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February 2021

Mediocrity is now defined as coming second. So how do you define coming third?

By Tony Attwood

The Guardian today has its normal “Premier League: 10 talking points from the weekend’s action” and for the first time in I don’t know how long it makes no mention of Arsenal.  Normally there’s a bit about how disappointing it is, how the club are doomed, or the anger of the fans, or some other negativity but today, nothing.

Arsenal are not mentioned.

This is a little different from the Independent four days ago which in its build up to the Champions League draw (always a good one for the Indy – whose robots are still running “Could this be Britain’s most expensive airport link?” and “West Ham have club-record £31m Lacazette bid rejected” as stories under their AFC Bournemouth heading, despite the fact that I’ve pointed out the idiocy of this 15 times so far this summer) ran this comment about Arsenal.

The shame of the last 10 years is that rather than lifting their European performance up to their domestic level, the two have sunk together towards mediocrity.

That comment was delivered by Jack Pitt-Brooke who is described elsewhere as “a sports writer for The Independent”.

This gave me pause for thought, for if Arsenal’s Premier League performance is to be seen as mediocre, then I wonder how everyone else is to be described.  After all, those who did better than Arsenal must been better than mediocre, and those who did worse must have the right adjective to describe them.

So here is the league table for the end of last season and I have started by putting “Mediocre” as Arsenal’s achievement.   Leicester’s adjective was easy to find.   But what about Tottenham, who came below Arsenal, and indeed all the rest.

Here’s what I came up with…

   Club GD   Pts Adjective  
1 Leicester City (C) 38 23 12 3 68 36 +32 81 Above expectations  
2 Arsenal 38 20 11 7 65 36 +29 71 Mediocre
3 Tottenham Hotspur 38 19 13 6 69 35 +34 70 Very mediocre
4 Manchester City 38 19 9 10 71 41 +30 66 Second rate  
5 Manchester United 38 19 9 10 49 35 +14 66 Poor  
6 Southampton 38 18 9 11 59 41 +18 63 Very Poor
7 State Aid United 38 16 14 8 65 51 +14 62 Bad  
8 Liverpool! 38 16 12 10 63 50 +13 60 Very bad, worse that WHU  
9 Stoke City 38 14 9 15 41 55 −14 51 Unworthy
10 Chelsea 38 12 14 12 59 53 +6 50 Utterly unworthy
11 Everton 38 11 14 13 59 55 +4 47 Awful
12 Swansea City 38 12 11 15 42 52 −10 47 Terrible
13 Watford 38 12 9 17 40 50 −10 4 Appalling
14 West Bromwich Albion 38 10 13 15 34 48 −14 43 Utterly appalling
15 Crystal Palace 38 11 9 18 39 51 −12 42 Disgraceful
16 AFC Bournemouth 38 11 9 18 45 67 −22 42 Totally disgraceful
17 Sunderland 38 9 12 17 48 62 −14 39 Shameful
18 Newcastle United (R) 38 9 10 19 44 65 −21 37 Beyond shameful  
19 Norwich City (R) 38 9 7 22 39 67 −28 34 Appallingly awfully shameful
20 Aston Villa (R) 38 3 8 27 27 76 −49 17 Words cannot describe…
I am sure that you can exceed my meagre use of the vocabulary here, for I was running out of ideas near the end.
But I suppose it was words and phrases like these that have spurred on Utterly Unworthy Chelsea, the Very Bad (worse that WHU) Liverpool, the Second Rate Man City and poor Man U to spend a lot of money.
Premier League clubs’ gross spending hit £880m before the weekend, overtaking last summer’s PL total spend, and it is still going on.  This led Mr Wenger to predict a spend way above the £1bn level for the first time, and lead to the suggestion that he was suggesting that Arsenal would be among the spenders.

All of this will follow the £5.1bn television deal coming into force, and apparently (at least in the eyes of the Independent) it is all being done by these clubs to get above the level of mediocre.

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At least Antonio Conte at Utterly Unworthy Chelsea last week did have the guts to say that the market was “crazy”, and that he was being asked to “pay £50m for medium players”.

Arsenal spent £131.9m on players between 2014 and 2016, before the purchase of this weekend’s duo (incidentally still not announced on although Mr W has said they passed the medicals.)

