Re-writing Arsenal’s past

There is obviously a huge campaign at the moment to re-write Arsenal’s recent past as part of an attempt to get the Lord Wenger to leave.

But since every other journalist and blogger is following that story I thought I’d go someplace different and mention another area in which the attack on Arsenal’s heritage can be found.

In recent weeks there have been a couple of articles which focus on the history of football – the current Guardian series on the 7 deadly sins of football, and earlier a piece which focused on the ten most corrupt moments in footballing history in England.

Both of these have high up on their lists the promotion of Arsenal in 1919, while failing to give the background, and while failing to comment on the action of other clubs in the era.

Arsenal (just in case you haven’t studied the history) rose from Division II to Division I for the last time with the expansion of Division I at the end of the first World War.   They did this despite coming fifth in Division II in 1914/15.

The anti-Arsenal articles that cover the story offer no explanation but talk darkly of corruption, and imply the corruption was Arsenal’s.   I’ve researched the whole of the Arsenal history during this period as part of my work on a book about the early Arsenal, and here’s what happened.

While we think now of clubs going up and down through formulated relegation we also today have all sorts of extra rules and conventions – not least what happens when clubs go bust.  Luton’s 27 point deduction this year will look rather odd in 90 years time.

If you ever look into the rules of the Conference you’ll find that there are different rules again over solvency.  And of course points can be lost because of players not being registered properly – which leads to arguments about fax machines not working (you can’t register by email or phone, only by fax or post).  It’s all a bit odd.

We also live day by day with the fact that FIFA, the governing body is corrupt and the suspicion (especially over things like building Wembley) that the FA is not pure either.

We accept all this because it is part of our world.   In the early 20th century there were different conventions, there was corruption just as now, and because the sport was so much younger, many issues were arising for the first time.

Clubs got into the Football League Division II by winning the Southern League and then getting voted in – normally.  But in 1905 for example, Chelsea (now KGB Fulham) got a place in Division II without having any players, and (obviously) without having ever played a match – because there was no Chelsea FC.  There was no club – and yet the idea of the club was enough to get a place.

What they had was a ramshackle stadium designed by Leitch – a stadium which had endless problems with the terracing cracking up incidentally.  But Leitch said it would be London’s biggest stadium and suitable for the Cup Final.   So the owners of the ground used that tag to convince the FA that it needed this ground, but would only have it, if there could be a club there.  The FA persuaded the League to allow in a new club that had never played a game and had no players – ahead of the teams that won the Southern League.

Fulham of course objected, since Chelsea were next door, but the corruption won the day and Chelsea got in – just a typical odd event in football in the early 20th century.

The other factor you need to note is that match fixing was rife.  In the final season before the cessation due to the First World War both Liverpool and Manchester U were found guilty of flagrant match fixing, and there were demands that both should be thrown out of the League totally when matches returned after the war.  Manchester avoided relegation by coming 18th out of 20 due to the fixed final day.

The final element in the saga is the fact that Arsenal were “owed” by the League.   In the 19th and early 20th century the League was anxious to bring professional football to the south.  It was mostly a northern game – the south being rugby, Southern League and amateur football.

The initial key to the breakthrough was professional football in London. Woolwich Arsenal gave the League what it wanted by being London’s first professional club.  The club suffered at the hands of the FA who ordered all other London teams to boycott Woolwich in all games except the FA Cup but stayed with it, and so were loved by the League.

When Woolwich went bust in 1910 Henry Norris, owner of Fulham bought the club and went to the League with various proposals such as merging the two clubs, or playing Woolwich home games at Craven Cottage.   None of this was against the very simple league rules of the time, but the League persuaded Norris to back off the merger proposals, in return for later favours which seem to have been undefined in print but were undoubtedly discussed.

Norris moved Woolwich Arsenal the 12 miles to Highbury before the outbreak of war (something that did not need approval from the League).  Tottenham (who had made an attempt to buy shares in Woolwich Arsenal to stop Norris taking control of the club in 1910) objected, but as the League said, they could hardly stop Woolwich Arsenal when they had allowed Chelsea to enter the league across the road from Fulham, with Chelsea not even having played a match.  At least Woolwich was a real club.

Then came the final pre-war season with rampant match fixing and corruption and a betting scandal.   When the League called its meeting to discuss enlargement for 1919 the big issue was, would Manchester U and Liverpool be thrown out, or docked points.  At the very least Manchester U should have been relegated instead of Chelsea (Manchester having 30 points, Chelsea 29, after the final fixed match).

Manchester U and Liverpool’s arguments against this are not in any record of meetings that I can find, but the traditional approach when caught was to say that the guilty had been punished, the fans were not to blame so they should not be punished, and there was now a new management in place.   This was of course an even stronger in post-war Britain, since most organisations changed radically when they resumed after the war.

But Arsenal were owed by the League.  The debt of bringing professional football south, and the debt of backing off the Fulham merger plan would have been called in earlier, but for the war, and now they were on the table.

Arsenal were ready to demand that Manchester U and Liverpool be thrown out of the league completely for their match fixing.  The League meeting debating the extension of the League also wanted to try and get Division I football in London, to stop the Southern League, and so compromises were in the air.

