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Leicester, State Aid Utd., Man U; tales of decline

By Tony Attwood

In 1936/7 Man City won the first division.  They were one of only three teams other than Arsenal to win the League in the 1930s (the other two were Everton and Sunderland).

Man City had been jogging along as a mid-table team for several years, and had finished ninth the year before their title win.    But what made that title win really notable was that the following year Manchester City were relegated to the second division .

This wasn’t the only switchback in the 1930s.  Tottenham were third in 1933/4 (one of the seasons Arsenal won the league).  Just one year on Tottenham came bottom of the league and returned to their spiritual home, the second division.

These days such movements seem rather unlikely, and yet they do happen, although perhaps not always with such extreme levels of change.  But we did see one giant collapse last year (Chelsea) and I suspect we are seeing a second one this year with Leicester.

And let us not forget Manchester United.  By 2013/14 Manchester United had just had 22 years of ending up in the top three, but then ended up in the following three seasons 7th, 4th and 5th.   OK these are not the same as relegation, but given the years at the top, they still represent an extraordinary drop.

Or Liverpool.  By 1991 they had had 18 out of 19 years coming either first or second.  In the next 25 years they came second four times, never won the league and were much of the time around 6th or 7th.

In fact rapid rises and falls are much more common that many assume today.  Consider this: Portsmouth won division 1 in 2003, the very last year of the 1st division in fact.  In 2008 they won the FA Cup.  In 2010 they were relegated, and then again in 2012 and in 2013 leaving them in League Two.

Or Blackburn who came sixth in division 2 in 1991/2, were Premier League runners’ up in 1993/4 and champions the following year.  And four years after that championship were in the second division.

In the past we used to accept this.  Man U were relegated in 1973/4, Chelsea in 1974/5, Tottenham (again) 1976/7, Chelsea (again) 1978/9.   But these were the old days.  It’s different now.  We expect the champions of one season to be there the next.  So how come Chelsea imploded last season; how come Leicester are imploding this?

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For Chelsea the answer was clearly Mourinho.  In 2013 the BBC quoted him as saying, “I am loved by the fans and the media [in England] who treat me in a fair way,”

(Really, he honestly did say that, and the quote is still on the BBC site).

When that turned out not to be true he was sunk, and he was sunk because he had thought he was above reproach.  He forgot that in England, as with other countries we have a list of people who you can’t criticise in the media and then get away with it.  One such group in England is doctors.  Another is women who are not outspoken in public, and who are clearly able to do a job without boasting about it.  Take a woman who is like that, and who is a doctor, and start criticising her, and you are done for.  His vision of reality didn’t work and he had no idea how to fix the model.

But if the Chelsea collapse was totally down to Mourinho, what of Leicester who are now two points above Hull who are in the relegation zone.  And what of the club formally known as WHU who were talked up last season as Champions League material.  (Stop laughing at the back – they really were: for example “West Ham can still claim Champions League spot, claims Slaven Bilic” in the Daily Mail, 20 April 2016.

The State Aid collapse is easy to explain and we’ve done it before.  Clubs generally have a hard time in a new stadium and it seems this is true even if they haven’t paid for it.  And people really don’t like boastful directors who claim they can walk on water.  And that is what State Aid has.  A stadium all of us mugs who pay our taxes in England paid for, and a group of directors who can blame wild attacks on the visiting team’s bus on the visiting team.  Hoisted by their own petard I think is the phrase.

And Leicester?  Last season Untold predicted that things might get a bit sticky for Leicester because of questions about the validity of their marketing operation (no allegations of course, just a reflection that it all seemed a bit weird), and the fact that their modest finances were put under pressure once they had to push up the salaries of their top players when others came sniffing.  It restricted the money available for new players – and as we suggested there was only limited new money because the marketing operation was not quite able to produce the goods…

The favourite explanation of the media just now is that PL clubs have realised that if you stop Mahrez playing you stop Leicester.  Which is probably true, but that raises the question of a) how did their defence work so well last season, and b) why didn’t clubs work this out at least six months earlier.

Leaving aside the opening three games of the season, Leicester first hit the top spot in 2015/16 after 13 games with an away win over Newcastle, and from then on remained top apart from three weeks in second place.  Given that success you might have thought that everyone would have worked out how to stop them.


But last season they had a prime defensive tactic: shirt pulling.  Now it is penalised, and it seems they don’t have any other way forward.

There is of course the issue that clubs are more able to stop Mahrez, by putting two or three players on him, but this only works because of the shirt pulling has been stopped.  All clubs seek to take playmakers out of the game.  Whether they can or not depends on what else is happening on the pitch.  Teams can now put three players on Mahrez if they feel like it, because there is not so much danger elsewhere.

