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Do we want Arsenal to wait 30 years to recover. Or is there a shortcut?

by Tony Attwood

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We recently published research that showed that only 20% of clubs in the PL that have changed managers in the past 18 months are now better off than they were before the change.

The majority of clubs involved are struggling against the upheaval that a change of manager can bring within a club, along with the negative publicity that a downturn generates, plus disquiet among the fans.

Of course the amount of disquiet and negative publicity varies from club to club.  Leicester’s slip from champions to 12th place the following season was not the subject of mega assaults on the club by the media and their return to being second in the league this season has been widely applauded.  They are defined by the media as “plucky outsiders” and “very English” (despite being anything but in terms of ownership) and thus get a particular and positive treatment all round.   Their previous breaches of the financial fair play rules and the very dubious dealings of their marketing department and other financial issues which we covered were mostly ignored by the media, although the Guardian did have a valiant try at doing some undercover investigation.

But although most other clubs don’t get such a positive run as Leicester, no one else gets such a negative coverage as Arsenal.  True, Chelsea did pick up negative media coverage for the grotesque handling of the case of its doctor Eva Carneiro, but that was quickly cast aside, and Jose Mounriho was obviously very quickly re-habilitated as a man worthy of a managerial position.  And they have now been found to be the innocent victims of a gross miscarriage of justice (according to some media and CAS) over their one year ban from transfer deals.  Questions about their youth policy are swept aside, as has been the case with Liverpool and that club’s approach to children and their parents.  All forgotten, nothing to see here.

As a result Arsenal is unique in having such negative media coverage, and a while ago we looked at the background to this in a whole series of articles, while also doing a snapshot survey of just how much negative coverage Arsenal got in relation to other clubs.

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Thus while Liverpool might use the “change-the-manager” approach to get to the top of the league, they have had to wait 30 years to get near a title using that method, but generally without a ceaseless barrage of criticism from fans and media alike.  Yes there has been some negativity along the way, but many of the club’s most vocal fan groups seem to me to have often stood above the criticism and focussed on supporting the club rather than bitching about the ownership and 30 years without a title.

But this is not the way at Arsenal, and the negativity against Arsenal from those in the stadium to journalists, bloggers and people who phone in to chat shows etc, is quite possibly likely to make the wait much longer. A better approach would be to have fans who support the team and ignore the media, but for the moment we don’t have that.

Since winning the League, Liverpool have won three FA Cups, and three European titles.  Arsenal have not done so well, winning four FA Cups since the last league title, although that has made them the most successful FA Cup team in history.  And of course, it is only 15 years since Arsenal won the League, not 30 years like Liverpool.

So what can be done?

Arsenal has RedAction, who were dedicated to bringing a better more positive atmosphere to Highbury, but their leaders then signed up to the notorious “We care do you” letter propagated by Arsenal Supporters Trust, and I suspect that must have damaged whatever sort of relationship RedAction had with the club by that time.

The RedAction Gooners blog hasn’t published anything since the Europa Cup Final, and the RedActionAFC Facebook page has only had three posts this whole year.  Their Twitter account @RedActionGooners has however been more active and is debating the issue.

Arsenal Supporters Trust is of course still active, despite its two broadsides against the club recently, first telling us that the club had handed a £40m fund over to directors and/or shareholders for their own use, and second telling us that this last summer the club had just £40m to spend.

They are still at it, making a new statement at the end of November which lead with the headline “Arsenal need more change than just a new head coach”  It read…

“The dismissal of Unai Emery was unfortunate but inevitable. Performances and results have been far below what is expected at Arsenal.

 But Emery’s departure is the easy part. The more difficult challenge is to recruit a suitable successor. We are far from certain that Arsenal has the right personnel to lead this process.

 The AST has long been advocating that the most important changes needed at Arsenal are in the Boardroom where Arsenal need better governance….

Arsenal’s Board currently has no one with football expertise. Its three ‘independent’ members are 85, 79 and 77 years old. None of them have football experience nor reflect the diversity of Arsenal’s playing squads nor supporter base….

 Arsenal also need to build better relationships with their supporters especially at the ownership/boardroom level…

Unfortunately accusing the board of salting away money for their private use rarely brings about the sort of change we all want.

Instead we need to approach the problem of the decline in form, combined with the resourceless attacks by the media and some fans and fan groups, as one problem.  Yes of course fans will respond as and when Arsenal start winning again, but as things stand that response will be probably only last as long as Arsenal are winning.

