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June 2021

With with Arsenal there is always one simple answer which everyone can see except Arsenal.

By Tony Attwood

I spent part of Friday evening travelling the Midland Motorway system (or car park as it is often known) making the journey from East Midlands (where I live) to West Midlands (where a dance was being held).

Fortunately the traffic was flowing fairly easily for a Friday (I got up to 10 mph – which is to say 14 kph) on several occasions), and to pass the time of day took what in retrospect seems like a rather dubious decision, to listen to BBC Radio 5 Live.

Thereupon I heard a discussion relating to, among other things, the woes of Arsenal, which were, the various panellists agreed, due totally to the absence of a Patrick Vieira figure “bossing” (the word of the moment) the midfield.

Having been a regular at Highbury during the days of Vieira’s pomp I can agree that yes he was a master.  Indeed one of my favourite tales with which I bore people stupid quite regularly is that of seeing Vieira in his very first appearance as a substitute against Sheffield Wednesday on 16 September 1996.

I was sitting with my good mate Roger, now so sadly no longer with us, in the upper North Bank, and it seemed to me that Vieira (who was unknown in England, cost £3.5m – and was a transfer that was quoted at the time as an example of the total disarray surrounding Arsenal) took control of the game.  From the moment he hit the pitch he was running the show and instantly Arsenal looked different.  

Now Roger and I had a friendship based on disagreeing on most footballing issues, and I recall even after all these years he was more uncertain than I about Vieira’s arrival,  but we spoke often of that moment – my one and only correct prediction as the little group of us that travelled to matches would regularly say thereafter.

So, yes I’ll go with the notion that we could do with Vieira again.  But that’s not to say much – virtually every team could do with Vieira in his prime, even allowing for incidents such as at the Liverpool match on 21 August 2000 (the first in a 12 match unbeaten run, after the opening day defeat against Sunderland) in which Vieira was dismissed for the second successive game and got a five match ban.  We were helped by the fact that Liverpool were reduced to nine players after McAllister and Hamann were sent off.

But just pause there for a moment – we lost Vieira for the first five of an unbeaten run of 12.  Maybe he wasn’t quite so irreplaceable, even four years into his Arsenal tenure.

(And yes Vieira was dismissed for two matches in a row because in those days suspensions did not start with the very next game).

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So Vieira was wonderful but not always utterly perfect, but that is a minor thought compared to the notion that if Arsenal really are not much good, how come at the end of last season (which as far as I recall was played without Vieira) we won six in a row, or if you prefer nine out of ten.   Or if you prefer again, adding in the Community Shield and the opening day win v Leicester we won 11 out of 12 including (even excluding the community shield) two victories over Manchester City and Chelsea at Wembley.  Without Vieira.

Now maybe we still do need a new Vieira, but if so, it would have been good to have had the discussion as to how Arsenal managed all those wins without the New Vieira.  About how come we won all those games with such an enfeebled midfield.  Rather than having everyone agreeing with each other in the studio, and then laying down the text for all scribblers to follow, why not ask a real question?

The reality is that Arsenal didn’t get it right against Stoke, and that was used to justify the pundits’ predictions of Arsenal slipping further down the league this season.  But without any sort of realistic analysis.

Indeed that lack of analysis is at the centre of almost all football debate in England now.  Arsenal ended the Leicester match with six players playing out of their normal position, according to one screaming report.  Conclusion, Wenger has lost it.  Reality – we came back from a goal down and won.   One match proves nothing, of course, but at least let us have some of the information on the table before drawing conclusions.

Indeed today when conclusions are drawn, they are so often false.   The Guardian actually published this, earlier this week, “It turns out the switch to a back three was not a magic bullet, after all. It is early days still, of course, but already the sense is that for Arsenal the move to the tactic du jour was just the 2017 version of their regular upswing in April and May. Nobody has monetised mediocrity quite so well: they are masters at stimulating optimism at just the right moment to maximise season‑ticket sales.”

In other words the end of season run was just done to maximise season ticket renewals.   The piece did have its moments (in that it re-used Untold’s recurrent theme of last week about nine Wembley wins in a row, being what Tottenham needed but Arsenal had just got) but then came back to “the endlessly fragile midfield.”

