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August 2021

Is this as bad as it gets for Arsenal? Don’t you believe it!

By Tony Attwood

Last week on this site we had the rather amusing situation in which a reader wrote in telling us in no uncertain terms that we were in our worst ever situation, and Mr Wenger should go.

Anyway this writer cited a number of situations – the worst start to a season, the worst defeat in Europe, the worst result in the league…

I wrote back pointing out the factual errors, and pointing out that as it happened the club programme this season had included articles on our worst start to a season, and our worst ever defeat, and correcting the other points.

OK, the truth is I was being a bit of a smarmy git at this point, since I wrote the articles in the club programme on those topics, as part of the Arsenal Uncovered page I do for each match, but even so, making wild comments like this without actually bothering to check the records seemed worthy of correction.

But then, having read my comments, the writer came back with another set of allegations.  At least one of them gave us a laugh as he suggested that a certain item of food on sale at the club on match days was the most expensive there was in any club (he actually got the price of that wrong too).  Then he alleged that the club continues to announce crowds of 60,000 plus when there clearly aren’t 60,000 in the stadium.

Again he was wrong, as anyone who goes to the games will know.  The matter was discussed at the Arsenal Independent Supporters Association AGM at the start of the season and Ivan Gazidis, who was present, announced that following representation from AISA the club would no longer announce any figures.  The figures that used to be given were of course the number of tickets sold, not the number of people there.  The numbers will always be different – due to illness, holidays, business, and the fact that the EPL keeps changing match days.

But anyway, back to the key point: was this guy right.  Is this as bad as it gets?

The answer is no, it can get worse.  I suppose as Chair of the AISA Arsenal History Society it is my job to know this, but supporters of a certain age will still remember the era we labelled The Darkness, when under Swindin and Wright we went nine years without finishing in the top four and without winning the FA Cup.

But it can be even worse than that.  Witness 1910, when Arsenal went into administration, were within minutes of being taken over by Fulham to play in the following season as Fulham Arsenal.   When that deal was pulled at the last minute (the League ruling that the merger was fine but the merged club would have to play in Division II not Division I, a second deal was proposed which involved a ground share arrangement with the aforementioned Fulham.

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This time the directors of Arsenal turned the deal down, and then, with the clock ticking and the League committee saying that unless a resolution to Arsenal’s administration was reached within the next hour, the club would be thrown out of the League, Henry Norris stepped up.

It genuinely was a last minute affair with Norris suddenly coming forwards with the offer to meet all the club’s liabilities (not just the “football debts” like benefactors do today), and guarantee that the club would continue all of the following season, at its Manor Ground in Plumstead.

Today Henry Norris has largely been written out of Arsenal’s history.  There is no statue to him at the ground, there is no biography of him (although I am working on the idea) and there is no formal acceptance anywhere in Arsenal that this man saved the club.

And saved the club he did – not just by paying off the known debts of administration in 1910, but also by paying off other huge debts that emerged later.  And if that were not enough he also built Highbury out of his own pocket, and paid for the club’s losses at the start of the Highbury adventure.

Norris’ problem was that although he was the greatest friend Arsenal has ever had, he was also a difficult man.

The only book there is on Norris, and the 1910 saga is “Making the Arsenal” – and yes this is a bit of self-promotion because I am writing about a book I wrote myself.  It is available through, through the Arsenal shop, through Amazon, and through the publishers’ own web site (see link above).

I leave others to say what they think of the book but whatever you think of it, it is, I hope, a reminder that despite all the that negative commentators say, when compared with The Darkness, or with 1910, we are still in the good times.

If you want to know more about Arsenal’s History there’s a new publication about to come out covering the Norris take over and building of Highbury from the AISA Arsenal History Society within the next week.  I will write more about that later.  But meanwhile you can to follow the Arsenal History Society blog which is currently working through iconic moments in the club’s history.


33 comments to Is this as bad as it gets for Arsenal? Don’t you believe it!

  • bopalula

    People who complain about things now need only look at the final tables for the 1974-75 and 1975-76 seasons. These people have no clue.

  • Bapula….ah you guyz trying to justify why we are doing bad or acknowledging the same? We should learn from past mistakes and use them to make a great. I dont want to be part of an Arsenal era to witness the downfall of a once great soccer power.

  • embryo

    great article, and always a very enlightening read. However it still doesn’t hide the fact that after the AST meeting last night, things are very bad at our club and all things point towards it getting much, much worse, starting with a little derby this weekend. Our club is magnificent, but we are in ofr a torrid few years i feel.

