We ain’t won nothing yet, the portents are mixed, but the auguries are in Arsenal’s favour

By Tony Attwood

This season I’ve bored everyone to death with my thesis that transfers and managerial changes can cause as much havoc in a club as they can bring success.  Indeed it is very possible to show that transfers and managerial change is actually more likely to bring a decline or stagnation, than it is to bring success.

Even a club with the wealth of the state behind it like Real Madrid can find that they can make an appointment and it can go wrong.   And a quick look at Liverpool! shows that in the very short term at least the super wonder smiley man (who actually from afar seems quite a decent bloke) from Germany, is actually getting pretty much the same out of his team as the derided and hated Rodgers.

So, if transfers don’t deliver (or at least most don’t deliver at once) and managerial changes are more likely to end in failure or more of the same, what signs can we take to see if a club is getting anywhere?

In the time of the Roman Republic (that noble institution undermined by Caesar when he proclaimed himself a God and burned down the Senate) one saw the future by watching the clouds and examining the entrails of slaughtered animals.  And quite probably if they had had football in the time of Cicero et al, they would have decided the fate of their club managers in a similar way.

But since I don’t really want to chop up one of the sheep meandering in the fields outside my window, I look for other signs.

One of the constant markers in the season of course is the advent of the 3rd round of the Cup, and I have been pondering quite how Arsenal have been placed at this moment over recent years.

And I find that for Arsenal to go into the 3rd round of the FA Cup at the top of the league has been quite a rarity – and to go into the Cup weekend two points or more clear of our nearest rivals is rarer still.  Indeed the last time it happened was eight years ago, when on 2 January 2008 the league table read…

In the form guide the most recent match is on the right.  Man U were the form team of that moment – five wins and a draw.  Arsenal ended the season in third.  Man U won the league five points ahead of us.

Of the handful of seasons where we have gone into the Cup two or more points ahead the biggest lead we had was in January 2003.

There was no really in form team at this moment, although our form of three wins, two draws and a defeat was behind Man U, and the most in form team was Newcastle.  Man U won the league, five points ahead of us.   Which is as clear an indication as one can get that being top in January doesn’t actually mean too much.

On the other hand, better to have this season’s position than last.  Here is how it looked on the eve of the FA Cup 3rd round in 2015.

The form team was Man City, but Chelsea of course won the league.

The last time we were actually top at this moment in the season was two years ago when the table in early 2014 read

Man City were in second, but were very much the form team of the moment and won the league.

The position of the Tiny Totts vis a vis Arsenal when it comes to 3rd round day doesn’t really indicate too much either.  Here’s 2013/14 on that day in January.

Man City won the league that year.


Man City won the league on goal difference.

So, trying to make sense of that, we find that in the last four years, the top team in the league before the Cup got going won the league twice (although in one year the top two were tied at this moment,) and the form team of the moment won it once.

So, there is some indication that being near the top and having a fairly decent form is helpful, but it is not definitive.  The conclusion is what you already knew.  You probably won’t have any fingernails left at the end of the season.

But there is a broader point here – it is not just Arsenal who go up and down the league at different times, although this is the story painted in the media.  In the last ten years or so the big story has been that Arsenal have problems with their mentality and that’s why we don’t win the league.   The team lacks leaders, the team lacks winners and these men, rather like the auguries in Ancient Rome, are necessary to win the league.

Even in 2015, when we were far and above the most successful team you heard the same ramblings from those whose fundamental vision of life is that if it was said yesterday then it ought to be said again today only louder.  Arsenal lack leaders on the pitch.  Got that?  ARSENAL NEED… you get the idea.

It is a bit like saying the jury is still out on Ozil.

The Arsenal squad includes men who have won the World Cup.  Alexis won the Copa America for Chile.  And much of this squad has won the FA Cup twice.  We have Champions League winners, and if we start counting league titles, the list goes on.

And although I don’t think the “mental strength” argument, and the need for winners idea was ever the reason why Arsenal has not won the league since 2004, I do think that experience counts.   What we have in our current team is a couple of youngsters, and the rest are fairly experienced men who’ve seen it all, and mostly done it all.

