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The annual refrain: this year Arsenal will drop out of the top four. And a beached whale.

By Tony Attwood

I was on the beach in Norfolk near Hunstanton today watching a sperm whale that was stuck on the sands – caught there by the outgoing tide.  This pic is from the BBC – I was going to put mine up but this one is better.  I hope the BBC don’t mind.  Just this once.

Rescue workers with stranded whale

It was a sad and moving sight, but as we trudged away from the location, leaving the coast guard and others to see if they could do anything with the incoming tide, my mind as always trotted around over a whole range of issues, including of course what’s been going on, on Untold.

Each year we get comments from people telling us that this is going to be the year in which Arsenal drop out of the top four, in which we are overtaken by Tottenham, in which we drop down the league – in short in which we do a Chelsea, or a Man U, or indeed over a longer period of time, a Liverpool.   The image came to me – these people see the club like the sperm whale, trapped, unable to cope with the changing world, repeating the same mantra.  Beached in fact.

Maybe I shouldn’t publish any of their commentaries, since they break the basic rules of Untold – they repeat what has been said before, they are full of personal opinion but without any evidence to back up the claims, and occasionally there is some personal abuse (although I do tend to block those when I have time).

But yes I publish a couple each year – and this year as well.  The commentators seek the normal changes, where they mention what they want: a new manager, and new players, more money spent.  A bit like Man U I guess.   And they generally don’t go back over the issues raised in earlier articles which show that most changes of manager and most new transfers don’t work.   (Those aren’t Arsenal figures of course, they are the figures we gathered from other clubs in the Premier League.)

Of course the time will come when Arsenal will slip out of the top four.  Indeed perhaps one season we’ll do a Man U and appoint a new manager, and then another, and slip out of the Champions League.  Perhaps we’ll do a Chelsea and scoot right down.   Or perhaps we’ll do a Man City, a Tottenham, a Man U, a Chelsea, and go and play for a year or two in the next league down.   They’ve done it, why not us?

And maybe Tottenham will finish above us as they did in 1995, 1993, 1990, 1987, (Graham seasons), and 1985, 1983… there was a bit of a gap before that because Tottenham went down in 1977, but you get my point.  Before Mr Wenger it used to happen quite a bit.

And of course I absolutely hope it won’t happen while I am watching – but I’ve studied enough science to know the rules – anything that can happen will happen, given long enough.  We have no absolute right to be above Tottenham or win the league, any more than Chelsea has to win stuff.

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But I rather doubt we will fail at the moment.   And besides, moving away from the league, we’re a couple of wins away from equalling our all time best FA Cup run, and three wins from becoming our best run ever, in a competition we first entered in 1889 – 127 years ago.  I don’t think that is too bad.

I notice in passing that there is now a re-writing of history in which not only are FA Cup wins not to be particularly celebrated but also the notion that the cost of the Ems Stadium being something that needs to be taken into account when evaluating Arsenal’s history is now denied.  I supposed those who follow that view are to be called Stadium Cost Deniers.   Ah well.

However there is a bigger point behind all this.

I am a believer in the validity of the EU and the need for the UK to stay in the EU.  But I don’t bother to write to the Daily Mail, the Daily Express, the Sun, the Times, the Star or the Telegraph to explain why.  I know they are all very, very strongly anti-EU and want Britain to leave when it comes to the referendum.  (In passing it is worth noting they are not actually considering what this will mean for the Premier League and its multiple European players, but let’s leave that for another day).

They have their strong views, and a letter from me arguing the opposite isn’t going to be published.  I don’t like that, but there it is.

But there seems to be some sort of belief among some anti-Wengerians, aaa supporters, Wenger-out-now etc supporters of Arsenal that we should publish their points of view on Untold.

I am by nature fairly egalitarian, and I do try to do this – just as I published the article recently about Tottenham being a fairly decent team.   But there is a limit.   Of course if someone came with some facts and analyses – the equivalent to the Untold analyses on such things as what happens when players change clubs, on referee decisions, the great Arsenal injury myth – then I’d consider it, as I consider all articles I am sent.   I don’t publish them all, but I do publish some things I don’t agree with.   But do remember, Walter and I run the show for people who are pro-Wenger to have a chance to talk with each other.  Just like the blogs that are anti-Wenger are there for the purpose of debating their point of view.

We aren’t as nasty as some of them – we don’t take peoples contributions and modify them to make them look stupid, and we have clearly set out rules – but we don’t ever hide the fact that Untold was set up to allow people who had a certain viewpoint to express that.

So when we get a predictions that Arsenal will fade away and Tottenham will do well, I may or may not run it – but your chances of having it published are enhanced if there is more than just opinion that x is useless that Wenger should go and that the cost of the stadium was no excuse.   These are matters of opinion.