  • pranav

    I guess fourth place wouldnt be too bad if we consider how things looked after the united old trafford mauling.I think what frustrates people the most is how close we seem to get nad them seem to chuck it away like fools.Like the 3 matches which in my opinion we should have won(against wolves,swansea and fulham).we were good enough on all 3 days.Thats 8 points more and only 2 behind totenham and chelsea biting our dust.maybe the confidence would have helped in the subsequent matches

  • Ross

    Ah, perpsective – how refreshing. The rest of the Arsenal blogosphere could do with some of that, not to mention some researching skills!

  • Igor

    @bopalula thats such a useless point! If we follow the same analogy we are not supposed to complain about the world crisis, poverty, hunger and similar issues because it had been much much worse! We did have two world wars! After that we shouldn’t complain about anything ha?! Im sorry but thats dumb.

    Its not about how bad it has been, its all about how good it can get!!

  • AnT

    Indeed, it’s a matter of perspective.
    As in our other aspects, some people like to see the upper half, thus can be distressing.
    In this situation, I think it is necessary for all parties, to step back for awhile and look for the solution.
    Sacking Wenger may (not) work and I wonder whether the people who supporting the idea will step forward when they are wrong? I doubt it!
    I think we the FANS just need to support the club at any cost until the end of season. From then we can decide whether major changes are needed.

  • pranav

    Hey this team aint bad at all.They beat chelsea 5-3 at stamford.Something which even shitty havent managed.I think people just jump on wengers back because he never seems to comeout and pass the blame to board(who in my opinion are the true criminals)
    You think happy arry would have the balls to manage this club through the problems its had?I am an akb and proud of it.things will get better no doubt.

  • Dan T

    Times have been worse than they are now but that doesn’t mean that something doesn’t have to be done about the situation now.

    A few years ago I broke both bones in my leg, I went to the hospital and had them fixed. Last month I broke one bone in my leg, I didn’t sit at home and think ‘ah well, nothing to complain about, it’s been worse than this’. I still went to the hospital and got it fixed.

    I think comparing to past failings does not mean we should not mind about the current situation. Also, falling out of the top 4 is much more significant now, the financial dispartity between the clubs in the top 4 and those less fortunate is much greater than it used to be thanks to Champs League money.

    Of course I understand the flip-side being that comparing to past glories does not mean we should be winning the league every year. However, I think a change in policy does need to occur soon as we are gradually falling away from being able to put in a consistent, season long, title challenge. And for me, as an Arsenal fan, this is my benchmark – Making sure we are challenging to the end of the season. I don’t expect us to win every trophy going, but it sure would be nice to be in April and still have a chance to win them.

  • Dan T

    I would just like to add that when I say change in policy I do not mean Wenger should be sacked. I mean I think Wenger needs to change his poilcy either in the transfer market, or his onfield tactics.

  • Anthony Cioci

    Once upon a time Wenger was great, original, audacious, inventive and imaginative. His team won trophies and he was highly praised and well paid.

    Then he went a lttle bit bonkers and became less good. He would not listen to what anyone else was saying. The team deteriorated and it won nothing.

    If you still want to live in the past that is up to you. Teams and players are judged on form and AW’s form is mid table.

    We will finish 6th this season if we are lucky.

  • nicky

    I think it’s about time fans realised AND ACCEPTED that Arsenal Football Club, historically, have an in-built gene in its make-up ensuring the most bizarre of results.
    I won’t quote examples because anyone who has followed the Club’s amazing successes and gruesome disasters over the past 80 years will know what I mean. I recall the numerous winnings of the top division in English football (including the “invincibles” year) and then have to admit that not once since the 1930’s have we retained a championship.
    We would all be better off mentally if we accepted that Arsenal triumphs will always be followed, at some stage, by disasters.
    It’s a fact of life borne out from history and the quicker we accept it the better it will be.

  • gazzap

    so at what point do you guys call for action then? When we get relegated, or do you continue bleating on about how many teams are worse off than us?
    so if you have the opportunity to make things better and turn us into a top 3 team to compete with Spurs, would you take it, or continue down the slow decline down the league?

    why cant we compete with Spurs when our wage bill far exceeds theirs?

    we are very lucky that chelsea and liverpool are also going through terrible periods. This is no excuse for Arsenal’s position though.