We need a unified response that brings club and fans back together – irrespective of anything that happens on the pitch, and any stories that the media and AST cook up.   It is not going to be done by demanding new directors or anything else.  It is going to be done by dialogue.

That is our shortcut.  To talk with the team and seek dialogue with officials, not shout abuse at the players, officials and directors.

22 comments to Do we want Arsenal to wait 30 years to recover. Or is there a shortcut?

  • A very sensible article, not emotional and well thought out. Tony is right, there will be no change for the better brought about by abusing the club.

    Part of the problem is that social media gives voice to anyone and everyone with a grievance and not everyone can mange to explain their feelings in a calm rational way. Hence the abuse, some of which is unacceptable.

    All of this does, though, avoid the main issue. Arsenal is not a well managed club. Decisions are not taken, they are put off forever. The rule is do not disturb the status quo unless we are forced to. Wenger should have gone at least 5 years earlier but in the end it was the fans that forced the club into making the decision.

    We now come to the farce about appointing a new manager. All the nonsense about the fantastic interview and presentation that Emery did. Why did the management of the club, whether that be the Board, owner or management, not identify someone earlier as Tottenham did. The current situation is what I expected from the people who do not know how to run a business.

    I hate to have to say it but no one has managed the club on a day to day basis since David Dein left and we need someone with his intelligence and management skills to sort out this horrible mess. The club has been on a downward trend for many years and it is only going to get worse because nothing will change in the foreseeable future.

  • markyb

    If the magocal Dein had of been in charge we would have been playing at shit hole Wembley. Stop Deifying him

  • it’s not deifying Dein to suggest that we need someone with his knowledge, insight and experience to help guid the club through these seismic strategic decisions. Dein happens to have a proven track record of successfully guiding the club through the most important decisions. To knock him because of one of those many decisions seems like selective memory. And ironically, our North London neighbours did exactly this and it’s turned out pretty ok for them. We have been in a downward spiral for 5+ years. What we lack is real leadership. The problem started with Ivan and continues today. We have no god given right to be at the top of the league. There is no entitlement in football. History is just that. We need to demonstrate a clear plan. What was the thinking and timing behind the removal of Emery. It was clear prior to Baku that he was not the right person. So where was the backup plan. How do you remove him from this position withoout having a ready replacement? Again, even our North London neighbours knew how to do that. And I have no doubt that if Dein had been in place (or Fiszman) we’d also have appointed an actual manager.

  • goonersince72

    Tony

    My immediate ‘shortcut’ would be to improve midfield play through coaching. The squad will likely remain as is for the season. Give the midfielders set positions and tactics. The play goes through…? No clue. Sort that on attack. Good defending is a team effort. Too much blame is put on the back four. I think they are a serviceable lot with a few really good players. But match after match they are overwhelmed by runs through the midfield without much opposition. Make the opponent work harder to get through midfield and the defenders will have a better chance of doing their job. I don’t see other teams back four under siege match after match like ours. The opposition have space and numbers going into the final third. Change that and change the results. And for the side on the pitch, come out on the front foot FFS! COYG!

  • Pat

    ‘Wenger should have gone at least five years earlier.’

    A statement like that simply means I don’t bother to read or take seriously anything else that person writes. If anything, the current chaos once again proves what an astonishing job Arsene was doing until his power was diluted by a group of people not fit to kiss his coat tails.

  • Gerald Udechukwu

    Been reading your blogs for years now from a distance but glad to comment for the first time. These are painful times to be a gunner. All those that asked for wenger to b removed should suffer the pain I suffer now I pray. So much to say but that AST a way clueless.

  • Menace

    OT – The difference between how Arsenal are treated and how Leicester get treated – Grealish (Aston Villa) was brought down in the box with a similar (quad to quad) tackle to the one that B&Hove were given a VAR penalty for. Villa are not in the same pecking level as Leicester so VAR doesn’t look at the incident. How to win friends & influence the betting circles.

    The truth is the penalty was not correct as the quad to quad tackle is part of the contact sport that is football. If the tackle was boot to quad or knee to quad, then there is a case to consider.

  • Cheadle

    goonersince72

    You are right on the money!

    I have always wondered and have written on at least one occasion…. “even if we had a back four of Van Dijks” as long as our midfield is not a “minefield” nearly every team will stroll across and create a goal scoring chance with almost every move.

    Remember when practically all but the very best teams had no choice but to aim long balls at our goal in the hope of some goal line scramble and a lucky goal because there was no realistic way to pass the ball through our midfield without losing it.

