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June 2021

Arsenal could have won the League… but they didn’t

by Tony Attwood

I do on occasion wonder if the mainstream media ever have a peek at what Untold is saying.   It’s not a constant question in my life, but just occasionally when we run a long term campaign, and then suddenly we find that someone in a newspaper writes about the same issue, and taking a very similar line, I just wonder for a few seconds – did they read one of our pieces?

Take the current bout of knocking the FA which is going on at the moment.  Headlines about like, “Martin Glenn’s botched handling of Mark Sampson affair demonstrates FA’s chronic ineptitude” in the Telegraph, and “Exclusive More FA embarrassment as Glenn contradicts lawyers over Sampson” in the Guardian.

Obviously in one sense it is a response to events – the FA doing their usual thing of finding a hole, jumping into it, and then starting to dig.  But it is noteworthy that it wasn’t so many years ago that the FA was sacrosanct – no one would attack them – except Untold and one or two other blogs.

Of course the media don’t go all the way with us; they are still simply calling on whichever individuals this time have been found wanting to resign, while leaving the institution in place, but it is a little step forwards.  Certainly the level of investigation going on is better than it was over the vast sums of money spent on the stupid bid for England to host the world cup, but I suspect the move on from the point that it is all about changing the people at the top, is going to take a very long time.

The clever bit is to avoid the context and the broader picture.  Just talk about this latest cockup, but don’t mention the last one or the one before or the one before or…

It is a bit like the notion that Arsenal gets it wrong.   In articles of this nature, the writer claims that he can see how the club have got it wrong (buying the wrong player, playing the player out of position, playing the wrong style of football etc.)  The implication is that if only he or she were the Arsenal manager he or she would jolly well get it right by changing this one thing (which is dead simple) and then all would be resolved.  The largest context is ignored.

At the moment the theme is that Arsenal are going to lose two top players next summer for nothing, with the loss calculated in terms of the loss of the transfer fee that might have been obtained from a sale in the last window.

No account is taken of having two top players for an extra year at a fraction of the salary that they will command in one year;s time.  Nor is there any comparison with the number of players on the last year of their contract at other clubs.  Nor indeed with Chelsea and its little local difficulty with one player so disenchanted with the club he has seemingly gone on strike.

Consider some of the current allegations against Arsenal that the media and bloggettas are circulating:

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a) The new men brought into the club aren’t as good as the ones we used to have.   No statistical analysis is brought in to back this up.  It’s just a statement.

b) The Arsenal players are all too old or too young.  The number of players in the “all important” 23 to 28 age range is tiny.   And the comparison with other clubs at present?  None.  Or with other Arsenal teams in history?  None.

c) Even the players who are still at Arsenal want to leave the club.  How many?  Is this really true?  Is that number bigger than normal for Arsenal, or for other teams?  No information.

I was particularly fascinated by this last point as earlier in the summer I wrote the annual AISA Arsenal History Society booklet, which each year deals with one part of Arsenal’s history, and which is given to all members of AISA.  This year’s publication follows the first half of the era with Bertie Mee as manager – the era that included winning the Fairs Cup, the FA Cup and the League across a two year period.

What struck me in researching that story was just how many of the players in the squad that won those trophies put in transfer requests, and just how poorly the biggest transfer of the era (Marinello) performed.   Comparisons with other clubs of the present day and Arsenal in other periods does help to give a sense of perspective – and yet this is always missing.

Back in the present day we are told also that the structure and formation of the team isn’t right, and that a new manager would have put this right.  But again there is no evidence – just opinion stated as fact.  When we’ve done analyses of new managers coming to PL clubs what we find is that although quite often there is a little bounce in terms of improved success, ultimately matters slip back and the club remains at its previous level.  Wenger’s immediate success with Arsenal when he arrived was unusual.

Let me offer you another comment made recently.  “If Aaron Ramsey and even Danny Welbeck stall on new contracts, it becomes difficult to remotely imagine what this team could look like 18 months from now.”

Conditional points like this are always possible to make, rather like “if that shot had gone in and not hit the crossbar then…”

But even if Ramsey and Welbeck “stall on new contracts” there is still the issue of a) a youngster or two really coming to fruition as a first teamer, and b) replacement players being bought.  It is a bit like worrying about Ozil and Alexis going and the gap there will be in the side at that time, without thinking about who might be brought into the side as replacements.