Norris for Arsenal made this point.

Liverpool and Manchester U must at least be thrown out of Division I.  That left two empty spaces.   The League also wanted to expand Division I by two, which meant two more empty places – assuming normal relegation and promotion took place.

So on that basis Manchester, Liverpool (match fixing) Chelsea 19th and Tottenham 20th should go down, and teams 1 to 6 in Division II (including Arsenal who were fifth) would go up thus expanding the league.

But that left the problem of getting more London teams in division I.   And the League bosses were well aware of the debt owed to Chelsea – who only finished in a relegation spot because Manchester U fixed their last match of the season.

So the deal was hatched.  Tottenham had no bargaining counters having made such a fuss about Arsenal moving to Highbury, and having been caught trying to buy up Woolwich Arsenal in 1910.  They had not been affected by the fixed matches and so they had to go down – and one London team sacrificed kept the northern clubs quiet.

Chelsea still had friends dating back to 1905 and they had the biggest ground.  They stayed up.  Which meant 1 southern team in the First Division.

Arsenal agreed that if they were the extra club they would drop their demands for Liverpool and Manchester to be expelled.

So Arsenal came up.  The real devils in the tale are the corrupt Liverpool and Manchester U, and to a lesser degree Chelsea who should not have been in the league in the first place – along of course with the Football League itself.

It is simple and easy to blame Arsenal – in a sense just like it is simple and easy to blame Arsene Wenger.  But reality is never simple.

The events of 1910 and the years leading up to it are explored in detail in Making the Arsenal, out later this year.   (I have made a couple of minor changes to this article to correct slips of the typewriter in writing it).

(c) Tony Attwood 2009

51 Replies to “Re-writing Arsenal’s past”

  1. I always enjoy reading the articles from this site, very informative, I look forward to reading the book

  2. “There’s nothing to worry about, I’m staying here,” Wenger told the media after the Real business. Er, that’s what many of us ARE worried about! It’s as though Wenger is completely out of touch with what the fans think and what our expectations are. I’m not breathing a huge sigh of relief because you’re staying, Arsene. I wish you would go to Real, Bayern or somewhere else. Why? Because if you continue to stay at AFC and fanny about within your expansive comfort zone it will mean yet another wasted transfer window. It will mean you ducking and diving for three months, putting in spurious bids, going missing and lying to fans about forthcoming buys… all while our former rivals strengthen further. Then it will mean another nine months of pathetic excuses, of players being used out of position, of tactics and substitutions that don’t work, of being unable to motivate the team when it counts and, finally, when the wheels come off again and we’re left trailing in our former rivals’ wake, of pathetic talk of potential, the NEXT transfer window and “well, there’s always someone worse off…” We’re on a hideous merry-go-round and I’m so pleased that so many other AFC fans have realised it. Wenger is taking us nowhere; his team of lightweight misfits and emotional basketcases are a shadow of his former teams – when he knew what he was doing and, crucially, when he was still hungry. Yes, our shrinking violets play in a plush stadium (which many of us believe is a soulless bowl), yes, they enjoy stellar training facilities and treatment rooms (they’re in there all the time!) but what good is all that if you have a team that can’t compete with either the PL’s bully boys or its top three and a manager who has opted for a quiet life resting on his dusty laurels? Wenger once did great things for our club. Now, sadly, he’s undermining it all by simply staying too long.

  3. The sooner this club has a takeover the better. Then there can be NO guessing as to whether or not there are funds available to spend on the World Class players this great club deserves. The Chairman has forever trotted out that the board have always given Arsene whatever he wants to spend. in turn, Wenger maintains that Manchester United have ‘ten times’ the financial rescources that we have. In other words, he doesn’t have the rescources he would like. It’s been a case of who’s kidding who here and the fall-guys in all of this have been the supporters who have packed out Highbury and The Emirates week after week. It makes me laugh when I read The Chairman’s comments about wanting more support. I remember in the mid 80’s Arsenal’s average home attendance was something like 24,000 in a ground that could hold 58,000. (These were the days of terracing). George Graham famously lamented about the lack of funds towards the end of his career at Highbury, when our team had gone from being title winners to having the likes of Hillier, McGoldrick, Carter and Pates running out. (Yeah, we were crap!). A similar scenario is happening now. Dennilson, Song and Eboue just don’t cut the mustard. They’re not title winning material by any stretch of the imagination. You get what you pay for in this wicked old world. It’s time for Arsenal Football Club to wake up and smell the coffee. Whatever your feeling about how the game is run now, it cannot be denied that having money to entice the top players to your club will provide you with the best possible tilt at the big prizes. It’s not rocket science, just market forces. If we wish to REALLY compete with Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool then the likes of Messi and Co. need to become Arsenal players and not just wishfull pipe dreams. And that requires a big cash injection. Otherwise, we’d better get used to 4th place tops.

  4. Fascinating stuff, can’t wait for the book to come out. I’m going to definately be using that for petty bragging rights against the ManUre and Liverpoo fans!

