This is absolutely not a defining moment (and a quick change of plan)

By Tony Attwood

According to the papers this is the crunch moment for Arsenal.  There are great worries.  Lose to Chelsea and we could be fourth.

And that leads to the belief that such a defeat would leave us doomed because this is the DEFINING MOMENT.

But in fact nothing is sure to be the DEFINING MOMENT because every season is different.  Try any of these picked from the first half of January across Arsenal’s illustrious history.

  • 1 January 1929: Sunderland 5 Arsenal 1.  Managed by Herbert Chapman Arsenal let in five for the third time in the season, but that match marks the start of the recovery, as the club start the climb to glory.
  • 1 January 1986: For second year running Arsenal play Tottenham on New Years Day and again fail to win.  Are Tottenham about to become the dominant force in north London?  No, more like the dormitory force.
  •  1 January 2001 Charlton Athletic beat Arsenal for first time in 44 years.  Was this the start of terminal decline?   Yes but not for Arsenal.
  • 3 January 1998: Arsenal 0 Port Vale 0 (FA Cup round 3).  Criticism is rife.  Wenger is useless.  We go on to win the double.
  • 7 January 1967: Arsenal 0 Tottenham 2, gives Tottenham the double over Arsenal in Bertie Mee’s first season.  Little did they know what was just a few years ahead. 1971 anyone?
  • 10 January 1970: Peter Marinello’s debut, he scores in his first game – but it turned out to be his only goal in 14 as Arsenal endure 10 game run without a league win and Marinello proves to be a damp squib.
  • 10 January 2004: Arsenal beat Middlesboro 4-1 to go top of the league on their way to the title.  So some moments can be defining.
  • 11 January 1930: Of course no one knew it but Arsenal 2 Chelsea 0 was the start of the journey to the first major trophy in the club’s history as we go on to win the FA Cup for the first time.  Some moments are defining but you just can’t see it at the time.
  • 11 January 1969: Arsenal 2 Sheffield W 0.  6 consecutive wins, one goal conceded. First six in a row in the league since March/April 1956.
  • 13 January 1962: A home defeat to Bolton starts a run of four consecutive losses and one win in 7, Arsenal scoring just 5 in the 7 games.  This one was a disaster, and at the end of the season Swindin’s reign as manager was ended.
  • 14 January 1933: The Walsall Experiment, last year’s cup finalists knocked out in round three by a 3rd division team.  A total disaster, except… the manager was Herbert Chapman, and we went on to win the league.
  • 14 January 1961: Herd scores his second consecutive hattrick as Arsenal score 5 for second consecutive game. We finished the season 11th.
  • 15 January 1913: Arsenal win their first home game of the season, and were duly relegated – for the only time.  The whole season was a defining moment
  • 15 January 1977: Arsenal 1 Norwich 0.  This turned out to be the last league win until April.  In the 11 match run without a win Arsenal went 7 defeats in a row and four consecutive matches without a goal.
  • 16 January 1932: Arsenal start a run of 9 wins and 1 defeat.  It all looked a lot worse at the end of the previous league match, which made it three defeats in a row.
  • 16 January 1954: A win against Wolverhampton ends run of five without victory for reigning league champions!
  • 16 January 1960: Tottenham 3 Arsenal 0 to end a run of lost 6 drawn 1 won 1.    Goals scored: 11, goals conceded: 27.  Just thank your lucky stars this is not 1960.  We finished the season 11th and were knocked out of the cup by Rotherham.
  • 18 January 1908:Arsenal make it 16 goals conceded in four games between Dec 31 and Jan 18.  Yep we were rubbish then.
  • 18 January 1987. Arsenal 0 Coventry 0.  The game concludes a 17 match unbeaten run including 13 wins, as part of George Graham’s first season, but we still end up 4th.
So it goes on – you can find much more in the Anniversary series on the Arsenal History blog (link at the end).
But meanwhile clubs around us sack their managers, and we sail on..
Of course many would prefer the chaos of sackings.  Tottenham, WBA, and soon Cardiff – my goodness they all look very strong, compared to our stability.  Stability in this argument is rubbish.  Stability is staleness.  We need to change, not least because we have these dreadful owners, just like Hull Tigers and Cardiff with the change of shirt colour.

