How the Sun conned the BBC with its Arsenal-are-too-short “analysis” and why we are going to win the league

So – does size really matter. According to the Sun. And sadly the BBC in a recent article repeated the same stuff, without crediting the Sun, and I fear without checking any of the facts.
Because Sun + facts = a contradiction & as I show below, there is a very good reason why we are going to win the league.

I was tipped off about the Sun’s con trick by a reader about this point, (and I am really sorry because I can’t find the email that carried the piece, so I can’t acknowledge the writer – if I find it I will change this, because it was a really good thought to look into this.)

So I started to check in the members handbook for this season, and here’s the results of some of our matches, but with the average height instead of the score.

Arsenal 6′ Manchester Unitd 5′ 11″
Manchester City 5′ 11″ Arsenal 6′
Arsenal 6′ Chelsea 6′
Arsenal 6′ Liverpool 5′ 11″
Arsenal 5′ 11″ Aston Villa 5′ 11″
Hull 6′ Arsenal 6′
Tottenham 5′ 11″ Arsenal 6′
Arsenal 5′ 11″ Chelsea 6’1″
Arsenal 5′ 11″ Liverpool 5′ 11″
Portsmouth 6′ 1″ Arsenal 5′ 11″
Arsenal 5′ 11″ Stoke 6′ 1″

Obviously there can be a 2″ difference – we had it twice against Chelsea, and against Stoke and Portsmouth. But the results don’t relate to this. And since we have to recognise that Manchester IOU were quite a good team last year it is interesting to note that we were actually taller than them.

Now we might turn to the Sun on this one – them being the fount of all knowledge. What did the Sun say about Arsenal 5’11” Stoke 6’1″ at the end of the season.

“OK there is no pot of gold at the end of Arsenal’s rainbow for the fourth year in succession. But when your team can produce football of this quality, does it really matter so much?”

Interestingly the doomsayers never mentioned that little commentary.

So, its not really the height that matters. Stick Peter Crouch in your team and your average height goes up by 3 yards but you still have a turnip in the squad. (Who incidentally for 2 years running the Mirror said would sign for Arsenal.)

(And sorry to non-UK readers this is all quoted in imperial and not metric. Roughly speaking 5’11” means five feet 11 inches, which is quite tall. 6 feet is taller. Hope that is clear.)

But if you can’t use size to measure success what can you use? how about hair colour? I think this might be it. Arsenal do not have enough red heads in the team. That is what is wrong. If only we could sign a few, we would win the league by a mile.

But seriously folks I wrote an article yesterday on why we are going to win the league. In case you missed it, here it is again

Last season for our opening league game of the season against West Bromwich Wobbleyou we played…

Sagna, Gallas, Djourou, Clichy
Walcott (Toure), Eboue, Denilson, Nasri
Adebayor, Bendtner (Van Persie)

From that line up we have now lost Toure, Adebayor and Nasri (for the moment), Theo (just announced as I write this – bad back).

We have gained (comments in brackets are per this time last year)

Cesc (late returning from summer matches)
Eduardo (injured)
Arshavin (not yet signed)
Vermalen (not yet signed)
Song (in the sense that at this stage a year ago he was not fully in contention for a place)
Wilshere (ditto, although he was an unused sub a year ago)
Ramsey (ditto, although he was an unused sub a year ago)
Vela (ditto, again an unused sub, but this year may not be ok having played for Mexico on wednesday)
Gibbs (yet to appear in first team a year ago)
Silvestre (not yet signed)

So we have gained 11 and lost four

Now that is contentious I know – especially in the case of Song, Vela, Wilshere, Ramsey, Vela, Gibbs, Silvestre. Most were at the club a year ago, but I really don’t think we could say that they were serious contenders for starting places.

(I am going to pause here – if you are reading this on Team Talk it has been nicked from Untold Arsenal).

But one year on I believe several of them are to be considered serious new signings. Indeed we could also include Traore.

But let us compromise a bit here. Three are out, either having gone or having a broken leg. In for certain, and without dispute must be


Four out, one of whom (Toure) came on as a sub and really didn’t have his best of seasons. Replaced by five very good players. And “very good” is an understatement for at least three if not four if not five of them.

Going on, four out, five excellent players in, plus behind them, in case of injury or change or format, five more who were not up to speed last season.

I call that progress.

But now, let’s think on a little further. The “four out” figure is unchangeable, and the five in is unchallengable. But think on this.

Denilson was playing last season, but I would nominate him as having gained hugely in experience. It is one thing to have a brilliant 27 year old who is not going to be any better, but I would argue that Denilson August 09 is a significantly better player than Denilson August 08. We know from the discussion yesterday that many disagree – I am just giving you my view here. I think we have a Denilson upgrade.

I am not going to count this game because of Mexico. But anyone who saw the Portsmouth away performance last season will know just how far he came last year. When he is not flying the globe he is going to be something else.

Wilshere, I would put in the incoming player list. There was no chance of him playing against WBA – he was in the squad for the experience of mixing with the big chaps, nothing more. But anyone who was at the Ems cup, or who saw it on TV will know this kid is something plus something plus something. In fact we knew it last year and the year before, but now he is ready. He is the real thing. Not for every game of course, not starting very often. But against a tired defence…

Ramsey, I am going to include as well. He was great last season when forced to play in the prelim round of the Champs League. Then he almost vanished. Now he seems to have achieved a lot more.

Gibbs I won’t include because he is so unlikely to play (Clichy being fit and rested after his injury).

