The ten routes out of Arsenal’s decline into mid-table obscurity

by Tony Attwood


It was of course only a few years ago that we were in the Champions League every season, and creeping our way up to runners’ up in the league.   But it was never enough for some, despite three FA Cup wins in the space of four years.

But surely no one could have guessed in 2016, that having come runners’ up we would then slip to 5th the following season, nor sixth the season after.   But two years of “Wenger out” banners, after the years of “fourth is not a trophy” meant that he went, and £17m was spent on paying him and his staff off for losing their jobs, all of which had just one year left to run.  Here’s what happened.

Season Pts F A Pos FAC Europe Round Top scorer Goals
2013/14 68 41 79 4 W CL 16 Giroud 22
2014/15 71 36 75 3 W CL 16 Sánchez 25
2015/16 65 36 71 2 QF CL 16 Giroud 24
2016/17 77 44 75 5 W CL 16 Sánchez 30
2017/18 74 51 63 6 3 Eur SF Lacazette 17
2018/19 73 51 70 5 4 Eur RU Aubameyang 31
2019/20 56 48 56 8 W Eur 32 Aubameyang 29

Worse this season we have 38 points with 13 games to go.  Win the lot and we could get 77 points, which gave us fifth spot in 2017 but it seems unlikely.  With us sitting in 10th it means we have some serious players above us who are hopeful of a European place next year.  We might win the Europa League, but I can’t see the rest of the teams allowing us to climb to sixth.

So what should we do?  The approach that the media, from the bloggettas through to the heavyweight newspapers, all choose, is to take the process that has been failing (ie buy players, change manager) and have more of the same.  Take what we have been doing during our decline and do more or it.

Maybe that is right, although it seems rather strange to me.  So here are the alternatives…

1: Find another new manager

We’ve had three of late, and surely if we keep on rotating the boss eventually a good one must turn up in the end, just on the law of averages.  Who knows, maybe Mr Wenger might like to come back – or at least come back and help whoever the manager is next year.

2: Spend more buy better

This approach is the journalist’s favourite because it means they don’t have to do any work.  Transfer rumours are fantasies cooked up by someone else (as almost every story opens with the line “according to a report in the [insert name of newspaper or broadcaster])”.  Mr Wenger could actually help us buy better and spend less, but I doubt that the “fourth is not a trophy” mob would accept him back.

3: Keep going and hope for sixth.

It’s a forlorn hope given that it is utterly dependent on the failure of four clubs that are doing better than Arsenal while at the same time Arsenal starts to do better.  Why would either approach actually happen?

4: Bring back Wenger as a consultant

The trouble is, although Mr Wenger would undoubtedly do better (remembering that he never took us below sixth in 22 years), there’s no guarantee anyone at the club who got us into this mess would actually listen to him.  Besides I doubt that he would take the job.

5: Go with the kids: more for Martinelli, bring in Joe Willock

Saka and Smith Rowe have been two stars of the season, with Willock who turned up in a lot of games before being exiled to the north.  An Arsenal Youngsters team might not win the league but it surely couldn’t do much worse than we are doing now.  Especially with Martinelli.

6: Do a Liverpool

From 1990 to 2020 Liverpool didn’t win the League but were still the pundits’ favourites.  So Arsenal could work on their PR and just accept that a 30 year gap between titles is ok.   Which means we just have 13 years to go.  Accept it and get on with it.  Win the league in 2034.

7: Adjust to the refereeing; play the Leicester game

Arsenal are actually doing this a little by recognising that the club gets penalised for virtually every tackle, and so are reducing the number of tackles.  But there is a second side to an approach based on referee behaviour, and that is to put in tactics that refs will ignore – at least for a while  Leicester have done this twice, once by tackling to an unprescedented degree without being penalised, and then when that was shut down, by claiming a record number of penalties in a small number of games.

The Leicester lesson is that PGMO is slow to recognise this form of manipulation of the game.  It’s not football, but it works.

8: We have a middle east stadium, have a middle east owner

There’s nothing amiss with recognising that given the League and Uefa’s failure to deal with clubs simply spending obscene sums being obscene wins the league.  Uefa failed against Man City so doing what they have done is a way forward.  We just find a middle east potentate who doesn’t have a club yet, and sell Arsenal to it.  Sorry him.

9,  Do a Tottenham, resign ourselves to the inevitability of failure and have another Big Sleep.