And we can see can’t we that the trouble with Arsenal is that Mr Wenger has far too much power.  We need to split up the power, so that we could use the Tottenham model in which Franco Baldini buys some of the players and AVB buys some of the players, just like Tottenham. 

Of course I jest.  Of course I don’t know if we are going to win the league or not, nor whether the result against Chelsea is going to be the real defining moment, but I do know that every single season – even the unbeaten season – has some dodgy moments.   And mostly (not always but mostly) they come in December and January.  

The media talk them up, because they want people to read.  But really we all know its guff.

And when it happens the top clubs find a way out of the problem – as Arsenal do by ensuring that we DON’T change how we play.   Why on earth would we with a team like we have and with Theo back in form and Podolski now available again.   Ok, so Mesut Özil has had a bit of an off time.  That happens too.  Henry and Bergkamp were poor on occasions.  One defining moment from Özil and we will be off again.

The fact is that a run of one draw and one defeat in the last two games does not tell you how the rest of the season will turn out.  

What we can say for sure is that to win the league Arsenal don’t have to win against Chelsea – but it would help.  That’s all.

And no matter what, real supporters will still be there shouting for their team.

As for today, I was planning to go with Drew to see Corby Town v Poole Town only we have just heard that the game has been called off because of a waterlogged pitch.

So, quick consultations on the phone and we are going to see Northampton Town play Wycombe instead.   That to me is what being a football fan is about.  You go and see football matches.  I hope you can get to one too.

The Anniversary Files

38 Replies to “This is absolutely not a defining moment (and a quick change of plan)”

  1. Not sure I get the logic of listing the results you have. I think this IS a very big game for us confidence wise. If we lose it is a point out of a possible nine having been through our first run of tough games this season – Everton, City, Chelsea. That is bound to dent confidence. I don’t think the time of year is that important, more the fact that we have not contended for some time and need to show we can beat the likes of Chelsea.

    Having said that I don’t think the game vs. Chelsea is a defining moment. That is just paper talk as they want to be able to conclude they were right that Arsenal would not last the pace as soon as they can. By pre calling a defining moment they can then make their conclusions and pat themselves on the back about being right.

    Dare I say that it is similar behaviour to the very optimistic Arsenal fans that have concluded that everything is fine after a run of good results and that anyone who said their was a problem over the last few years at the club was therefore wrong.

    The bottom line is that if we lose we are a point off the top of the table. No more no less, with 21 games to go!

  2. I’d love to know what exactly a so called “defining moment” is within the context of professional football, and how – if at all – it helps us to understand or make intelligent sense of the game.

    This type of language never used to be deployed by football writers and commentators, yet alone bloggers, but,slowly but surely, it’s crept into relatively common use in recent years.

    Despite that,I still don’t know what the hell it means.

  3. I am not concerned about Monday’s result. We don’t win or loose title on Monday. I am more concerned about whether Wenger can buy a quality striker in January who will propell us towards our first title in many years. This year is a golden opportunity to win the title. We have fantastic start and now we need to finish strongly. A quality striker will give huge uplift to every player and fan. And may be that uplift is just we need to cross the touch line first.

  4. A win against Chelsea on Monday will do us loads of good but why that result will be a “defining moment” is incomprehensible to me. All the 38 matches of the season are “season defining” in their own ways. The only matches that are not moment defining are those played after a team has mathematically won (or lost) the league or have survived relegation/been relegated.

    All the “moment defining” noise is just drama.

