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June 2021
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Arsenal face four huge dangers as they stand again on the edge of greatness

By Tony Attwood

Arsenal have had an utterly brilliant last two-thirds of this season.  Put another way, since Christmas Day the club has created a superb, and for many unexpected, return to the form that Arsene Wenger regularly created until 2015/6, when we came second.  (It’s not exactly two-thirds, I know it is 61%, but 61% has less of a punch as a headline).

This revival took in the last 23 games of the season.   Carry on this form into next season and we are going to come second or third.  Not top, not in one push, but not far off.  While quite possibly taking another good shot at the FA Cup.

Here’s the league table for matches since Christmas Day…..

Pos Club / era P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Man C post Xmas 24 20 0 4 59 20 39 60
2 Man U post Xmas 24 12 9 3 43 22 21 45
3 Arsenal post Xmas 23 13 5 5 41 21 20 44
4 Chelsea post Xmas 23 12 6 5 28 20 8 42
5 Leicester post Xmas 23 11 6 6 40 29 11 39
6 Liverpool post Xmas 23 10 5 8 30 23 7 35
7 Tottenham post Xmas 23 10 4 3 39 29 10 34

But further progress is not guaranteed next season for there are people who want to stop Arsenal carrying on this improvement; people who deny reality claiming there has been no major leap forwards.

We need to find ways to stop these nay-sayers and in this article I’m going to start looking at the people who are already trying to disrupt the progress Mr Arteta is making.

The first and obvious place to start is with the two organisations who each claim to be Arsenal’s largest supporters’ group: Black Scarf Movement and Arsenal Supporters Trust.

Of BSM there is little to say since they are saying little, with no updates on their website since their posting an article claiming that Arsenal fans realise that the owners are  bad news for Arsenal, a month ago.

The Trust however has been ceaselessly making statements, denouncing the owners of Arsenal while at the same time demanding that AST should be taken seriously, have a seat on the board and have direct involvement in the Arsenal decision making processes having initially called the purchase of Arsenal “legalised theft”

In short their approach to the board gives out the message that, “We think you are both a bunch of crooks, and people who incapable of running the Arsenal, so please allow us to take part.”   It is ludicrous – asking for a favour which the owners don’t have to give while calling the people who you want to give you a favour, a set of idiots. 

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That is ludicrous twice over.  First if you want to negotiate from a point of weakness (and as none of us fans have any shares in the club, that is a point of weakness) calling the people you want to work with “disgraceful betrayers” is not a clever start.

Yet it is the AST’s repeated approach, having also suggested that the directors were taking money from the club’s transfer fund and putting it in their own pockets while in fact spent a record £561m over four years (a figure provided by Swiss Ramble and which suggests this is far from the truth).

It is true that historically the club stood for the opportunity for fans to own part of the club.  But that principle was abandoned in 1927 when Sir Henry Norris was outsted in a coup and the Hill Wood family (who had seen their previous football club collapse under its debts) took over.  From that point on the club was owned by an ever smaller group people, as the Norris vision of a club owned by its fans was set aside once and for all.

Thus AST now ignores the huge success that Arsenal has had in recovering since Christmas Day and has a policy of attempting to get the board to give AST some control over the club by ceaselessly and often ludicrously attacking the board!

In short they are asking for a direct line to the senior levels of the club by saying that the people in charge “do not understand football”.  And what are they expecting in return?  A statement such as, “Yes you are right, we don’t understand football, and this rise up the league since Christmas Day is a pure fluke, so please please AST come in and tell us what football is all about.”

Personally, I don’t think AST understands what running a club is about.  Certainly, their references a while back to having “their accountant” looking at the figures and then coming up with ludicrous claims about the club’s accountants suggests it is they who don’t have a clue.

In fact their suggestions about money being stolen by the club’s directors looks all the more crazy when we see how much money Arsenal have spent on players in recent years.

  • 2016/17: £101.74m
  • 2017/18: £137.57m
  • 2018/19: £72.14m
  • 2019/20: £144.36m
  • 2020/21: £76.50m

Arsenal have been experimenting for several years with taking note of what AST says, removing Arsene Wenger a year early, then sacking Mr Emery with only a few months left to go on this contract, etc, and it has not gone well.  Now that Arsenal has recovered with this great post-Xmas performance on the pitch Arsenal owners must not put everything at risk by allowing AST to have any involvement in the club.