Leicester’s prime approach meant they had no trouble defending.  Indeed in the first 12 games this season Leicester made just under 100 fewer interceptions than last season.  That seems an amazing number, but it is true because they intercepted a ball meant for another opposition forward, who was illegally impeded by having his shirt pulled.  Last season it was not a foul that refs bothered about.  This season it is.

But also Arsenal’s bid for Vardy didn’t help them.  Vardy said later that it took him no more than a few moments to decide not to join Arsenal, but it took much longer than that for the bid to be turned down.   Such actions impressed no one and subsequently numerous false rumours were created just to unsettle the team.   Meanwhile Leicester thought they were fine because Vardy was staying.  Now, the whole summer’s approach doesn’t look quite so clever.
Will Leicester do a Man City and go down the season after winning the league?  Possibly not, but I wouldn’t bet against it.  Will Man U rise up to their regular 1st  and 2nd place finish, or will they follow the path of Liverpool and have to wait for 25 years?
The notion that the world stays the same is one that football loves to nurture, but most of the time it is rubbish.
Tales from Untold 

Wenger ponders whether Yaya Sanogo will ever really be good enough for Arsenal. 

Referee Appointments and Results Matchweek #11 complete with video evidence

Hector, I love you more than words can say

More options up front than we had over the last seasons

Arsenal prepare for PSG; Santi Cazorla off to Barcelona

How the use of downright lies and misinformation has spread from football into the world beyond

Arsenal in November. Exactly how bad are we year after year? You might be surprised.

Man United – Arsenal : 1-1 Our beach saves the day


From the Arsenal History Society  

The books

“Making the Arsenal” and “Woolwich Arsenal the club that changed history” are available both via Kindle and in paperback.  For the Kindle editions please go straight to the Kindle shop, for paperback editions and more information about the books please click here.

22 comments to Leicester, State Aid Utd., Man U; tales of decline

  • Josif


    There is a good reason for fewer interceptions at Leicester – N’Golo Kante who was Mr Interception laet season. He was arguably the real Player of the season, an engine that enabled Mahrez to provide fireworks at the opposite end. Kante now does his thing for the league leaders Chelsea.

    Secondly, Leicester have a European front to deal with (and, in fact, they have done well so far with four clean sheets which is partially due to a straight-forward group) which reduces time for recuperation between two games.

    Finally, as you have already mentioned, they haven’t been able to pull shirts in the box. Two quite mediocre central defenders Huth and Morgan are more exposed now.

    I will, hopefully, write a comment on the other two clubs as well but not now.

  • Norman14

    Plus Josif…

    The media and PGMOL have new little darlings in Liverpool to help!

  • John Weeraga

    Tony, you also forget that last season, Vardy used to manufacture penalties until he was found out. Now most of his antiques are either ignored or penalised

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin

    Hmmn, all the points raised in this article are foods for thoughts.

    If I may ask, why has Jose Mourinho always critical of Le Prof at any opportunity he sees?

    He was quoted to have said many odd things against Le Prof in a recent interview he had with Espn-Brazil. Jose should remember that no good or bad condition ever remained permanent. Moreso for a successful manager who doesn’t return thanks to God that Has given him the success.

    One would have thought the recent setback Jose had at Chelsea should made him to learn to become sober and be respectful to other managers in the game, instead of being always rude and insolent to Le Prof in particular.

    Jose should know that it was by the favour of God he won all the titles he has won in his career and not by the might of his wisdom. And he should know that Le Prof who has won titles before can still win again again again & again and even win the CL as Jose has won it with Porto before.

  • Josif


    According to The Referee Review at this very site, Liverpool and Leicester are on the opposite ends of PGMOL love but not in the way you would think.

  • insideright

    @John – antics?

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin

    Leicester, West Ham and Man Utd are all for different reasons going through a difficult time in their PL campaigns at this juncture in the season.

    Man Utd in particular may continue to occasion unsteady results in their League campaign that could see them missed out of the top four again, save if their manager, Jose Mourinho repent from his arrogant remarks and bad manners towards other managers in the game like Le Prof. And quickly amends the damaged ways he has brought to his path in his management career since he left Inter Milan.

    One article columnist had during last season’s campaign wrote on Untold Arsenal that Leicester maybe using their future energy & strength for their last season campaign. Which could truly had seen them captured the PL title for the 1st time in their history. But this season they are having a good run in the CL so far but are having unimpressive outings so far in their PL campaign. 12 games into the PL campaign this season may not be sufficient number of games played to start judging them if they’ll be into relegation battle or not. But let’s wait and see.