    No Arsenal manager has ever gone 7 years without winning a trophy without getting the sack. Wenger is well and truly living off past glories.

  • embryo

    Wow, so it appears the majority of people here think that AW is the man for the job? can any of them explain to me why JD has just been handed a new contract? reportedly £50k a week for 5 years?? is that the best we can do?? i guess it must be me who’s losing the plot. in 15 years of project youth, how many players have proved good enough for us??? yep can feel the blood boiling again. The AKB’s are like battered wives that think there’s no way out.

  • Mahdain

    hey tony check your mail please..there is something i sent you and want your opinion on it

  • WalterBroeckx


    “Reportedly” by who? Are you part of the negotiations? Or do you just invent a number or believe what is said somewhere else and report it as the truth?

  • @embryo – can I quote one of your comments from this post:

    “Excellent article, the international break has it’s benefits. JD has been emmense this season, as has Kozzer, GC and BS have also been brilliant (although Clichy hasn’t hit the hieghts of a couple of seasons ago) Chezney is the keeper we’ve been waiting for. All we need is Steve Bould to be given the job of first team coach and we couls rule the world!
    AW has made mistakes this season, but i beleive in him still and i think the quality of our defence will come good.”

    How times change eh!?

  • AnT

    embryo, JD has got an extension contract of 2 years as far as I understood. And he was good but just had problem of getting continuous games, which affected his play. He’s also the Switzerland national player. I think it’s not that easy to find better player, statistically. Or perhaps you have someone in mind?

    It seems that the problem we have is more psychological. If I take what Ryo said a couple of days ago, the situation in our camp has been tensed, which can be due to the pressure of delivering something. Add to this the pressure from the fans when they boo the players on the field. It can be too much to stomach, especially when the things don’t go up asap.

    So, I hope we, the FANS, can do something about it until the end of the season.

  • embryo

    Walter, i’ve read it on various websites and blogs, it was also reported on TV at the weekend, so you’re absolutely correct that i could be totally wrong, and if i am i’m very happy to be corrected. do you have any info that says i’m wrong?

  • Dan T

    HaHa! – Nice one DogFace

    I do agree with embryo that JD has had a fairly woeful season so far but he has been played out of position nearly all season. He is a not particularly mobile centre-back playing at right back, that is tough.
    I remember from my playing days I was a very mobile and very good(for the level I was playing at) right-back or left-back but weighed 9 stone, when I had to play in the centre I got battered and went from being consistently one of the best players on the pitch to being by far the worst on the pitch. I had to play in that position for about 4 matches and was the laughing-stock of the team. I returned to my correct position and was good again.

    He is a good centre back and probably the best 4th choice centre back I have ever seen.

  • Gooner S

    My views are somewhere between the extreme of Le Grove (and other similar blogs)and such views as expressed here. The writing on ‘untold’ is measured and generally well reasoned. I abhor the term AKB.

    All said and done things might not be “the worst ever” and they clearly aren’t but that does not mean to say we have to be content with the way things are. I’m not old enough to remember the late 50’s and 1960’s but I am old enough to remember 1974 through to 1976. We are nowhere near that nadir. Worst for me was the underachievement of the Don Howe teams; in that respect I see parallels with the performances of the current team, i.e inconsistency and seemingly a lack of drive and desire when things aren’t going too well.

    Arsene Wenger has my support but it isn’t blind (the chaps on Le Grove would disagree with me there). I would be interested in reading your views regarding the recent AST meeting.

  • Rhys Jaggar

    AST said last night on 5live that Djourou had been awarded a contract extension of £50k a week. They said this in the context of having done a detailed examination of Arsenal’s finances carried out by two financial professionals who are senior members of AST. So I would suspect that it’s true. They didn’t say how long the extension was.

    They also said that Arsenal will have around £50m in cash available for use (i.e. not reserved for mortgage payments, other operational expenses etc etc) and wondered whether it would be used to buy players or finance a year outside the ECL.

    They also said that, in their opinion, the Arsenal FC wage bill of around £130m was ‘used less efficiently’ than the c. £90m wage bill at Tottenham Hotspur.

    The interview was on the 8pm – 9.30pm slot after the interview with Sir Alex Ferguson, which was a gentle chat by the fire with the old man…..