The reply to that becomes, “Arsenal never get good players – we always bottle the transfer window,” while forgetting that we actually did buy Alexis and Ozil.  Or arguing that youngsters never come good, forgetting Iwobi, Coquelin, Theo, Bellerin, Wilshere, Ramsey, Holding, Maitland Niles and Nelson.

In a very real sense this is the old trick of picking on elements in the situation under discussion, and then ignoring everything else around those elements.

Or try this one: “Had the Oxlade Chamberlain money hit Arsenal’s debit account in July, rather than 31st August, the manager could have used the cash to kickstart the reanimation of an ageing spine.”

That assumes that the “debit account” was empty, that the money from the Ox goes into Arsenal’s account upon the sale, and that Arsenal pay for players as the deal is done.

All of these “facts” are wrong.  Most transfer deals involve the money being transferred from one club to another over time, not all in one go.  And there is no indication that Arsenal were short of current account cash during this transfer window.

Perhaps the best way to see this approach to generating doom and gloom scenarios in all its fulsome glory was this wonderful headline from the Independent last week…

Arsenal vs Koln could have been a lot worse… but it wasn’t

which is rather like “Arsenal could have won the League… but they didn’t.”

And you can’t say fairer than that.

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36 comments to Arsenal could have won the League… but they didn’t

  • Clarky

    When did Theo ‘come good’ then? I must have missed that one!

  • Polo

    This from The Mirror on the Ox move to Liverpool.

    ‘The 24-year-old had probably hoped that joining the Reds, who have been on the rise over the past few seasons, while Arsenal have been on the decline, would increase his chances of winning something.’

    So when was the last time Liverpool won something? The FA Cup is no longer a trophy or even a proper tournament it seem, maybe they should call it The F’king Arsenal Cup since everything Arsenal is useless or worthless.

    The Mirror’s anti-Arsenal agenda just keep on rolling on.

  • Jax

    The FA seem to lurch from one disaster to the next. Off the top of my head I can think of in no particular order: Mark Palios/Faria Alam,
    Wembley Stadium fiasco,
    Failed investigation into coaches sexually assaulting youths
    Sam (one match) Allardyce
    and now the revelation that they employed another known sexual predator to manage the women’s team.
    What next?

  • Mark Mywurdz

    The thing is Tony, football is a matter of opinion. Everybody has got one. Go into any pub in almost any country in the world and there will be blokes discussing football. Most think they know what they are talking about. Most in fact don’t. Does it matter? Of course not. It’s part and parcel of what makes our game so interesting. Newspapers are in the business of selling papers partly by expressing opinions. Instead of pontificating in pubs, people now take to the keyboard, as there are an almost infinite number vehicles for getting your views across. To repeatedly having to read your objection to this is even more tiresome than the ‘problem’ in the first place. I really wish you would change the record.

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin

    Arsenal riding in Paradise again is not lost but on course to reoccur as they can still ride in it as long as they stay in the race to ride in it always and remain among the front runners running to ride in it.

  • Jax

    Who (other than Spurs fans) actually is down playing the FA Cup?
    I don’t see it anywhere other than on Untold Arsenal.

  • Emmanuel Chukwuma

    The truth is arsenal have not won the league since 2004, that’s thirteen years ago. Now, no one is God to exactly predict the future, but would it not be safe for someone to suggest that arsenal could have won the league during this period if they had changed the coach? After all clubs do often sack their managers when they have failed to meet the ambition of their employers for success. In such cases they don’t need to indulge in making nonsensical statistical analysis before such decisions are made.

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin

    Sexual harassment is always a standing threat when the north and south poles stay close to each other as they can attract each other if they come too close to one another. The male humanbeing can become venerable to betraying his inner man mind forcing him to lose his self control and starts falling prey to indiscipline sexual insinuations arising from his thoughts pushing him to commit the unusual act. Telling a man football coach to be coaching a women football team could be a trap unintentionally set for the coach to fall into it. He has to be very careful to eschew lust and temptation to escape falling into the trap.

  • Jax

    ‘He has to be very careful to eschew lust and temptation to escape falling into the trap’.
    Seriously Samuel,does anybody who regularly works with a group of fit young women find anything improbable here? Do you think it doesn’t occur at most clubs that have a women’s team, including Arsenal? Plenty of coaches in this enviable position must consider it an employment perk and I only find it ironic (in a rhyming slang sense) that Bristol City’s name is now in the frame.
    Anyway, the genie’s out of the bottle and many coaches (including a certain once high profile female) across the country and abroad must now be holding on hard to their bits & pieces in anticipation of further revelations by players looking to cash in.