The series will continue with the second, third and fourth great dangers…

Arsenal’s history

14 comments to Arsenal face four huge dangers as they stand again on the edge of greatness

  • Diction Hagoi

    All said,Arsenal has been on a downward trajectory for a decade and it has been under this ownership.It is true money has been spent but the results have not improved much.If the owners feel Arteta is the one to eventually bring back the glory days to Arsenal then they should back him accordingly.If by Christmas the results will not have improved then it will be naive of anybody to think Arteta is upto the task, Arsenal is a legendary club and the fans deserve better than the
    mediocrity which has been the hallmark of Arsenal under the cuŕrent ownership.

  • Roger That

    Extremely interesting read.

    I am not involved with the AST but I am not surprised by their comments, as you allege, but having followed a blog route as regards Arsenal, it is clear that many bloggers that I have come to know, but not all of them fortunately, have their own disparate opinions and nuances as to what has gone wrong with the club (not too many comments with what is going right, of course) mostly expressed as a know it all “I told you so” mien.

    Rather a disappointing state of affairs.

  • Diction, it seems awfully harsh to blame Arteta for not being able to repair what you suggest is a decade of decline in just one full season, especially as it is his first job, and particularly given the huge upturn in results he has delivered. Surely the blame must in part if not in full go to the constant upheaval of the Wenger out movement, then the quick push of Emery through the door, the disruption of Freddie as a temporary manager (which sadly means we no longer have him at the club either)…. There’s a lot of mess to be repaired, and Arteta is showing he is going the right way. Yet another managerial change will cost the club £m more, and with no more guarantee of success.

  • Jack

    @ Tony

    You are drawing big conclusion (huge upturn in results) from such a short duration (Christmas up to now).

    Emery went so many unbeaten games and finally he wasn’t up to task.

    And an upturn in results when it’s no longer relevant. Let him deliver results when it matters.

    No one is saying he should be gone over summer, just that if the results that have led to Arsenal being 9th continue then He should be gone. Don’t forget there is a huge cloud of “inexperience” hanging over his appointment.

    And on Wenger, let’s move forward. There seems to be bitterness among “In Arsene we Trust” brigade on how the issues was handled. I doubt “Wenger Out” and “In Arsene we Trust” proponents can come to a common front, but it’s a matter that has been concluded. Let it rest.

    Judge Emery on his merits, or Arteta on his merits but not on Wenger’s terms. There is no guarantee that if Arteta is given 5yrs he’ll turn things around. And if he’s to convince people he needs 5yrs, he has to show it.

    Certainly he didn’t show it this season but he still has time. He has to show it next season, if not then no need for wasting time.

  • Dublin Gooner

    The results over the last 20 or so games give cause for optimism. Particularly if the points lost to incomprehensible Var decisions is factored in.
    So reasons to be cheerful.
    But as every charlatan selling financial services products knows, picking start and end dates that suit ones argument is also misleading. It’s been a disappointing season, hopefully lessons have been learnt, and next season we’re back in the top four. From where we are now, and from when Atrtets took over, that would be progress.

  • Menace

    Fans making decisions for the owners is a laugh. If the fans owned the club then it would be reasonable for them to make decisions. I am quite satisfied with things as they are including the owners taking a dividend as is their right.

    Results are not the best but when balanced with the slope we play on, they are wonderful. Wenger was such a magnificent human being to cope with all the racism from the media. He was regularly referred to as the Frenchman. Imagine the turmoil if Abramovic was referred to as the J**! It is so scary that I am afraid to even pray with Nationality references.

    There is one thing it hasn’t stopped me doing though is cursing the Pigmob and their VAR crutch that can’t see a foul from a chicken (Rudi baby it is a Spud foul or fowl foul !!).

    ps Rudolf =Rudi Baby.

  • ANAND VENKATCHALAM

    If I had been the owners, I would have asked the AST to take hike. How do they claim that they represent the supporters when they are nothing but a bunch of self serving egositic group of people trying to impose their view. Yes the club is not doing well. But please do not forget the person who owns the club runs it’s & pay for its consequences. As long as AST has a minimum holding of 10% in the club they would have no voice. They may represent fans in UK. But today Arsenal is a global club with fans all over the world.

  • Nitram

    ANAND VENKATCHALAM

    “As long as AST has a minimum holding of 10% in the club they would have no voice. They may represent fans in UK. But today Arsenal is a global club with fans all over the world”.

    I tend to agree. The key is ‘representation’.