I can’t imagine the Guardian writers and editors seriously think that the long run of consecutive wins was just organised to get season ticket sales sorted, and they were one of the few outlets to recognise some dubious refereeing in the Stoke game which worked against Arsenal, but the ceaseless, remorseless, endless desire to explain an Arsenal defeat through one simplistic factor is the fundamental of contemporary football journalism, and it really is just hopeless.

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26 comments to With with Arsenal there is always one simple answer which everyone can see except Arsenal.

  • Trev

    Writing about other writers, you do this too often in here. Stop trying to have a go at their opines just because yours is different. Write what you think is right, and try to write what you feel is wrong besides everyone else opinion. Same with transfer rumours, I often came in here and all you did was write about how it is all made up, you need to stop worrying about how others are getting on. Arsene digs his own grave as they say, we have players not giving one hundred percent. We look like we might balance the books again this season even though fans are crying out for maximum effort. There is plenty to write about. P Vieira, my dad always says the same, we need a Vieira he would make a huge difference to this bunch. He’s not wrong, Vieira in full pomp was one of the greatest things Ive ever seen. Having that with an Adams, Henry and Bergkamp, my word we were a lucky bunch of Gooners. But I feel sorry for the younger ones who missed all of that, you need too try and see it from their prospective. Loyalty has its limits, too much is a bad thing.

  • Rich

    Excellent piece, Tony.

    The orgy of criticism this week has been spectacular even by standards we are now used to.

    Glad to see you mention the way those tv debates very often now seem to go straight into the week’s articles. Noticed it a few times with Keown in recent years.

    Things are said on the sofas, often concerning matters of months and years- e.g. Ozil’s performances- and then Keown uses them, with same conclusions, as topic for his next piece.

    At least Merson comes up with his own nonsense, sort of.

  • Trev, I am sorry that I have not been able to explain to you the essence of Untold, but to put it simply, I set it up and have run it as a campaigning site. The campaign against the way journalists both define what is news, and then “analyse” it, is one of those campaigns. Just as we campaign against the PGMO, the FA, Fifa etc. The journalism question is to my mind the most important because it is their refusal to take up arms against such organisations allows these corrupt bodies to continue running football as they do.

  • Stephan

    This article is so myopic.
    It’s not about winning consecutive matches, it’s about competing.
    Who cares if you go unbeaten or win matches if you don’t compete.
    Our team is weak in the middle. That’s a fact. No need to point out matches they’ve won to show otherwise. We’ve not won the league in over a decade, that speaks volumes.
    We need a midfield enforcer. If we don’t get one, then our wait for the title continues

  • Josif

    We had a central midfield axis of Coquelin and Cazorla that worked excellent. We were almost unbeatable.

    Cazorla’s injury was a real blow as our build-up declined and we were more vulnerable to counter-attacks. Xhaka is a good player but not on Santi’s level.

  • Hunter13

    Vieira ooooohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

    legend. best. number 1

    such a pity that stupid rule denied us of keeping yaya..and twice as pity diaby got ruinned

  • blacksheep63

    I haven’t seen any of this media criticism of the ‘same old Arsenal, always collapsing’ for the very simple reason that I don’t read the papers and I don’t listen to Five Live or Talk Shite or watch Sky. Honestly folks its really simple – read a book instead and watch the Arsenal yourselves

  • Blacksheep, I do appreciate the position you have consistently taken up. But the media is what keeps the wholesale misunderstanding of what is happening in football, going.

    The most encouraging thing of late, to my mind, is the way that the Axis of Evil, (Daily Mail and Sun) was bypassed so effectively in the General Election by the left – and how they have still not come to terms with what happened (in that they are continuing as if nothing happened to their ability to manipulate and control).

    If it can happen in politics, we ought to be able to do something about it in football!

  • Samuel Akinsola Adebosin

    We will keep our lose to Stoke out of our minds if we won at Anfield against Liverpool on Sunday, wouldn’t we? But we will quickly remember we’ve lost to Stoke if we fail to get at least a point at Liverpool but a win there is the most desirable result for us to get in this our first away big game of this new season.

