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September 2020
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“The important thing is not to stop questioning” (Albert Einstein)

By Tony Attwood

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.  That was the phrase that was repeatedly thrown at Untold Arsenal by anti-Wengerians during the latter years of Mr Wenger’s reign – the years from 2007 on, when we were constantly coming 3rd or 4th in the League and latterly picking up the FA Cup a few times too.

“Spend some fucking money” was another shout.   Now the anti-Wengerians have had their way, Mr Wenger is but a distant memory, and Arsenal has indeed changed (spending money as never before, changing managers) and now we can now consider the results.

That “insanity” quote It was regularly attributed to Albert Einstein, although there is not the slightest indication anywhere that Einstein ever said or wrote that sentiment, and nothing in his writings to suggest he even thought it.  The attribution was part of a hoax, just as was the notion that spending far more and changing the manager would lead to success.

What Einstein did say was, “The important thing is not to stop questioning” (that was in May 1955).

I thought of this in seeing the “Back Arteta, Kroenke out” banner that was flown above Villa Park last night, and wondered what questions the people who had paid for that banner had asked.  Questions like, “Is it likely that having just bought up all of Arsenal’s debt, and refinanced that debt through his own organisation, Kroenke would now step aside?”   The answer is no, that’s no very likely.

However a more interesting question would be, has the campaign of getting rid of Mr Wenger and then Mr Emery and of flying planes over stadia worked, and of spending more money than ever before, actually worked?  It surely must be time to ask that question.

When Mr Emery left Arsenal the league table was like this, and to make it more usable in what follows I’ve added a column shown the percentage points per game

Team P W D L F A GD Pts % pts
1 Liverpool 13 12 1 0 30 11 19 37
2 Leicester City 13 9 2 2 31 8 23 29 2.23
3 Manchester City 13 9 1 3 37 14 23 28
4 Chelsea 13 8 2 3 28 19 9 26
5 Wolverhampton Wanderers 13 4 7 2 18 16 2 19 1.46
6 Sheffield United 13 4 6 3 16 12 4 18
7 Burnley 13 5 3 5 20 18 2 18
8 Arsenal 13 4 6 3 18 19 -1 18 1.38
9 Manchester United 13 4 5 4 19 15 4 17 1.31
10 Tottenham Hotspur 13 4 5 4 21 19 2 17 1.31

And now today

Pos Team P W D L F A GD Pts % pts
1 Liverpool 36 30 3 3 77 29 48 93
2 Manchester City 37 25 3 9 97 35 62 78
3 Chelsea 36 19 6 11 64 49 15 63
4 Leicester City 37 18 8 11 67 39 28 62 1.68
5 Manchester United 36 17 11 8 63 35 28 62 1.72
6 Wolverhampton Wanderers 37 15 14 8 51 38 13 59 1.59
7 Tottenham Hotspur 37 16 10 11 60 46 14 58 1.57
8 Sheffield United 37 14 12 11 38 36 2 54
9 Burnley 37 15 9 13 42 48 -6 54
10 Arsenal 37 13 14 10 53 46 7 53 1.43

So yes, we have done better under Mr Arteta because our points per game has gone up – but then lots of clubs have gone up (Leicester is the big collapse, following the revelations about their tactics – I’ll come back to that in another article).  But for Arsenal the percentage points per game has unfortunately not gone up enough to take us into the top four or top six.  (And we should remember that those protesting, did say very clearly  that “fourth is not a trophy”, so it is clear what they were after).

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We might also look at the issue of away games – for it was the collapse in the away games results  between 2016 and 2018 that led to Mr Wenger’s downfall.   In his worse year Mr Wenger got four away wins with four draws.  This season we have again got four away wins, only with eight draws.  It is an improvement but not that great.