    AST certainly don’t represent me.

    AISA. Do they represent me? I don’t know.

    How about the Black scarf organisation? Certainly not.

    What about bloggs such as La Grove or Untold who hold polar opposite views?

    As you say, what about foreign territories?

    The list goes on.

    Yes we all want the same thing for our team, and that’s to win things. But as I wrote that, even then I thought, is that actually true?

    To some survival is victory. To some just doing the best you can is enough. To some playing attractive football is enough.

    But then some will accept nothing less than ‘winning’.

    Some think achieving whatever they want at any cost is okay.

    Some think a clubs principals are paramount.

    I’ve just reeled those off in 2 minutes, but you can be certain, given the Millions of Arsenal and football fans in general, that you could fill pages with peoples different wants and don’t wants, ways and no ways.

    It’s a minefield.

    Getting fans involved in running the club? Sorry. Nightmare !!

  • @W1968steve

    I asked the question to the AST after reading their demands of “who would buy Arsenal?” their reply was about custodianship which to me and friends was baffling, it’s almost like they are just saying things to sound good. Another post on twitter talked about how we shouldn’t buy merchandise until Stan puts his hand in his own pocket to strengthen the team.

    My view is who would buy Arsenal for £2bn and then agree to all the demands that the AST have put out in their statement. Would you allow your voting rights to be diminished, would you allow people on the board to not allow you to run the club as you see fit. Also in the grand scheme of things what has Stan Kroneke actually done wrong?

    1 Doesn’t talk to the likes of AST
    2 Doesn’t come to games
    3 Hasn’t put his hand in his own pocket to find the team
    4 Wanted to join the super league

    1 Why should SK talk to fans who constantly abuse him?
    2 Who really cares that he doesn’t come to games, does that affect anything?
    3 When did our attitude change, I thought owners like Abramovich were just using Chelsea etc as play things, using it to launder money (allegedly) and didn’t care about the game. But all of a sudden that is what we want our club to be. I do not understand why Arsenal are criticised for being a self sufficient club, surely we are being run properly and these other clubs that are being handed cash hand over fist by their owners are the ones running badly and should be criticised?
    4 If the super league had gone ahead and Arsenal were not in the 6 from the PL can you imagine to outcry from the media and fans. Typical Stan not wanting to invest in the club, he’s showing no ambition, he’s taken the east route as he know they will never win the SL etc. Also when the SL was announced we heard from other chairman saying it was disgusting that these clubs wanted to set this up, but can you imagine Sullivan & Gold or Usmaniov turning the chance down of earning shed loads of cash for little expenditure. The hypocrisy is amazing from them,

    Arsenal it seems are damned if they do and damed if they don’t at the moment. Join the super league is bad but not joining would of been bad. Owners who run the club as a self sustaining model is bad but spending their own money on players is bad. Arteta changing things at Christmas was to late, but if he hadn’t that would of been bad.

    We can’t win as the big names in the blogging, vlogging and supporters club world want their two pennies worth of blood because that sells & gains subscribers to their groups and you tube channels.

  • Don henry

    The most important game since Christmas was the home game v Villarreal.And we blew it

  • Don Henry, I am not quite sure what the significance of that opinion is.

  • W1968steve
    You sum the whole problem with so Many arsenal fans i have Many arguments along the same lines as you have put in your post so well
    One minute get the manager out next give him a years to get it right if a couple of good results go our way
    Got to buy players to strengthen team they don’t kick in straight away
    Why is he not playing the kids give them a go
    I give in

  • paul35mm

    The narrative that Arsenal have been on a downward trajectory is so ingrained in people’s heads that no one will accept any other narrative.

    The truth is that beginning with Chelsea’s sale to Abramovic the Premier League has become increasingly competitive with massive investment from both inside and (mostly) outside the UK. Three of the biggest clubs, (Manchester United, Liverpool, and Arsenal) are owned by American sports conglomerates. It might look like Arsenal belong to the Kroenkes and United belongs to the Glazers and Liverpool belong to the Henrys, but in reality the clubs belong to global sports businesses. Other clubs have other non-UK owners like Leicester, Wolves, Fulham, etc.

    Money has always been a part of who succeeds and how consistently they do it, but with football now a truly global sport and competition as well as investment coming from all over, the days of one or two clubs dominating the Premier League are over. At the moment, Manchester city are willing to outspend everyone to win and they have. But Leicester have won a title after massive investment from Thailand, Liverpool reinvested their windfalls from Suarez and Coutinho and won a title. Chelsea spent 200 million in one summer and now look poised to compete under Thomas Tuchel.

