by Bulldog Drummond
It’s not an Untold original, but “Doldrum Derby” did strike us as rather a funny way of announce the weekend’s Tottenham v Arsenal game.
But it raised the more serious question, “Are Arsenal really in the doldrums?” We’d argue not, given that a season out of Europe all together could work wonders for a team being re-shaped, just as it did for Liverpool after 2015/16 when they came eighth in the league to make it a decade without winning either the League or the FA Cup.
For instead of that being the start of a decline into mid-table mediocrity they used it as a rebuilding moment, came in with a couple of 4th places in the next two seasons, a couple of Champions League finals and then the League title. That is the sort of rebuilding that works, and that season out of Europe (meaning no thursday trips to Outer Turkenistolia and back) clearly was put to good use.
And it is not just Liverpool who have taken a year out to great effect. In 2015/16 Chelsea came tenth in the league, and so obviously did not qualify for Europe. The following season, without all those trips to foreign parts, they won the league.
No guarantee of course that it would work for us, and just two examples don’t make an absolute rule but it could help. I’m really at the point of thinking that we should use the rest of the season to experiment with the squad, let other clubs battle it out for a Europa place, and then just get on with winning either the League or the FA Cup or preferably have a fourth double.
The fact is the media brainwash us with stories about how vital it is to get into the Europa and how a season outside Europe would be a disaster for us, but in reality that is because football journalists always write again what other football journalists have just written. (If there was an award for the best original football journalism each year, nine years out of ten it would not be awarded).
You know how it goes. Arsenal get more injuries than everyone else, Arsenal commit more fouls than everyone else, Arsenal must get back into Europe, Arsenal’s recruitment of players is a mess – there is no thinking behind all this stuff. It is just what is said over and over and over again.
Tottenham on the other hand have now had ten seasons in Europe ending up with losing to Liverpool in the final. That was an achievement, true, but still no a trophy in sight. Yes they have won the League Cup twice in the last 21 years, but other than that we have to go back to the FA Cup win in 1991 to spot the silver.
Arsenal have won three trophies in the last six seasons, to retain the position of the club with the most FA Cup wins to their name, and those extra cup games don’t really put too much extra pressure on a club. No, it is those long treks across Europe and all the extra thursday games that spoil things when it comes to a league challenge.
And what if Arsenal do get into Europe by grabbing the bottom qualifying place (whatever that is depending on what CAS do about Manchester City).
Last season Wolverhampton Wanderers qualified for the Europa by coming seventh and entering into the second qualifying round. The first leg matches were started on 23 July – two weeks before the first of our first team squad played their first friendly. With this season ending late and probably crashing into the start of the next season, our players are just going to keep going all the time filling in match after match playing the likes of Linfield, and Ludogorets Razgrad. And I mean no disrespect to such clubs that make it to the early stages of the Europa – they need the money and the extra matches. But Arsenal don’t at this time.
Arsenal are not that far away from having an excellent team. Indeed as we saw the other day Arsenal are just five goals from being top four. That’s not too bad a position – but it could all be knocked about by starting next season with Europa games virtually before the this season has ended.
Although Untold has been really critical of a plane-flying card carrying anti-Arsenal campaign to remove two managers in the last two years, we do now seem to have a certain unity among some of the fans, plus we can be grateful that we did not hire Mourinho because (according to the Metro) Arsenal did not appeal to him,” even though he was spotted in the directors box to watch our win over Vitoria Guimaraes.
Tottenham are perhaps now contemplating the wisdom of their appointment given that his win percentage with the “Tiny Totts” is 41.94% – quite a decline from 58.33% he knocked up with Manchester United and the 58.82% he achieved with Chelsea. That even puts the 54.55% that Arteta has with Arsenal in the shade and beats the 57.25% that Mr Wenger got (although of course over a much longer period that Mourinho could contemplate even if he added his last four tenures together).
Maybe Mourinho has lost his touch. But also maybe there is something about Tottenham, that just makes winning things in the 21st century (apart from the league cup, 2008) such a trial. Mind you, come to think of it, in their case the 20th century wasn’t much better.
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