  5. Thanks, Tony, that was a great article. Really enjoyed it. Please ditch the troll.

  6. Wenger: “Judge this team in two years time”…. Again?

    I was amazed to see those words quoted to Arsene Wenger a few days ago in the aftermath of the comprehensive defeat in the Champions League semi final against Manchester United.

    I was really amazed at the audacity to offer this consolation to all the fans who so desperately want this team to return to the glory days of the earlier Wenger years.

    Isn’t this what Arsene has been dishing to us after every defeat, after every humiliation suffered at the hands of a top three opponent and after every disappointment in going out yet again in the major competitions.

    And don’t get carried away into a false sense of security by the admittedly good performance against Manchester United.

    The opponents were on a bad day, obviously nervous to get the draw that they required.

    We were comprehensively outplayed in both Champions League games against them and outgunned by a much more experienced and street wiser Chelsea.

    How can Arsene expect us to believe him these days. This excuse of “judge this team in two years” was palatable some years ago when he began to break up the invincibles. We were all prepared to give time so that another invincible team could be rebuilt. And that is why these excuses were grudgingly accepted by all.

    But now four years later we hear the same things. Every year, over and over again.

    The reason is very obvious and we have shown in previous posts on this site that Arsene’s model of football development is appropriate and indeed viable for a team in a state of financial austerity but I am afraid flawed in terms of achieving success on the pitch.

    There are two reasons for this and we have reiterated them before.

    The first one is that this model depends too much on the one man that can keep it (financially) afloat.

    The second one is that unless by some quirk of fortune the young and inexperienced team win the championship, the emerging stars begin to get itchy feet as they see their footballing careers wasting away in season after season of underachievement.

    And then Arsene begins to rebuild the team again and again and again.

    That is why we have criticised Wenger for sacrificing the chance of winning the FA Cup by choosing to rest Arshavin in the semi final against Chelsea.

    The reason was that he could be fresh for the League game at Anfield! So that we could be in a position to challenge Chelsea for third place which would automatically lead, under the new Uefa regulations, directly into the group stages thus avoiding potentially difficult opponents in the qualifying round…

    So precarious are Arsenal’s finances you see that we HAVE to qualify for the lucrative stages of the Champions League AND sell one player every year.

    What Arsene has to do is simple.

    He has to buy two experienced, non attacking, players and KEEP the existing members of the squad.

    If this does not happen then there is a real risk that 4th place or qualification to the group stages may not be achieved (Manchester City and Aston Villa will strengthen their squads). And by then we will be very near 2011.

    The year Arsene Wenger’s contract runs out…..

  7. JLB-

    Arsenal is just not for you.

    Why don’t you leave it for the people who understand it & want it to thrive in the way it always has?

    You have Newcastle, Spuds & Man City mentality. What have they achieved with the methods you advocate??

    Our team is developing nicely & will be much better without you & your ilk, although I suspect you are a poor wind up merchant.

    Why not pay Tony the compliment of actually commenting on his excellent article.

  8. I had read about this on Vital Arsenal before but certainly not in this detail :).looking forward to Tony’s book.

    @JLB : plz stay on the topic and post comment on the article … or do us a favour and go back to le grave.
    Please moderate/mark/minimize-by-default the comments that are off topic ; and especially the comments from serial offenders of “commenting irrespective of article context”.

  9. JLB,

    Where are you looking when you refer to Song & Denilson especially. To me Song is one of the most improved players this season. Some of his performances were outstanding, this is an improving team. You will note that on Saturday we had Man U for the taking, a little bit more of a cutting edge and it was ours. You will also note that because we had em for the taking, the media rather than applaud or note this fact go down the track of “Man U played within themselves because they only needed a point”, whatever we do we cannot win. Don’t get sucked into this mindset. We are on the right path, Arsene Wenger is doing the right thing and Man U’s time is drawing to an end.

  10. My initial reaction after the Man Utd Semi Final defeat was that Wenger had lost my support to remain as our manager. Having thought about it since then I think that I would be prepared to give him one last season and at the end of that to take stock and see where the team is at. For him to stay beyond that the team must have either won a trophy or shown a good deal of progress from this season (challenge properly for the league for example) for him to remain as manager.

    I mean if he does not win a trophy next year then that is FIVE years without winning anything or HALF A DECADE! That is simply not good enough for an Arsenal team that gets 60,000 week in and week out every home match. Regardless of whether he is trying to build a new young team. I would only give him one more year in recognition of past achievements and for giving us all the pleasure of watching the likes of Henry, Bergkamp, Pires and Vieira every week. How many managers with the likes of these players at their disposal would have failed to win the Champions League? Liverpool won it with a far more inferior team in 2005. So it is not all about a lack of resources.

    I find Wenger to be an extremely frustrating manager. He puts together a very good team that seems to consistently under achieve and not win the trophies that they ought to. They even under achieved in the unbeaten season and “only” won the League when they could and should have emulated the Man Utd treble by adding the Champions League and the FA Cup. Everybody seems to forget those defeats by Man Utd in the FA Cup Semi Final and by Chelsea in the Champions League Quarter Final that year. They were THAT good but did not win what they should have done. I certainly think that team was at least as good as any that Man Utd have had under Ferguson and was probably better. Ferguson has won the League 11 times now and the Champions League 2 times and maybe 3 times later this month, against 3 League Championships for Wenger, yet Wenger has had a better team.