Rather prematurely as it turned out the Guardian last week said, “Having only signed Petr Cech last summer, Arsenal fans must look back wistfully at 2014 window when Arsène Wenger shelled out almost £80m….”   Well, actually no.

Leaving out this unfinished window, over the last five years clubs have spent this much

Position Club Expenditure  Adjective achieved
1 Manchester City £565m Second rate
2 Manchester Utd £559m Poor
3 Chelsea £450m Utterly unworthy
4 Liverpool!!! £365m Very bad, worse than WHU
5 Tottenham £274m Very mediocre
6 Arsenal £246m Mediocre
7 Southampton £205m Very poor
 So seemingly it does cost a lot of money to be second rate.   Leicester’s spend incidentally was £100m over the same period.
But although is not commenting yet on the new transfers, is, and it gives us this list for this window
Arrivals Age Market value Moving from Transfer fee
Granit Xhaka
23 £29.75m Borussia Mönchengladbach £38.25m
Shkodran Mustafi
24 £17.00m Valencia CF £34.85m
Lucas Pérez
27 £10.20m Deportivo de La Coruña £17.00m
Takuma Asano
21 £1.02m Sanfrecce Hiroshima £3.40m
Rob Holding
20 £213k Bolton Wanderers £2.55m

What strikes me is two things.  One, the age of the players – Mr Wenger is still buying for the future.  And the other is that Rob Holding has looked a superb player in the few times we have seen him – and for £213,000.  That looks a bargain.  As Mr Wenger said to the journalists, “I’m sorry he didn’t cost more”.

Just to help the comparison, here is Tottenham’s current list of transfers

Arrivals Age Market value Moving from Transfer fee
Vincent Janssen
22 £5.10m AZ Alkmaar £18.79m
Victor Wanyama
25 £12.75m Southampton FC £12.24m

Are Tottenham fans making as much of a protest as the anti-Arsenal-Arsenal?  Maybe – I might have missed it.

One final thing from TransferMarket, they list three other figures at the end of their chart.  The average age of the arrivals,  the total market value of the arrivals and the expenditures.

Now I can’t quite see how they get the last two figures, and if you know, please do tell.  It implies that they think the clubs are all paying over the odds because they are English clubs with money.

Anyway this is what they quote


  • Average age of arrivals: 23,0
  • Total market value arrivals: £58.18m
  • Expenditures: £96.05m


  • Average age of arrivals: 23,5
  • Total market value arrivals: £17.85m
  • Expenditures: £31.03m

Manchester City

  • Average age of arrivals: 23,4
  • Total market value arrivals: £125.72m
  • Expenditures: £180.88m

Manchester Utd

  • Average age of arrivals: 26,5
  • Total market value arrivals: £104.55m
  • Expenditures: £157.25m


  • Average age of arrivals: 27,5
  • Total market value arrivals: £58.40m
  • Expenditures: £67.92m


  • Average age of arrivals: 26,7 
  • Total market value arrivals: £31.03m
  • Expenditures: £67.83m

Interesting numbers, especially if that difference between market value and expenditure is as I have assumed.

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40 comments to Mediocrity is now defined as coming second. So how do you define coming third?

  • insideright

    If coming top is the only definition of success then it can only follow that every penny spent by those that fail to achieve that must be wasted. Doesn’t make the transfer market sound like a good investment does it? Not even a good bet!

  • Wale

    Nice piece! Hope this will make newspaper review articles concerning Arsenal for “mediocre contents” before going to press – because there are loads of them out there now!!

  • HenryB

    I think to dignify that callow assessment with any attempt to rationalise it is simply not worth the effort.

    There are two things that can be classified as infinite;
    – the Universe and the stupidity of many football journalists — and we can not be sure of the Universe, but ….. 😀

  • HenryB

    Apologies, Tony, I forgot to commend your excellent Post and the work on researching the schedules – quality as usual. 🙂

  • Lanz

    Lovely piece! Thanks.

  • Samuel Akinsola Adebosin

    It is pathetic to see from your above stats Mr Attwood, how Arsenal have to spend over £37m above the odds in this summer window on 5 players whose correct market price value shouldn’t have been more than a little ovet £58m according to This is swindling in the manner of a daylight robbery. Arsenal have been swindled of their hard earned money by football clubs internally and across the globe who have taken the advantage of Arsenal being an elite big club with some money and is desperate to get some top quality players signed from the transfer market.