There is no magic formula to winning the league, or foretelling who will win the league according to what the table was like just before the third round, but if you want to read the signs:

  • Three times in the last four seasons, Arsenal have been better in the second half than in the first.
  • Being higher up the league and having a better recent record is preferable to having only one, or neither.
  • While the last six match results recorded at this time of year are not an absolute guide, they are an indicator of possible success.
  • Having men in the team who have won things is better than not.
  • You can’t tell much by looking at previous seasons.

Now, where’s that sheep gone?


Insult of the day (our regular riposte to the aaa) “You’d be so lean that blasts of January would blow you through and through.”  (He was very rude that Shakespeare fellow).

Two anniversaries

  • 5 January 2002.  Watford 2 Arsenal 4: FA Cup 3rd round, the start of the FA Cup victory in the 3rd double season.   Henry, Ljungberg, Kanu and Bergkamp scored, but it was Henry who was the star, scoring the first, setting up the second.
  • 5 January 2009: Jack Wilshere signed professional forms.  He joined Arsenal aged nine, and went on to be an England international and an integral part of the club although his career was beset by injuries in 2014 and 2015.

And in case you missed it…


24 Replies to “We ain’t won nothing yet, the portents are mixed, but the auguries are in Arsenal’s favour”

  1. I do know that it feels great to be top of the league. Will it last? I don’t know but I sure hope so.
    Having been able to win so many points without Coquelin, Santi and Alexis sure shows that this team is up for a fight. The occasional bump in the ride might happen but the team has responded well to anything bad happening.
    If the reports can be believed about Coquelin already running again (would be an amazing quick healer), Alexis being back any day now and Santi maybe being back mid February (would really be completely amazing) then we will have like 3 new signings between now and the next few months. And may I say 3 exceptional signings!

  2. Great post Tony…

    Let me say I see reason why Arsenal is top. I’ll present this in a broader article though.

    I still remember when we played with Alex Song, Denilson as holding midfielders, Hoyte at right back…Nick Bendtner, little Walcott, etc. I marveled at how Wenger managed to retain top 4 season after season. In truth we didn’t have better players than the likes of Tottenham, Liverpool, Everton…yet we continually kept them out of top 4.

    It’s therefore clear that Wenger knew exactly how to get better of teams at same level…but the Man Citys, Chelseas, Man Us were clearly far superior in player quality. So, we continually finished below them.

    Today, the ‘smaller’ teams have suddenly acquired quality players all over. For the first time, the Chelseas, Man Citys, Man Us are now playing near equals…Of course, Arsenal were already used to that. You think it was a coincidence that we humbled Leicester 5 – 2 without even Coquelin? No…we’re already used to them. The billionaires aren’t and they won’t until season ends.

    And Mourinho? He had absolutely no answer…he couldn’t park the bus like he does against teams of equal strength… so the loquacious Portuguese got battered across all pitches in England!

    Has Arsenal ever topped the league with so many important injuries? Never…we either started so poorly when injuries come early or ended poorly when they come late. And somebody is saying Arsenal will blow it? No way! We’ll only widen the gap.

  3. As Sammy says, one game at a time.

    I do hope we put out a strong squad for the FA Cup game. I’ve seen it said that we’d be better using the kids and concentrating on the PL, but although it’s not cast is stone winning does usually lead to more winning. So a loss in the FA Cup could equally have a negative effect on our PL form irrespective of the players involved.
    Hopefully the few extra days break will allow Ramsey (and others) to recuperate as they did look half a yard short against a very united Newcastle.
    It would also be nice to have the Elneny situation sorted by then, although that won’t stop the half-wits whinging about buying 2nd rate or ridiculously expensive or unavailable players…

  4. I’m in favor of putting out a strong team for the cup. We should try to make history with the three-peat. History is good. And the whole winning begets winning stuff as well.