    How many times ought the League to have been won but was chucked away carelessly? 2003 and 2008 for starters definitely. How many cup finals ought to have been won but were eventually lost when Arsenal were the better side? The 2000 UEFA Cup Final, The 2001 FA Cup Final, The 2006 Champions League Final (granted we were EXTREMELY unfortunate in that one), The 2007 League Cup Final. In fact if you add up the trophies that Wenger ought to have won but didn’t then it is more than what he has actually won!

    It is not through lack of resources but through carelessness or poor decision making by the manager at the crucial time and in the really imprtant big matches that decide where the trophies will be heading. Player for player I do not think that Man Utd are a better side than us, yet we get easily beaten by them in the Champions League. Same goes for Chelsea in the FA Cup Semi Final. Leaving Arshavin on the bench for that one must rank as the poorest ever decision by Wenger and there is some competition!

    I think that the point is that Wenger has been a very good manager but has often got it wrong in the big matches when it really matters. This is a shame because if he had got it right a little more often then I think that he could be regarded as a “Great Manager”.

    So one more year and we will make a final judgement then. The current team, far from showing the progress that you might expect of a young team, have actually gone backwards this year. Therefore something tells me that things need to change at Arsenal before we will start to see a winning team again……….

  11. I think you’ll find AW is a man of principle who regards Arsenal as a club of principle and a cut above the rest. I think he was genuinely shocked at the disrespect and sarcasm shown to him at the shareholders’ meeting and he probably realises now that Arsenal supporters are no better than those of any other club. Fans want instant success. And if you believe that’s going to happen at Arsenal without an injection of money then you have a sad time ahead. AW has no money to spend and has done a great job on a shoestring. I’m pretty sure that he’s as frustrated as the rest of us that we don’t have the money to get the players that would add the extra that’s needed.

    I think Arsenal’s fear is that fans would leave in droves if they said that AW has no money to spend. Trouble is that the alternative is to tell the fans that there is money and for AW to say that he believes that his current squad is good enough. As he is finding out, that wears off after a while. Sad that it should have to reflect on him.

    I think AW will see out his contract but no more unless there’s money to spend. He will be a huge loss to this club. There aren’t that many managers of his class, as eg Chelsea and Spurs have found out. And managers are not stupid – Redknapp didn’t go to Spurs because he loves them – they have money. Hiddinck didn’t go to Chelsea because he loves them – they have a ready-made class team where he could take a short-term view. Ericsson wouldn’t go anywhere that didn’t have money. So who exactly would come to Arsenal without a budget ? In which case, we’re looking at people with less of a track record. Do you really want to watch an Allardyce, or a Bruce or a Moyes team ? It would increase the posts on this forum no end.

    I feel ashamed at the way some people lay into Wenger and his players.

  12. I even heard some journalist prat on Setanta Sports News say that Arsene is Arsenal Football Club!!

  13. Really illuminating article, Tony – how refreshing to read the results of proper research!

  14. Really illuminating article, Tony – how refreshing to read the results of proper research!

    (Resubmitting this comment..)

  15. Well I don’t give you 1 more season, parsi.

    You can find your coat right now for that pundit & media driven tripe.

    Try learning to enjoy football not the glory.

  16. I was drinking with the Arsenal fans at Wembley the day of the FA Cup Semi this year (I was down for the United Everton game and went out with a mate for the buzz)…We picked Arsenal over Chelsea… lesser of two evils I suppose… but I have to say the Arsenal fans are by far and away the worst supporters I have ever seen, they bad mouth everything and everyone! Against United they sang and waved their flags for about 8 mins, then 80% were gone with 15mins to go, really really pathetic ‘fans’ … Now they criticise the only good thing they’ve got in Wenger… he would walk into any job in Europe and you say he’s not good enough for you…

    I cant wait for the day he does leave, Arsenal will be lucky to finish top 6 without him and I’m not just trying to rise you! If Arsenal were to Lose Wenger, Fabregas, V Persie… etc would follow him out the door v quickly… slap yourselves in the face and smell the coffee Gooners!”

  17. Great article Tony.

    James I have to wonder why you keep coming back here? If you disagree with us for our short-sighted opinions about the manager of the club we ALL love – FINE. I think we get that by now!

    Your time would perhaps be better spent in the company of like-minded bloggers – there is certainly no shortage of them. Or on Spurs blogs antagonising them – SURELY they deserve your vitriol and boring attacks more than us???

    I’m all for constructive criticism but this constant negative carping is just plain tedious.

    Why you think that very narrowly failing to compete with teams who have budgets way beyond ours is such a harrowing thing I have no idea. Things are alright – honestly. If we do win stuff next season or the one after will you still be moaning about Wenger’s trophyless 4 years or will you even be able to move on and enjoy it???