The away table at the end of each season recently

Season Manager P W D L F A GD Pts Pos
2019/20 Emery/Arteta 19 4 8 7 20 24 -4 20 10th
2018/19 Emery 19 7 4 8 31 35 -4 25 8th
2017/18 Wenger 19 4 4 11 20 31 -11 16 11th
2016/17 Wenger 19 9 3 7 38 28 10 30 6th
2015/16 Wenger 19 8 7 4 34 25 9 31 3rd
2014/15 Wenger 19 10 4 5 30 22 8 34 3rd

In fact this is our worst season since 1994/5 when we came 12th and were runners’ up in the Cup Winners Cup.  Our worst in a quarter of a century – but the whole decline has happened over four years.  In fact the decline can be easily seen here.

Season P W D L F A Pts Pos FAC LgC Europe Pos
2013–14 38 24 7 7 68 41 79 4th W R4 Champs Lge R16
2014–15 38 22 9 7 71 36 75 3rd W R3 Champs Lge R16
2015–16 38 20 11 7 65 36 71 2nd QF R3 Champs Lge R16
2016–17 38 23 6 9 77 44 75 5th W QF Champs Lge R16
2017–18 38 19 6 13 74 51 63 6th R3 RU Europa League SF
2018–19 38 21 7 10 73 51 70 5th R4 QF Europa League RU
2019-20 37 13 14 10 53 46 53 10th F R4 Europa League R16

So the clear decline can be seen – while fourth and becoming the best FA Cup team in history was not good enough for some fans up to 2017, and they wanted change – we got change and as a result we have sunk lower.  We might well still win the FA Cup, but remember that was decried during the Wenger years too.

Thus the argument is now put that it is Mr Kroenke who needs to go – and as I have said before I am not a fan of his approach in any way, and I was and remain very critical of the board – descendants of the group who ousted Henry Norris in 1927 – selling out in this way.

But Mr Arteta however has gone out of his way to support the directors saying after hearing of the Kroenke out banner, “I have full support from the board, the fans have to believe what I am saying’.  We shall see if they do.

But Mr Arteta has also requested more money for the transfer market, and that request may not be met, given that last summer Arsenal spent an all-time record sum.

The table below shows how much was spent each season and the result of that in terms of League position and any other trophy attained.

Season Spent (£m) League pos / trophy Management
2019/20 144.36 10th Emery/Arteta
2018/19 72.14 5th Emery
2017/18 137.57 6th Wenger
2016/17 101.74 5th (FA Cup) Wenger
2015/16 23.85 2nd Wenger
2014/15 107.08 3rd (FA Cup) Wenger
2013/14 44.33 4th (FA Cup) Wenger
2012/13 50.40 4th Wenger

In short we have adopted a new model for Arsenal transfers – (the record expenditure approach) – and a new model of Arsenal management (three managers in three seasons), and we have sunk to 10th.

I didn’t agree with those who said in days gone by that Mr Wenger was insane, doing the same thing over and over again, because what he did worked.  In an era where clubs owned by countries and multi-billionaires can buy whoever they like, we cannot compete against that by spending, but by clever tactics we did at least stay near the top.

And having adopted two new policies in the last four seasons (spending in the hundreds of millions and changing managers regularly) we can see that thus far at least neither policy has worked.

And we could note that Mr Wenger did change the squad around when he arrived, but he was careful to keep the best players in the team and just add a few each season – not have the sort of wholesale mass expenditure that we see now.

After the defeat to Villa Mr Arteta said, “I have full support from the Kroenkes, the board, the sporting director and we are putting a very strong plan together to try to do as much as we can in the shortest period.”

That’s good, but if it involves yet more of the same approach that has been failing of late, that’s not so good.  Buying one or two players can work, and Mr Wenger did that regularly, but that should not be the key issue.  Stability is important.  Unexpected tactics are important.  Bringing through the youngsters is important.   Mr Arteta is doing some of that, and if there is to be success, it is probably through those tactics that it will come.

As Untold said last season, and the season before, and so on, since our away form collapsed in 2017/18, we need to improve our away form.  And it did improve under Mr Emery’s one full season.  Now it has collapsed again.

Perhaps the best thing is not to believe the slogans flown behind planes.

14 comments to “The important thing is not to stop questioning” (Albert Einstein)

  • Mark

    So true. Well researched, and said.

