By Tony Attwood
A few days ago I spotted a comment from “Sammy the snake” (who was, some years back a much valued writer for Untold) noting with sadness that while Untold used to be utterly supportive of the club and the team, this was no longer the case.
Which is true from one perspective, although not from another. We still don’t criticise the players, or the manager. But we are critical of the fact that the club gave into the demands of the fans to push managers out, and buy in ever more expensive players. The old way gave us the longest-serving manager in the Premier League’s history, and the second longest run of any club in Europe ever in the Champions League (only Real Madrid exceeded our achievement), not to mention a record number of FA Cup wins (both for the club and the manager) and an equal record number of doubles.
Arsenal self-evidently does not have a set of supporters who cheer on command, nor fans who will cheer the players no matter what. Xhaka, Ozil, Mustafi, Lacazette – these are players who in recent times have all been heavily criticised either in the media or by fans, or both. Every day the news accumulator sites are full of “Utterly useless” “Get him out of my club” type headlines. It’s now the norm.
Turning on your own players is not something that happens at every club, but it certainly happens at Arsenal, and has happened over a long period of time.
Anyway, we are now in a period where the club is running things as some fans and their media allies wanted: sacking managers, rather than letting the manager solve the problems, buying, buying and buying as the media demands. It is all a long way from Mr Wenger’s response to the question of what he would do if given a load of money to spend on transfers: “I’d give it back”.
His argument that he would not spend it because constantly bringing in new players from elsewhere both inhibits the development of younger players and sends out a message to the juniors that they will never get a chance. It might seem irrelevant at a moment when we have a particularly fine array of players who have come through from the under 23s, but such things can change in a moment. And as we have noted, the top spending clubs of last summer (including Arsenal) are by and large doing worse than they were last year.
Mr Wenger was of course derided both for his development of the youth system, and his ability to keep us in the top four, year after year. “Fourth is not a trophy” was shouted at him, along with “Spend some fucking money”. But I suspect many who held up the placards and helped force Mr Wenger out, would welcome the regularity of top four finishes now.
Now we know that fourth indeed is not a trophy, it is just a distant dream, and yes we have seen the expenditure of vast sums of money, only to laud Martinelli who cost £6m – peanuts in today’s market.
Indeed even at that price Martinelli is only the fifth most expensive Under 19 signing in club history, with Martinelli leapfrogging Aaron Ramsey in this list.
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So Arsenal have adopted everyone else’s model – spending the money and sacking (or at least pushing out) the manager while presumably the “Wenger out” mob with their placards and their mates on AFTV are glorying still in their wonderful victory. Manager gone, loads of money spent – it is everything they wanted, and who cares that we are 10th in the league?
Now the only question being asked in the year that celebrates 100 years in the top division, something no other club can even imagine, is when has it ever been worse?
After 25 games we are 10th with 31 points. Under the old points system of two for a win that would have been 25 points.
Well, it was worse than that in 1922 as this table from the bottom of the league shows. G.Av is goal average – with goals scored divided by goals against, the way clubs on the same points were separated in ancient times. Goal Difference (although not used) is included just for the sake of comparison with today.
These first two tables come from the post-first world war era under manager and arch fantasist Leslie Knighton – the man who destroyed Henry Norris in his fanciful and untruthful autobiography in 1946, was a catastrophe…
|22||Preston North End||25||5||6||14||30||45||0.667||-15||16|
But it wasn’t just Knighton who took us near the edge, for in January 1930 under Herbert Chapman Arsenal were again struggling.
But that is where we find an interesting point. With 22 points under the old system that was worse than Arsenal now with a similar goal difference. And yet the following year we won the league. League title next season anyone?
And the bad days were not just in the dim and distant. Bertie Mee, having won the double in 1971 single-handedly destroyed the club and its players, and just four years on in 1975 the table looked like this…
And then just to prove it was no fluke, and with the directors still being guided by the Hill-Woods, descendants of the man who masterminded the removal of Sir Henry Norris, we had…
The key point of course is that Arsenal survived each of these disaster seasons, so there must be hope.
For me, the main question is, have the board now stopped following the whim of the fans in terms of manager sacking and buying in loads of expensive players? If so, maybe we can start growing as a team again.