  • Mark, I disagree profoundly. Because football is painted by the media as an area where it is all opinion and there is no underpinning of fact or evidence, PGMO are able to get away with what they do, and people seriously do believe that if we just got rid of Wenger Arsenal could win the league again.
    But to help you, I do think the articles on the media become quite clear after the first few seconds so you can always stop at that point – and we do have lots of articles on other subjects.

  • Nitram

    Last 4 seasons:


    ARSENAL – FA Cup – Community Shield – 4th

    LIVERPOOL – 2nd


    ARSENAL – FA Cup – Community Shield – 3rd

    LIVERPOOL – 6th


    ARSENAL – 2nd

    LIVERPOOL – 8th


    ARSENAL – FA Cup – Community Shield – 5th

    LIVERPOOL – 4th

    So over 4 years, up to and including last season, Arsenal win 3 FA Cups and Liverpool none. Yet on the back of Liverpool finishing ONE point above us last year, we get this from the Mirror (Thanks for the link Polo):

    “The 24-year-old had probably hoped that joining the Reds, who have been on the rise over the past few seasons, while Arsenal have been on the decline, would increase his chances of winning something.”

    Given the above how the f*** have “the Reds been on the rise for the past few seasons” and Arsenal “on the decline” ?

    What the Mirror is in effect saying is that finishing ONE point above Arsenal last season trumps Arsenals 3 FA Cups.

    If that isn’t ‘playing down’ the FA Cup I don’t know what is.

  • Nitram

    Again just to highlight the absurdity of this particular example of journalistic lunacy:

    “The 24-year-old had probably hoped that joining the Reds, who have been on the rise over the past few seasons”


    2014 2nd

    2015 6th

    2016 8th

    I don’t know what that fool in the Mirror has been watching but I actually make that a ‘few’ seasons in decline.


    So okay, ONE season on the rise, but lets be honest here, it’s hardly a rise that’s likely to have Lazarus quaking in his boots is it ?

  • Nitram




  • Nitram

    Just to expand on this notion of the Fa cup being ‘Down played’.

    The point is it isn’t done overtly is it ? You wont ever actually read or hear, or at least I don’t think you will, anybody coming out and outright saying, ‘the FA Cup isn’t a trophy’, or it’s ‘a worthless pot’, but they will say it by insinuation.

    Take the example in the Mirror above. It doesn’t say the FA Cup is worthless in so many words, but by suggesting Liverpool finishing 4th in 2017 puts them ahead of Arsenal, despite our 3 FA Cups, implies exactly that.

    As does the constant media insinuation that Arsenal have been rubbish for the last 4 years.

    Arsenal are talked about, Wenger is talked about and the players are all talked about as if they are all terrible and have achieved nothing these last few years.

    If that isn’t down playing the merits of 3 FA Cup victories I don’t know what is.

    But if anyone can show me an article that says Arsenal have been ‘successful’ over the last 4 years, then perhaps I’ll change my view as to whether the FA Cup is being down played or not.

    Ok, that may just be my interpretation but that’s how I see it.

  • Jax

    Sorry, but I don’t agree with implications/insinuations etc. Just let’s see some evidence (other than Spurs fans banter). I’m not saying it’s not there, but it’s so often mentioned with heavy sarcasm by Tony in articles it’s become a mantra and believed by everyone (other than me of course), but with no evidence. And you know what he says about evidence.
    If somebody can show me I’ll shut up about it.

  • Nitram

    If you don’t think The Mirror saying that Liverpool’s 4th place finish puts them ‘On the rise’ and Arsenals 3 FA Cups puts them ‘in decline’ is evidence, that’s up to you.

  • Nitram

    We have won 3 FA Cups in 4 years, yet all you have to do is google the words ‘Arsene Wenger’ and ‘failure’ or ‘X Years of failure’ in a few combinations and the amount of articles that appear is amazing. Just as examples I have put 2 or 3 links in.

    If branding Wenger/Arsenal as failures after those 3 FA Cups isn’t ‘down playing’ the value of the FA Cup then I don’t know what is.

    Anyway here are just 3 examples.

    Arsenal has been failing the same way for 10 years under Arsene Wenger: A timeline

    Arsene Wenger new deal ‘a scandalous reward for years of failure’

    Winning the league hasn’t been a priority for Wenger in years, and his stubbornness in refusing to change his ways has seen the club spiral. Now, with top four out of reach, the Gunners have no choice but to undergo the wholesale changes they should have undergone years ago. And if they do, maybe this season’s embarrassment will turn out to be good for the club, because they desperately need an overhaul.