  • Rhys – there’s absolutely no way they can know that from the accounts. I’ll be having a look at their analysis and checking their figures – no doubt they have some top people who looked at it, but I also feel they have a certain agenda within their organisation. To put it bluntly – they want to show that Wenger has money and doesn’t spend it, so they find figures to confirm that thesis. Confirmation bias, if you will… Economics (my degree) is riddled with it unfortunately. Whether the AST’s work is remains to be seen.

  • Arun

    The only thing left for us this season is to achieve fourth spot and we must forge the rest as we can’t do anything about it now. It’s not the time to moan about the players we didn’t sign but to support the ones we have in our quest for the CL spots.
    For those applauding the spurs’ performance in the league must notice their humiliation in the group stage of europa league where they rarely fielded their full strength squad . Nobody moaned about it but praised ‘arry.If that would have been at arsenal, what they have said about wenger .

  • gio


    A week is a long time in football!!! Then, why did we sell Fabregas (cos we let the boy go home!!) and Nasri (cos he wouldn’t sign a contract!!). Neither put in a transfer request and who’s to say if they had stayed (left 6 months ago) that their minds would have been on Barca and MC respectively whilst playing tonight. The club is systematically raping itself of it’s finest produce. What’s disgusting is all the spin they put on the situation and convinced us fans that those two had to be released reluctantly. I have now just realised that i and others have been taken for a ride with regard to this issue. They had us believing spurs did not sell modric cos he had a long contract. So why did Fab leave then, oh yeah cos the boy was going home. Yeah alright, pull the other one. He went cos we did not show any ambition in keeping him ie prepared to sell Nasri. So what if we had let him go for free at the end of this season. I pay £1200 and want to see us keeping our best players for as long as possible otherwise reduce my ticket price and i’ll keep my mouth shut!!
    I hope, RVP does not sign a contract, thanks the fans and says it as it is. All season we have been teetering on the brink of disaster. It’s been clear we are not good enough and need to invest. Why did the club wait until Feb 1st to inform us Wilshire has had a setback. I’ll tell you why, cos the January window shut the day before!! Why does he still play walcott who is clearly out of form and needs to be dropped and gagged for giving it large in the tabloids all the time. He dropped ramsey to the bench recently (and not before time) stating he needs a rest. No mate, he is out of form and needs to fight to get back in. None of our players need to fight to get in cos they have no fear since wenger is utterley predictable in his selection. Why should a player be an automatic choice when you have a squad of 25. Only the captain (RVP) and Konscielny are automatic at this point in time. At present we are a distant 4th in the premiership. In seasons gone by, we would actually be a distant 7th if the other clubs below us were any good!! Us being in 4th is so ridiculous when you consider our points haul. We potentially have one embaressment left this season and that is in a couple of weeks time against spurs. Hopefully we can get through that game with a narrow defeat or a draw as they will be bashing us up for 90 minutes. (Please Konscielny be fit and RVP not injured as we have no one else). Hopefully, we bow out the FA cup this Saturday as i fear any progression may pit us up against spurs and give us another opportunity to get embarressed. Once we are out of everything, a top 4 finish would be nice but my heart says we must not get into top 4. It is this top 4 business that is destroying the football club. A year or two out of the champions league must force a change in policy. Surely it must. It may prompt a wholesale look at the way the club has haemorraged and get back to being a football club first and a business second. Only David Dein understands what it is to be Arsenal Football Club. I hope, he comes back and if he keeps Wenger, then we know that Wenger was never the problem to begin with. I just want what is best for the football team and the fans, so let the situation worsen in the hope of the change we need to get our club back. I have never ever felt so detached from the club and i’m sure there must be thousands of others who feel the same. Are we too exhausted to have a voice? or is it just the way society is and we just accept things as they are? I would definately be a part of a movement to reclaim our club if it arose. Anyway, I’m forever Arsenal (despite the fact i do not recognise the club in it’s present form) and look forward to better days when the business reverts back into a club.

  • gio

    Just to say, my last posting was that of my pal who i have been attending the Arsenal with for over 30 years and was written (obviously) a couple of weeks ago

  • Tasos


    “Hopefully, we bow out the FA cup this Saturday”

    “a top 4 finish would be nice but my heart says we must not get into top 4”

    “Anyway, I’m forever Arsenal”

    Do you expect people to take this piece of work seriously?

  • The money issue is always a sore point. The AAA point to the lack of spending and suggest we have no money. The AKB point to the accounts to prove we do. I feel like I’m flogging a dead horse when I say nobody seems to realise how difficult it is to spend £50 million when the other guy has £500 million.