    West Hammers saw an opportunity to move to a larger and modern Stadium from their Bolyn ground to the newly built London Olympic Stadium. And they’ve seized the opportunity and moved in like, God don’t pass by is not a song one knees down singing but will get up if he can to start running after the Lord shouting, Son of God have mercy on me.

    So one cannot really blamed WH for becoming a State-aid Untied clubside. They saw the chance to become that and took it not minding the odd name they’ll be labeled later. I think it’s the owners of the Stadium that’s are to be blamed for the substandard deal they did with WHFC in awarding the Stadium to them to rent it. WHFC too could face relegation battles if they’re not careful with their PL results.

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin

    By the way, how many MPs at Westminster Abbey are Arsenal faithful fans? I’ve decided to ask this question because we sent a petition against Mike Dean not to have his hand in any Arsenal game again after his flagrant abused of the rules & laws governing the game against Arsenal in our away match against Chelsea last season.

    I am one of the signatories of that our petition. But since it must had been passed to the House of Commons for a possible deliberation and action on it, nothing has been heard over it since then. Why?

    Don’t Arsenal have lobbyists at the Sports Ministry, NO10. Downing Street, The House of Commons and the House of Lords to lobby for us whenever we need such action to get things that concern Arsenal done successfull?

    I believe West Ham must have such lobbyists around the government circle, (“Long Leg” it’s called here in Nigeria) which have enabled them to succeed in their bid to rent the London Olympic Stadium successful. And sometimes, Long Leg pass Long Leg Nigerians would say. Hence, I think WHFC beat Tottenham Hs to the London Olympic Stadium renting.

    To get things done around the govt circle, one might need to have a Long Leg to move far to successfull get what he lawfully wants. I think Arsenal should start having connections at the govt levels so that when they need or want something done for us they can get it done with some easy.

  • OlegYch

    hm i thought the list of people you can’t criticize stopped at referees..

  • Gord

    Is the media in decline, and hence a little on topic here?

    Aside a lot of Arsenal bashing in the news, there is also some effort at predicting how Arsenal will line up for a PSG team limited to 3 people who haven’t been convicted of something. 🙂

    My guesses:



    Maybe you have a different way in mind?

    Apparently Chile has been invited to tournament in China in January, and guess who is expected to go along? Shades of some African Cup that story.

  • WalterBroeckx

    It looks like Thursday league at the most for the tiny totts come february

  • Gord

    Was it a penalty for the spuds?

  • WalterBroeckx

    I don’t watch other matches in the CL as I don’t want to give Uefa any income so I really don’t know.

  • Gord

    I wasn’t watching either. Oh well, maybe some else will both of us in?

  • Gord

    I seem to be missing the word “fill” in there somewhere. Sorry.

  • Va Cong

    Gord it was the spuds doing their drag leg specials they do so well

  • Gord

    Thanks Va Cong.

    Bunch of cheats. Oh well, I hope they are happy with playing on Spursdays.

  • va cong

    Haha spursday… they were pretty much playing thug football but couldn’t get away with it like in the premier league Gord shown up for the bag of shit they are!

  • Brickfields Gunners

    What , no ‘honourable ‘ mention of the mighty Leeds Utd , and their eventual meltdown ?

    And with their CL exit , the Spuds can now concentrate on the hitherto elusive EPL crown.

  • Josif

    Now, let’s continue…

    Manchester United have been in decline mostly due to many factors. Let’s start with Ferguson’s short-term policy. He had neglected midfield for years making suspicious signings such as Anderson and failed to replace aging injury-plagued veterans Vidic, Ferdinand and Carrick. Rooney has been in decline since his injury against Bayern in 2010 and his transformation into a midfielder has backfired spectacularly at both Manchester United managers and the England one.

    Then, like he hadn’t done enough damage, Ferguson was allowed to pick his heir. He went with a man who had never had a mentality required for a big club. He would have been a good choice for a mid-table team but not for the very best teams in the league.

    Thirdly, United haven’t been patient with Louis Van Gaal. He should have been Ferguson’s heir as he knows how to find a decent young player and doesn’t hold back from giving youth a chance. Rashford, Ofosu-Mensah, even Lingard…made a breakthrough with Van Gaal at helm. He might have been past his best but his record in big games is already beyond Mourinho’s reach.

    Finally, they appointed Mourinho who suffers from the same decline as Manchester United – both have lost their killer instinct and winning mentality. They just spend money and attract laughs and mocks because they used to be very poor winners.