And when it comes to opinion Untold was set up to express Untold opinions – opinions that are rarely heard elsewhere – but most of the time with the back up of some facts and serious analysis.   Now over the years I’ve extended to that say that if an article turns up which takes data and analyses in the way that we do and have done over transfers, injuries, managers, referees and finance, then I might consider it.

However lots of people still expect Untold to publish their opinion no matter what, and I don’t get that.  A guy writes in, says that he is a better supporter than I’ll ever be, and then expects me to publish it when he clearly hasn’t read the rules about publishing on this site, is, to my mind, being a bit silly.

Anyway, we’ve had the annual burst of “This will be the year that Arsenal drop out of the top four,” and maybe it will, but it’s been said, and I’ve had enough of that.  I hope the whale survived, but I fear the worse; whales usually don’t.  I hope Arsenal recover from their recent poor run, and I suspect they will.  They usually do.

More anniversaries

  • 4 February 1975: Arsenal 0 England “B” 2.  The match was organised after England’s game in Cyprus was cancelled for political reasons.  Kidd and Mancini scored for England
  • 4 February 1993 Martin Keown re-joined Arsenal for £2.2 million – over £2m more than they sold him for, but this time stayed for over 10 years – and enjoyed huge success in the Arsène Wenger era.  He could not play in the cup run however being cup tied for the season.

19 comments to The annual refrain: this year Arsenal will drop out of the top four. And a beached whale.

  • colario

    I am not sure whether or not what I am about to write is On subject, near subject or off subject. If I am right on either of the last two then my apologies.

    I have spent some time this week hunting for some papers that needed to be found I found them today along with a few pages of an old edition of the Gurardian. (Back ground note.) Time was when the paper was noted for its misprints. Its now an England tradition to misspell its name.

    In one of the pages is a one column piece on my favourite football person.

    Here are a few quotes from it

    Paragraph 1

    ‘Who? Frenchman, Arsenal manager’.

    Para 2

    ‘Not like the stereotype of managers then? Speaks five, six or seven languages. Has an economics degree from Strasbourg University.’

    Away from the quote. Do we always understand the one language the manager of Valencia speaks?

    Back to the article.

    pare 3 is a silly bit about pronouncing his name.

    Para 4 we have
    ‘Commonly described as: urbane cerebral’.

    If you are not from England you will probably think being cerebral is a compliment.

    Most English people think its stupid to be cerebral

    para 5 we get this gem.

    Currently described as: ‘prematurely defeatist’ This is a quote from the daily sillygraph.

    para 6 is about how he should have waited to later in the season for admitting his team wont win the league*. It seems Arsene admitted Arsenal were not playing like champions.

    para 7

    And aren’t they? (get this) ‘they’ve failed to score in the last six league games. Bergkamp has been suspended. Overmars has been injured. Ian Wright has lost the plot and Arsenal have the worst disciplinary record in the league.

    In para 8 it gets ‘worse’ !!!

    What happened to that promising striker John Hartson? Sold to wet spam for £3.5 million last season and now top scorer in the league.’

    I bet the aaa and WOB were happy back then, however,

    para 9
    what they said about Hartson’s sale back then? wet spam must be desperate to pay that much.

    para 10

    What do they say now? Arsenal must have been crazy to sell him so cheap.

    para 11

    So is Wenger getting the tabloid treatment? Not really. But he produced a pregnant girl friend to counter rumours about his sexuality.

    para 12

    Zut How did he react? ‘this country his sick with gossip” he railed. ”It is childish and regressive.”

    Out of article Did someone at Arsenal tell Arsene this or did he work it out for himself – the latter is possible – as a result of being cerebral.

    The paper is dated Weds 3 December 1997.

    *For the benefit of the WOB and aaa English media experts and pundits a reminder this date is near the end of the first half of Arsene’s first full season.

    At the end of the season Mr Macrednose (Yes the very one who famously and ignorantly said ‘What does a Frenchman know about English football?) handed over the championship to this ignorant foreigner.

    In the Cup Final Arsene’s Arsenal out footballed Shearer’s Newcastle.

    To you aaa and WOB how is it you know better than Arsene?

    What grounds do you have for your belief in your superior knowledge of football?

  • Rich

    Nicely put.

    Prediction : if anyone complains about what you’ve covered in this article, they won’t directly respond to any of the individual points you made to explain your position.

    Favour to ask of Untolders here, by the way.

    I’m a Nigerian Prince with millions of dollars which I can’t currently access- no, that’s not it.

    Finding out all the details of our own sendings off and of opposition players against us over the years is beyond me, but nonetheless I’d like to get as much accurate information about it as I can. My belief at this point is that the figures will make bizarre reading.

    Thing I’m most keen to see is the timings when sendings off come. Heard a mention on tv the other night during an Everton game of their last away loss being against us when they were down to ten men. It was an eh moment for me as I’d completely forgotten Barry’s 94th minute sending off.