    That’s apart, with only six days to the end of this summer transfer window to close, the Arsenal transfer rumours in the media is heightening up more and more with Gibbs reported to be on his way to Watford for a mere £5m transfer fee but subject to his agreeing terms with Watford. But why should Watford not pay him his Arsenal wages after Arsenal look to have deliberately lowered his transfer fee from £10m to £5m so as to let his buying club have the comfort to pay him his Arsenal wages?

    Mustafi is surprisingly linked with a move away to Inter Milan who want him on loan deal. But Arsenal are said to want to sell him for £ 34m according to media reports. And we all must have read in the media by now that the Ox is looking to be on his way to Chelsea but if Le Prof sanction the move. Since the Ox is not so important to Arsenal as Sanchez and Ozil are, if Chelsea will pay nothing less than £40m for him in down payment transfer fee, let Le Prof sanction the prodigy Oxchambo moves to Chelsea and replace him with one of our three youth team players (Nelson?) he has recently promoted to the senior team rank. But for Sanchez and Ozil, their moves away from Arsenal this summer is not negotiable. However, their extending their staying at Arsenal beyond this season is negotiable. If Le Prof allows Mustafi to unlikely go to Inter, will he replace him with van Diyk of Southampton or bring in Chambers to fill the vacuum left behind by Mustafi? This is a ponder.

  • Minesy

    You know I read some of the comments on here … and this is Untold FFS !!! … and I wonder why I bother with it anymore !!!

    Two pretty nailed on penalties ignored and a good goal disallowed and the only criticism is for Wenger and the players ? On a weekend where Pogba and Vertonghen show, (yet again), there is more chance of an alien spaceship landing at Buckingham Palace this week than a United or Spurs player getting a red card. And don’t forget the ultimate irony, I quote from the Manchester Evening News:

    “It is astonishing that Kyle Walker had played 198 games for Tottenham without receiving a red card – and now, 134 minutes into his City career, he has one.” No not that astonishing really …

    And while we are on about 5Live’s Friday night show, I was coming back from Heathrow last Friday and was listening to a piece about the number of goals scored over the first weekend. Now, you might rejoice in the fact that the League has so many great attacking players and is providing lots of entertainment for the fans both in the grounds and on TV. But this is BBC Sport, so the line was why is defending so bad in the Premier League and the example??? Arsenal’s defence against Leicester … not a mention that out four first choice central defenders were unavailable, (Gabriel hadn’t been sold at this point), because that would have no bearing on anything would it !!!

    I so much prefer being at the Emirates, no commentators, no pundits, just a game of football … next I’ll be waxing lyrical abouyt the good old days when we used to play at home every second Saturday at 3 p.m. !!!

  • para

    The banner at the top says it all.

    I must admit at times though, i fear that Untold, although doing great work concerning refs, pgmo media etc, does bury its head in the sand when it comes to Arsenal and AW.

    One does not need statistics to prove that Arsenal has dropped back to the level it really is only capable of right now, after having played at a level well above it’s capability and not managed to win CL,PL lately.

    FA,EL is about Arsenal’s level at the moment and actually for many years now, and even the most dumb fan will be able to comprehend this.

    If our 2 signings can manage to add that spark which is required to our team along with our “stars” and “newbys” we may be in for a good season, but it is understandable that the basic fans who mostly see in black/white are not impressed, and it is their good right to.

    ATM, i do feel like long ago(when i was about 14) when the first thoughts about the validity of religon appeared.

    It took me another 10 years to shake off(most) of the indoctrination and even today, at 64, i do find certain things still creeping in. Thats the power of indoctrination.

    So it is good thst Untold speaks out against the “indoctrination” of the media and makes those who are not aware of it that it does exist, and how damaging it is.

    AW to me seems to be continuing to sabotage himself by(some of) his thoughts, actions and words, which is sad, as there are many others who do that without his help anyway.

  • A writer who writes in to complain about a writer complaining (quote legitimately) about sordid writers, thats hilarity, seriously I will no longer suffer fools.

    Vieira, the consulate lynchpin, anchorman extraordinar, but more importantly the first pivot of a counter.

    Our lower spine is weak, mert can read eceeything, but his lega are ggone for games we cannot cobtrol, tscore early, scpre again and again and he works, but for that we need unabating atracks and dor that we need a Santi.