  • Jax

    I’ve not heard that one either, but the fact that our compartive league status was reversed would account for the ‘rise’ & ‘decline’.
    But if they did say our 3 cup wins put us in ‘decline’, well that does explain it somewhat.
    Have you a link to that by chance?

  • Nitram


    There is a link in Polos post @ 3.29 pm (I did reference it)

    I’ve currently got a post in moderation with a couple more examples with links (hence the moderation).

  • Jax

    That Polo link just references Ox Chamberlaine’s poor start at ‘pool. Nothing that I can see about FA Cup diminished etc.
    I’ll wait on your links to come up.

  • Posts with links do go into moderation, because we are swamped with fake posts the purpose of which is to get the link onto Untold and thus boost a Google ranking. Sorry Nitram, it has to be that way, otherwise all we would see are fake posts with links. I’ve released it now.

  • Nitram


    No problem my friend. I know you have to do it, so I expected it to go in to moderation.

  • Nitram


    “The 24-year-old had probably hoped that joining the Reds, who have been on the rise over the past few seasons, while Arsenal have been on the decline, would increase his chances of winning something.”

    That is a direct quote lifted from that article.

  • Nitram


    “…..would increase his chances of winning something.”

    So he hasn’t won those 3 FA Cups then ? That was just a figment of my imagination was it?

    Well it’s either that or this particular numpty doesn’t think they count?

    Either way it seems pretty dismissive of the FA Cup to me.

  • Jax

    I guess if you look at it that way it does seem a bit more convincing.
    I’ll give it to you, you worked hard on this one Nitram.
    So, I’ll use that as my reference now.

  • Jax

    If you come across something on this issue from a couple of years ago it might convince me 100%, because that’s about how long Tony & Walter have been using it in their articles.
    Even the Spurs fans banter was after this last FA Cup win.

  • Jerry

    Excellent article as usual Tony!

    Another example in support of Nitram’s argument is in the reporting of the FA Cup wins. Looking at the Guardian’s reporting, when United won the FA Cup in 2016, in the 3rd paragraph the Guardian says it is a “major” trophy:

    “United’s supporters must pine for those happy old days but at least the club have won their first major trophy since Ferguson announced his retirement three years ago.”

    The Guardian, when Arsenal won in 2014, “The long-cultivated cerebral image was jolted in the bedlam that followed the full-time whistle and the walk up those steps to be reunited with a trophy.”

    The Guardian, when Arsenal won in 2015, took them 8 paragraphs to mention it was a trophy:
    “Wenger, to put it into context, has now won this trophy more times than Everton and Manchester City, and on as many occasions as West Ham, Sunderland and Leeds combined.”

    In 2017, the Guardian didn’t even say the FA Cup is trophy! They at least admitted it is a competition:
    “His team had won, thrillingly, against the champions of England, making Wenger the most successful manager in the history of this competition.”

    It’s a trophy in 2014 and 2015 (Arsenal), a major trophy in 2016 (Manchester United), and a competition in 2017 (Arsenal).

    You can search for the Arsenal articles by doing a quick google search “Arsenal win FA Cup (year) Guardian”

  • Jax

    So it’s by insinuation rather than somebody coming right out and saying it’s not a major trophy. That’s what I was attempting to establish. The actual worded origins of the mantra.

  • Jerry

    I would probably consider it lying by omission, but insinuation is close. Lying by omission, because the 3 years Arsenal won it was not mentioned as a “major trophy” like the one year that United won.

    Arsenal fans see a trophy or competition, United fans see they won a “major trophy”, wonder which side of fans would be happier at winning the FA Cup.

  • Polo

    @ Nitram & Jerry, well said.

    Notice how when Arsenal were consistently in the top 4 the Club was mocked and get criticism, but now Arsenal is not in top 4 somehow being in top 4 is important. The media now mention the importance of being in top 4 and being in the Champions League. Double standard when it comes to Arsenal.

  • Menace

    The down grading of Arsenal success is not limited to media. There are fans that do it too. The 4th place trophy & the attitude of disdain for Wenger is the most visible.

    Those who do not appreciate the greatness of our club under Wenger do not understand the game & the difficulty of maintaining financial integrity while delivering a quality product within a paid for infrastructure second to none.