  • Josif


    Just one correction: according to Transfermarkt, Holding’s fee was £2.55 pounds. Still makes him a bargain though and doesn’t hurt your point.

  • Tony
    See, there you go nit picking again! You expect journalists to get their facts right and be sensible and credible as well !
    What are you expecting, honesty from journalists?.
    Seems the Guardian, that paragon of left wing virtue has it in for us
    The money driven Suns of this world we can expect a load of crap from, but The Guardian has been known to put words of more than two syllables in their writings

    Tony as usual you have written a wonderful piece, very genteel if I may say so
    As always, thanks, but we all know “it aint going to change”
    Someone up there don`t like us Gunners I feel ashamed of supporting a team which only came second, Oh! the utter despair, what will the neighbours think?
    Our nearest neighbours came third, perhaps they are suicidal ?

  • colario

    According to the Guardian in Spain clubs must make sure that the stand opposite the TV camera must be at least 75% full so as to give the impression to the viewers that the ground is full when in reality it might be as low as 30% full. It seems the TV companies want value for money at expense of the truth.

    I wonder what will happen when the TV companies decide the Premier League is no longer value for money.

    With the inflated transfer money clubs receive from the PL clubs surely in time these clubs are going to be in a better position to keep their players.

    If foreign owners of PL clubs decide they could do better else where* or demand the return of the money, they have put into clubs, PL clubs could lose their present buying power.
    * This is unlikely to happen at Mancs city.

    Will the PL continue to be the league the world wants to watch?

    In other words how long before the bubble burst?

    One of the pundit wise guys claims is that young English players should go abroad and widen their knowledge of the game.

    Not said by them is they probably don’t go abroad because the money is here. If the money goes away then these players will go where the money goes no matter the country.

    Then of course ‘the wise guys of footy’ will argue ‘How can you play English football when you play in Europe?’

    One other point an in line with the article.

    If we do win the Premier League this season then the anti arsenal brigade will inform the in ability masses to think for themselves

    that winning it once doesn’t mean anything you have to win it twice for it to mean anything.

    And of course the Arsenal team will be one of the worst ever teams to win it.

    And the none thinking footy fan will believe the claim.

  • TJ

    “the last 10 years” have been mediocre compared to the previous 10 years, or the 10 years prior to that under GG. If Man U, City or Chelsea hadn’t won multiple titles in “the last 10” years they’d be considered mediocre too considering their recent success. Using one season as a sample when you quote “in the last 10 years” is disingenuous, at best

  • Pat

    Extremely enjoyable league table, Tony. I laughed a lot.

    For various reasons I bought the Times and the Mirror yesterday and the Telegraph today. They all had different, good photographs from the match. Things are looking up – we must be getting important!

  • Pat

    Honestly, Tony, you have excelled yourself! I just read the comments on your league table again and laughed and laughed.

  • John Abraham

    Thank you Tony for an excellent assessment of the situation as usual. Without your blog, many of us Arsenal fans who really want to read objective assessment of the goings on at Arsenal would not know what to do. The aaa journalists know nothing better than Arsenal bashing. There is no where in the world where people ridicule someone or a club for coming second except in England.

  • goonersince72

    Good one, Tony. You might point out to that a players market value is what a club will pay for his services, not what a bunch of w***ers at a sports web site believe his value to be. Watching Xhaka and Holding play I’d consider the this period a success already. Especially Xhaka. What a player – vision, size, technique. Mustafi and Lucas will only add to the squad. Wish there wasn’t an inter break. Too many damn friendlies and qualifiers. World football is killing the players and the game.

  • para

    ” World football is killing the players and the game.”

    Agree completely. It needs to stop.
    3 games and a stupid break again.

  • Gord

    A really dumb look at “world football”.

    The reason FIFA pushes world football, UEFA pushes European football and so on, is that it makes tonnes of money for FIFA, UEFA and the rest of the corrupt bunch. It is also popular among people in general, because national rivalries exist.

    Arsenal is in England, so I’ll word things in that context.

    The English national team becomes just like every other team in the EPL. They have to buy the right to negotiate with players, and they have to pay players. And we change the EPL such that each team of the 20 plays 19 home games against EPL competitors, 19 away games against EPL competitors and 1 (2?) games against England. So, instead of a 38 game season, it is a 40 game season.

