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April 2021

Who is the best at predicting what will happen in the coming season? (You might be surprised)

By Tony Attwood

For a few minutes it looked like the AAA had gone.  We had signed Sanchez and there was talk about all the others who were about to sign.  Not talk from Arsenal of course, but just talk on the chatterboards. But a couple of days is an eternity in blog land, so doom and gloom is back with us.  As I write this I see headlines like

  • Former Arsenal target Matthias Ginter completes move to Borussia Dortmund
  • Man Utd handed Mats Hummels boost as Dortmund beat Arsenal to Matthias Ginter
  • Report: Sami Khedira performs U-turn after Arsenal claims…
  • Chelsea hijack Arsenal’s Khedira deal
  • CONFIRMED: Liverpool & Arsenal target Iturbe joins ex-Chelsea star Cole at Roma

Also there is an extraordinarily funny story is being circulated in relation to a Michael Owen interview that predicts that Arsenal will not only fail to win the league this year, but will also fail to qualify for the Champions League.

It is a gift of a story to the AAA with its only problem being that the source is M Owen who expresses the view that “Arsenal haven’t had any real stand out players in the last few years, like Thierry Henry. They have just lagged a step behind.’

Now there is a twist here, because what we see on TV and what the media wants us to remember are the amazing goals – the running the length of the pitch to score against Tottenham for example.  Bergkamp’s trio against Leicester, and his masterpiece against Newcastle.

What they don’t want to talk about, because it doesn’t fit with the utterly simplistic view that people like Owen propagate, is that the team of Henry and Bergkamp was criticised for being lightweight in attack.  Not in the first few days before Henry had time to settle in, but long after that.

It is an important point, because the comments about the mis-firing attack were made in December 2000 with the Invincible team pretty much in place.  Arsenal had just lost 4-0 to Liverpool.   You can see the comments made here.

Now even if you don’t study Arsenal history you will know what happened after this – the world changed as Arsenal went on an amazing spree breaking record after record after record.

What people like Owen have, and what the press love, is an utterly simplistic view of an unchanging world.  Not unchanging because Arsenal won’t buy more players but simplistic because they don’t perceive the world as a place where the gel of the team can make things change.  The Arsenal side that came second three seasons running to Man U was the failures, the team that always came second, a team needing a total turnaround, not, as it turned out to be, a team just getting ready to achieve what no one else had done for 100 years or more.

A season unbeaten away from home, the breaking of the record of the number of consecutive games scoring a goal, the Unbeaten Season, the 49… Contemplating this I just wondered about the predictions made ahead of the Unbeaten Season.  How did the experts see the world then?

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By chance I am currently working on a new Arsenal book (Arsenal: The Chronology) of which more later.  But what it does is gathers together in short bites some of the key issues and moments in the long history of our club, and it includes what people said about Arsenal at the start of the 2003/4 season.  Here’s a quick run down.

10 August 2003: The Independent on Sunday predicts Arsenal will finish 5th, while the Observer has Arsenal to win the league.  The Sunday Times has Arsenal to come 3rd.

16 August 2003:  The Guardian predicts Arsenal will finish 3rd although one day earlier Guardian Unlimited had predicted Arsenal would win the league.  The Independent predict Liverpool will win the league with Arsenal 3rd.

16 August 2003: The Unbeaten Season begins: Arsenal 2 Everton 1.  Appropriately it was Henry and Pires who scored.

“They will be thereabouts, but unless Wenger finally puts his faith in youth, and the likes of Jérémie Aliadière, Jermaine Pennant andPhillipe Senderos repay him, they may lack the depth to sustain a title campaign.”  That was Glenn Moore of The Independent

24 August 2003: As Arsenal beat Middlesbrough 4-0 Mr  Wenger said to the press ,”I feel it is very important in our minds to do this and I know the hunger is strong to do it.” He named Newcastle, Liverpool, Man U and Chelsea as the main rivals for the Premier League.   The final table was

    P W D L F A Pts
1 Arsenal 38 11 8 0 33 12 90
2 Chelsea 38 12 3 4 33 17 79
3 Manchester United 38 11 2 6 27 20 75
4 Liverpool 38 6 8 5 26 22 60
5 Newcastle United 38 2 12 5 19 26 56

What’s getting them is that with a month and a half of the transfer window to go the Arsenal in-box reads

  • Alexis Sanchez (Barcelona, £30m)

While our rivals are showing:


Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona, £30m), Diego Costa (Atletico Mdrid, £32m), Mario Pasalic (Hadjuk Split, undisclosed)


Adam Lallana (Southampton, £23m), Lazar Markovic (Benfica, £20million)Emre Can (Bayer Leverkusen, £9.8m), Rickie Lambert (Southampton, £4m)

Man City

Fernando (Porto, £12million), Bacary Sagna (Arsenal, free), Willy Caballero (Malaga, £6m)

Man U

Luke Shaw (Southampton, £31.5million), Ander Herrera (Athletic Bilbao, £29million), Vanja Milinkovic (FK Vojvodina, undisclosed) —–

Obviously there are stories behind most of these clubs.  Chelsea got £50m+ from PSG, Liverpool got £75m for the vampire, Man U need a very quick rebuild after last season’s disaster.  Man C on the other hand are looking at the money after getting caught out under FFP.

But above all, just as a recent story on the Arsenal History Society site revealed that pre-season games reveal nothing (we lost to Peterborough in the run up to the Unbeaten Season) so the commentators are not that good at predicting.  Mr Wenger on the other hand seems quite clever at it.

Maybe we should ask him.


The largest collection of facts and opinions on Arsenal’s history ever put together: The AISA Arsenal History Society web site.
The books


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