The Big Sleep is the title of a brilliant book by John Sowman charting Arsenal’s decline after the 1953 league title.  Nothing else was won until the Fairs Cup in 1970.  It happens, just let it go.  In a sense we become like Tottenham.

Endless promises, endless failures to deliver, just two league titles in the dim and distant past but somehow the club persuade the mass media that actually THFC is a BIG club.  Say it enough and people believe it, despite the singular lack of trophies.  Then we can live in a fantasy land and believe our own propaganda.

10.  Find Wenger II or Chapman II or stay with Arteta. 

Wenger gave us the double in his second season.  Chapman took five years before winning the FA Cup.  Arteta gave us the FA Cup in his first season. 

So maybe we should give Arteta another four seasons (as Chapman had), just to see what he can do.  Or is there another Wenger out there who can turn this club around in a year?  How about Mr Wenger as a club consultant?


Gaslighting: how refereeing in the Premier League is manipulated, and why the media never speak about it.


12 Replies to “The ten routes out of Arsenal’s decline into mid-table obscurity”

  1. “But surely no one could have guessed in 2016, that having come runners’ up we would then slip to 5th the following season”

    @Tony with due respect many people saw it coming, with some writing in to untold to say so while untold was busy celebrating moving from 4th to 3rd to 2nd and anticipating moving up to 1st the next season.
    Why did many of us guess that the next season was going to be tough? Simple. All our competitors considered 2015/16 not just as a successful season for Leicester, but as a failed season for themselves, all except arsenal who seemed to be celebrating coming a distant 2nd to Leicester. A feat we only achieved after Tottenham self destructed after their failure to rein in Leicester. Man city sacked Pellegrini before seasons end and brought in Guardiola. Chelsea did the same bringing in Conte. Liverpool parted ways with Rodgers mid season bringing in Klopp. Man utd replaced Van Gaal with Mourinho. For me that was evidence that all our competitors considered 2015/16 a failed season for them and made changes to rectify that. All while we were celebrating. Of course our decline was predictable and indeed had been coming for a while

  2. Just get rid of negative fans . Encourage them that they should do down the lane or give their support to one of the top 4 teams ,whoever it might on any given week !

    As for me ,who by the way just suppirts this club , I will stick with the present manager till he succedes .

    Up the Gunners !

  3. So because of our current trials and tribulations those fantastic seasons 2013/14 to 2017/18 are simply to be seen as portents to where we are now? Really?

    2013/14 We won the FA Cup and came 4th on 79 points, a points tally greater than the one which took us to the title in season 97/98. Not too shabby.

    2014/15 We won the FA Cup, Community Shield and came 3rd on 75 points, a points tally greater than the one that saw us finish runners up in seasons 99/98 and 01/02. Again, not too shabby.

    2015/16 We won the Community shield and came 2nd in the Premier League. Ok not an enormous points total but I don’t remember anyone getting carried away, just frustration, that’s what I remember. We beat the eventual champions twice that season.

    2016/17 We won the FA Cup and came 5th in the Premier League on 75 points, a tally that saw us finish 3rd in14/15, and that saw us runners up twice at the turn of the century. We missed out on 4th on the last day by 1 point. Yet again, I see nothing here to suggest we were heading where we are now.

    To see all that as a portent to doom and gloom could only happen with Arsenal fans. And to even mention Spurs, a club so bereft of titles as to be irrelevant, is beyond laughable.

    And yes Chelsea, Man City and Man Utd were possibly more upset at there demise behind Leicester City, as they should of been, as all three of those clubs had been spending enormous amounts of money for years, 2 of them Man Utd and Chelsea for over a decade. Yet despite their spending look at those 2’s performances over the same period.


    13/14 3rd on 82 points
    14/15 1st on 87 points

    Then who could see this coming, apart from Arome obviously:

    15/16 10th on 50 points a meagre return worse even than ours last year.

    Then we get this:

    16/17 1st again on an enormous 93 points. That’s a remarkable 43 point increase. Who could of seen that coming, apart from Arome obviously.

    Then we get this:

    17/18 5th on 70 points. That’s a massive drop of 23 points. Who could of predicted that, apart from………

    And this is Man Utd over the same period.

