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August 2021

Openings to seasons tell us nothing.

By Tony Attwood

Encouraging win against Manchester City in the final friendly, terrible game for the opener against a bent or incompetent referee, and then a good win away in Europe.  What does that say about Arsenal?

Whatever you want, of course.  If we lose we can be rubbish, if we win we can be lucky or against weak opposition.  Indeed I even saw one comment that suggested that the referee against us in the Villa game could not have been bent since he did not send our keeper off at the time of the Villa penalty.

Here’s the thing: a referee who is bent (and I retain the view that he was either bent or incompetent – all we can say is one or the other) is persuaded only to make one team win.  He doesn’t need to rub it in by making it more and more obvious (and thus risk being caught).  (Although with this ref we could argue that he was both bent and incompetent since he did make it all too obvious).

The non-sending off could be bent-ness – he had done enough – or incompetence (if you argue that Wojciech Szczęsny should have been sent off) – or both.

But that is also the problem with individual games – or early combinations of games.

If you read the Anniversary notes that most days appear on the top of the home page of this blog you will know that on this day (22 August) we have early parts of the season anniversaries of note among all the normal first and last game commemorations:

  • 22 August 1970: Arsenal 4 Manchester United 0.  The third game of the season and the start of the Double in earnest.
  • 22 August 2009: After beating Everton away 6-1 Arsenal defeat Portsmouth 4-1

What do they tell us?  Not too much as in 2009 we lost the next two games letting in six, while in 1970 we went on to win the double.

The 1971 Double is also particularly interesting because of the talk about the thinness of the squad at the moment.

We opened the 1970/1 season with Charlie George getting seriously injured in the first game and not playing again until 6 February.  His replacement, Marinello, lasted three matches (two as sub).  Then upped stepped Ray Kennedy for his first complete season.

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In fact we used 16 players that season, of whom one made one start and one made two.  Effectively the Double was won by a 14 man squad.

But to step back a couple of paces, I wrote “the start of the double in earnest” and it is worth noting that in that season the first two games were draws: 2-2 at Everton, 0-0 at West Ham.

But let’s go back not quite so far.  The 2009 campaign.  The 6-1 defeat of Everton has been covered (as are all things historical to do with Arsenal) on the Arsenal History Society site.  We’ve looked at it too on this site.

Anyway, just to make my point, I thought I would transfer to Untold an article that would normally have appeared on the history site.   What we are doing there from time to time is running the original commentaries written by our chum in South Africa Gf60 who has kindly let me have copies of all his notes over recent years.

I’ve already published his articles from the first game of the 2009 season (the 6-1 away win to Everton), but here are his comments on the qualifying round match away to Celtic, and then, on this day in 2009, the following league match.

Celtic vs Arsenal Euro Qualifying round 0-2

Many Jock papers are saying “Lucky Arsenal”. Quite where the facts that Celtic were well outplayed and had to resort to questionable tactics particularly on Cesc, went to in these reports is debatable. Maybe Gooners succeeding where sides such as Barcelona and MFU had failed led to a touch of home town news. At least Mowbray and Caldwell in post match interviews recognised a gulf in class.

The stats count :

Goals 2-0. Shots 9-2. Yellows 1-3. Fouls 9-16 really says it all. Lucky goals admittedly but what the stats don’t tell you is how well the defence covered, harried and tackled. Inevitably whenever Celtic had possession there were at least two gooners closing down…and that’s something we haven’t seen for many years. Vermaelen really does look a class act and Alex Song, again, seems to have captured some of Paddy Vieira’s talents. He also was immense. But to my mind Cesc was the MOM. For someone who was supposedly 50/50 to play, he was outstanding and controlled the game. The lumps and bumps he received though suggest that a rest on Saturday may well be in order. AA still seems a bit undercooked but just as I thought he was coming into the game more, he was substituted. “For Diaby?” was the immediate comment, whereupon the paradox that is Diaby twisted, turned and humiliated a couple of Celts before releasing Clichy whose cross resulted in our second.

So far, 8 goals scored, only one from a forward. Time for the sights to be adjusted lads starting against Pompey.

Arsenal vs Portsmouth 4-1

A useless but pleasing bit of information. This is the first time in Arsenal’s history that we’ve scored 10 goals in our first two league games AND won both of them. There was just one occasion when we scored more… 1934-5: a 3-3 draw and an 8-1 win, but a win and a draw don’t equal this current performance. Do I need to add that 1934-5 was a championship year?

Another “blue moon rising” bit of information…Diaby was my MOM. Seemingly impossible but true. Did he really not misplace more than 2 passes and never got caught in possession? And score twice? Maybe I’m just suffering from wine flu and hallucinating. We rather overdid the Merlot last night.