    Another thing to note is the fact that nearly every team has some good players regardless of current league position or momentum and it only takes some good coaching, tactics and determination to really frustrate or even get a result against “big” teams.

    IMO you are correct when you say ……make our midfield a fierce battlefield and give our defenders a breather…… I believe you can drill this in training. However when this season wraps up, I think we should add some more experienced battle-ready MEN in the middle and at least one more tidy, effective central defender (In his twenties) does not need to be a Marqee whatever just tidy, effective strong, confident and efficient.

  • Debo Ojomo

    Please why is no one talking about Marcelo Bielsa?

  • Mandy Dodd

    72, so well said. Not all the fault of the back 4 , who are prob nervous wrecks by now. I have never seen a top team invite so many attacks.
    This club have structural problems in the team, especially in MF. Xhaka is constantly isolated with nowhere to go. He is not really a holding mf.Torriera doesn’t always seem in his best role. Gwen is young, and learning his trade Not picking on players here, Not helpful or even valid,but they look like they need more coaching and drilling and perhaps even better protection from forward players, who I believe are also part of an overall problem, as good as they can be.
    Another problem in MF, they seem to get booked every time they make a tackle in some games, eg Soton. Arsenal get a yellow for roughly every four fouls, think we are now top of the booking league, and top of penalties conceded, Liverpool and Leicester get a yellow for every 11-12 fouls. Yet, the club appear to say nothing about this refereeing.
    All a bit of a mess, Not sure exactly what has gone wrong, but can be solved by old fashioned coaching and hard work in training.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Agree 72, very well said, not the sole,fault of the back four, at all, they are getting the brunt of team structure issues, the MF getting isolated, and a need for some fast track coaching in some areas.
    That, as well as a lack of confidence, aided and abetted by some very card happy refs. Our players get a yellow every four fouls, Liverpool and Leicester get a yellow every 11-12 fouls. We are top of the yellow card numbers league, top of the penalties conceded, the club seem to do nothing about this refereeing, but not easy for the players in that environment

  • Mandy Dodd

    Seems we are being linked with Marcelino , apparently he has arrived in London.
    Could be our next manager, or maybe he is just visiting Winter Wonderland to take in the rides and upside down views of Hyde Park

  • Lima

    we see the efforts of AST and red action. However we are waiting to see what Tony and AISA have done to promote support at arsenal. All we’ve seen so far from you Tony is abuse and labelling of other fans and generally making the fan base toxic.
    “We need a unified response that brings club and fans back together…” Well if that will happen obviously it will happen without you (as it did when fan groups signed up to the we care document), since the only thing you do is fight other fan groups

  • Lima: “the only thing you do is fight other fan groups”. What an extraordinary thing to say.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    I agree with certain comments above that our midfield needs more bite and traction. They are being either being bypassed or being totally overun . I
    I would love to see us adopt a five man defence , with preferably Holding , Sokratis as the regular CB and with David Luiz slightly forward n the centre , who moves into the more central defensive midfield role when we move out of defence and into attack mode . These three should not stray forward , and to ensure that the back door is closed firmly.
    To accomodate Ozil as the central attacking midfielder / heartbeat of the team/ withdrawn striker , we will have only two out and out forwards in Lacazete and aubameyang , with Pepe and Martinelli as the back ups and as subs . It would be David Luiz job too to stay close to , and provide protection and support for Ozil .

    We need more speed in our counter attacking , with two speedy FBs provining the width and early crosses to catch out the opposition defence.
    I would ban any and all back passes and passing in and arould our box. We seem to get into all kinds of trouble with our back passing. An occassional punt fowards from the keeper might create a chasnce for the forwards .

    As I have no coaching or managerial experience , these are my own personal wishes for our team . I do hope that we turn the corner soon , and that our players resume giving us the pleasure to watch us again play the beautiful game as it should be. And as it was before.
    Up the Gunners !

  • Lima

    Apart from Walters Belgium group can you tell me one you don’t attack? From AST to AFTV to blogs(who by the way are more successful) le grove, arseblog, and others.
    16 of them came together to do something. You advocate coming together but the only thing you consistently do is abuse the group that came together. Let’s agree that you abuse them because you don’t support their cause, what have you done to gather those that agree with you? Everyday you’re abusing fans, calling them names. When Wenger was still in the club, you said fans who wanted him out were an insignificant minority, once you got sacked those same set of fans suddenly became the all powerful force that hires and fires, responsible for every bad performance of the team