    13/14 7th on 64 points

    14/15 4th on 70 points

    15/16 5th on 66 points FAC

    16/17 6th on 69 points EL LC CS

    17/18 2nd on 81 points

    Were those last 3 seasons, which to my mind were successful in a similar vein to us, an indication of what was to come in the next season. Well I didn’t see this coming but I bet I know who did !!

    18/19 6th on 66 points.
    And look at Liverpool this season. Who could of predicted that? Well except for you know who except of course.

    Look, a bit of ribbing aside my point is, this idea that you could predict this dip in our fortunes on the back of those 4 seasons is ridiculous. Apart from Man City, who have maintained their consistency on the back of a BILLION pound Nett expenditure over ten years, every team experiences ups and downs, and as I think I have shown above, they are often as not incredibly unpredictable. Chelsea have had enormous swings. Man Utd have arguably dipped to a level in the PL slightly lower than ours, and similar to us have supplemented that fall with success in cup competitions.

    Liverpool, this very season are a perfect example of just how unpredictable these things are. Who could of foreseen their dramatic fall from grace, a fall which is arguably on the back of the loss of 1 key player to injury, VVD, and perhaps aligned to a dramatic loss of form for 2 others, Alisson and Salha. That to me shows just how, in a competitive league such as the PL, these things can make such enormous differences.

    Also I might add here that a lot has been made of how little, in Nett terms anyway, Liverpool have spent in the transfer market. Well now maybe’s the time they are regretting that frugality as unlike Man City, they just haven’t got the squad to compensate for those events.

    Anyway, the bottom line is, I believe not giving those seasons, 13/14 to 17/18 the credit they deserve is shameful, and actually using them as a portent for our current situation is plain daft. We, like Man Utd, have gone through enormous changes. 2 Clubs that lost managers that were the bedrock on which the clubs recent history was built. We’ve both struggled to replace them. Replacing managers inevitably brings changes in playing personnel and philosophies. Add to that, in our case at least, an endlessly negative media and I might add fan base, then you have a recipe for a very rocky road, and we are currently bumping along it.

    What we need is less whinging and whining and to give the manager, the players and the club as much support as we can. Or is that just old fashioned?

  4. As expected it was a one sided affair.Though we showed resliance in defense but our attack was tootless with just 1 shot om target. We can argue we lost by only 1 goal as we let them score 3 in previous 2/3 years.
    Is it an improvement? It has to be seen.But for me sitting 10thor 11th whatever we are destined to finish at 50 points +_ .An all time low in Arsenal history.
    Will the Wenger out fans accept they are the chief culprits along with Pigmob and agenda driven media for this sorry state of affairs at the club.

  5. I myself was a great Wenger fan. But it cant be denied that Mr Wenger in later years became a devided factor ( not by his own doing) among Arsenal fans instigated with all might by the anti press. To mention him all the time just open old wounds. Leave Mr Wenger now to rest and lets consentrated on the future .

  6. @Nitram, it seems you’re so upset with Arome you forgot to argue your point. The point Arome made is clear as daylight, all the other big teams were disappointed at their performances in 2015/16 as evidenced by managerial changes across board. Arsenal on the other hand seemed satisfied, as such it’s no surprise those clubs have surged ahead of us eventually. That was quite clear to me, but your point is???

  7. @Nitram, why my post seems to tick you off so much is strange. I might be wrong in my assessment but it seems to me you’re saying there’s no point making predictions, clubs rise and fall and we don’t know shit. Well myself and I’m sure a lot of football fans look at how teams prepare and based on that make predictions for coming seasons, if we get it wrong, there’s no shame in that, we’re humans. But if we do get it right we can say we predicted that. For example Liverpool got VVD and Alisson and a lot of us predicted they would do well with such shrewd purchases that plugged holes in their team that many of us saw. They did even better than many of us imagined. They’re not doing as well this season, yes we didn’t see that coming, but here’s another prediction, they will make 4th place. It’s not a crime to say I predicted a team will do well, based on x,y,z, everybody should do it, clubs should do it, make SWOT analysis of both themselves and their opponents at the beginning of a season and based on that set targets. I predicted after coming 2nd to Leicester that we would drop down simply because I saw a reaction from our competition, while we looked satisfied/complacent. Many had predicted Barca would not have a good season this year based on the fact that they had a bad season last year and showed little or no reaction wether purposely or not. If Barca went on to win la Liga & CL we would be shocked and there would be no shame saying “we didn’t see it coming”. But if Barca ended the season 3rd or 4th (something that hasn’t happened in maybe 2decades), then someone says “nobody saw it coming”, it would be unfair to attack me for saying “we saw it coming”.
    Nb: to put a few things straight, Chelsea finished 10th in 2016 and 5th in 2018, Indeed I never saw those coming. At the beginning of this season I never saw Liverpool finishing below 3rd. It’s looking likely to happen now.

