It is now six Premier League games since we beat Tottenham, a pretty shocking run. In fact as far as I can see it is the worse run that Arsenal has ever had in either the PL or the 1st division in terms of playing Tottenham.
Of course the figures are a little misleading in that in those six games, four of them have been draws, and we did beat them away in a league cup match in the midst of the run (a match in which both teams put out pretty strong sides, for obvious reasons). But even so…
Mind you, from 2000 to 2007 we went 17 Premier League games without Tottenham managing to win one of them – so they have a long way to go to get to the sort of dominance we had during that period, and we also had four FA Cup and League Cup matches, and Tottenham didn’t win any of those either.
But six PL games without a win, even if four were draws, that’s not so good.
As a result of this some of the newspapers are sensing a historic swing of power, and so are trying to do a bit of historical review at the moment, although their grasp of detail (never good at the best of times) can be pretty ropy.
I don’t know why the Guardian is so persistently bad at writing factually concerning Arsenal, but their aim seems to be to turn this into an art form these days. Nick Ames, who I think normally writes about Eastern Europe got the short straw today and really drops himself in it by failing to do even the most basic, simple background research. Thus he says, “It was not until Arsenal moved to the more geographically-favoured Highbury, a few hundred metres from their present-day home, in the summer of 1913 that genuine local spice was added to the argument.”
Well yes, up to a point, except that in 1900 an Arsenal / Tottenham game was abandoned by the referee because of bad language in the crowd. And in 1902 there were further problems when the Tottenham keeper hit an Arsenal supporter during the game. And don’t forget that we didn’t move from Plumstead to Highbury until 1913. But even 1900 wasn’t the start of it. In the early days, games against Tottenham were so bad that after playing six matches between the teams between 1887 and 1889 all matches were stopped until 1896.
But these sorts of details often bemuse professional journalists who find such fact finding time consuming and difficult. As is further seen by the sentence “Arsenal’s arrivistes caused discord from the outset: their relocation, masterminded by their chairman Sir Henry Norris, was the kind of project that would cause a scandal today but tends to be recalled by history as a necessary rearranging of football’s deck.”
Wrong on several accounts. The chairman in 1913 when Arsenal moved was plain Henry Norris. He was knighted four years later in 1917 for his work as an unpaid recruiting officer in Fulham after the outbreak of war, and particularly for creating the Footballers’ Battalion which he also funded out of his own pocket until it could be assimilated into the Middlesex Regiment. (You can read the whole history of Arsenal in the first world war on the Arsenal History site at Henry Norris is knighted for setting up the Footballers’ Battalion. June 1917)
But beyond all this the move north caused an enormous stir – the whole story is covered in detail in Sections 3 and 4 of the history of Norris at the Arsenal, and in the book “Woolwich Arsenal the club that changed football”. The local papers were up in arms about the move, Tottenham called for an Emergency General Meeting of the Football League, the Highbury Defence Committee was formed and Islington Council voted against the move on April 4 1913. The Defence Committee also petitioned the owners of the land that Arsenal were leasing, urging them to cancel the lease. Athletics News, the main weekly paper covering football was full of the issue for months, with repeated denunciations of the fervour whipped up by both local residents and Tottenham Hotspur itself.
It was by far the biggest “talking point” in football.
In fact the issue was only dropped as the main football topic when Henry Norris, who had raised the issue of match fixing by Liverpool in 1912 and had been severely reprimanded for his troubles by the League, found himself utterly vindicated as more match fixing stories emerged in 1914 and 1915.
But the inaccurate gibberish continues throughout the article. Consider this “At that stage Tottenham were in the top flight and Arsenal, the less established club, sat in the tier below.”
I think he means 1913 when Arsenal moved to north London. So let’s consider this.
Arsenal joined the second division of the football league in 1893, and were promoted to the first division in 1904. They then had nine years in the 1st division and reached two FA Cup semi-finals before being relegated in 1913.
Tottenham didn’t even join the league until 1908 – 15 years later – by which time Arsenal had been in the first division for four years. Tottenham’s complete record in the first division was finishes at 15th, 15th, 12th, 17th, 17th, 20th (20th being bottom of the league). At the turn of the century they had won the Southern League once, and the FA Cup once.
So what in this history makes Arsenal the less established club? One can argue that Tottenham had won two trophies yes, the Cup and the Southern League. And one can argue that Arsenal had had two cup semi-finals and had finished 6th, 7th and 10th several times. Indeed they were in the top half of the league on half of their first division seasons, while Tottenham had never made it to the top half of the League. Established? Well, if you want to count Tottenham’s Cup and Southern League triumphs from the early days of football, yes maybe it was equal. But that is stretching it.
It is this sort of writing that makes one think either the Guardian, in its football reporting is just mind boggling slap dash, or seriously running a campaign to talk up Tottenham and talk down Arsenal. And please remember its not me trying to bring up the history of the clubs, but the Guardian. There was no need for them to talk through the history of the club – but they have chosen to do it and created an utterly misleading piece. (They could of course have consulted the Arsenal History Society, as TalkSport had the decency to do when they did their detailed coverage of the subject, but no, they couldn’t be arsed.) (To coin a phrase).
It is weird why the paper allows such slipshod misrepresentation of the facts to be published – but as I’ve been trying to point out since the oft-quoted Amy Lawrence nonsense about Arsenal having “only two players” score in double figures (the truthful statement you will recall being “Arsenal was one of only five clubs to have two players score in double figures”), they really, endlessly, seem to want to misrepresent and do down Arsenal.
Of course I have no idea who will win on Saturday, and of course I want it to be Arsenal, and of course, yes, I make errors in my writing. But no one pays me to write Untold, or to run the Arsenal History Society. I rather suspect Nick Ames will get some money in his bank account from the paper this month, which is why he, and the paper, have a duty to get things right. Just occasionally.