  5. For me it’s a must win game
    But when you look closely to Mr Wenger’s job during recent years, you can see that he has achieved every thing he planned, so let’s say no need to worry about winning the league this year
    I really mean that

  6. @Sam,
    Well said. It seemed to me (perhaps wrongly) that Tony was preparing us for a defeat. A defeat clutched from the jaws of victory?
    I join you in hoping a top class striker is signed in the January Window. Someone to assist Giroud who cannot continue to operate on his own. He is great in the air, industrious, and falls back to help the defence. But often when the ball is at his feet, he is inclined to stumble.

    If we loose… doesn’t mean anything.

  8. Just another game, but these media jerks would make you think the whole season hinges on this. If it did does it mean if we won this game then we win the league? No. The opposite can be said of losing this game, we don’t lose the league.

  9. Mandy
    Diego Costa !!!!!!!! He would put some hair on Arsenal’s collective “balls”.
    He’s the type a player we haven’t had since Veira left, obviously different position.
    Someone with skill , passion, an eye for goal with a hint of nasty.
    Take away the flicking buggers at opposition bit , and he’s exactly what we need .

  10. I scratch my head in amazement at the ‘must win’ nonsense or the ‘defining moment’ drivel. If we win on Monday night we move on to the next game. If we draw on Monday night we move on the next game on Monday. If we loose on Monday night we move on to the next game. Duh!!!
    It’s a chance to gain 3 points on one of our biggest rivals and maybe get a psychological boost. Nothing more or nothing less. Allen les Gunners.
    As for buying a striker in January, could somebody tell me what player would be good enough to buy yet content to warm the bench while Olivier does his stuff? Theo and Lukas are plenty of cover up top should Mons. Giroud need a nap. Relax people!!!

  11. Would love to see costa signed and there are rumours of release clauses and financial difficulties which may be about to get a whole lot worse in Spain but would they sell to us in jan? If so what are we waiting for! As for Monday have a nasty feeling we will have to be good enough to overcome yet another ref stitch up. The refs have cottoned on to the level rotational fouling disrupts our game

  12. I hope Giroud & Ozil, and the rest of the team, have had a good rest and will be at their best on Monday.

  13. There should be no excuse for tiredness as we have enough rest. My concern is that LK is injured and I hope that Sanya comes in, because TV might upset the balance due to his lack to football. We have to win this game to give us the edge.

  14. I am not with the media hog wash but it is a must win game if we want to win the league
    It will be crushing for the morale and confidence if we lose

  15. What moment are we trying to define with one game, exactly? Is it the moment when Gooners everywhere lose faith in the possibility of us winning something, after 8 exciting years filled with the incessant rondo of ¨trophyless¨?
    Is it the moment where Wenger finally realizes that the AAA, the yellow media and the witless pundits like Officious Owen & the 700 dwarves were right all along and he commits hari-kiri?
    Is it that delicious moment where the above cretins can say with certainty ¨we told you so¨ because AFC lost a game?
    Is it the moment that lazy journalists repeatedly define as the next game Arsenal lose, regardless of whether it actually has any impact on a 38 game season?
    Is it the moment where we prove we can’t beat the other top 4 teams but still end the season as title holders because we beat enough of the EPL to win more points?

    The essence of a defining moment is that it is posited by others who are unfriendly to AFC, with an agenda and that agenda is to diminish and discredit Wenger, the Arsenal and we Gooners at all costs by moving the bar higher and higher until we finally meet their expectations. The Invincibles were recently criticized for their ¨easy¨ season and for their inability to win the CL. No matter how well we do, there will always be a moving measure which ensures we can never do well enough!