So my list of players who are either newly available or so much improved as to be the equivalent is now…

The A List


The additional list


Of course you can argue with much of this – by which I mean that even most of the doomsday crowd won’t argue against most of the A list, but they can argue about the additional list. But – and this is the key point – even if the A list was all we had, we would be out with 4 players and in with 5 brilliant, for the game against WBA. And what a five that is.

If you want to be a bit more generous you add in one or more of Wilshere, Ramsey and Denilson.

I think we have come one hell of a long way since this opening game one year ago.

(c) Tony Attwood 2009

13 Replies to “How the Sun conned the BBC with its Arsenal-are-too-short “analysis” and why we are going to win the league”

  1. It’s the same old story everywhere : does size matters ? 😉
    I once new a team in Belgium who only bought players bigger than 1,80 meter and they where down at the end of the season.
    It’s more to do with skill and quality.

  2. Tony, the never got the logic behind this height analysis. More so to the fact that Arsenal needs a BIG central defender. I mean Is height the most necessary criteria during defending corners/set-pieces?? Or Is Have having a good jump height and a sense of timing more important?? We say Cannavaro is one of the best defender. His height as far I know is just 5′ 9.5″. Maldini and Puyol are also among the best defenders but they are not 6’3″ or 6’4″. For me personally, height doesnt matter if a player has a good jump height and the ability to read the game well.

  3. Hm…maybe solution to win league than would be to start searching for players in NBA (basketball league).
    Final thought, how those wise “experts” explain finals of CL and Barcas victory. With average height of 5′ when they climb on stool.

  4. Tony,
    It’s worth remembering that Arsene deliberately tried to put Diaby in the FA game against Chelsea to compensate for heights. So it’s true that the stats don’t add up but there’s always more than stats. At least the idea crept in his mind.

    The misery that is the away game at Stoke is still vivid in my mind (besides the fact that we were kicked out of the game and RvP pulled one of his classic madness): whenever that chap Delap got the ball in his hands over the touchline, you could see the whole Arsenal team were in disarray. It was almost a amateur game. Our defense couldn’t get close to the throw-ins, and the ball kept falling on Stoke’s backs and shoulders (which is to say they couldn’t head it either)!

    I said when you were away that the attack we fielded against Rangers were, except for Song, Cesc’s height or shorter; and we had no problems dealing with long balls or set pieces. I said at the time the message for the players was if they persistently harry defenders off the ball as quickly as possible after losing it, they won’t have to worry about the hoofs. Now thinking more about it, I think psychology matters just as much. As a smaller player, even though you know hoofs are by nature hail mary’s, you have to be determined in your fight everytime to ensure that the freak event – the improbable hoof turning out to be a great pass – must not happen. I think this determination is what we lacked last season.

  5. this does not make sense. To say denilson has gained experience over the past one year is ok and in order, but do you think lampard, gerrad, carrick etc have lost in terms of experience. arsenal cannot win anything. every one needs to understand that.

  6. Very good analysis, Hopefully we can do without any major injury setbacks. Still think we need a good (very good, because we already have some) defensive midfielder (at the right price off course). to help rest some players because I can foresee quite a long season ahead of us and just in case something happens to Song, the squad will be looking quite thin then (God forbid). Anyway Wenger knows, lets keep our fingers crossed, hope Vermaelen adapts as fast as Arshavin did and see come January where well be.

  7. has any one read wenger’s interview in the times,
    what a coach its in the mail too

  8. Karis – what I am trying to say is that Denilson, as a young and developing player of talent, appears to be improving considerably, and thus we are a better team than before.

    Lampard, Gerrard, Carrick are players who were, a year ago, at the top of their game, and I am not sure that they will be improving this season.

    I would fully admit that if Gerrard actually were to improve this year he would be awesome indeed, but I doubt that is the case.

    The general impression I get from reading commentaries on the game is that great players improve until they are 27, and then stay at that level for one or two years, and then decline. In common parlance, “the legs begin to go”.

    What the very good players then do is use their football experience to compensate for the lack of stamina and speed – although most of them get more time out with injury. (An injury that might take four weeks to repair age 20 can take eight weeks at 30 – that’s a rough guide, but for most people it is approximately true).

    But the battle is an uneven one, and gradually the skills go because of the physical demands, and most players at the top retire around 34 or 35.

    Gerrard I think will be 29 this year, so still at the top of his game, but certainly not getting better, and if anything declining just a little.

    Next year a little more, then year after he will miss some more games, and so it goes. By the time Denilson is at the top of his game aged 27 Gerrard will be a fading memory.

    That’s the basis of my thoughts – sorry it was not clear.

  9. tony

    Height matters particularly in defence and when defending – so while its true arsenal are not a short team, Im not so sure about the defensive height…?

    Agree fully regarding denilson though.

  10. Good job Tony u’ve found them out!

    It makes me wonder what kind of crap they’ll come out with next. Can’t wait for sunday. It’s still 46hours+ to go. I hope this is the season where he’ll unleash the wilshere.

  11. Arsenal are not exactly a bunch of pigmies, but does height overides everything else? The great Italian (AC Milan) defender, Franco Baresi was not an overly tall guy. Fabio Canavaro is not at all a tall guy. Yet these guys were amongst the greatest Centre backs the world had ever seen. Why is that?

    Let’s not be too disturbed by those con-games. Now is the time to support our team. Let’s cheer them to victory at every match.

  12. The height issue is just another excuse to have a go at Arsenal. What I do feel we could do with is more organisation in defence. Some of the goals we conceeded last season were shocking and should not happen at a club like Arsenal. I’m hoping that Vermaelen as well as being a very good defender will bring this to the back line, he was after all captain of Ajax.

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