  • theghostinside

    Your articles become cherrypicking at it’s best. You absolutely leave out important factors and just look at statistics that back your hypothesis. I absolutely agree with you, that Wenger should have stayed. But if Emery damages the players with bad coaching, confusing instructions and questionable tactics, there will be an aftermath. But you leave hos bad influence on the squad completely out of your equation. You are just looking at the effects of this, but not what caused this downfall. And you even go further by postulating that the high amount of spending did not help a bit either. Sorry, but that is just wrong. If wen spend money and have a coach like Emery, nothing will get better. And Arteta is trying to pick up the pieces Emery left mid season. Like in every serious study, just wait with your conclusions until we have a big enough testing period to read something in the data. You always complain about people who jump to conclusions about a player’s performance too quick, but in case of the impact of spending or a managerial change you do exactly the same thing. Arteta will bring Arsenal back to glory, though we had three managers in a short time and though we spent a lot of money.

  • jjgsol

    You have missed put a 3rd new tactic.

    That is replacing a single manager who had control pover everything to a hierarchy of many administrators with many different people each in charge of a separate aspect seemingly working independently and clearly without much coordination.

    Like all good public enterprises we find ourselves with a top heavy bureaucracy, all, no doubt on substantial salaries, all doing their own thing without much by way of achievement.

    One large and competent Wenger has been replaced by a myriad of little incompetent Wengers and we continue to dive down the table serving up complete rubbish for the paying fans.

    That is called progress?

  • The problem is ghost, that you are just taking one article and not looking at the evidence presented in other articles.

  • Menace

    It is not our worst season. It is the worst season given to us by bias and wrong decisions including TV and VAR. It is a probable situation for legal recourse for the very wrong use of guest officiating in Stockley Park.

  • theghostinside

    I read your articles since years, as they once were positive, fresh air amidst all the negative “journalism” and blogposts. But since quite some time you sound like the grinch yourself. You mourn about the same three things over and over and over again and you sound like you absolutely have the high ground with everything you write. Now that is your right, as this is your blog, but it really annoying already. Just because you repeat the same things over and over again does not mean, that they are more true. I agree that Wenger should have stayed, but Emery completely fucked things up. And just comparing our success in a certain season with the amount we spent doesn’t point to anything at all. Because there are tons of factors who make a season successfull, yet you try to find a correlation between the amount Arsenal spent and how it influenced our success. So yes, I read all your articles, and no, it doesn’t make your statement any more true.

  • Absolutely agree with your final sentence. I read the Mail, and hopefully that doesn’t make their stuff true either.

  • Menace

    ha ha ha ha!

  • theghostinside

    Sincere condolences for reading the Mail. 😉

  • Brickfields Gunners

    We too read a lot of stupid comments on this site by people who may lay claim that they are smarter than those who run the club , but they always fail to validate their claim by not telling us which Fortune 500 company they run !

    I’m always looking to learn on how effectively I can run my life and my pactice , but so far have yet got any constructive advice . Why is that ? Am I missing something ? Am I not reading between the lines ?

    Then again I give thanks that these fools will never be able to take over and run our club . I have also before wondered on these pages , the cost of flying silly banners from airplanes . Would not that money be better spent if donated to the club to buy new players ?

  • Brickfields Gunners

    This was sent to me by a regular reader of this blog , so am posting it here.

    ‘ God and the Devil were having an argument and Devil proposed a football game between heaven and hell to resolve the dispute.

    God, in his eternal goodness, pointed out that it would not be a fair match because all the ‘good’ players go to heaven.

    The Devil smiled, replying: “Yes, but we have got all the referees!”.’

    And that my friends , is why the Arsenal wil always have an uphill battle in our tilt in our efforts to win the EPL !

  • Theghost – reading a variety of publications is part of the task of running Untold. I have however asked our accountant if I can claim the subsequent visits to the psychiatrist on expenses.

  • theghostinside

    😂 Of course you need to read all the papers, I was just kidding. 😉 I bet because of the severity of the psychological damage one gets from reading the Mail, it should be no problem to claim these visits on expenses. 😊

  • It’s the anti-rabies jabs that are the most costly

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