    Xaka needs. Modfield 3, at peast for now. Aaron is vest suited to one, Couquelin also being a ball huntsman.

    So why Santi got injured, a) Lodgorets, should never played, I said before the game, almost cried when he was selected and died when t happened. However this is creating your own bad luck, squad depth, I blame Kroenke not Wenger, I said he’d try sell everything and seemingly before the financial year ends and Brexot finds its conclusion, so he does.

    Home office maximum time on Elneny although, the transfer was in place befoe Jan 1.

    If we can offload again in he middle he is the man, unfortunately, Xaka is Aaron replacement, santi and jack and coquelin option, we are in nees of heigt at set pieces and physical presence in the middle if Tue park. We need a Voeria, one man can lake all the difference, Kante to chelsea, yet see how it is a valance and teamwprk , without Magic IRS gong to be difficult when they face Stoke etc.

    Again Koscielny was ij deaperate need of rest amd Mustarfi has a mild rash streak, but he’s not for thr chop. If we sign, we can consolider Kos and the hopeful incomer first choice, with Mustarfi vyimg to get it. Mert as cover and a rotation option. Maybe even a aenaible sub if we are dominating. Callum and Holding can pair with him in leaguw cup and chambers can ecwn go wide foe minor fixtures. Knowung the full backs role is important development for a CB.

    Wenger reiterated he importance of calm and quiet at this pate stage of Tue window ‘Sir Chips’!

    But for player and club alike I hope we can get in a RB and LB, an injury to either Bellerin or Kolasinic puts our season in jeapordy, saying injuries are unlucky as all hell would be more than draft.

    In Tue wide areas I seriously again see a RW as imperative, and I am not for keeping unhappy players on Tue books, if Apex wants out he should go, and Theo also, Giroud has expressed his desire to stay and has been a model professional on Tue pitch, even if home affairs wlaffectes his game for a while.

    The goal keeper situation needs addressing shortly.

    For me our system should be a back four, DM holding, floating midfield and AM, with two wide men and CF.

    The system is fine, but you need a player who is dedicated to defense in the midfield, Coquwlin can and will but juat aa with Santi when he’s out we have nothing but a smoking injured maverick, who if fit can best anyone, but he’s never that. An extremely accurate passer who cannot defend (the Egyptian) a all round midfielder whos natural game (excellent as tlit is) is killed if UE has to question his defensive cover before eveey late run. And a rangy passer who wont get.back. if we rotate Santi and Jack ok. Vut we need to rest kwy men l, Ozil and Alexis, and the CF.

    We onpy get three subs.

    Gibbs is off to Watford, good luck, good fit. Thanks for your service.

    Debouxhy next.
    If we offload both the Ox and Theo we are in to have valance on both wings brigig in a sure starter.

    A proven DM, with a RW would not only give us a starting 11 of:

    Bellerin ***** Koscielny Kolasanic



    ****** Ozil. Alexis


    But a second string of:

    ***** Hold/Cham Per/Mus *****
    Nelson/Willock. Iwobi

    3 in That’s a team capable of winning the league and Europe.

    5 in gives you a squad fit for next season, CL and a 10 years of dominance.

    That is a 2 year plan, witj a GK or 2 for good measure.

    It also gives you liquid assets:

    Gibbs: Watford
    Walcott: ?????
    Welbeck: ?????
    Debouchy: ????
    Elneny: ??????
    Montreal: ????

    Worhh at least £100m given Watfords initial £10m Gibbs bid was rejected as opposed to a lower coln quotes sum.

    You can see super inflation coming and have a £200m player ypu dont eant to sell, or have 5/6 guys you don’t mind selling available at a price 99% of teams can afford and several need just to stay in the game.

    Theo and Welbeck will give another team 15 – 20 goals and many only need that to recoup Tue fee in match day revenue and short sales w/competition bonuses.

    Elneny will tick over many a midfield, and Turkey would be a destination he could favour, Gibbs is an upgrade for Watford.

    Oxlade along with Theo and Danny add to quota of home grown talent and is the pick of Tue bunch, I can see a Lukaku happening with him, but I think he needs more game time and responsibility, I’m just not sire what he’s thonoong and havent the time to babysit another player, he is 24.