  16. “could somebody tell me what player would be good enough to buy yet content to warm the bench while Olivier does his stuff? Theo and Lukas are plenty of cover up top should Mons. Giroud need a nap. Relax people!!!”
    You are playing with fire. It is a false dichotomy to the only option for a new striker is to warm the bench or play second fiddle to Giroud. There may be combinations, rotations for freshness, multiple competitions, etc. Olivier cannot do his stuff because of an 8 day layoff and fans’ macho posturing. Bodies need time to regenerate, even athletes; and the schedule, especially in multi-cup championship runs, is a grim reaper. Freshness with quality is essential, and letting Olivier do his stuff as you fantasize it will wear him down (as it has been doing). Plenty of cover is not plenty of chemistry; the team hasn’t integrated Lukas yet this season, but he’s already a perfect replacement for Giroud in your dreamscape. And Theo is far from the proven central striker that you contend can just snap into place. The good money, the opportunity to be fed by Ozil, the ability to go deep into multi-cup competitions, the big EPL stage, etc., are incentives for quality strikers to join us. All this you would dismiss as who would want to warm the bench. I think that’s a red herring. More clinicality around the goal would do very nicely. I can’t agree more with Sam, Nicky and Mandy on the need for a striker. Your “relax people admonition with three exclamation points” is what’s misguided on this point.

  17. sorry, meant to write: “it is a false dichotomy to say that the only option for a new striker is to warm the bench or play second fiddle.”

  18. Our defining moment came when we didn’t buy Suarez. This season and the previous will be a tale of two strikers. One we sold to enable Manu to win the title and one we didn’t buy which quite possibly could have helped us win the title while weakening one of our rivals. Now we’ll struggle to find the world class striker we need.

    This game won’t be a defining moment but I think it essential we win it.

  19. I am pleased that we didn’t buy Suarez.

    All is well at present for Liverpool and Suarez, but he has already shown that he hs no more loyalty than Van Persie and he will not hang around too long if Liverpool’s fortune’s don’t continue.

    Also, his record of racist behaviour, diving, and other forms of foul play make him an unsuitable candidate to be an Arsenal player, in my opinion. Buying Suarez would be an attempt at a short-term financial fix, which is not Arsenal’s way and w ould not be guaranteed to succeed, in any case.

  20. I really don’t get it.

    This is a league, there are 38 matches to played. They all equal 3, 1 or 0 points. They are equaly important and defining.

    I find it really pointless to talk about “defining” matches because it lacks any basis to say, in the end, that one match was where the season was lost or won.

    I object retrospective wisdom: in 2007-2008, the Birmingham match was horrible, and eventually proved as a turning point. However, we could have succumbed to a period of mediocrity nontheless, or we could have managed to come through out of those bad feelings. It happened like it happened and we drew 5 more matches – and my point is they were as “defining” as the draw v. Birmingham.

    It only counts in May, and the fact that some people have an agenda to sell more newspapers or internt ad space is the only reason we are all holding this bullshit debate.

    Note to self and a lot of the UA faithful: the media are a business. They need to sell and they need controversies, stinky stories, disputes and dramatic soap opera magnitude moments. Just don’t fall into their rhetoric…

  21. @Rupert Cook
    I fear you are correct and we will struggle to find that world class striker in the January window. Costa is being mentioned a lot and I like the cut of his jib but I worry that moneybags Chelsea, rumoured to be in the goal getter market as well, will gazump us for his signature if push comes to shove. It is a dilemma for Wenger, does he go for whatever is available just to provide the essential back up to Giroud, or is it better to gamble and wait till summer when quality is reputedly easier to obtain. I really do not envy him his task.

  22. In my opinion Akpom is nearly ready Sanogo is untested and could be special we have the Costa Rican Campbell on loan with the Greeks who already looks the part and we have poldi Walcott as cover for giroud and not to mention bendtner who has international kudos as a minimum speck
    So what anyone who thinks we need to sign a world. Class striker is saying is olly is not good enough
    And he should join the others on the. Bench to let our new world class striker play it will not happen we will only sign defenders this window. Unless wenger thinks olly is not doing a job

  23. Rupert,
    You are talking of more than one moment in your last comment. Which one is THE defining moment?

  24. Rupert
    Have a long hard look at the teams FC Suarez has played so far.
    have a look at the results.
    Suarez is not relevant to the performance of a title winning team.