  • Polo

    @ Menace, hear hear, agree with your comment.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    The Queen’s Breasts:

    Once upon a time there lived a beautiful Queen with large breasts.
    Jacks , the Dragon Slayer was obsessed over the Queen for this reason.
    He knew that the penalty for his desire would be death should he try to touch them, but he had to try.
    One day Jacks revealed his secret desire to his colleague, Horatio
    the Physician, the King’s chief doctor.. Horatio thought about this and said that he could arrange for Jacks to more than satisfy his desire, but it would cost him 1000 gold coins to arrange it.
    Without pause Jacks readily agreed to the scheme.
    The next day, Horatio made a batch of itching powder and poured a little bit into the Queen’s bra while she bathed.
    Soon after she dressed, the itching commenced and grew intense.
    Upon being summoned to the Royal Chambers to address this incident, Horatio informed the King and Queen that only a special saliva, if applied for four hours, would cure this type of itch, and that tests had shown that only the saliva of Jacks would work as the antidote to cure the itch.
    The King, eager to help his Queen, quickly summoned Jacks to their
    chambers.. Horatio then slipped Jacks the antidote for the itching
    powder, which he put into his mouth, and for the next four hours,
    Jacks worked passionately on the Queen’s large and magnificent breasts.
    The Queen’s itching was eventually relieved, and Jacks was left satisfied and hailed as a hero.
    Upon returning to his chamber, Jacks found Horatio demanding his payment of 1000 gold coins. With his obsession now satisfied, Jacks couldn’t have cared less knowing that Horatio could never report this matter to the King and with a laugh told him to get lost.
    The next day, Horatio slipped a double dose of the same itching
    powder in the King’s underwear..

    The King immediately summoned Jacks!

    Moral of the story – Pay your bloody bills !

  • Brickfields Gunners

    GST has reached number 3rd position in the list of things not understood.

    Duckworth Lewis at second position,
    and Wife’s mood Still continued to be on number 1 ??!

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Many years ago fake Arsenal fans were on that list.
    But since we started winning stuff, most of them left .
    One or two still persist , and are fighting a pathetic rearguard action.
    Like that old and valient Japanese soldier in the jungles of the Philippines , who did want to believe that his side had lost.

  • Nitram


    Thanks for your reasoned response.

    Jerry Menace Polo Bricks.

    Thanks for the support and additional examples.

    As I said to you earlier Jax when you asked for evidence that the chances of me finding anybody actually writing or saying ‘The FA Cup is no longer a Major Trophy’ in those words, would be virtually impossible.

    As much as they may like to, they know to actually SAY IT would be laughable, because we all know that in reality the FA Cup, despite everything, still IS a Major trophy.

    But the problem for the media is, irrespective of the FA Cups, they still want to continue there narrative of Arsenal and Wenger being utter failures, as demonstrated by all the sheer number of articles that can be found in a simple search.

    But that’s the quandary they face, how can you criticise a Club/Manager for being abject failures when they have just won 3 MAJOR TROPHIES in 4 years, as well as a 2nd, 3rd and 4th place finish, as well as 3 Community shields?

    The fact is, anybody with a microbe for a brain can see, you cant.

    So what to do?

    Well, one way, perhaps the only way, is to pretend it didn’t happen, or as Jerry so succinctly put it:

    “Lying by omission”

    Which is exactly what the paragraph from the Mirror that started this debate in the first place did so shamelessly. Just read it again. It is simply ridiculous.

    “The 24-year-old had probably hoped that joining the Reds, who have been on the rise over the past few seasons, while Arsenal have been on the decline, would increase his chances of winning something.”

    It seems this clown has missed the fact ‘the 24 year old’ has just won 6 trophies with Arsenal then?

    Oh well, moving on.

    Arsenal in decline:

    So there you have it. It’s as if the FA Cup doesn’t even exist anymore. It’s as if I, and all the other Millions of Arsenal fans around the World were just dreaming when we watched them lifting those 3 FA Cups.

    No, not in so many words, but if that isn’t an attempt to dismiss the FA Cup as a trophy, I don’t know what is.

    Liverpool on the rise:

    Over the same 4 years Liverpool have won nothing and actually gone from a 2nd place finish to a 4th placed finish!

    They’ve won nothing.

    Surely that’s a net ‘decline’ over the last few years? Or maybe that’s just me dreaming again?

    Indeed, simply by ‘omission’ this guy has somehow turned reality on it’s head.

    Sadly this idiot is just one example of how the media navigate this rather tricky imposition of wanting to paint us as utter failures, when in reality we have actually been pretty successful.