    I don’t think getting VVD or WC would be a problem and at RW their are options, getting the right one is more testing. Offloading the listed players is the crux.

    And even then Alex OC will probably facilitate the sale if Hazard if we move him there or Coutinio I’d rake option 1 option 2 is settled one way or another. Pique picked it Liverpool want NeyNey money but Osumane plus Cputonio unavailable and likely to play poorly if he does is pivotal.

    And with Swansea, Southampton , Everton, all receiving windfalls or likely to Theo and Danny can move. All of the above suit Walcott in a WC place grabbing year. Welbeck agso may consider a number of other goal shy teams, WBA, Bournemouth, Burnley, Newcastle, Brighton, Stoke, not to mention again how well he suits Liverpool’s counter press and need for squad depth.

    In fact Danny to Everton for Europa.

    Theo keeping CL and joining Klopp for some much neeeded confidenxe suits well.

    I cannot say enough, Fergie was a master of scalping talent from opponents, derailing the Aurier move make much sense. Leaving a full back and GK. Monreal stay for the season, but again unwise. He’s more figured out than Per with half the tactical awareness. Go for the French Ashley Cole at Lyon.

    If we do not get this window right we are in trouble.

    IWIT come on gaffer the long game just got short odds. They let you down, ship em. You owe them nothing more than good homes and good homes mean good money.

  • I write in English and then the device has its way, ffs I need my laptop back

  • 15 to go city being held by a stunning opener by Bournemouth 😛

  • 90+7 sterling

    We must strengthen we are playing the league itself

  • Minesy

    All from a non-free kick by, guess who Dean !!! He only gave that because he’d played on earlier … time and again results are all about the officials and not the players

  • And the media and those lovely well wishers along with a few.xaah strapped ex players wjp.will even mispredict matches for.tour betinf arm for crumbs

  • Samuel Akinsola Adebosin

    I was watching the Bournemouth vs Man City PL match and enjoying the match and scores were 1-1 into the 2nd half of the game when Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) took light in my Anguwan Kaya locality here in Zaria. Bournemouth are giving Man City a good run in the game for their money as the woodwork game into the rescue of the Citizens in the 2nd half from Kings’ effort. And Defoe had to score in the first half to make it 2-0 to the Cherries but he didn’t. I’ve just checked the scoreline and 90 minutes into the game, it’s still 1-1. If the £250m Pep Gaurdiola’s signing squad reinforcements this summer drop another 2 points as they did last week. It can only be good for us the Arsenals as we will top one of our title rivals – Man City in the table by beating Liverpool at Anfield tomorrow. The Gunners should therefore do the beating of the Reds unfailingly tomorrow.

  • Chris

    Wonder if now we have a new element in refereeing : Guardiola/Oil money time ?

  • Samuel Akinsola Adebosin

    Ah! So, after working very hard to at least get a point in this match, Bournemouth lost the match to Sterling’s goal. What a pity!

  • Brickfields Gunners

    A new wellness and unlimited happiness therapy –

    A Woman comes home and tells her husband, “Remember those headaches I’ve been having all these years? Well, they’re gone.”
    “No more headaches?” the husband asks, “What happened?”
    His wife replies, “Margie referred me to a hypnotist. He told me to stand in front of a mirror, stare at myself and repeat
    I do not have a headache;
    I do not have a headache,
    I do not have a headache.’
    It worked! The headaches are all gone.”
    “Well, that
    is wonderful,” replies the husband.

    His wife then says, “You know, you haven’t been exactly been good in the bedroom these last few years. Why don’t you go see the hypnotist and see if he can do anything for that?”
    The husband agrees to try it.
    Following his appointment, the husband comes home, rips off his clothes, picks up his wife and carries her into the bedroom.
    He puts her on the bed and says, “Don’t move, I’ll be right back.”
    He goes into the bathroom and comes back a few minutes later and jumps into bed and makes passionate love to his wife like never before.
    His wife says, “Boy, that was wonderful!”
    The husband says, “Don’t move! I will be
    right back.”
    He goes back into the bathroom, comes back and round two was even better than the first time.
    The wife sits up and her head is spinning.
    Her husband again says, “Don’t move, I’ll be right back.”
    With that, he goes back in the bathroom.
    This time, his wife quietly follows him and there, in the bathroom, she sees him standing at the mirror and saying,
    ” She’s not my wife.
    She’s not my wife.
    She’s not my wife!”