  • Lima I am very sorry that I have not been able to put forward my position in a way that you and a few others understand. I will try one more time, but if I fail again then I think we should leave this. I’m sure most people will find this terribly dull and boring.
    On the question of the blogs, supporter organisations etc, which signed up to the “We care do you” statement, I think they were profoundly wrong to do that, because a) it attacked Arsenal rather than saying, “let’s work together” and b) the authors had already accused Arsenal managers and/or directors of misusing Arsenal money, and were now using the same source of information (the AST accountant) to make further financial accusations against Arsenal – which once again were proven wrong. My view is that if we want to change the club, we should open channels of communication, not accuse them of financial misdemeanours.
    I have for many years been a committee member of AISA, although I write on Untold from my own perspective, and I support AISA’s calm and quiet approach, through which I and many others within AISA have been able to meet with very senior club representatives and put forward ideas, some of which are taken up and developed.
    There are of course many other groups and blogs I don’t mention – I simply mention a few of those that signed the AST letter, and those that write a number of attacks on Arsenal. Yes, that does at the moment seem to be a lot of them, but I retain the view that supporters attacking their club rather than opening a dialogue with their club are following the wrong direction. Few other people seem to be calling them out, so I take on that task.
    As for what I have done to bring together those who support the notion of working with the club in a non-confrontational manner, having worked as part of AISA for over ten years, I have on occasion met and had long discussions with some of the most senior members of Arsenal, putting forward positive proposals, and I have supported the work AISA does through meetings others in AISA have with the club. I have played a part in the “Arsenalisation” project and the unravelling of elements of Arsenal’s history which have been mis-reported for years to Arsenal’s detriment. Although such work may be considered “mere history” by some, the disgraceful “What you think you know about football is wrong” book that appeared recently is just one example of how Arsenal’s name is mired through the miswriting of its history, and my work in correcting that both via the Arsenal History Society website and the book “Woolwich Arsenal the club that changed history” have both been valuable, I believe.
    I stand up against those who have very successfully set up a negative agenda often through which they personally benefit, and which the mass media re-iterates, but which, in my personal view, does the club no good.
    So I am fairly comfortable with what I have done concerning Arsenal, although I don’t always spend so much time listing it. But I’m just a supporter, putting forward one point of view. What I can’t understand is why my point of view worries people at all. There are after all 100 or more blog and newspaper pieces against Arsenal for every piece I write arguing against those blogs and newspaper articles.
    So now, let’s leave it at that. You think I am wrong or misguided or self-centred or something – and I have given you space to put your point of view. I think we should stop. There are after all many many other sites that support your viewpoint.

  • Lima

    @Tony, well pardon me if I don’t believe you, after all seeing is believing. You believe in quietly opening channels of communication, well coming here to constantly attack other supporter groups/ organizations does not sound like “quietly opening up channels of communication”. I wish you would spend more time talking up what your group is doing, after all you spend more than enough time abusing others. We haven’t heard a thing about something good AISA has done, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to tell us. The organization we know who were actively involved in the arsenalization project was Red action, not AISA, we haven’t heard what role AISA played in the project, why not tell us about that instead of going about abusing red action. You think your way works better (even though we can’t find any evidence of your actually doing a thing), fine, by all means big up what you do. But don’t come here always criticizing/ insulting others who are doing what they can, by their conviction to better the arsenal supporters cause. And have the temerity to call for supporters to stand together