    Arsenal finished 8th, which is not good, but they were one point behind Tottenham in 7th and within two wins of West Ham in 6th (after the team’s best-ever point total), Leicester, and Chelsea in 4th place. The gunners were within three wins of third place.

    Three wins is not some kind of unbridgeable gap that requires massive retooling, it is a lucky bounce of the ball or two, an unlucky injury, or a poor refereeing decision or two. Are Arsenal on par with Manchester city in terms of investment and player-for-player value? No. And they won’t be. no one else besides Manchester United and Chelsea will be either. The Gunners, however, as the author showed clearly, compete with the best in the league when they get things right.

    Once the manager dumped his Willian experiment, brought Nicholas Pepe back into the team, and settled on a midfield that played consistently, the team played well. Arsenal do have weaknesses as a team, but they are not the ones widely touted as “problem areas” nor do they require massive investment.

    A few myths busted –

    Arsenal defense is poor. It’s not. Arsenal conceded the third fewest goals in the top half of the table; behind Chelsea and Manchester United.

    Arsenal forwards were poor. They weren’t. forwards cannot score without assists and Arsenal’s midfield was woeful in this department. Odegaard and Smith Rowe just did not get it done, with just two and four assists each. Harry Kane had more by himself. Without assists forward will not score and not shockingly, Lacazette and Aubameyang did not score because they had no ball to shoot with. Lacazette was one of the most efficient scorers in the league; he just did not take many shots because he was not playing full-time and he did not take many shots.

    Odegaard is a “must-sign” player. He is most certainly not. At 20-25 million he might be worth the risk. At more, considering his wages, he is a massive risk. If he develops, he could be half as good as the player Arsenal chased out of the team to bring him in. He is already not as good as Smith-Rowe, who will cost nothing. There are a handful of players who will cost less and have proven more productive than Odegaard. Odegaard might become the next Mesut Ozil. Just as likely, he is what he appears to be; Ainsley Maitland-Niles with a Real Madrid pedigree; a good player who does not score or assist enough to be in the starting XI of a top four team.

    Arsenal must/should sign Yves Bissouma. No. Period. Yves Bissouma is a fine defensive midfielder. If he is signed and Thomas Partey sold, terrific. If he is going to play alongside Partey? Arsenal’s offense will stall further. Arsenal need a dynamic, two-way, central midfielder like Youri Tieleman, James Ward-Prowse, John McGin, Marcel Sabitzer, or (remember him) Aaron Ramsey.

    Bernd Leno needs competition. No. Bernd Leno needs replacement. He is not a bad keeper. He is, in fact, a good keeper. He is not, however, nor will he ever be, a great goalkeeper. He’s the ninth or tenth best keeper in the league. Arsenal need a top four keeper if they want to be a top four team. Some possibilities include Kepa from Chelsea (risky) or Ilean Meslier – who played really well in all facets for Leeds United. Of course, they had a better keeper already, with Emi Martinez, but that’s just too sore a topic to delve into.

    So. Here is the Arsenal team that can compete for the top four. You will note how few additions there are. Reserves in ()

    Meslier
    (Leno)

    Bellerin – Holding – Mari – Tierney
    (Chambers) – (Gabriel) – (Saliba) – (Bertrand)

    Partey – Tielemans
    (Elneny) – (Xhaka/Willock)

    Pepe – Buendia – Saka
    (Willian) – (Smith-rowe) – (Martinez/Aubameyang)

    Aubamyeng
    Lacazette/Balogun)

    This is four signings – Tielemans, Buendia, Meslier, and Bertrand. None are bank-breakers (tielemans and Buendia would cost significant sums, but nothing like the 50 million bandied aobut for Odegaard), none would demand massive wages, and each would address a noted weakness in the team. This team is also two-deep in every position. Arsenal also have youth players and squad players available to plug other gaps and rotate for cups etc. Arsenal could delay the goalkeeper signing for a year by signing Matt Ryan permanently, but he is already at his peak and not a long-term solution.

  • Steve

    Regarding the comment about the AST not knowing how to run a football club. A friend is a AST member and just messaged me to say that they (AST) have said tonight that Arsenal are £500m in debt (probably more like £750m)

    Just wondering if these figures are true or a guesstimate trying to create a bigger divide against SK?

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