By Tony Attwood
Here we go: ten things that went right or wrong this season.
1: The Telegraph started to recognise that there is a problem with refereeing in the Premier League.
The fact that they lead this morning with “My choices for the best and worst Premier League referees this season” shows just how far we have come. It could never have happened five years ago, and when we started talking of refs ten years back there was outright derision.
There is still a long way to go of course – a very long way – but it is a start. What is needed now is to distinguish between refereeing in England from refereeing in the rest of mainstream Europe. The non-existence of English referees in the World Cup is a start and if the debate can be continued to point two we’ll be on the way.
It is not that we didn’t get VAR but rather that everyone else got it. And what is so annoying is that the methodology used to avoid us having VAR was so clever. By turning it into a funny foreigner thing, and then taking it to the stage of saying that VAR makes us focus on technicalities not the beautiful game, and thus further excusing our non-engagement, was a brilliant move. And a tragic move.
3: Arsenal’s defence
Yes, Arsenal had the eighth worse defence in the league this year, and we expect better. We let in 13 more goals than Liverpool, and we’d like to let in fewer. But just to get it clear, that 13 goals conceded more than Liverpool equates to one goal every three games. Of course those goals meant points on some occasions, but one goal every three games does not mean that Arsenal’s entire defensive system needs to be ripped apart. It needs to be improved… by one goal every two games, that’s all.
Anyway not defending is the new football. Didn’t anyone watch any Champions League games to see examples of this? Or is it one of those things that when Arsenal let in 51 goals in 38 games it is awful, but when Liverpool beat Roma 7-6 (or did I lose count?) in two games it is exhilarating. Arsenal were involved in 125 league goals for and against this season. So goals in Europe exciting. Goals in the PL = sack the entire defence.
4: Arsenal’s attack
Do you remember all the plaudits attacking Tottenham got this season, the endless chitter chatter about Kane and everything else Tottenhamical? Well, prepare to be shocked. Arsenal scored the same number of goals as the endlessly lauded Tottenham.
And here’s something else attacking-wise. We sold our two top attacking players in the January Sales: Giroud and Alexis. And what happened to them? Alexis scored one PL goal for Man U and Giroud scored three for Chelsea this season. But the player coming in, in January, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored ten League goals. Not bad for a player coming in half way through a season and having to adjust to a new country (which neither Alexis nor Giroud had to do).
5: Mr Wenger
The great Hate-In primarily orchestrated of late by Sky Sports and Martin Keown became the great love in orchestrated by Sky Sports in the last two weeks. And most tellingly of all, no one blinked. No one seemed to say “hang on, you have been destroying this guy for years and years. You attacked him with the most appalling rumours about his private life in his first season, and then for not continuing to win the League year after year but financing a stadium instead. Are you seriously arguing that your opinion is of any consequence?” Or come to that is it a morally sound approach?
6: BT Sprout.
BT is in real financial trouble, and a lot of it comes because of its attempt to make itself a player in the sports market which has failed.
When BT Sport came in, it had the chance of doing something different: of seeing Sky and saying “no, it doesn’t have to be like that, let’s really do it another way.” But they didn’t, save that they have tried to venture down market a bit.
Where they got it wrong in my opinion is in failing to realise that people watched Sky because it was all there was as a way of watching live Premier League football, not because it was so amazingly good. BT instead of changing directions by realising that pundits are idiots who just say what is said in the paper only a bit louder and a bit more often, actually thought pundits are good and hired more of them!
7: We know next season’s champions in England, Scotland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain.
Is that good? Actually no it isn’t. Especially because we know the champions for the year after that and the year after that. Juventus with seven in a row, Bayern with sixth in a row, Celtic with seven in a row, PSG with five in six.
The model is absolutely clear, so I suspect other rich corporations will do the same: back a team with loads of money and expect them to win the league year after year.
8: The race for seventh
It seems unlikely that any of the teams that finished below Arsenal this season will actually get into the top six next season. Which means for 14 clubs there are three issues – avoiding relegation, trying to come seventh, and ensuring that the FA Cup is won by one of the teams already in Europe so that seventh brings Europa League money.
Then all they have to do is try and avoid doing a Rangers (in the days when Rangers got into Europe) and not be knocked out by a third division team from Luxembourg in the preliminary extra preliminary, pre-preliminary round.
9: Truth reversal
Sky Sports News this weekend made fun of players who cover their mouths while speaking to stop TV cameras lip reading. The rant that ensued was to the effect that “you, the players don’t say anything important so we don’t care so stop putting your hand over your mouth.”
The fact though is quite different. There were previously many occasions where TV presenters claimed to be able to see what someone was saying, and then built that into the folk lore of that player: “the man who we caught saying…”
It’s the old media trick, one it is said in the media it is true because… well, it was on TV or in the paper.
But the fact is that if the players have nothing to say, covering their mouths is not an issue. Let them do it – who cares? It is a bit like people writing to Untold saying that no one takes any notice of Untold because we are so out of touch with reality, so why don’t we pack it all in. (I get quite a few of these each week). But the reality is, if no one is reading and I am just writing for myself, why bother to write in and tell me to stop? Just let me get on with it. After all it keeps me off the streets.
If you complain about something, it is because you consider that something important. Otherwise, what is the point?
10: Anti-Arsenal hysteria means most of the league is rubbish.
The fact that pundits and broadcasters never realised that by attacking Arsenal all day and night they were in fact denigrating 15 out of the 20 clubs in the Premier League for being so shockingly awful was not a surprise, because that would require a bit of thinking.
But if Arsenal, who came sixth, won only two fewer games than Liverpool, scored the same number of goals as Tottenham, and 12 more goals than Chelsea, were so atrocious, with most of the team needing to be thrown out, and one player (Ozil) being a complete and utter cheat, what does that say for three quarters of the Premier League?
There are of course no guarantees in football. You can find loans for bad credit no guarantor but not a guarantee that Man City can be overtaken or that the next maanger will be able to do in his first few years what Mr Wenger did in his. We can but hope.
- Mr Wenger’s final farewell. Our last match preview with Mr Wenger in charge.
- Huddersfield v Arsenal: the rampant media undermining of Arsenal continues even to the last.
- October 1922: Henry Norris withdraws, Arsenal in dire straits
- Everton v Arsenal: Injuries, points needed for 4th, and Arsenal the first to 100?
- Everton v Arsenal: extraordinary figures seen in the last 6 games table
- Everton v Arsenal: how this referee treats the home and away team
- Everton v Arsenal and the oddity of referee behaviour
- With Balogun will Arsenal be heading toward goalscoring records