    The England team gets 20 (or 40) games playing against the EPL, and they can arrange other games against other national sides if they choose to.

    There is no calling up. If England wants Jack Wilshere to play for them, they have to buy him in the transfer market, just like all the other EPL teams. Same transfer windows. If a player decides to leave the national team, his former club team has right of first refusal in buying him back.

    With that off my brain, now back to your regular programming.

    Where’s Brickfields with a joke or 17?

  • Polo

    After vilifying AW for not getting ‘top quality’ defenders for many seasons, and this is what the media write. More Arsenal bashing.

    ‘Sadly, these two young footballers, so full of talent and promise, could be argued to be symptomatic of a club in danger of going nowhere fast, too.’

  • Brickfields Gunners

    I think that we could have had a WTF ? ,a ‘par for the course’ or a’ hehe,he !’ in there somewhere. Otherwise its all just desserts .
    As for the Foxes , I will reserve judgement until the results of the ‘ B’ samples is announced !

  • Gord

    More musing.

    Each EPL team would play England once, at Wembley. Half the gate receipts go to England (automatically). The other half are dispersed according to where England had bought the players. The split actually taking place based on playing time, but nominally if two of the England players had come from Arsenal and both played, Arsenal would get 2/11 of the other half of the gate receipts. If England purchased players from outside of the EPL, England would keep that portion of the other half.

  • Gord

    Greetings Brickfields. I love the floor to you. Sleep time for me.

  • Gord

    leave the floor, arrrgh!

  • Brickfields Gunners

    @ Gord – August 30, 2016 at 4:05 am – Here I am ! And as requested ,here’s
    no: 1

    Teacher: “Kids, what does the chicken give you?”
    Student: “Meat!”
    Teacher: “Very good! Now what does the pig give you?”
    Student: “Bacon!”
    Teacher: “Great! And what does the fat cow give you?”
    Student: “Homework!”

    ( What do ‘them’ types give you ?
    Every answer is deemed correct other than intelligence !)

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Interviewer: “What’s your greatest weakness?”
    Candidate: “Honesty.”
    Interviewer: “I don’t think honesty is a weakness.”
    Candidate: “I don’t give a f*ck what you think.”

  • Brickfields Gunners

    A player joins a new team and his new teammates inform him, “At your first team dinner as the new guy, you will have to give us a talk about sex.”
    The evening arrives and he gives a detailed, humorous account of his sex life.

    When he got home, his wife asked how the evening went and not wanting to lie, but also not wanting to explain exactly what happened, he said, “Oh, I had to make a talk about yachting,” his wife thought this a little peculiar but said nothing more and went to sleep.

    The next day she bumped into one of his new teammates at the supermarket and asked, “I heard my husband had to make a speech last night. How did it go?” His mate said smiling, ‘Oh, it was excellent! Your husband is clearly very experienced!.”

    The wife looked confused and replied to his mate, “Strange, he has only done it twice and the second time he was sick.”

  • colario

    Brickfields Gunners
    August 30, 2016 at 6:58 am

    Nice one. 🙂

  • Ben

    TAKOMA ASANO Sanfrecce Hiroshima to Arsenal for £5m. A transfer designed to boost Japanese interest spectacularly backfired – like so many Arsenal deals seems to do when the 21 year old was refused work permit. He will now be loaned out like Joel Campbell was when he joined. Fans will be hoping Asano doesn’t follow the costa Rican’s path into Arsenal irrelevance. And with two days until the transfer window closes,Arsenal are still lacking in quality foward options. I found this unbelievable piece on Goal.Com yesterday . And it made me ask these questions (1) How did they know that Asano was signed to boost Japanese interest (2) Doesn’t clubs sign player with the intention of loaning him out. (3)what makes them think that Wenger didn’t know that he won’t get work permit b4 buying him. (4)Do so many Arsenal transfers backfire (5)How did they know what fans are hoping for (6)How is Campbell irrelevant to Arsenal (7)Arsenal lacking in quality foward options really? .Am still unable to explain why the press never sees anything good in Arsenal

  • Brickfields

    There you go again, bringing things down to my level
    I`m still laughing about the fat cow

    You have the ability to bring us all down from our “high horse”

  • Gord

    I had trouble sleeping. Sorry. 🙂

    Q: What do you get when you cross an angry mob and a rampaging rhino?
    A: An angry mob and a rampaging rhino chasing you?