  8. Lakh: more to the point – what is your point?
    “Arsenal on the other hand seemed satisfied”. Seemed satisfied to you? On what basis do you draw that conclusion? By refraining from telling us, you have no argument, no point, no justification.

  9. @Tony of course neither you nor I can know for sure the intent of the club or any other person for that matter, but we judge based on actions, just like you judge pgmol based on their actions. Now with that out of the way, what were the actions or inactions of arsenal that could lead to someone coming to a conclusion that arsenal was satisfied or at least less dissatisfied than the competition?
    1. The fact that we were the only one among the big teams (I’m not sure I can count Tottenham among the big guys) that didn’t think a managerial change was necessary. Surely the other teams changing managers showed they were pissed off enough about the way their seasons went.
    2. Our transfer dealing – Xhaka, Mustafi, Perez, Asano, Holding, Nwakali in. Out Wilshere, Sczesny, chambers, Gnabry. Not bad but I doubt many people will say our transfer activity was more impressive than the competition -just a few man utd brought in Zlatan, Pogba, Mkhitaryan, Bailly. City brought in Stones, Sane, Gundogan, Jesus, Bravo and more. Liverpool had Mane, Wijnaldum, matip and more. Chelsea had -Kante, Batshuayi, luiz, Alonso, Remy, Salah.
    Now we’re not even saying the other clubs did better or worse, but I doubt even you can argue that they had a bigger reaction to Leicester’s title win than arsenal. And since we cannot judge intentions only actions, I’d say their actions spoke louder than arsenal’s

  10. Lakh

    @Nitram, it seems you’re so upset with Arome you forgot to argue your point. The point Arome made is clear as daylight, all the other big teams were disappointed at their performances in 2015/16 as evidenced by managerial changes across board.

    Maybe they were, and perhaps this had something to do with why they were. Over the previous 5 years these are the Nett spends of the BIG clubs:

    Arsenal £100 MILLION Nett to finish 2nd

    Man City £315 MILLION Nett to finish 4th

    And lets not for get that’s on top of mega spending in the previous few years as well.

    Man Utd £288 MILLION Nett to finish 5th

    Liverpool £194 MILLION Nett to finish 8th

    Chelsea £197 Million Nett to finish 10th

    And again that’s on top of years of high spending.

    So maybe that’s why their respective clubs were a bit underwhelmed by their respective managers performances?

    Arsenal on the other hand had spent just over half of what 2 of those had spent and just under a 3rd of what the other 2 had spent.

    Also in our case all that spending was over the last 3 years and more importantly was on the back of 10 years with a NEGATIVE Nett spend, so we had a lot of catching up to do. So given in the previous 2 years we had gone from 4th to 3rd and won 2 FA Cups and had now, for what ever reason, finished runners up, to deny things looked on the up is ridiculous.

    But even so nobody it seemed, including Arsenal, were suggesting we looked potential European champions, or were the finished article, as in the close season we went on to spend another £86 MILLION Nett. Obviously they wasn’t as satisfied as you suggest.

    Taking all that in to account and all things being equal, overall we seemed to be in a decent position, and to suggest that at this stage it could of been predicted we were heading for were we are now is hindsight evaluation at it’s extreme, and frankly devoid of any credibility what so ever.


    Obviously honourable mentions have to go to Leicester and Spurs, but I defy anyone to classify either of them as BIG clubs.

    Just for the record.

    Leicester’s 5 year Nett spend was actually £56 Million, which was a lot closer to our Nett spend than our Nett spend was to the big 4’s Nett spends.

    Spurs in actual fact did best as their 5 year Nett spend was close to zero and they finished 3rd, but hey, as we all know, as we did that many times on a zero Nett spend, that’s rubbish and worthy only of endless derision. But still, I’m more generous than that. Well done Spurs.

    But wait, who could of guessed where they’d be 5 years later. Just 1 place and 2 points above us ! Who’d of guessed, Well apart from Arome of course.

Comments are closed.