of the order and general direction that the table shows.
|Position||Club||Years since last winning the league|
|20||West Bromwich Albion||83|
Of course it can be said that our seven year wait it too long, and that’s a separate issue – for it would then have to bring in the economic situation of the clubs ahead of us. But the table does reveal some other points of interest – such as the fourth most recent club to win the league is Leeds, and it reminds us of just how long it has been for those powerhouses of English football, Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur.
Indeed I wonder what it is like as a supporter of the Tiny Totts to realise that Ipswich Town, Derby County, Nottingham Forest and Leeds have all won the league more recently than your club. And it is a reminder to us that winning the league is one thing. Staying up there is another.
(Also I wonder why no one outside Arsenal mentions that this is the 50th season since the Tinies won the league, the 21st for Liverpool, and just for good measure, the 77th since Newcastle won the league.)
I would agree that seven years is a long wait, especially after going a whole season unbeaten – but in a broader context it is interesting to note that the only two teams who by common consent could win the league this season are sitting in the top three in this league.
The drought will be over shortly, simply because of the quality of the two teams we can put out at the moment, plus the quality of the amazing “on loan” set of 17 or so players. I am certain three of them will be making a serious impact in the club next season, and that means we have 3 summer transfers done already.
Not bad for February.
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