    Also, I’d have an easier time believing in burblings from steaming entrails than some of the insanity that passes for transfer news right now. I think you might be selling those Romans short with your dismissive tone, sir.

  5. Can we apply to the Norwegian government, to exile Piers Morgan to the caldera at the center of Boivet Island (-54.42, 3.36)?

    Valke has been recommended for a 9 year ban from football for corruption. Not long enough.

    I believe the bladderbird is appealing (I’m clean, I’m clean). Can we burn him at the stake first? If he survives, then he can appeal.

    There was a report a week ago, that Abby Wambach (female US International) wanted to become involved with FIFA. Having been an international for so long, she probably met a large cross section of football officialdom. She probably has all the qualifications that the crooks typically voted in have, so on that basis she is okay. I would hope that she is more honest than most of them.

  6. @Tony,
    Great article and like you said no magic formula to winning the league. The team has to just take it game by game, and hopefully Arsenal will be top in May!

    I don’t think Abby Wambach in FIFA would be much of a change compared to the crooks already in there. For example, she said that she would fire Jurgen Klinsmann for bringing all these foreign guys to the US Men’s national team and claims he has not done much for the youth set up in the U.S.

    The foreign players on the USMNT have parents from the U.S. (Jones, Johnson) and some even lived in the U.S. also (Zelalem). She continues the FIFA nationalistic and selective vision of the current corrupt FIFA officials.

    The U.S. youth system has been completely improved and revamped since Klinsmann took over. The youth training is much more organized and better players are starting to develop which will be much more evident I think in the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

  7. Room28, would normally agree with you on the FA Cup, but apparently it is no longer a proper trophy…must be true as the media and some of our fans tell us so.
    Maybe we should remove all those commemorations of FA Cup triumphs from the stadium boards.
    Let’s make the EPL title a non trophy as well come May then!

  8. Fair enough Jerry. It sounds like you know the US players fairly well.

    I wonder if anywhere, there are female internationals (with lots of experience) who perhaps have degrees in law, public policy, or something like that? I think most of the men are too busy being paid (too) much for playing, to get an education while playing. Although, I think there is more of a chance for a player in North America to have a university education before finishing with football than elsewhere.

    Anyone have any favorites? Not that I trust (or don’t trust) the people lining up to take the bladderbird’s place at the trough.

  9. I must agree with Jerry on this one. Wambach, as mush as she was a great player, didn’t strike me as a particularly bright type of individual, which is a precondition for a good manager/president – which is what makes the difference most of the time between great footballers become managers and managers become great managers;) The nationalistic discourse is not her invention, the media here in the US (especially the right wing, but let’s stay away from political blabberings) loves this theme and it’s easy to get infected by it.

  10. Corruption

    There was a little unwanted news on the football corruption front lately. Hungary has been convicting people of things, including football corruption. It seems that Hungary gives people in jail “time served” credits for writing scientific papers (which are never peer reviewed) while in jail. One particular paper (1 copy to university, all other copies bought by author) seems to be heading to court over plagiarism issues.

  11. Lets all stay positive and hope that the planets and stars are well aligned and work their luck for us . And that the team with the fans behind reap their rewards come May.
    Or we could hope that all the best laid plans of mean men and other louse will be their own undoing . Let them trip up themselves , while we glide by all their traps .
    Let them devalue whatever we win , when we win, for still it’ll be sweet !

  12. The first sin ?

    A physician, an engineer, and a politician were discussing who among them belonged to the oldest of the three professions. Each one of them thought they had this in the bag.

    The physician said, “Remember, on the sixth day God took a rib from Adam and fashioned Eve, making him the first surgeon. Therefore, medicine is the oldest profession.”

    The engineer replied, “But, before that, God created the heavens and earth from chaos and confusion, and thus he was the first engineer. Therefore, engineering is an older profession than medicine.”

    Then, the politician spoke up. “Yes yes, this is all well and true.” he said, “But who do you think created all of the chaos and confusion?”

  13. A son moves away to go to college and takes the family dog, blue, with him. A few months later, his father gets a call from his son.

