by Tony Attwood

As you may recall, a number of blogs and a couple of Arsenal related organisations recently got together and produced a document called “We care do you?”

It was a fairly challenging and contentious title – suggesting as it does that caring could be defined primarily by agreement with certain visions and ideas.  And that of course leads to the question: whose ideas and visions define caring?  How do you measure caring?  And to get into detail, would holding up cards saying “Wenger Out” be an expression of caring, or perhaps the opposite – a highly disruptive influence perhaps?

And so, now with the dust settling a little, I do think it might be time to look a little deeper into the demands and assumptions within the document to see how well it holds up, or whether it is just a bit of moaning in order to get publicity.

For some of us writing for Untold our first inclination at this point was indeed to look at an associated issue – the £40m or £45m claim because the originators of this “We care” document were in part the same people who have for five years been claiming Arsenal either only had a budget of £40 million to spend on transfers, or (occasionally) that Arsenal had £42m or so in cash and was deliberately hiding it away and not spending it.

The latest manifestation of that particular claim was blown away at the recent meeting between members of supporters groups and members of the Arsenal board, where Arsenal directors confirmed that they had no idea where the £45m claim came from and that it was totally untrue.  We’ve been able to tell them.   It all came from the AST.

So given that this is from an associated source, it is (in my view) worthwhile looking at the We Care Do You document in a little more detail than might have been the case thus far, again to see if there are any other assumptions lurking underneath.

The We Care Do You document starts with the claim that Arsenal’s performance has declined in the past decade, and so, on the basis of starting at the beginning, this is good place for us to start looking.

In terms of the average number of points gained in the Premier League by Arsenal in the last 10 years, this was 71.9 points.  Last season we got 70 points, we can say yes, we were two points below the Arsenal average.  The worst season was 2017/18 wherein we got 63 points.  The best was 2013/14 wherein we got 79 points.   The mid-point is 71 points and so on 70 points we were, indeed a little below our mid-point and below our average, but a fair improvement on the year before.  Not as good as anyone of us would have liked, but still a real improvement.  Travel in the right direction we might say.

Thus last season might be called fair to middling, in this comparison across ten years, and back to the level of 2000/1 when with the same number of points we came second.

But in terms of position, the last three years were clearly our worst since the start of the Wegner era: being 5th twice and 6th once.  What this suggests is that while Arsenal has stayed around its normal points total, some of the other clubs at the top have improved considerably of late.

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Indeed the key point here is that the league itself has changed. 70 points took us to second one season as we noted.  In 2013, Tottenham came third in the league with 70 points.  The season before Man U came in 4th again with 70 points – enough of course for a Champions League position.  In 2012 Arsenal got 70 and we came in 3rd.  In 2011 we came in fourth with just 68 points.

What actually changed last season was that the top two gained 195 points between them – an utterly unprecedented total.  And perhaps we should remember that in the unbeaten season we came in with 90 points – our highest ever total.  In 2011 Man U won the league with just 80 points.

So what we have seen here is not best described as Arsenal slipping behind, for that would be a total misunderstanding of the situation.   Rather Arsenal have been at around their average mark for recent seasons while two clubs have soared ahead, leaving the rest behind.

And we should add this last season we were just two points and two goals away from coming third – but even though that would have delivered a Champions League place for 2019/20, it would not have taken us anywhere near the top two but rather left us 16 points behind instead of 18. 

Now of course these issues can be dismissed as technicalities by those who like simple sloganizing, but they are key points.  Never before have two clubs soared away so far above the rest.  Although Liverpool in fourth were a massive 30 points behind Arsenal in the Unbeaten Season, Chelsea in third were 15 points behind us.  We were way out in front but not this far out front.

Thus my point is that the last two years have been exceptional.  As yet we don’t know if this is the start of a new era in which two teams soar above all the rest, creating a two club version of the  Manchester United dominance of 1993 to 2013, or the Liverpool dominance of 1976 to 1990, or whether this is a blip.  

Given that both clubs appear to be able to spend whatever they want without interference from the regulators it certainly could be the start of a period of dominance – but Uefa are investigating Manchester City, and the Liverpool chairman being a notorious boaster who as before might yet let some indelicate details slip, to his own disadvantage.  

As you may know, in the 1930s, when Arsenal won the league five times in eight seasons, we were known as the “Bank of England club” because of the money available to spend on buying players.  That money came totally from gate receipts – thanks to the foresight of Henry Norris in moving the club to Highbury and later bringing in Herbert Chapman. 

So these periods of dominance can happen, and history shows that it can be very hard for other clubs to muscle in.  We can of course all agree that we were a long way behind the top two, but if  forget we were only a couple of points behind the third and fourth place clubs last time then we could be in danger of throwing away the improvements of last season and the hope for this coming campaign.  Thus it is perfectly reasonable to argue that with this summer’s transfers we are set fair to return to the top four – a view that makes the We Care document look singularly inappropriate.

I see real progress this summer after a year of settling in by Mr Emery, and I cannot for the life of me see what the point is of trying to rock the boat now.  Unless of course one is still seduced by the fairy story of the £45m max transfer fund for Arsenal that AST has propagated.  

But if that was the motivating factor for AST and other groups to put together WeCareDoYou then they do have only themselves to blame for believing their own propaganda.  All they had to do was to ponder whether their own economics expert who accused Arsenal of sitting on a pile of cash and refusing to spend it in the Gazidis era, should have been given the job of leading another charge against the club this summer by suggesting that we had only £45m to spend.

There is plenty more in WeCareDoYou that deserves examination in detail, and I will be having a further look at it shortly.  Meanwhile I know that our old chum Sir Hardly Anyone has been down the Toppled Bollard attempting to discuss the document with the journalists who so readily lapped “We Care Do You” up, and his report will appear anon.

But some further analysis at the slightly more serious end of the spectrum is also worthwhile I believe.  So, more from me shortly.