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June 2019
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No Champs League again, but how are Arsenal going to turn this around?

By Tony Attwood

There was an interesting article recently by Nick Hornby which looks back at the past season and says, “We used to blame Wenger and the kinds of players he liked, the technically gifted, physically unimposing attacking midfielders who seemed to occupy every position on the pitch. Torreira, Granit Xhaka and Sokratis Papastathopoulos are of a different build and complexion entirely, but it doesn’t make any difference, apparently. The post-Invincibles Arsenal team will always flake out on you when it matters, no matter who’s playing or coaching.

“Some of the more excitable members of the Arsenal community — perhaps those with no interest in evolutionary biology — want Emery out already. That seems premature to me….

“This summer, however, is critical. My sources inside the club tell me that the decision to release Aaron Ramsey was down to Emery and Emery alone, and that the player was ready to sign a new deal. Emery took one look at him and decided, clearly, that he wasn’t worth the money being offered….

“Unless Ramsey’s replacement is at least as good, fans will quickly resent the loss of someone who could be frustrating, but whose two Cup Final-winning goals, and a decade-long commitment to the club, have earned him Official Club Legend status.

“Arsenal fans are used to pretty sights, and if the choice is between fifth place and no Champions League football, and sixth place with the occasional breath-taking moment of beauty, the Emirates crowd may decide that the grass was not, after all, greener….

“As ever in London N5, the jury is out.

I have quoted quite a lot of the article not just because I found it interesting but also because rather rarely in football journalism it gave us a bit of perspective.  It wasn’t “he’s useless get him out” stuff – and of course being Nick Hornby we can expect some thing more.  But I wondered just how much perspective people really have at the moment.

For a start next season our rivals will be the same as this season: Manchester City (treble winners), Manchester United, Liverpool (Champions League winners), Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea (Europa winners).   So how they will do will be as relevant to our season, as is how well we will do.

Second, the gap between the top two, and the next three in the premier league was huge – I am sure such a gap has happened before but I can’t recall when it was.   Even if Arsenal had Manchester City’s funds I can’t see us closing that gap in one year.  And of course we don’t have anything like Man City’s funding.  Nor of course are we being accused of manipulating the financial rules.

But there is more to this comparison business.  What are we comparing with what?   Are we comparing entertainment value?   If so we probably don’t have too much to worry about, with headlines around such as “Why was Tottenham vs Liverpool Champions League final the flattest in recent memory?”

That was the Telegraph – and the article included the line a little later

“After about 70 minutes of one of the most eagerly anticipated matches in recent history, one of my fellow viewers pithily summed up the mood: “This is really, really bad.”

The Guardian called it “a dreadful match” noting “an hour and a half of scruffy tedium that must have been emptying bars throughout Europe.”  Yes winning points and winning trophies is very important, but if you have a team that doesn’t win a trophy and is condemned for terribly boring football, maybe that says something too.

And there is also history.

Arsenal should be celebrating 100 years of first division football this season (I don’t know if they are, but I have written a booklet on the subject for the Arsenal Independent Supporters Association, so we will be celebrating even if they are not).   That surely is something to be happy about – even though some Tottenham fans might try to resuscitate the old myth that Arsenal bribed their way into the first division in 1919.

On that issue if you want to read the full story it is on the Arsenal History Society site in more depth than anyone has ever produced before.  But if you just want the highlights, scroll down to the foot of that page to the headline “The 1919 Affair” and that will lead you to the relevant articles.    The long and the short of it however is that the fixing that went on around this time involved Liverpool and Manchester United – Arsenal did everything by the book, as the local Tottenham newspaper acknowledged in 1919.

This article continues in the next piece later today.

7 comments to No Champs League again, but how are Arsenal going to turn this around?

  • Jezzy

    “perhaps those with no interest in evolutionary biology — want Emery out already.” One of the many, many, many reasons why I absolutely despise mainstream media journalists.

  • Jezzy

    It’s good to know that it was definitely Emery that booted out Ramsey though. That’s another mark against his name in my eyes.

    I’ve gotta say, I really think he was the wrong choice for a club like Arsenal. Not going to get on his back and abuse him at every opportunity, but he has made some really poor decisions this season and I can’t see one single area we have improved in (other than having Auba for an extra half season and the EL). He was a very safe option and he plays very safe football (and even that didn’t stop us from conceding more than all of our rivals).

  • Josif

    Back in 2011-12, Top 2 were two Manchester clubs, the title race was settled on a goal-difference, thanks to that Agüero’s goal in the last seconds of the season. Both clubs finished on 89 points, head and shoulders above the rest of the league. The Top Four race was more of a sack race between Arsenal (70), Tottenham (69), Newcastle (65) and Chelsea (64) – we won just one out of last five games (6 points out of 15 available) but still managed to finish third. Chelsea did win CL which meant Tottenham missed on a CL place despite finishing Top Four as no country had been allowed more than four clubs in Champions League.

    As for our competition next season, the whole thing about Ramsey does make me nervous. Our league position collapsed after his injury v Napoli. Can we find a similar player or will Emery change the system to fit current players so that we don’t feel Ramsey’s departure? If we can deal with that, I believe we can get to Top 4, especially if we sort our defending during summer.

    Chelsea lost the best player in the league to Real Madrid and can’t sign a top replacement for him due to transfer ban.

    Tottenham will lose Eriksen, possibly even Alderweireld and I don’t think their team will enjoy the fact they had another – 11th in a row!!! – trophyless season. Maybe even Pochettino decides to pack his bags for another club – PSG may sack Tuchel and Pochettino used to play for them. Also, Pochettino sees diving as a legitimate tactic and VAR is coming.

    Manchester United have De Gea in the last year of the contract and number of players that have been underperforming for their new permanent manager. They are now where Liverpool were in 1996 – their last league title is too fresh for them not to feel entitled and too old to have any realistic reason to feel entitled.

    That leaves us with Man City and Liverpool. Both teams have strong teams, packed with quality in every area. City may put bigger focus on CL while Liverpool may be more interested in breaking the English title hoodoo. It’s going to be 30th season since Liverpool’s last league title so they might get some wind in their back to fulfill another fairytale narrative: “After 30 years, the league title is coming home.”

  • I am not sure that the one of one popular writer from unnamed sources is a definite.

  • Mike Collins

    For me the question of renewal, is the youth system worth the money spent. However even I would say that you have to spend on youth. But, either by lack of quality or lack of priority and emphasis from management our results from the youth system seem Rather meager. Good Heavens its almost like I am starting to sound like Alan Sugar with his Carlos Kickerball. I just cannot believe that our young crop would be much worse than some of the not up to standard imports. Or, again is the lower level coaching is poor. Only one way to find out and that is play them. Getting almost retired re-treads from the Italian League is no answer

  • Mike Collins

    Apologies my sentence construction in my last post is deplorable.

  • omgarsenal

    Mike……….This season saw some really excellent results from the youth and academy. We have seen a few upcoming youth and academy players in pre-season last year, during some of the cup runs and so on. We also have a fistful of really talented youth players out on loan, if you have been following them on Arsenal.com. ¨Rather meager¨ is an unfair and inaccurate characterization of the results this season. I would rate them as being very good to excellent, particularly when we saw their efforts in the cups. I look forward to 2019-20 season to see some of our new faces take the stage more permanently.

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