  • Lima – some things AISA has done are reported here as it goes along, others are reported on AISA’s blog – and as for my work in sorting out the history of the club we are talking about around 11 years of work reported on https://blog.woolwicharsenal.co.uk But I’ll pick a few bits and pieces for you that I personally have been involved in and that will conclude this debate. These are of course just examples – for the rest go back through the quarter of a million commentaries on this site and read for yourself.
    When the club moved to the new stadium, there was a lot of concern among supporters that although the views were good, it lacked a sense of being Arsenal or connected to its past. So I met with Ivan Gazidis and put forward the notion of having statues around the ground which reflected the past of the club, and would also be a place for people to meet. I suggested a Tony Adams statue as an example, so people could say, “I’ll meet you at Tony Adams” and a statue of Chapman looking up at the stadium as if to say “I did this” to give historic perspective.
    I highlighted the way in which others have denigrated the past of Arsenal suggesting that Arsenal cheated their way into the first division 100 years ago and wrote a booklet (one of a series published once a year for the past 10 years that all AISA members and Arsenal directors got) which showed there was nothing untoward in our joining the first division 100 years ago. Following this AISA held a great celebration of 100 years in the first division at Islington Town Hall, with players and directors and fans all mingling equally, as well as celebrating the achievement. A great coming together event. I wrote a series in the club programme for a year on the history of Arsenal – the aim of which – as with all my history of Arsenal writing – is to give fans an extra sense of pride in the club, to see it as more than just this week’s or this season’s results.
    I also recognised that a lot of the criticism of Arsenal focuses on the belief that Arsenal have been crooked in their dealings in the past, and I conducted the biggest piece of research ever undertaken into this, which is published on the internet as https://blog.woolwicharsenal.co.uk/henry-norris-at-the-arsenal – it is a major research job, but worth it in my view because it allows an instant response to any of the many allegations made about Arsenal’s past. And it has changed the view of Arsenal directors that they should not be ashamed of the early history of the club. The same was true concerning the book “Woolwich Arsenal, the club that changed football” which shows the central part Arsenal played in the expansion of professional football throughout England.
    On a different matter and in more recent times I did the research which showed that the failure of England to win tournaments was not to do with the number of foreign players in the PL – it is all published here. That has a value as the FA has spent years trying to restrict foreigh players in the league – now that research is regularly used (the Telegraph re-ran it soon after I wrote the original) – and I provided the forum and brought together the guys who did the invaluable 160 game research programme (also published here) into the level of referee accuracy across PL games. Plus I provided the forum for the analysis of how the mass media consistently treats different clubs in different ways – again something that others had not undertaken. Plus we published the analyses of what happens to clubs after they move grounds – again not something I had seen elsewhere. It is all on this site, and the Arsenal history society site.
    I suspect from your comments that you don’t value historic research, so there we differ, for I think it is of fundamental importance – so there we possibly differ. But I have given you a forum to express the fact that you think I am lying (which not every blogger does) and have spent time repeating stuff that is already on this site and on the AISA Arsenal History Society site. So that’s enough. You don’t believe me – ok that’s your view. I clearly can’t convince you, and readers of Untold can decide what they think. I think I have been more than reasonable in giving you a forum to express your view (something I know from experience that many other sites don’t do for people who disagree with the site) but now you have got to the position of not believing me, that has to be the end.
    Anyway, you may not see the point about historic research, and as you say you don’t believe me. Once where we are at a point in which where a reader of a series of articles does not believe the writer, I see little point in continuing the correspondence. You can start your own website and express your alternative point of view – although there are in fact many such already out there that you can readily join in.
    But enough now, if you don’t think my answers are adequate, or you don’t believe me, fair enough, that’s your decision. You’ve been given space, you have said you don’t believe me, so there is no way to continue this.

  • Yilch

    @Tony, with all due respect, I believe what Lima has asked is that you give examples of how you and AISA have helped galvanize supporters for arsenal’s cause as against your usual lambasting of the AAA. To be fair I don’t see anything wrong with the question. You say you advised gazidis on placement of statues at the Emirates, unfortunately neither Gazidis nor the club have acknowledged your role in coming to that decision. We only have your account of probably a private discussion to work with. Red action is credited with much of the arsenalization effort, AISA nothing. AISA celebrated arsenal 100years in the top division, also hardly to be considered an event which rallied different support groups to a common cause. Lastly, the several untold research/hypothesis on the various topics- I hardly see how these even address the issues fans/supporters have been worrying about.
    So yes, Lima does have a solid point. AISA and yourself can definitely do much more if you want the support rally behind the points you consider important. So far they have rallied behind the AST who seem to represent what fans consider to be the issues worth addressing.
    NB – if your strategy is kick out any dissenting voice, how do you hope to rally different support to one cause?

  • Gerald Udechukwu

    The same sites and blogs that their protests or letters led us to this abysmal situation is being quoted here as showing the way is the worst insult I have received this year. A site of and for disgruntled few arsenal fans can’t stand as an example for us to copy. Tony your work for the history of the club is far more important to us than those perennial and bitter complainants from le grove and others. People who don’t understand football will be spewing rubbish because they were emotionally charged. As far as I am concerned those who got wenger removed unceremoniously got us into this mess. Le grove and AST I am looking at you now. Mtchewww!! Finally they that brought ant infested firewood to their house must expect the visit of the lizards.

  • Yilch that is why I say there is no point in this debate. Ivan Gazidis did acknowledge my role in the statues affair at the opening of the first three, but of course you will now say “we only have your word for that.” There is no point in this discussion. And just to jump to the last point, my strategy is not to kick out dissenting voices. Rather to stop giving space to say “we simply don’t believe you” because there is no point in such a debate.