    I feel sorry for you, as one thing is certain, myself, Terence, Conbsolbob, Nhan and the other regulars who come to Tony’s site seem an AWFUL lot happier than you!

    Judging by your astounding levels of whining despair and fury anyone would have thought you support the Newcastle Zebras.

  18. Great article Tony, I’m learning a lot from you!!

    And parsi, who the hell do you think you are?? ‘
    I give him one more year’ It sounds really arrogant, doesn’t it??

  19. Parsi – how can you possibly complain about an unbeaten season? A feat unmatched by any other team in the English top flight. Even the Mancs are jealous of that record.

    You seem to think having the best team guarantees winning everything.

    Look at the (fairly average) Liverpool team that won the CL. They were mere seconds from going out at the group stage and ended up winning against the odds whilst finishing 5th in the league. They shouldn’t even have been allowed to play in the CL the next season.

    They were not a great team but then the CL can be like that – it’s not a true league but a cup competition against the very best of Europe and moments of luck or bad decisions can and do decide who progresses.

    As Arsenal found out when Liverpool unfairly progressed last year due to two appalling decisions from the referee. We were the better team but the best team does not always win – this is what makes football intriguing.

    It’s important too otherwise spending as Chelsea did would have guaranteed them every trophy under the sun.

    Ferguson is a truly exceptional manager with different resources and an unparalleled record in football. Whilst I don’t want us to lose, there never has been nor will there ever be, any disgrace to narrowly losing to Ferguson’s Man Utd. They consistently play with verve, grit and determination and have resources that we cannot yet hope to match.

    I just reread this and what you wrote and I suddenly don’t know why I am responding – you are clearly just a phenomenal ingrate.

  20. Thumbs up Tony.But there is this JLB who sounds arrogant and totally ignorant about Arsenal.With the funding in Arsenal,i bet if Wenger is fired or he leaves we shall be relegated.
    This man (Wenger)is surely a Saviour and we can not do without him at the moment.

  21. Johnny, nobody expects instant success as you suggest but I think that we are entitled to see improvement every season at least. It is an easy stick for you to beat the realists on here by claiming that we expect to win or the 4 years without a trophy is our problem but in all honesty that simply is not the case for most of us. If you cannot look at this team and, like the rest of us, accept that we are a shadow of the team we were and if anything are going backwards then really you are wasting your time watching football. You are also choosing to totally ignore wenger’s major fcuk ups in team selections and tactics again this year by focusing solely on the rumoured lack of finance. It wasnt a lack of finance that left arshavin on the bench of the cup semi final, or continually plays diaby on the left wing, or refuses to make substitutions before the 65-70 minute mark unless someone is injured and it sure as hell aint finances that made the man play a 5 man midfield v the mancs at the grove when we needed to win and refused to change it at half time when we needed to score a minimum of 4 goals Fans like you slate any of us to dare to criticise wenger but to call you myopic with your refusal to look at anything he id doing wrong would be understating the problem imo

    I just love the way you and a few others have tried to lay this at the feet of the fans We are no better than any other teams fans eh ? What would you like us to do then that would make us better ? Would we have booed like the mancs did last saturday at the subbing of their beloved tevez ? Would we have booed when a draw has put us back on top of the table like the scousers did earlier in the season ? Fact is that all fans want to see their teams do well and that is a common theme running throughout football.

    Lastly you again accuse the fans of having a lack of respect which is rich – where do you see the club or indeed wenger showing the fans any respect ? Everytime they open their mouths to make any statement to the fans they are just throwing bullshit our way and they expect us to swallow it whole Where was the respect shown to the fans and traditions of the club when the club crest was changed ? Where is the respect shown to the fans regarding this bullshit 3rd kit is brought out every summer ? The club and football in general have made the game all about money nowadays so dont give me any bullshit about respect ffs Wenger thinks he should get a free pass on his increasing number of flaws and that should not happen

  22. the shareholders who whinged at Arsene are panicky idiots..!! they probably think that they will soon get swine flu and that either a meteorite or a super volcano will devastate the world next week..!!
    or maybe they are ‘spurs’ fans in disguise.!
    it isn’t a question of how long the best manager Arsenal have EVER had should be given..its a question of how much extra transfer money he will be given.
    semi-finals of the Champions league, where the only really bad game was the most important one..semi-finals of the FA Cup…
    fourth in the Premiership..taking 4 pts of the champions..only one defeat by the 3 clubs above them…by Chelsea..whilst suffering from a bad reaction to losing to Man U in the Champs league..not that bad a record…if only we had had Arshavin earlier…the Premiership was lost against the ‘smaller’ clubs..
    don’t forget that liverpool won nothing this season too…and chelsea havent won anything yet..

  23. “Improvement every season”

    I think that is the key here.

    As you’ll know, Manchester Utd, having put together a 3 times winning streak then fell apart and ended up third 2 seasons running, during which time they rebuilt. They didn’t see improvement every season.

    Chelsea having won the league fell apart – and have slipped further – no improvement every season.

    It simply is not possible. After the astonishing height of the Unbeaten Season it was necessary to break the team up and start again, and that is what has happened. It develops but in fits and starts.