Or I could be suffering from whine flu. What Manuel Fawlty was thinking of when Pompey pulled that goal back and made what should have already been 5-0 into 2-1 is anyone’s guess. In fairness I very much doubt that we’ll see a player ‘hovering’ as high and as well as Kaboul managed this season. But it did get Pompey back into the game.

Indeed if Billy G wasn’t in a ‘fall into a cess pit and come up smelling of roses’ mode at the moment, not only could it have been 2-2 but we could have been down to ten men. Steve Bennett has definitely mellowed…but I still can’t work out how he didn’t give Bill an early bath. Adding insult to Pompey’s injury was Billy’s subsequent goal. After his bummer on Tuesday it was a definite improvement. It takes definite skill to volley the ball onto your head and into the net.

Overall, it was not much of a game. Hopefully Cesc’s injury is not serious and Song was merely rested. Young Gibbs looked very ring rusty and our defence was just a tad too Emmentaler for my liking. Maybe we just took our foot off the accelerator because it was all too easy…8 or 9 looked up for grabs, 4 was what we should have had inside 20 minutes.

The defence/midfield currently lead the forwards by 11 goals to 1. Wish I could say that any of the forwards looked particularly dangerous today. Indeed RvP, bar the beautiful pass to Ramsey for our fourth goal, was as much use as…. Methinks that we’d be far better off if he went right and Nick/Eduardo went into the middle. If it works for Holland, why not us?

And the Eboue did good…esp his first time cross to Diaby for his second.


And what does that all tell us?  Not much, except that starts to the season rarely mean much.   After all Herbert Chapman lost his first match at Arsenal.


22 August anniversaries; Season starts don’t tell us anything

More anniversaries

38 comments to Openings to seasons tell us nothing.

  • Zé Gooner

    Straws….grasping at them…UA remains the only place in the world that still equates blind devotion with “good for the club”…No, the Sat-Nav knows where it ‘s going…that only LOOKS like a cliff…

    When your first game of the season ends up with Ramsey at CB and Podolski at RB, and your manager admitting your squad is ligHt….it tells you plenty…

  • nicky

    Even mid-season doesn’t always tell us much.
    When I was 9, Walsall duffed us up in the FA Cup.
    Four months later we won the 1st Division Championship!

  • The more positive flavour of this site may not be to your liking, but there is no “blind devotion” here.

  • @ nicky

    What season was that, nicky?

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Positive thinking when shit happens !

    Positive thinking is like this…. A little bird flies up in the sky; you look up and it shits in your eye…
    But you don’t mind and you don’t cry… But you thank God that cows don’t fly…..

    Not sure of the remedy when shit comes directly from the brain !

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Quality or quantity ? Class or crass ?

    What’s better than a nail on the wall ? A screw on the floor!

    The AAA asks the hooker, how much for sex?
    She says: $50 on bed, $20 on sofa and $10 on the floor.
    He then hands her $50. She says: “You’re a man of class, once on the bed…?”
    He says: “NO!! 5 times on the floor….”

  • Brickfields Gunners

    What do you think happened to grandpa ?

    One night, grandma wore a see-through top, grandpa didn’t notice.
    The 2nd night grandma wore a bikini, grandpa got a shock.
    And on the 3rd night, she got naked and grandpa says to her: “why is your dress so crumpled…???”

  • menace

    Before the Villa game I was talking to some ‘neighbours’. Which position do we need new players? Defence, striker and midfield. It was the usual answers.

    My reply was we don’t need players. WE NEED REFEREES WHO KNOW THE LAWS AND ARE UNBIASED.

    Even the ref in Turkey was incorrect with his yellow card for the high foot that almost killed Kos. One inch to the left and his temple would have ruptured. Nani had a red without contact. Dangerous play does not need intent for a red card.

    FIFA and the Court for Arbitration in SPORT need to address the issues before there is further death on the pitch.

  • Maybe you should be at the Edinburgh Fringe, Brickfields Gunners.

    Then again, maybe not . . .

  • Armin

    Anyway, another December 21st passed, and we are still alive, and waiting someone to give us new date.

  • Giddy

    @Menace, Football is a contact sport. I agree with you on referees, most of them are scrap but there is no ideal world! Ours should just be to try and see where we can try to strike a balance

  • jax

    Are you sure you should saying all this about referees on a public forum? Even hinting can cause you a whole load of legal trouble, a la Lord McAlpine v Sally Bercow & Others.

  • ClockEndRider

    Amusing to see Bolton Villa manager in the press crying about being the victim of poor refereeing.
    Of course his brave boys won all on their own on Saturday so it must come as a shock to him when referees consistently go against him.
    Poor thing.

  • Rupert Cook

    @Nicky, the other day when you mentioned the Walsall game you said you were ten, now you claim you were nine. If you’ve got a machine that makes you younger can I borrow it.