    Q: Why did the spud cross the road?
    A: It saw a fork up ahead.

    Q: What do you get when you cross a highway with a fridge?
    A: Killed.

    Q: What did the West Ham say to the EU?
    A: Does this new stadium make me look aided?

    Q: What’s the difference between wet spam and chicken?
    A: If you beat a chicken, it gets relegated.

    (or is lies, better than relegated?)

    Q: Why did the chicken cross the basketball court?
    A: He heard the referee was calling fowls.

  • Gord

    Alternative to gets relegated, it totters (as in totteringham).

  • Gord

    Q: Why were the Arsenal fans singing?
    A: They had a Hmmm Wenger of a manager.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Two million copies of a book was sold in one day due to a spelling mistake…..


    The correct title was HOW TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE…!

  • Brickfields Gunners


    A woman writes to the IT Technical support Guy :-

    Dear Tech Support,
    Last year I upgraded from Boyfriend 5.0 to Husband 1.0 and I noticed a distinct slowdown in the overall system performance. This is particularly in the flower and jewellery applications, which operated flawlessly under Boyfriend 5.0!

    In addition, Husband 1.0 uninstalled another
    valuable program, Romance 9.5, and then installed undesirable programs such as NEWS 5.0, MONEY 3.0 and CRICKET 4.1

    What can I do?

    Reply :

    Dear Madam,
    First, keep in mind, Boyfriend 5.0 is an Entertainment Package, while Husband 1.0 is an operating system.

    Please enter command- ithoughtyoulovedme.html and try to download Tears 6.2 , then only it will automatically run the applications Jewellery 2.0 and Flowers 3.5

    However, remember, overuse of the above application can cause Husband 1.0 to default to Silence 2.5 , Beer 6.1 or Whisky 6.8

    Also DO NOT disturb the original package of Husband 1.0 Otherwise new virus Girlfriend 2.5 will automatically be downloaded into your system.
    So please be careful!

    In addition, please do not attempt to reinstall the Boyfriend 5.0 program.
    These are unsupported applications and will crash Husband 1.0

    We recommend: Cooking 3.0

    Good Luck Madam !

  • colario

    Gord I like question and answer jokes. The only two I can think of right are :

    Why did the punk rocker cross the road?

    Because he was stapled to the chicken.

    Why did the man with one arm cross the road?

    Because he was going to the second hand shop.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    And since Gord is sleepless in Canada , now is a good time to ask him how to reinstall ‘ your old Arsenal ‘ . Ask him for the upgraded Awesome GG years , the new TH14 , and other legend’s latest programmes !

  • Justin Chinedu

    Many thanks to everyone here, thanks oga TONY and Team. This site really opened my eyes to the activities of the robots, now we know.

  • Nonnye

    Saw the article too an put it down as the usual press looking for ways to bash Arsenal. They never fail to see negatives even when they are not there.

  • Top Guns

    Tony – a couple of things

    1. We maybe were not mentioned because we are no longer considered as a club who has serious title aspirations?

    2. 2nd place in 2015/15 is in a different era. 2016/17 we are now into a completely new era, an era where Mr Wengee has to compete against vast wealth and the super coaches of the world game.

    Should we finish 2nd or even 3rd this season that will be an immense achievement. If he manages to do that then yes he deserves a new contract.

  • Gord

    Q: Why were the Arsenal fans singing?
    A: They had a Hmmm Wenger of a manager.

    I think I need to explain this one. The term I was thinking of is Hum Dinger, which is something exemplary. I think it comes from arcades where there is a strongman “competition”. Using a special hammer, you hit an “anvil”, which drives a target up a rail. Hit it hard enough, and it will hit the bell at the top. It sort of makes a hum noise going up the rail.

  • Gord

    I’m sorry Brickfields, I don’t know how to reinstall it. I will look into it.

  • Hi Berry

    Tony, it is very misleading and, I suspect, playing to the majority of posters on UA, to use a five year time frame for transfer expenditure and just a one year time frame for the adjectives achieved. Do you think the same adjectives would be relevant in the preceding five seasons when Man City (twice) Man Utd and Chelsea all lifted the PL title and Liverpool came within an ace of doing so?