  24. Some questions for you to consider mr wenger and the deluded bunch:

    What matters more to you: style or substance, trophies or aesthetics?

    * Do you agree with the Arsenal chief executive that fourth place constitutes failure?

    * How much are you willing to spend on a defensive midfielder and central defender?

    * Can you ever see a situation where you would buy an established Premier League player in his prime?

    * Do you think that spending is cheating?

    * If you were given Manchester City’s budget, would you still sign unknown Frenchmen?

    * Has the success of Andrei Arshavin altered your view about spending money?

    * Do you accept that Arsenal’s most regular problem over the past three years has been an appalling injury record? Is there an explanation? Are you looking for an explanation? And if you accept it is a major problem, why did you sign Mikael Silvestre last summer even when he was injured? And why sign Amaury Bischoff when he had barely kicked a ball in the previous two years?

    * Are we correct in presuming that it’s because you believed Tomas Rosicky would return in September that you didn’t seek to sign Andrei Arshavin last summer? Do you think Arsenal would have challenged for the title if Arshavin had been signed before the start of the season? If so, are you again willing to run the risk of factoring injury-prone players such as Rosicky, Eduardo, Abou Diaby and Silvestre into your plans for next season?

    * Incidentally, does it surprise you as much as it does us that the press have never properly interrogated you over Arsenal’s injury record?

    * What’s your assessment of how Arsenal have dealt with Rosicky’s injury problems over the past 18 months? In September, you said: “Nobody at the club can tell me whether he will be back on November 10, December 10 or December 31.” Why couldn’t they? What are they telling you now?

    * Why did you give the 31-year-old Silvestre a two-year deal when Robert Pires and co were denied on grounds of age?

    * Last year, you announced at the annual meeting of the shareholders that you would try to sign a defender to deal with ‘route one’ football. Instead, you signed Manchester United’s second-choice left-back. What happened? Do you understand our use of the word ‘instead’?

    * Do you now accept that your team selection for the FA Cup semi-final team was a mistake? What was the thinking behind the selection?

    * In the last ten-and-a-bit ten years, Sir Alex Ferguson has employed Brian Kidd, Steve McClaren, Carlos Queiroz and Mike Phelan as his assistants. Have you considered freshening up your own coaching staff?

    *It was claimed in The Guardian last week that you ‘spend comparatively little time on the training ground drilling [your] defence and practising such minor details as corners and free-kicks’. Is this true? Just how much time do you devote on the training ground to these minor details along with other insignificants such as shooting and crossing? Have you considered a change of approach given your side’s repeated failings in these areas?

    * When Aston Villa equalised in the 92nd minute on Boxing Day, three Arsenal defenders were in the penaltyn area marking four attackers. Did you point this out to your team afterwards? If so, how did you feel when four Arsenal players were in the penalty-area attempting to mark five attackers when Yossi Benayoun scored Liverpool’s 92nd-minute equaliser last month?

    * Out of ten, how would you rate Arsenal’s defending this season?

    * Ashley Cole demonstrated on Sunday that Theo Walcott is still oblivious to the importance of tracking back after 18 months. How do you explain the continued existence of this shortcoming?

    * Lukasz Fabianski’s costly rush of blood in the the FA Cup semi-final came a week after Kieran Gibbs had to clear the ball off the line against Wigan following a similar aberration by the youngster. He then committed precisely the same mistake in the first half against Chelsea. Did anyone on the coaching staff advise caution at half-time at Wembley or after the game at Wigan? If not, why not?

    * What is it that you see in Abou Diaby that nobody else can?

    * Kolo Toure and William Gallas only played well this season when separated from each other. Do you now accept that they cannot dovetail as a partnership? Are you sure it’s only one new centre-half that you need to buy?

    * What was the thinking in deploying Cesc Fabregas as a support striker? Do you now accept that Fabregas isn’t suited to the role?

    * What was your view of Emmanuel Adebayor’s performances in the Champions League semi-finals?

    * Were the quotes of Andrei Arshavin in which he complained about playing on the left wing genuine? If so, given the recent experiment with Samir Nasri in a central role and the doubts about Rosicky’s return, who do you see playing on the left next season?

    * It’s been four years since Arsenal won a trophy. Do you still believe that Arsenal are in a position of such arrogance to treat the Carling Cup as a training school?

    * Do you ever worry that you might be wrong?

  25. James Le Mouth. It is not reasonable to post such inanity on someone else’s blogsite. In fact it is totally disrespectful. If you need to post such rubbish, then do the owner of this site the service of setting up your own blogsite. I would also suggest that you find another club to support because Arsene Wenger will be at the club for a long, long time. So a long cold winter for you my friend and a fantastic summer for us. Looking forward to joining the Pro AW march on Sunday.

  26. Wow ! Lively here in here today eh?

    Superbly interesting article today Tony, It is an area of the clubs history that receives so much innuendo but rarely has facts available.
    I look forward to the book.

    As usual there are a host of new nay-sayers joining in led by their spiritual leader james LeBeak. I’m beginning to think that James is really an alter-ego of another reader here but in fairness he and his kind keep the place lively. We do so need distraction whilst we await impending transfer news with baited breath.