    @Michael Staley, we’ve got this wonderful thing called Google on the internet, try it. Anyway I’ll save you the bother, the season we lost to Walsall was 1933. Which makes Nicky a few years older than my dad.

    Apparently Schalke are in for Podolski. Now we have been linked to Benzema and Di Maria. It’s all happening, again.

    And yes very few games at this point of the season tell us much but if we lost the league title by a point I’m sure we’ll all remember the Villa game.

  • Mick

    @Rupert Cook
    ‘but if we lost the league title by a point I’m sure we’ll all remember the Villa game.’
    Yes, and the performance of Taylor which cost us dearly.
    ‘Football is a contact sport.’
    I am not sure why you come out with that over used cliche. Do you mean to say that because it is a contact sport a dangerously high boot that caused serious facial damage is acceptable? According to the laws of the game it isn’t acceptable and should be punished with a red card.

  • @ Rupert Cook

    Thank you. I’ll try to get to grips with this Google thing which you young people go on about so much.

  • ARSENAL 13

    contact sport???…..

    Well, last season during the NANI discussion I’ve said this. Nani might not have intended to hurt the player but he did end up with a reckless play and that is a red card. The same yesterday…..the players intention was not to hurt Kos as was apparent. But a ball over the head you can always head it. And he was aware of Koscielnys presence…..Red card any day. SO if a pundit says, he dint know Kos was behind him…its time they learn the game again.

  • Black field gunners I just love yo stories shit happens, Lambert yesterday could not remember that shit happens as he was complaining about the ref, can you imagine!!!So I wish cows could fry and shit to someone like R for he will always be a sewer rat what ever the team does.
    Keep it up Black Field, there was a moron yesterday who said that we will never qualify in the champions league that’s why class players don’t want to join us I wonder where he is now.
    Had we lost we could not even get a breather here just wondering where the morons are,or its a bank holiday today.

  • The damages done by MoTD can be immense. Many neutral fans who never saw the full match and typically depend on the programme for ‘factual reporting’ now believe that the 2 penalties were good calls and more importantly, that the ref did a good job. Combined with the efforts of our AAA, in a couple of years, it will be taken as a fact that not “spending the fucking money” rather than Anthony Taylor, the bent referee, cost us the game.

    I was never a fan of MoTD but I now absolutely hate the programme.

  • sukebe


    Even full body contact sport have regulation to protect the fighters.

    Ever had a skull breaking injury, old sport?

  • Watching Spurs play in Tbilisi right now. What won’t they give to be in our ‘terrible’ situation.

    To those demeaning our 4th place finish last season, fancy a trip to Tbilisi for Thursday game? Guess not 🙂

  • Mick

    So right, and not only MOTD. When I am walking the dogs in the morning I have often had people, usually members of the fair sex, who are not interested in football who, knowing I am an Arsenal supporter, pass comment on the current popular derogatory cliche regarding Arsene Wenger. Things like, ‘he’s the one who likes young boys’ or ‘he’s the one who doesn’t see anything isn’t he’. All the usual crap spouted by the media. These are people who know nothing about football but who have had a negative opinion about our manager or club planted in their minds by the media. Imagine the effect this constant barrage of negativity can have on more receptive minds. It just shows that mud really does stick.

  • Mick,

    Exactly man. The impact of the campaign of calumny on the neutrals is indeed immense. I spent a good part of this afternoon de-programming a neutral cousin on Facebook. He was asking why AW wouldn’t relent and “spend the fucking money”. He was genuinely concerned for his sanity. He wondered why anyone would not want to “spend the fucking money”.

    The simplistic nature of the buy-buy-buy argument coupled with the ad-nauseaum repetition make Arsenal come off as an obstinate club who wouldn’t do simple things that will GUARANTEE them trophies. No mention of Man City’s trophylesness despite their spending last season.

    We are already living in the idiocratic era. Keeping it simple and stupid is the new order.

    MoTD’s fraudulent editing of highlights and dishonest analyses influnce the debate around football games because of their reputation (almighty BBC) among the masses. Sadly, it’s for the worse.

  • Stuart

    Bootoomee &all
    I have given up on MOTD. It is a waste of bandwidth and broadcast space. I did write in with my views last season but never heard back.

  • Yassin


    Idiocratic era, man exactly, and not only on football, some people just love to be fooled. I sometimes watch news and become astonished how easy it is to see the fooling and lying, and how stupid are most people to follow.

  • Mick

    I wonder how much the incessant negative media crap affects the players, and indeed potential signings. Why would a player want to come to a club which is supposedly always in crisis and whose players are always being belittled and criticised,a lot of the time by its very own supporters.

  • Shard


    I think the narrative of the club definitely has affected the way potential signings see us. The club probably should have kept that aspect in mind a little more, but I suppose those are bad reasons to decide your actions.