    “Dad,” he says, “there’s an amazing program here that teaches dogs to talk!”

    ‘That’s amazing!’ his Dad says. ‘How do I get Blue in that program?’

    ‘Just send him down here with $2,000,’ the son says, ‘I’ll get him in the course.’

    So his father sends the dog and $2,000.

    About two-thirds through the semester, the money again runs out.

    The boy calls home.

    ‘So how’s Blue doing, son?’ his father wants to know.

    ‘Awesome! Dad, he’s talking up a storm… But you just won’t believe this. They’ve had such good results with talking, they’ve begun to teach the dogs how to read.’

    ‘Read?’ exclaims his father. ‘No kidding! How do we get Blue in that program?’

    ‘Just send $4,500. I’ll get him in the class.’

    The money promptly arrives. But our hero has a problem. At the end of the year, his father will find out the dog can neither talk nor read.
    Then, finally, he comes up with a plan. First he gives the dog to a nice family. Then he goes home at the end of the year, his father is all excited.

    ‘Where’s Blue? I just can’t wait to talk with him, and see him read something!’

    ‘Dad,’ the boy says, ‘I have some grim news. Yesterday morning, just before we left to drive home, Blue was in the living room, kicked back in the recliner, reading the Wall Street Journal. Then he suddenly turned to me and asked, ‘So, is your dad still seeing that little redhead barmaid at the pub?”

    The father groans and whispers, ‘I hope you shot that bastard before he talked to your Mother!’

    ‘I sure did, Dad!’

    ‘That’s my boy!’

    The lad went on to be a successful lawyer.

    ( I heard that he became a super agent in football , and continues to con clubs with outrageous claims and deals and earns millions and was even presented an island as a wedding present !)

  14. Stay strong –

    A man escapes from prison where he has been for 15 years. He breaks into a house to look for money and guns and finds a young couple in bed. He orders the guy out of bed and ties him to a chair while tying the girl to the bed. He gets on top of her, kisses her neck, then gets up and goes into the bathroom.

    While he’s in there, the husband tells his wife: “Listen, this guy’s an escaped convict, look at his clothes! He’s probably spent lots of time in jail and hasn’t seen a woman in years. I saw how he kissed your neck. If he wants to sleep with you, don’t resist, don’t complain, do whatever he tells you. Satisfy him no matter how much he nauseates you. This guy is probably very dangerous. If he gets angry, he’ll kill us. Be strong, honey. I love you.”
    To which his wife responds: “He wasn’t kissing my neck. He was whispering in my ear. He told me he was gay, thought you were cute, and asked me if we had any Vaseline. I told him it was in the bathroom. Be strong honey. I love you too!”

  15. Staying positive –

    Late in the night, he finally regained his consciousness.
    He was in the hospital, in terrible pain.
    He found himself in the ICU with tubes in his mouth, needles and IV drips in both arms, a breathing mask, wires monitoring every function, and a nurse hovering over him. He realized that he was obviously in a life-threatening situation.
    The nurse gave him a serious, deep look, straight into his eyes, then spoke to him slowly and clearly, enunciating each word and syllable, “You may not feel anything from the waist down.”

    Somehow he managed to mumble in reply, “Can I feel your boobs, then?”


  16. If Arsenal win the league this year, watch all the WOB’s say Arsenal only won because all the other team was playing poorly and the league is weak this year etc etc. I just don’t understand that logic. In my opinion, the league is stronger this year than in previous years because of the financial gain next season, teams are employing better players and managers. If Arsenal win it this year they should be highly commended.

  17. Have you done this one yet?

    “You starvelling, you eel-skin, you dried neat’s-tongue, you bull’s-pizzle, you stock-fish–O for breath to utter what is like thee!-you tailor’s-yard, you sheath, you bow-case, you vile standing tuck!”

    Henry IV part 1 which is insults from cover to cover and none the worse for it…

  18. Nope GodWore10… not got to that. I’ve got to try and cover a whole year doing this so I am pacing myself. But thanks for that. I’ll re-run it soon.


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