By Tony Attwood
“Incompetence” has long been a theme of disenchanted supporters of Arsenal, and the bloggers and journalists who love to encourage their moaning, day after day after day. Arsenal are not just poor at football, they are incompetent at management, recruitment, organisation, training, decision making, pitch maintenance…
Take these stories across the past five years…
Arsenal’s injury problems are down to incompetent training methods …
Daily Mirror, 12 March 2014
‘Arsenal are incompetent’ – Ian Wright slams massive problems in recruitment policy
Goal,com 6 May 2017
Arsenal FC equals incompetent….
JA606, 30 Aug 2017
Arsenal are ‘pathetic, gutless and incompetent’.
The Sun 26 Feb 2018
Is our medical team being incompetent again?
Football Transfer Tavern 24 Nov 2018
Looking back at the first of these examples, if you have been with us for some time, you might remember this injury and we discussed it at length at the time: Arsenal get more injuries than anyone else, and it is all down to the incompetent training methods of the club.
There were three problems with this story. First, Arsenal didn’t get more injuries than anyone else, second the supposed incompetent methodologies were never explained, and third nor was the fact that observers from the sidelines who didn’t attend training sessions were able to see what the staff at Arsenal could not see in the training sessions.
Just to take those figures for injuries: the Independent said that Arsenal suffered more injuries than any other Premier League team in 2016/17. Their report went on to quote Talk Sport and “Dutch fitness coach Raymond Verheijen” and suggested “The numbers could raise more questions about the training methods employed by the north London club.” He also criticised the methods of coach Jürgen Klopp, at both Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool, the Football Association of Wales, David Moyes… the list goes on. He appears to have been out of work since 2012.
As we said when we covered that article in the Independent, even a quick cursory look at the statistics provided shows that the whole story is a fake – yet another fake to add to the stories about transfers, Mr Wenger’s tactics, training methods etc etc Indeed we did a detailed analysis to show how wrong they were, a year before that.
The list of so-called Arsenal injuries for 2015/16 when this story was at its height, included Carl Jenkinson being out for 37 weeks, when in fact he was on loan to West Ham. Yes of course we might say that Jenkinson was still technically an Arsenal player, but he was playing for WHU, being trained by WHU and being paid by WHU so it could hardly be Arsenal’s training methods that got him laid low.
Besides which Jenkinson suffered his knee injury on 23 January 2016, after playing 20 games for WHU, which means that even if in some odd way he was to be quoted as an Arsenal player for the season he was out for 15 weeks of the season, not 37.
Looking further I then discovered that Danny Welbeck was listed as being out for 56 weeks in the 2015/16 season. Which is quite interesting given that last time I looked a year had 52 weeks, and a season around 40 weeks.
In fact Danny returned on 14 February 2016 in a 2–1 win over Leicester – I remember it rather clearly since I was there and had a perfect view of his goal. By my reckoning they had added 28 weeks to Danny’s missing time.
If you have really been with us a while and have a good memory you may recall Walter did an in depth study of Arsenal injuries in 2014, which I am pleased to say people still quote as a key source in the debate – or at least people who don’t set up the debate as a way of knocking Arsenal, quote it.
As I say, the Telegraph regularly come back to this story – they did it for example with a piece on 22 December 2014 by Jeremy Wilson… who then came back and wrote a very similar piece in July 2018. Well, it’s one way to get paid as a journalist but avoid doing new work – take an old piece and re-run it. (And yes I am rerunning old news here – the difference is I am not paid for it).
Anyway, all that is a look back at Arsenal, football’s great incompetents. Except that now the new news is that Manchester United are the new incompetents. That doesn’t mean that Arsenal have lost their crown as king of the incompetents, rather that there is a new kid on the block, as it were. As witness this headline from the Guardian:
“The thinking was that United needed a smoother recruitment policy and the topic was revisited after Mourinho’s firing in December. Paul Mitchell, previously at Southampton and Tottenham, was mentioned. There were links with Rio Ferdinand the pundit despite zero evidence the former United defender is suited to a demanding, highly specialised job. Darren Fletcher’s name was also thrown into the mix.
“Yet the search has dragged on and United… are likely to remain reliant on Woodward to negotiate transfers.”
And here’s another thing to add to the incompetence accusation. Van Gaal is reported as saying he was “never asked about football when he was interviewed for the United job in 2014 and in that context it is possible to see how a club can lurch from a possession-based manager like the Dutchman to a pragmatist like Mourinho, before getting all misty-eyed and appointing Ole Gunnar Solskjær.”
However as the article slips away from the sort of finger pointing and abuse so beloved of journalists these days, it does make a good point. “Managers of his calibre want a club with a plan. The same applies to players who value career progression above money.”
Yes that is true. But the continuance of the argument bends backwards into media hype when the article says of Manchester United, “They are linked with a new player every day, but they have yet to come up with a suitable offer for Crystal Palace’s Aaron Wan-Bissaka.” The journalist can say this because he knows that the unwritten rule of football journalism is that no journalist ever points out the ludicrous predictions of others once they have turned sour, as 97% of them do. Clubs are linked to players because journalists make the links up.
Besides which the linkage that Manchester Utd and Arsenal get in terms of anything being the same within the two clubs is mere media gibberish. It has nothing to do with the situation.
The difference between Arsenal and Manchester United is that even with the huge dividends that the owners of Manchester United take out of the club, they still have all the money they need to buy virtually anyone they want. In Arsenal’s case, once the dividends have been taken out and given to the owner, Arsenal have £40m a year to spend on players.
But the Arsenal management team know the rules at the club and there are signs they are working out ways of getting the players they need. At least we can but hope so.
- Arsenal Women 2021-22 Season Review: Part 2 WSL Match by Match highs and lows
- The ten things we really learned from the 2021/2 season
- Arsenal v Everton: looking back at the videos from earlier years…
- Arsenal v Everton: the big worries about the referee, and the team
- Arsenal v Everton: A game with a grand tradition, plus a tradition of accuracy lost