    I’d join in the the arguing with them but I am in far too good a mood today so I think I will just open a nice New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with my rather late lunch and just feel sorry for them instead.

    Besises it would appear that others have it well covered!

  27. James Le Beak – You advocate a takeover but how will new owners generate more income to pay for all of these signings? If you think that they are just going to chuck in loads of money without wanting anything back you are a fool, and I am being polite in that. Just look at ManU and Liverpool, Man U were successful before the Glazers, now all they have is a huge debt that they cannot repay. Liverpool have the new owners who can’t afford the new stadium they promised and have dumped £350 million worth of debt onto the club. What have Liverpool won in the past 3 years?

    Eventually the stream of borrowed money into these clubs will dry up. We will then see who is in a strong place.

  28. Tony, from what you have said re the champions league can I take it that you wont be holding up the fact that we got to the semi finals this season as a sign that we did well this season ?? If you have changed sides I am sure that the rest of the rose tinters will be very cross

    You are of course right when you say that losing narrowly to the mancs is no disgrace (given the differing budgets) but I would like for you to show me where we lost narrowly. Was it in the champs league semi’s where they played us off the park home and away and should really have won by far more ? Or was it in the league where they are finishing a mere 20 pts ahead of us ? Stats like these do not lie my friend.

    Why was it necessary to break up the invinceables ? If it is an obvious reason then help me out cos I certainly cant see it It certainly wasnt to save on wages given that our wage bill is one of the top 3 wage bills in the country and considerable higher than when we had that great team

  29. Hey James Le Beak, I wish you give it a thought starting yo own blog? I suspect there a lot of like minded individuals who would not mind it.

  30. Alternatively there are already blogsites that the anti-support can patronise.

  31. Apologies for the interruption , but imo that team was always gonna break up within a couple of years of the unbeaten season.

    Admittedly without knowing 100% for certain I’d say there’s a good chance the likes of Paddy & Henry had to be sold while still profitable or there would have been no money at all to try & replace them with. Now the success (or not!) with which Wenger has “replaced” them is another matter entirely but that doesn’t change the fact they arguably had to be sold when they were.

    As I’ve said before… DB10 retired, Freddie basically fell apart, Sol went loco down in Acapulco & Cuntley f*cked off to the Chavs. None of those things in my mind can ultimately be blamed entirely on Wenger.

    Edu’s contract situation was a definite f*ck up but I’m pretty sure Dein was the contract man at that time so surely he must take a fair share of the blame for that, even if Wenger should too.

    I’ve said my piece on Bobby a few times. We’d all have loved him to stay but I really don’t think it’s as simple a case of Wenger forcing him out of the club as is made out. And by the time he left, although he was/is still a quality player his powers were definitely on the wane.

    Wenger’s far from blameless for our decline since then but on the whole I just dont buy into the idea that he broke up that team out of choice, and especially not so that he could embark on some lunatic “experiment” at Arsenal’s cost.

  32. Why should i? Because my opinion is more logical than yours?
    Ooohh i sensed i hit a nerve

  33. your opinion is your opinion whether dumb or logical. Yo own blog would boost your ego 10 times, anyway it was just a suggestion.

  34. Your opinion is long-winded and boring, James le Mouth, and far from original.

  35. Since you ask, mMy opinion is as follows;

    I support Arsene Wenger and the squad. I believe that his achievements surpass any other Arsenal manager and I believe that his policy of sustainability will pay dividends. I believe that supporters should get behind the team on matchdays.

    I also believe that of all the football clubs in the Premier League, Arsenal has the most class. Our home support has let itself down over the last year or so, but there are a significant number of supporters who stay to applaud the team, and also the opposition if they deserve it. There is a lot to enjoy in football, not just winning.

    Finally I believe that blogsites should be used to rally support for the manager and players and to combat the negativity we so often experience from the press and media.

    Our time will come.

  36. Interesting article, Tony, and I’m also looking forward to your book.
    As for James, just chill out and take it a bit easy or you’re likely to end up with a heart attack. Just remember the good bits from the season, i.e. Vela’s hat trick against Sheffield United, Ade’s bicycle kick goal against Villareal and Arshavin’s goals against Liverpool. Wonderful stuff. The team is improving and I for one am looking forward to next season. Just to think we will be able to see the likes of Arshavin, Rosicky and Eduardo playing together. Keep the faith!

  37. James *some* of your questions are quite valid.

    I don’t claim that Wenger is infallible and I am sure privately he will feel that this season he made a few mistakes.

    It’s surely worthy of mention that, had we not been robbed of Premiership last year by a series unfortunate injuries, we could very easily have had that title plus the Champions League. Certainly we were good enough for both.

    That would have made this whole conversation thoroughly redundant.

    Look at Rafa still lauded at Liverpool in spite of the fact this if Gerrard had not scored a 93rd minute goal against Olympiakos they would have been out of Europe and finished 5th in the Prem. We certainly would never have seen him again. Since then he has done the club pretty well (in patches) but he certainly would never have had the chance but for that strike.