    What will happen now, because our stock is low, is that we’ll have to overpay for some players. Like ManCity did. Once that first step is taken, it will become easier.

  • marcus


    The message is don’t trust the mainstream media for anything.

    When Fukushima happened they trotted out the usual platitudes about it being a small contained incident…now look what is happening. 1331 rods that need to be manually dismantled, one fuck up and they start a chain reaction.

    In the US there were about 85 media outlets 30 years ago, now there are 5, all singing the same tune.

    Football seems to be mediated by 1 outlet, Sky. Rupert Murdoch merely needs to squint at Wenger, and the club is toast.

    Anyhow, football is pretty marginal these days for me when we have the spectre of some kind of all out war in Syria, leading to WW3. Sorry but it has to be said, football is really low priority when you consider how serious things are getting worldwide.

    Watching 1300 people gassed to death by whoever, (US neocons or Russian backed Assad, take your pick) is appalling beyond belief.

    I’d rather we had some justice in the world, and then I could enjoy football, but I suspect we are watching the early stages of WW3.

  • Shard

    Yassin, Bootoomee, and especially marcus

    All of you are making me feel depressed!

  • Andrei

    @Bootoomee “To those demeaning our 4th place finish last season, fancy a trip to Tbilisi for Thursday game?”

    Have you been to Tbilisi? It is beautiful city with a lot of history and traditions. Add excellent food and wine on the top of that.

  • Andrei,

    I meant no offence at the city of Tbilisi. I sincerely apologise for coming across as such. I just wanted to mock Tottenham for playing in the Europa League which is typically played on Thursdays and can take clubs to distant European cities.

    My comment was not meant to demean these cities. I apologise again.

  • marcus,

    I agree with you as I have loads of other interests that I follow passionately myself. There is so much wrong with the world hence why I refuse to accept the childish frustrations expressed by whiny Arsenal fans about lack of trophies. When I think of all the pain and suffering in the world, the loss of a football match or failure to win a trophy pales in comparison.

    On the other hand, Untold Arsenal is a football blog dedicated to the cause of Arsenal football club. I don’t think that it is the right place to talk about Syria or Fukushima. I don’t object to alluding to these issues to make a point in football or Arsenal context but I refuse to be chided for not placing them above the mundane discussion of the media unfairness to a football club. I have opinion on these more serious matters; I just always take them to the appropriate places.

    I think we should leave Untold as a haven not just from the negative Arsenal fans and bias but from the discussion of the evils of the larger world as well. It’s nice to have at least one positive place available.

  • mk

    Bit off topic, but slightly disturbing reading seeing an ex ref so casually discuss attempts to influence his reffing as if this is perfectly normal and acceptable.

    Get put up in the best hotel in the city before the game, get offered to be taken to the ‘best restaurant in town’ for an obvious big night after the game, then because they lose, dinner cancelled and straight back to the hotel.

    I’m not saying it’s conscious bribery corruption to do this or it would actually affect a ref’s decisions on the field but if anyone actually wanted to cleanup the game you would need to stop allowing refs to get into these positions where there are any kind of ‘rewards’ for being nice to one team. Ie minimal contact between refs and officials of either team before or after the game, hotel and meals organized by referee organization rather than either club etc.–Graham-Poll.html

  • Rupert Cook

    @Marcus, I doubt there’ll be a World War 3. The west is getting tired of fighting pointless wars in the Middle East which costs lives and is financially draining.

    After all the US stated that if chemical weapons were used a line would be crossed. Well they’ve been used, and this isn’t the first time, and nothing’s happened. The appetite for war has been exhausted of late.

    A lot of people in the UK are fed up with Afghanistan, Iraq etc. and don’t want anything to do with the conflict in Syria, the more extreme views like “let them all kill themselves” are, depressingly, becoming more common. I find it hard to understand anyone using chemical weaponry, or for that matter ordinary weaponry, on another human being. It’s pretty bleak that after thousands of years the human race can’t learn to live with each other and respect one another and accept those with different views without resorting to violence.

  • marcus


    Sorry, I didn’t intend to chide you B. Like you I find MOTD fatuous in the extreme 🙂

  • marcus


    Well I guess we’ll see. I think things look quite grim to be honest.

    Fenherbace in a year’s time might not be on the menu.

    Perhaps these issues are outside of a football blog, but on the other hand, if we were friends down the pub, we’d discuss all sorts surely?

  • marcus,

    Thanks for your graciousness. I’m glad that with respect to MoTD, we are all on the same page. Cheers man!

  • Rupert Cook

    @Marcus, don’t worry, I’m sure there won’t be a world war. We’d certainly discuss more than football, there’s only so much you can talk about even where Arsenal’s concerned, although this blog manages to produce about a dozen articles a week, I don’t know how they do it.