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By Tony Attwood
Even before last night’s game the boot was going into Mr Emery as can be seen from the headline, “Shades of Wenger? Stubborn Emery’s latest stance may cost Arsenal CL qualification” – that was published by the apppropriately named
And as you know we lost, and this is how the table looks now…
Now in the post-match discussions on Arsenal.com one of the “experts” on the club’s own internet TV station tried to tell us that things were actually getting better. “We have slowly been getting worse and worse – this is our best league campaign for a while,” he said.
So I thought that since no one contradicted that statement on the TV programme, we ought to look and see if it was true.
As the table above shows we have 66 points after 35 games, with a goal difference of +23. Here is how the situation looked at this stage in previous years…
So immediately we can see that this is not our best league campaign for a while. We are in a slightly worse position than in 2017.
Again in 2015 we can see “this is our best league campaign for a while,” is not accurate. We are better off than we were at this point last year, but that’s about the best we can say. Two seasons back we had the same points and a slightly worse goal difference. We are fractionally better than 2016, but a few points behind the 2015 position.
And although it could be said we are only four points behind where we were in 2015, the goal difference is slightly more worrying, in that it has declined by nine goals.
On the other hand one could argue we are only four points off our best number of points at this stage in the past four seasons, and we have scored more goals than in the 2014/15 season – and indeed we are just one win behind where we were in 2015.
Or put simply, our problem is not so much that we have got worse and worse, but rather that we have stood still while the remainder of the top six clubs have progressed. That is the problem in a nutshell. Unfortunately it does not fit into the simplistic “it was Wenger’s fault” model that the pundits on Arsenal TV support, so they bend reality to try and fit their own preconceptions. And because it seems to be the official line, the chair of the debate makes no move to correct anything.
What has complicated the understanding of this fairly simple situation is, in my opinion, the fuss made by the anti-Arsenal-Arsenal groups who spent their time promoting the notion that by getting rid of Mr Wenger things would somehow improve. Yet this on its own was never likely to be the case. In my view, with the finances available at Arsenal, compared with the finances available at other clubs, Mr Wenger did as well as, if not better than, anyone else could. Simply replacing him was by itself not likely to make much difference. Mr Emery has done well just to hold us where we were.
And indeed this offers one explanation why the club is willing to have pundits on Arsenal TV putting forward the “it was worse under Wenger” falsehood. As long as people keep believing things are getting better, that will distract from the activities of the owner in keeping the transfer money limited.
The problem is that we are a long way behind the clubs at the top; to be there we need to be scoring 20 goals a season more and conceding 20 goals a season fewer – a huge task. But that is not the manager’s fault, in my view. He is doing his best with the resources he is given, just as Mr Wenger did.
But of course claiming that Mr Wenger took the club downhill – getting worse and worse as the pundit said – while now we are making the long slow journey back, is the message the owner of the club will like because it gives hope for the future. It is not reflected in the facts for the simple reason that other clubs have been progressing faster than we have and in 2015 we were in quite a decent position – not league winners but quite a decent performance.
We have benefitted from the turmoil at Manchester United combined with the extraordinary newspaper hype surrounding their new manager – which of course was a bubble that had to burst. And we have benefitted from the turmoil at Chelsea where the owner has not been seen since his working visa was rescinded and he walked out in a huff with the whole stadium project seemingly abandoned.
But we can hardly bank on such things continuing in the future any more than we can bank on supporters being hoodwinked by palpably untrue statements from pundits on Arsenal TV.
The approach of the station last night in not having anyone to correct such inaccurate commentaries was shocking, and possibly heralds a new era of hoodwinking the fans.
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