    Also, and I’m not picking on only your comment but I am fed up with this ‘ world class striker that Arsenal need’ meme. lots of people say it without any back-up as if it’s an obvious conclusion. I don’t think it’s obvious at all that Arsenal need another striker. the goals scored average per game is over 2.06 and I think the team have been saving a bit of energy for the champions league games. Those shackles are off for the next 8 weeks.

    Theo is looking good again, Poldi will be ready too for several beatable teams over he new year and January. You don’t need to buy the likes of Diego Costa to roll over the likes of Hull or Palace.
    And why buy a cup tiled player before the World Cup?

  25. Magneto

    Not sure if this helps but I lump “defining moment” alongside my own favourite “statement of intent”.

    If I had a penny for every time I heard a mindless football plundit use that meaningless expression to over hype this or that I’d be able to build my own pipeline to Europe all the way from Qatar!

  26. “wait till summer when quality is reputedly easier to obtain”
    Surely it’s not “easier” in the summer – witness last summer. Imo, a quality striker (that doesn’t have to be world class money, but good enough to work with our football style)is needed if the intention is to win the EPL this season, a worthy goal which is within reach if we wish to turn our money in hand into that intention. Having that intention, or not, is all important; the money is there.

  27. Double canister,
    Imo, Goals per game average doesn’t win or lose against the big sides. It’s clinicality at the goal mouth, which loses it’s edge when, as AW well says, we get “leggy.” We need another quality striker to keep both fresh, enable rotation, and become more clinical all the time. Giroud is tired; and, though surely improved, is still not clinical enough. It’s not just that he was (clearly) tired against MansourCity; he has not (yet, imo) shown the consistent cutting edge. I surely want him on our side, but we need another more clinical piece and its options.

    Double canister,
    you may be fed up with the meme/call for another world class striker, but the money (not your money) is there, and perhaps the compelling logic/need for another quality (not necessarily world class, but why not) striker might be welcome. Imo, it’s necessary for a title, unless you’re willing to wait till next year and adopt the hey, it’s cheaper in the summer meme/mantra. (As for that, Chelski, MansourCity, Manure, PSG, Bafca, RealMad, Monaco, etc. etc. etc. are not going to cheapen the required spend to compete for a title.)

  28. Double canister,
    Your Suarez is a racist meme is unproven and habitual. What happened between him and the hardly-unimpeachable Evra is still murky and lost in the translations between them on the pitch. Unproven. Perhaps unprovable. But is there any quote you can muster from any of his teammates, or from opponents other than Evra and his “witness”, that Suarez is a racist? And do you think Arsene, who has well and regularly denounced racism in football/society, would have bid so high for an out and out racist? It’s so easy to throw around that term and act as if it’s an established fact with Suarez when it’s not been established at all. It’s appearance was established and it’s worked with you. The medja first constructs the he’s a racist meme; but now its mantra is he’s a redeemed man and clearly at the top top of world football. Well, the last part happens to be true, then and now. As for loyalty, well, certain seemingly pure and grateful our kind of gooners have, as you well know, turned out to be trea$onous. I hold no personal brief for Suarez and we could do well without him. But we tried to move mountains to get him which would not have happened if his alleged core racism were established among his peers, as opposed to those deluded by the world-class shamelessness of UK medja.

  29. Bob
    I agree with you about new striker, we need more options upfront
    Unless Theo shows a real something in the next days

  30. It is defining moment and on the other hand NOT everything.

    As we all know, the team tend to dip between Nov to Feb. The team have delayed that dip this year. If they can beat Chelsea, that is a signal that they CAN SHORTERN the “worse section” of the season into just a few games. Assuming they continue with the trend that they become very strong in the second half of the season, then this season might just be a run away for Arsenal. Even drawing against Chelsea would be a “good” performance considering the team is in a “bad” period. When they win again after the Chelsea match, then they will be out of the “bad period”.

    If they lose, it is just the same as other years. They can always climb back later on. That is why there is no need to panic even if they lose.