    His funeral service will be held on tomorrow ..

  • Brickfields Gunners

    I don’t need to use a mirror , but rather chant to myself and go into a Zen like state of bliss and tranquility .

    My chant –

    They are NOT Arsenal fans !
    They do NOT love the Arsenal as I do !
    They are just trying to wind you up !
    They are not worth the effort !

    Followed by a series of
    ” WOO HOO, HOOS ! ” and ” UP THE GUNNERS ! ” – as many as you like .

    That ought to save you quite a fair amount of dosh from having to have sessions with a shrink .
    You could spend the money on all things Arsenal !
    Oh , what joy !

  • omgarsenal

    Para….¨One does not need statistics to prove that Arsenal has dropped back to the level it really is only capable of right now, after having played at a level well above it’s capability and not managed to win CL,PL lately. ¨

    FFS….this is what Tony & Walter have been complaining about from people like you! Forget evidence, stats, proven facts….just take Para’s word for it…we see things and that means they must be true! Take a break, look up investigative journalism and learn how to defend your opinions, otherwise they’ll just remain self-justified rumours and conjecture.

  • para

    If you have not realised that “evidence, stats, proven facts” can also be manipulated AND that you only really have one choice of making your opinion if it is to be yours and no one elses, then you are doomed to be spouting someone elses opinions.

    What you see along with your own experiences and information gained tends to be your only way of making your own opinion.
    I do not proclaim that my opinion is RIGHT for you, but it is right for me.

    Feel free to use “evidence, stats, proven facts” to prove me wrong my man,(of course you may have different information, experiences and indeed eyes) dont just tell me that i should use them, else you are doing the same thing that you are accusing me of. Clear?
    And, it is the differences of opinions that allow people(most) to be able to look at things from angles that they may not have thought of/seen and revise their opinions.
    Has Arsenal not dropped back to a level of FA,EL?
    How have you not noticed that Arsenal has only won FA cups and are now in EL?

    What evidence, stats, proven facts are you going to present that disputes that?

    You probably still think that there was a moon landing, or that Egypt/Rome/Greece was never inhabited by indigenous people etc, because you have the evidence, stats, proven facts that were given to you. Still, that is your right to have that opinion, how ever you came about it.

    I am not knocking your opinions, i may even agree with some parts of it if you did state one instead of attacking mine. 🙂

  • para

    Has Arsenal not dropped back to a level of FA,EL?
    How have you not noticed that Arsenal has only won FA cups LATELY and are now in EL?

  • Nitram


    Yes but you talk as we have recently ‘dropped back’.

    We actually ‘dropped back’ as you put it, to solely CL qualification, way back when the money arrived at Chelsea and we were hamstrung by stadium debt.

    We then ‘progressed’ to CL qualification AND FA Cup winners once we had a little extra money, although still nothing like the funds of the main 3.

    Over the last 4 years we’ve won 3 FA Cups and backed them up with 3 Community shields.

    We’ve come out victorious 9 times on the bounce at Wembley.

    We’ve finished 4th. 3rd,2nd, and 5th (only missing out on top4 on the final day of the season)

    So in reality the following statement of yours:

    “One does not need statistics to prove that Arsenal has dropped back to the level it really is only capable of right now, after having played at a level well above it’s capability and not managed to win CL,PL lately.”

    on one season when we failed to qualify for the CL.

    Where does “….Not managed to win the CL…..’lately'” come from?

    When have we EVER managed to win the CL

    If you do not think a 10 year period of solely top 4 finishes, followed by a 4 year period of 3 FA Cups, 3 CS’s, and 3 out of 4 top 4 finishes is actually progress then I think you really are a glass half empty kind of guy.

    Irrelevant of whether you think we should have a Billionaire pumping 100’s of Millions of there own money in to the club, can you not see that what Arsenal/Wenger actually achieve is simply amazing?

    All I know is I keep hearing how magnificent Spurs and Liverpool are doing and as far as I can see they have both won f*** all.