    Anyway, got me thinking that nearly every sending off i can remember for at least a few years came at the very end of a game- Can (84- whoa, early) and Borini (92) for Liverpool, Puncheon (89) at the start of last year. Taken alone, such things are pretty meaningless, but when a definite pattern, and an odd one which seems to defy the law of averages at that, emerges it deserves to be looked at.

    We’ll always be told, even with decisions such as Atkinson’s diabolical decision to only show Cahill a yellow, that it comes down to a matter of opinion, and that anyone who insists the same ref would undoubtedly have sent off one of our players for the same challenge on that or any day is simply deluded. I accept that in as far as it’s right that I can’t prove it any better than saying ‘look at it, look at it’, etc, and maybe directing them towards an example of Atkinson producing a red for a challenge nowhere near as bad.

    Anyway, my thinking is that some things will be much harder to explain away. For instance, top of my head I can think of four first half sendings off against us vs top four rivals in recent memory- Kos against City; Ox, Gabriel and Mert vs Chelsea- and I can’t think of a single one from the last decade against those same teams.

    I can’t remember any first half sendings off for opponents of ours in last few years- ah, got one, Sidwell 2012/13 (11) vs Fulham in same game Giroud got a farcical red (; aaargh, and another Mitrovic (16) this year. Before that, all I had in mind were a couple for Blackburn (Givet and Nzonzi?), and Taylor’s on that sad day.

    Anyway, if anyone can remember details I want to hear them even if they end up debunking my idea the patterns are beyond suspicious. Sendings off in the biggest games are what I’m really interested in.

    Law of averages (or maybe I mean of large numbers. Damn it, could do with help on that one,too)…or simple common sense dictates that between big, reasonably well-matched clubs in a clean league things really ought to even out in the long term.

    We’ll leave penalties for another day. I was overjoyed and almost bewildered when we got one in that game at City last year. Us, getting a penalty at a decisive moment in a huge game while the game is live…now I’m really struggling to think of many examples of that in the last decade. Against Utd, there’s a gap from Bergkamp’s fateful miss which stretches until that wretched day a few years back.

  • Bleeding gums Murphy

    Tony, a very good article, thank you. I think the comments above from first two posters show the down side of what untold has created. Keep up the good work. I enjoy it more when you don’t caught up in conspiracy theories and this aaa drivel. I do understand they provide material and without them articles may dry up somewhat so they do serve a purpose.

  • Rich

    Bleeding gums Murphy

    Cheers. Take it next time there’s a big call in a big game for us you’ll have a high level of confidence the ref will make the right, fair decision?

    I won’t.

  • Samuel Akinsolas Adebosin

    Oga Tony, good evening Sir. Did that Sperm Whale survive at the end, and sent back to the Ocean by the Coast Guard? I hope it has survived at the end of the horror it went through. If it had happened in the Nigerian coasts, they would have butchered it for meat. Sure!

    Talking about the Pound Sterling, which I think is the crust of the matter in any referendum for the UK to decide to either pullout or remain in the EU. If the UK can continue to keep their identity of the Crown i.e. the £ Sterling and not forfeit it to the EU currency the Euro€ like many other Western European Countries had forfeited their national currencies to the € Euro. Which I think was a plot by the Germans to get rid of the undefeated British Crown identity of the £ Sterling during the 1st and the 2nd World War. And now they’ve been trying ever since then to substitute(erased) the £ Sterling with the € Euro. The Britons may decide to remain in the EU as long as the £ Sterling will not be substituted with the Euro €. I would have supposed. This erasing of the £ Sterling has been the hidden agenda behind the formation of the EU which has been strongly supported by the French. No disrespect to the Boss and the Germans. Hmm, the $ and £ currencies are jointly controlling the financial currency power in the World, are they not?

    Has Arsenal ever been relegated in the history of the present name of ARSENAL FC? I don’t mean the former name Woolwich Arsenal or the name that preceded that. But Tottenham Hotspur had been relegated in 1977. And also …? I don’t know. And they have finished 6 times above Arsenal in the Premier League too? But for sure, they have never finished above the Boss’ managed Arsenal squad. And now Pochettino’s Harry Kane and Dele Ali led Spurs squad are aspiring to achieve that feast. And in the process qualify for the UCL too since Harry Rednapp’s led Spurs side achieved the feast last time. Well, they may qualify for the Ucl. But the Boss won’t allow them to ever top Arsenal in the League table as long as he’s the Gunners Boss.

    There is always a chance for what happened before to repeat itself again. Moreso, if proper measure is not put in place to forestall a reoccurance of the rehappening. In this wise, Arsenal may not have adequately reinforced our squad during the immediate past summer and winter windows with top quality additions for option and cover. Hence, the current Gunners are recently struggling with consistent victories in the Premier League during our injury crisis in the run in to the title. Which is culminating to our dropping points we ought to have collected.