    During every winter, I treat games as “damage limitation”. If they manage to get through without dropping many points, then they will have a fine season.

  31. I feared the worse when we lost against Villa in the first game ! Doom ! Gloom ! The end of the world as we knew it !
    It didn’t happen , but still the darkness persists .
    Now Liverpiddle and Man Shitty have overtaken us ! Woe is me ! How much more can me poor heart take ?

    Its been 101 years since we were last relegated – an omen ?

    For now I’d be happy if we get the 40 points we need to avoid relegation befor the end of the year !
    If not , alas , its the hemlock for me !

  32. A SPANISH Teacher was explaining to her class that in Spanish, unlike English, nouns are designated as either masculine or feminine.

    ‘House’ for instance, is feminine: ‘la casa.’

    ‘Pencil,’ however, is masculine: ‘el lapiz.’

    A student asked, ‘What gender is ‘computer’?’

    Instead of giving the answer, the teacher split the class into two groups, male and female, and asked them to decide for themselves whether computer’ should be a masculine or a feminine noun. Each group was asked to give four reasons for its recommendation.

    The men’s group decided that ‘computer’ should definitely be of the feminine gender (‘la computadora’), because:

    1. No one but their creator understands their internal logic;

    2. The native language they use to communicate with other computers is incomprehensible to everyone else;

    3. Even the smallest mistakes are stored in long term memory for possible later retrieval; and

    4. As soon as you make a commitment to one, you find yourself spending half your paycheck on accessories for it.


    The women’s group, however, concluded that computers should be Masculine (‘el computador’), because:

    1. In order to do anything with them, you have to turn them on;

    2. They have a lot of data but still can’t think for themselves;

    3. They are supposed to help you solve problems,
    but half the time they ARE the problem; and

    4. As soon as you commit to one, you realize that if you had waited a little longer, you could have gotten a better model.

    The women won.

  33. Monkeys and sense …from

    Once upon a time in a village, a man announced to the villagers that he would buy monkeys for Rs 10. The villagers, seeing that there were many monkeys around, went out to the forest and started catching them..

    The man bought thousands at Rs 10 and as supply started to diminish, the villagers stopped their effort.

    He further announced that he would now buy at Rs20. This renewed the efforts of the villagers and they started catching monkeys again.

    Soon the supply diminished even further and people started going back to their farms. The offer rate increased to Rs 25 and the supply of monkeys became so little that it was an effort to even see a monkey, let alone catch it!

    The man now announced that he would buy monkeys at Rs 50! However, since he had to go to the city on some business, his assistant would now buy on behalf of him.

    In the absence of the man, the assistant told the villagers. Look at all these monkeys in the big cage that the man has collected. I will sell them to you at Rs 35 and when the man returns from the city, you can sell it to him for Rs 50.”
    The villagers squeezed up with all their savings and bought all the monkeys.

    Then they never saw the man nor his assistant, only monkeys everywhere!

    Welcome to the ‘Stock Market’

  34. Now is the time Everton draw is going to bite us in the back sides. 3 point then would’ve put as at ease for tomorrows match, since we needed to hold on only for the final 10 mins.
    Ifs and buts and all… lets win Monday and get back to the top.

  35. @Stuart, good point. I should have said two defining moments.

    Maybe if we’d have had the striker upgrade (I’ll drop the world class description as it annoys Double Canister) that we needed in summer we’d have won last night. Who knows? (Nobody, obviously). But in my opinion you need more firepower to win the league.

    @Double Canister, if you looked at RVP three years ago you’d have said the same thing about him but then he joins Manu and appears to be essential to a title winning team. Put Suarez in our team and we’d have a better chance of winning the league. As for this “we can only sign saints” attitude I don’t recall Pires being particularly good at retaining his balance or Bergkamp being Mr. Nice. Or Vieira for that matter. And if Pool win the league, don’t think they will but if they do, who will it be down to?

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