Premier league hope and misleading expectations: the fans’ view

by Tony Attwood

We have been highlighting the negativity of the media against Arsenal which prior to the opening game was bubbling over at near 100% agreement that without some more serious work on transfers we had not got much hope of even staying in the top 10.

So it was interesting because of this to see a survey in The Athletic on how fans of other clubs feel in terms

But how do the fans feel?

The Athletic magazine has done (or at least is reporting) a survey of Premier League clubs showing the percentage of supporters who say they are feeling optimistic.  I’ve selected a few of the highlights…

  • 1: Southampton 98.9%
  • 2: Chelsea 97.8%
  • 3: Arsenal 97%
  • 4: Everton 91.5%
  • 8 Liverpool 84.1%
  • 9 Tottenham Hots 83.2%
  • 10 Manchester City 79.5%
  • 11 Sheffield United 74.9%
  • 12 Manchester United 71.5%
  • 18 Leicester City 39.1%
  • 20 West Ham United 8.8%

Southampton is interesting for there was a time when it looked anything but good.  Ralph Hasenhuttl joined in December 2018 and in September to November 2019 they had a classic bad run of eight defeats and a draw, in nine games.  OK two of those were in the FL Trophy and one was a league cup defeat but one was a 0-9 home defeat to Leicester which is normally enough to earn the sack.

But the man kept his job and they ended last season on 11th, four points behind us.  So what makes them feel so good?  They won four and drew three of their last seven at the end of last season.

Interestingly down at the other end, Leicester City, whom the pundits talk up all the time, are also way, way down. in the excitement about the future stakes.  That came after their collapse in the second half of the season, when their unique approach to tackling and getting away with it was publicised for the first time.  No one quite knows how they will be treated by the referees this season.  Their fans are obviously fearful.

Back at the top Chelsea’s optimism is surely based on the free-flow of the owner’s money being resumed.  They have bought…

  • Hakim Ziyech: Winger — from Ajax: £33.6m
  • Timo Werner: Forward — from RB Leipzig: £47.5m
  • Xavier Mbuyamba: Defender — from Barcelona: £???
  • Ben Chilwell: Defender — from Leicester City: £50m
  • Malang Sarr: Defender — from Nice: free
  • Thiago Silva: Defender — from Paris Saint-Germain: free
  • Kai Havertz: Winger — from Bayer Leverkusen: £72m

This persistent belief among fans that transfers bring immediate success is of course endlessly fed by journalists for whom transfers are the easiest stories to make up.   But as we showed last season, the clubs that spent the most money in the previous summer were not the ones who made the most progress.

Buying players is fraught with problems; the bigger the sum of money the greater the expectation, and having played the game of making up lots of transfers for each clubs, the media can then blame the managers for buying the wrong men, and for playing them in the wrong format.

Indeed the fact that the journalists know nothing about team structures is shown in Arsenal’s end of season games and the start of this season’s match with the one player we’ve highlighted throughout: Mo Elneny.  A man who might as well not have been playing according to the media and who should have been shipped out ages ago, according to many Arsenal “fans”.  Now they start to catch up.

Arsenal’s optimism among fans is however more firmly based in my opinion, because its foundations come from the transformation in the second half of last season after Arteta arrived.   Just as we’ve always argued that changing players isn’t a guarantee of success, so we have argued with changing managers – it doesn’t always work, but it can.

All those people who held up their little placards saying “Wenger Out”, so ably supported by the media, got their way in the end, only to find it didn’t help at all.   In the end we did get it right, but only after wasting vast sums of money on paying out redundancies, when waiting one year could have saved all that – and if need be it could have been spent on players.

The fourth club in the list – Everton – also have excitement based on managerial change, theirs at the same time as Arsenal.  But they had no uplift at the end of the season as we had, their run in the last ten ending with just three wins, all against teams that had either fading or were fading fast (Norwich, Leicester and Sheffield Utd) and draws with Southampton, Liverpool and Villa.   There were of course no trophies and the season ended with a home defeat to Bournemouth.

The optimism there is presumably based on the fact that the new manager will finally show why Carlo Ancelloti is a good guy and not why Napoli sacked him, despite his team just winning 4-0 in a Champions League game against Genk.

Also the fact that they have bought Niels Nkounkou, Allan, James Rodríguez and Abdoulaye Doucouré.   So new manager, new players.  Yes it can work.  But often it doesn’t.

4 Replies to “Premier league hope and misleading expectations: the fans’ view”

  1. Interestingly, when talking about Chelsea, the Guardian do say it will take time fot the team to gel, arter their game this week-end
    And they even qot Lampard saying such.

    Whereas you can be sure they’d have screaming headlines about Arsenal in such a case, highlighting their incompetence as a team or organisation…

    But no, there they explain to all and sundry : wait and give them time, Lampard deserves it, etc etc.

  2. Chris
    Barry Glendenning on the Guardian’s weekly football podcast says he ‘hates’ Chelsea and thinks Lampard will be ‘found out’ & ‘sacked’ when they finish outside the top four which will be Liverpool, City, Arsenal & Wolves and as you probably know The Athletic are very pro Arsenal.

  3. Also Everton just knocked off Sp*rs and their special manager…There’s got to be a feel good factor in that.

  4. The Emi Martinez story is quite an all-round win. Many of our fans probably didn’t know his story, just remember him for that goal against Reading. I hope Villa gave him a pay rise just for his smile. And, given that we can’t keep two top keepers, we did well with what we got for him.

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