    The debate seems to be about whether Wenger is suddenly an old out of touch fool, too stubborn to see his mistakes. Who knows maybe you will be proved right but at least give the man a decent chance to rectify those errors and prove that there is method to his madness. After all he was written off by all and sundry before the unbeaten season, turned out he was just a season ahead of himself.

    Surely you can see that, although this season was in some ways worse than last, in many ways there are already far more positives for next season?

    Perhaps not. I’m actually not too sure you deal in positives…do you even sing when we’re winning??

  38. “I think that we are entitled to see improvement every season at least.”

    Parsi, congratulations. I think that could be the anti-Wenger Arsenal brigade’s motto you have come up with right there.

    And when we have won all 4 major competitions (which we DESERVE) we’ll demand MORE competitions. AND if we don’t get them OR don’t win even more competitions EVERY year from now until eternity, we’ll just get weally, weally, cwoss and screw up our widdle fists and scweam and cwy.


  39. I never remembered this place to be so lively.
    What have u done differently Tony?

    Hello JLB. Don’t quit your day job.

  40. James,

    Some response to you:

    * Injuries were pretty bad when we had them and the Rosisky case is still pretty mysterious. At the same time, last season we were the team scoring in the last minutes most often and outran pretty much everyone. We demonstrated to AC Milan that technique/experience didn’t make up for physical fitness and forced them to change wholesale. Who would you give credit for this achievement?

    * Your citing of defensive mistakes are statements of what happened – they didn’t say much about what could have happened or what the causes of mistakes were. The Vila game you could blame lack of concentration on both goals as we actually dominated second half. The Liverpool game we were dominated all game and had little possession – the argument that defensive frailty led to 4 goals has no more merit than one claiming that had it not for great defense, we would have shipped 6 instead of 4. In my opinion, when we lost 0-1 to MU in the CL semi the back 5 are the best players on our side and showed that they were world class defenders.

    * In buying a central defensive midfielder: I recently read a column by Alan Smith suggesting Arsenal could choose from 5 muscular CB/CM currently playing in the PL. That none of these even got considered for the English national team tells you how clueless he is about football. Muscular men in modern sports are everywhere, mind you. The NFL in the States is packed with 250lb men who can run 100m in 10 seconds. What’s valuable are the likes of Marcos Senna who are strong and can kick the ball and know how to read a football game. That’s why Senna himself is valued around thirty million pounds.

    * It’s funny you don’t see it but money doesn’t buy cups. Mourinho won CL with a tiny budget at Porto. How do you explain failure of the same man at Chelsea and Inter with about the biggest budget available anywhere?

    * You said this club deserve world class players. You mean YOU deserve world class players, in YOUR definition of world class. I wonder, James, if Arsenal was now one among thousands of unknown football teams in the world struggling to make ends meet, what would you think you deserve? These teams exist because their fans don’t ask the same question you do. They completely trust what they see on the pitch and love the players of their team for reasons beyond a smoker loves his cigarettes. Arsenal the team, not a multinational corporation, is in our hearts (and very much our nerves) for the same reasons. You clearly don’t know what these reasons are. Do you seriously think that being a season ticket holder gives you a claim at the trophies the team win? You don’t even seem to understand that for Arsenal the corporation you are nothing but one among its millions of customers.

    Fair enough that we’re a deluded bunch, James. But what truth do you have to offer?

  41. Well said Nahn.

    As criticisms go I’ll accept and live with deluded.

    At least I don’t think the world owes me.

    And I’m not miserable.


  42. I had a quick look at the site and it seems to be as biased as Untold Arsenal only in the other direction. There’s some errors in the history section – although I have to be careful because I know I occasionally make slips of the keyboard – and some sources of data for the 1910-1920 era have errors. “English League Football” by RC Churchill for example is a classic record, but it makes mistakes in its historic league tables on occasion.

    But the site you mention has repeated the common misconception that Woolwich Arsenal went bust because of low attendances because of their geographic location just outside the metropolis.

    In the second half of the 1910 season when Woolwich went bust they were getting 8,000 to 10,000 per game.

    Everton were getting 6000, Forest 5000, Preston 5000. The problem was not the average attendance but the fact that the ground couldn’t hold much more than 24000, while the newly opened Old Trafford could take 70,000 and Stamford Bridge much the same. The northern clubs might get modest attendances for ordinary matches, but for matches against each other they could fill the place and rake in the money. Arsenal’s problem was that they didn’t have enough local derbies. Arsenal v Tottenham in April 1910 got 24583, compared with the reverse match at Tottenham which got 16,000.

    Arsenal got 40% of the gate money for away games, but they were not an exciting draw for anyone, so even the away games at the big grounds got low attendances.

    So based on this repeating of an old misconception I suspect that the author speaks from the heart as we all do quite often, and doesn’t really have much inside information or the touch of the vast majority of the supporters.

    There is a big pro-Wenger demo on Sunday both outside and inside the ground and I think it might be rather enjoyable. I am looking forward to being there already.

    Anyway, no more tonight – I am off to the local jive club (us old timers quite like to bop you know)


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