  • RedGooner

    The problem with Arsenal is not that we have gone 6 years without a trophy its the frustration at us not living up to our full potential.
    I remember over the past 30 odd years when the expectations were lower not feeling nearly as bad as I do now.

    I looked at Arsenal over the past few seasons realising one or two players was all we were short of to actualy be great again BUT instead we released each year more and more of our best players rather than sign the one or two needed to push us over the line.

    I find it hard to believe that AFC are been honest with financial results as in the selling of highbury appartments.
    Having property in the usa and Ireland and looking at the value both have dropped over the past few years I find it hard to believe that Arsenal appartments were selling at anything like the price initaly advertised.

    So how much did that effect the club ?

    If AW doesnt have the money to build a squad around the likes of Nasri Cesc and Robin and others that have moved on I would ask what direction is the club heading in. They are in danger of ruining AWs reputation he is to loyal to ever walk away but a man who used to buy players like overmars henry viera pires lungberg and many others didnt wake up one morning and decide to buy nothing but teenagers and hope to develop them.

    Lets face it for as good a player as arteta is when would we ever have bought a player from everton at the twilight of his career if you buy the cahills and others we were linked with from bolton birmingham and other clubs eventualy you will be performing like bolton and everton.

    We over rely now on the youth players injuring many of them walcot wiltshire cesc etc in other teams they would have been rested more because you cant keep burning them all out.

    Theres a need for honesty from the board incase they tarnish wengers legacy.

    Its bad enough knowing the russians doing everything he can to gain control of AFC and the probability that darren deins helping them strengthen their case by turning the heads of our better players.

  • Gord

    Off-topic. I’m loathe to follow many of the supposed news links to stories about Arsenal. But, there are a couple about Per Mertesacker with an update on his condition. Arsenal Football Talk was the first I seen, which refers to a Facebook page supposedly belonging to Per Mertesacker. I suppose the page is real, but I have no means to judge the accuracy of that.

    > Die EM ist nicht in Gefahr. Ich wurde am Dienstagabend in der BG-Klinik Tübingen bei Dr. Stöckle operiert. Er hat ein Stück Knochen zurück an den Knöchel befestigt und das Deltaband zusammengeflickt auf der Innenseite des Sprunggelenks. Alles ist gut gegangen und ich befinde mich schon in der Reha in Donaustauf. // My participation in Euro 2012 is not in danger. Dr Stöckle in Tübingen did the operation on Tuesday evening, attached a piece of bone back to the ankle and patched up the deltoid ligament on the inside of the ankle. All went well and I’m in Donaustauf, Bavaria, for the physical rehabilitation.

    I will guess that the bone that broke off, was attached to part of the deltoid ligament, so it is all one problem. If the broken off piece well approximates the void left behind and the bone is healthy, it should reattach well. How long? I’m not going to guess. Heck, I am still a little baffled at the bruising. 🙂

  • I think what I am trying to say in the article is that in 1910 everything looked like an utter disaster and the end of the club – but 3 years later we rose up again in a totally unexpected way.

    The issue therefore is, do we have the foundation to rise up again. I suspect we do – but of course many readers don’t.

  • Ugandan Goon

    Wow, Tony.
    Touched a raw nerve with a lot of people, with all this talk of a solid foundation and phoenixes rising from ashes.
    As always you and arsenal have my full support, no one is completely immune from the disappointment we all feel at just how the last few seasons have panned out, but the one reason i am here almost everyday is that the inquiring mind herein always seek to provide an explanation and crucially a perspective that never fails to cheer me up. thank you!

  • Gord

    Some more off-topic.

    For those that remember Henri Lansbury, he’s been loaned a couple of times now. He played goal for England (U-21) for part of a game. Well, apparently Henri has gotten some more time in goal. All Arsenal has a blurb about Henri playing goal for West Ham against Blackpool.

    The BBC has the game at:

    A quote from Sam Allardyce (Henri’s coach) in that BBC article:

    > “That ridiculous decision has caused a lot of us managers to not put a goalkeeper on the bench. We took the gamble and it paid off because Henri Lansbury was outstanding in goal.”

    (the ridiculous decision, is about reducing the bench from 7 to 5)

    Robert Green is dismissed at 52:29, which is when Henri makes his appearance in a substitution. In the BBC minute by minute, Henri gets 5 ordinary mentions after taking on the gloves. None involve Blackppol scoring on him.

    Congratulations to Henri!