    However, I can see the light at the end of Arsenal’s Season Tunnel in all competitions as they are challenged to recover from their current goals scoring dip and beat Afobe’s inspirational led Bournemouth team, to start a 14 Barclays Premier League games winning run. And lift the title among the other 3 titles they will ultimately lift at the end of this season.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    @ Tony – ” …we don’t take peoples contributions and modify them to make them look stupid, ….” …!
    Thank god for that , for , I find that their comments are stupid and funny at the same time !

  • para

    Interesting poll on

  • Brickfields Gunners

    A True Australian ghost story

    This story happened a while ago in Brisbane, and even though it sounds like an Alfred Hitchcock tale, it’s true. John Bradford, a Sydney University student, was on the side of the road hitch hiking on a very dark night and in the midst of a storm. The night was rolling on and no car went by. The storm was so strong he could hardly see a few feet ahead of him.

    Suddenly he saw a car slowly coming towards him and stopped. John, desperate for shelter and without thinking about it, got in the car and closed the door, just to realise there was nobody behind the wheel and the Engine wasn’t on!

    The car started moving slowly. John looked at the road And saw a curve approaching. Scared, he started to pray, begging for his Life. Then, just before he hit the curve, a hand appeared through the window and turned the wheel. John, paralysed with terror, watched how the hand repeatedly came through the window but never harmed him.

    Shortly thereafter John saw the lights of a pub down the road so, gathering strength, jumped out of the car and ran to it. Wet and out of breath, he rushed inside and started telling everybody about the horrible experience he had just experienced. A silence enveloped the pub when everybody realised he was crying and wasn’t drunk.

    Suddenly two other people walked into the same pub. They, like John, were also wet and out of breath. Looking around and seeing John Bradford sobbing at the bar, one said to the other, “Look, Bruce …… there’s that bloody idiot that got in the car while we were pushing it.”

  • Dear Untold
    I don’t usually comment but I feel Mason’s flagrant disregard of the laws witnessed on Tuesday should not go unchallenged. I am starting a petition, which can be found below;

    Or at this link here

    If you feel you don’t want to be associated with this I will understand. Thank you.

  • Mandy Dodd


  • blacksheep63

    I agree with DaveB and have signed his petition, Probably won’t amount to anything but made me feel better

  • Al

    Petition signed too…

  • upp

    @dave, isn’t there an exception to that law when head injuries are involved? I didn’t watch the match so I don’t know what body part was involved in the injury, but if it was the head, don’t you think Mason only needs to say that as a non medic he couldn’t ascertain the severity of the head injury and so decided to err on the side of caution, and that’d be the end of your petition?

  • Gord

    While the petition is public, it has no force in law and is too easily ignored.

    I tried to post a list of URLs (The FA, the county FAs, the EPL, UEFA, FIFA and the EPL sponsors) which I believe automated censoring ate. A way for people to easily touch the bodies most responsible for the sorry state of officiating in the EPL.

    Well, if I couldn’t post it, what else could I do? I put these URLs in a Perl list. I made another list of short (1 short sentence) complaints about the EPL. And then I started a program running. It would pick a complaint at random, change the spaces into underscores, append that to the URL of one of these responsible bodies to form something that looks like a valid URL (except it doesn’t exist), and then I make a HTTP request to that web site for the headers to this resource, which probably doesn’t exist. So, it (probably) generates a 404 error, and being just a header request, it doesn’t take much resources. (Oh, I set the user agent which is normally something like what version of firefox I use, to a disgruntled EPL fan.) But the record of the 404 ends up in their logs.

    If enough people did something similar, this error activity will be brought to the attention of management, as it is a protest of sorts.

  • Gord

    I signed the petition.

    Oh, that process of mine, executes about once every 30 minutes. Sometime today, the first round will have sent 48 randomised complaints out.

  • upp

    I think just like arsenal saying arsenal will win the league at the beginning of the season, spurs lovers should refrain from prophesying spurs leapfrog the arsenal, because no matter the prevailing circumstances both teams have shown over time that until the last kick of the league, they’re capable of great runs and great slumps

  • Menace

    The Mason petition is (not really what we require) by David Goliath. It seems like a piss take.

    We need a petition to number 10 asking for a transparent, democratic FA & officials that selected & report to the FA.

  • Gord

    I got an email today, mentioning that something about the Mike Dean petition had changed. A Jamie Cassar added “Help stop Stan Kroenke”. I wonder what that is about?

  • Menace

    Tony – saw pictures of whale on beeb site. Sad why these creatures beach or lose their way. There was one washed up in Mumbai recently. Lots of theories but nothing conclusive on why this happens.