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Conspiracy, laziness, or stupidity. Part 2 How the media missed the big Arsenal story

By Tony Attwood

This article follows on from The media conspiracy against Arsenal. Part 1: How it unfolded.

In part one of this short series, I argued that the media (TV, radio, newspapers, bloggers) united to ignore key elements in what was happening at Arsenal last season, and in the early stages of this season and instead put forward a completely false analysis suggesting that Arsenal was a club that was failing and was in chaos.

Last season, you may recall, Arteta reconstructed the style of playing, in order to move Arsenal from being the club that got more yellow cards than anyone else, to being the club with one of the smallest yellow card totals.  The article “Arsenal’s yellow cards dropped by 45% last season. How? Why? And how did it help?” gave a resume of the situation.

The huge change that Arteta introduced took the first third of last season to get that right.  And what is even more interesting is that, just as this season the media has either failed to notice the changes taking place, or else has refused to comment upon them, so again this season, they have either failed to notice the huge transformation Arsenal has been making, or again have deliberately refused to comment upon them, for fear perhaps of making their earlier comments look utterly silly.

Last season, you may recall, on Christmas Day last season the league table looked like this

Pos Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Liverpool 14 9 4 1 36 19 17 31
2 Leicester City 14 9 0 5 26 17 9 27
3 Manchester United 13 8 2 3 28 21 7 26
4 Everton 14 8 2 4 25 19 6 26
5 Chelsea 14 7 4 3 29 14 15 25
6 Tottenham Hotspur 14 7 4 3 25 14 11 25
7 Southampton 14 7 3 4 25 19 6 24
8 Manchester City 13 6 5 2 19 12 7 23
9 Aston Villa 12 7 1 4 24 13 11 22
10 West Ham United 14 6 3 5 21 19 2 21
11 Wolverhampton Wanderers 14 6 2 6 14 19 -5 20
12 Newcastle United 13 5 3 5 17 22 -5 18
13 Crystal Palace 14 5 3 6 19 25 -6 18
14 Leeds United 14 5 2 7 24 30 -6 17
15 Arsenal 14 4 2 8 12 18 -6 14
16 Burnley 13 3 4 6 8 19 -11 13
17 Brighton and Hove Albion 14 2 6 6 16 22 -6 12
18 Fulham 14 2 4 8 13 23 -10 10
19 West Bromwich Albion 14 1 4 9 10 29 -19 7
20 Sheffield United 14 0 2 12 8 25 -17 2

Relegation for Arsenal was contemplated in the media (as it was again after three matches this season).  And yet after Christmas day the performance of the club was transformed and for the remaining two-thirds of the season, the table read…

P Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Manchester City 24 20 0 4 62 20 42 60
2 Arsenal 24 14 5 5 43 21 22 47
3 Manchester United 24 13 8 3 43 21 22 47
4 West Ham United 24 13 5 6 41 28 13 44
5 Chelsea 24 12 6 6 29 22 7 42
6 Leicester City 24 11 6 7 42 33 9 39
7 Liverpool 24 11 5 8 32 23 38
8 Tottenham Hots 24 11 4 9 43 31 12 37

Now you might have thought that having failed to notice this improvement during the season and thus failed to consider how it happened that the club with the 16th best attack in the league before Christmas then became the club with the second-best attack in the league after Christmas, some in the media might have learned a lesson.  They might, for example, have thought, “maybe that Arteta chap does know a thing or two about football, maybe we should do a little bit of analysis.”  But no, they didn’t.

Yet if they had bothered to notice, (and we did tell them quite a few times) they might have been ready for this season’s transformation because it has gone along similar lines.  But no, knocking Arsenal is what they do, and they most certainly seem determined to ensure that facts don’t get in the way of their desire to take Arsenal down to their own miserable level.

Now I must make it clear that I am most certainly not saying that coming third or fourth should be the ultimate target for Arsenal – of course, I would love to see us win the league again.  But I do take the view that this needs to come in stages, for we have often seen in the league a club suddenly win the title out of nowhere and then slip down the table.

Leicester City for example won the league in 2016 and since have come 12th, ninth (twice) and fifth (twice).  They are currently 11th, 12 points behind Arsenal across this season.

Manchester United won the league in 2013, and are currently fifth, one place and one point above Arsenal having played two games more than Arsenal.  Based on the last six games the club that has won the league more times than any other are 10th.

And if we go back even further we might recall (or those of us who are old enough might recall) that back in 1993, Aston Villa were the runners’ up and Norwich City came third in the Premier League.  The following season it was Blackburn Rovers in second and Newcastle in third.  1994 saw Blackburn win the league, and Nottingham Forest came third.

It is this one-off success followed by a quick tumble that Arteta is seeking to avoid which is why sudden purchases in January were not in his plan.

 No, my point is that during January the media ran a campaign to say that Arsenal was in dire straits, that Arteta’s job was on the line, and it was a matter of utter urgency for Arsenal to sign new players, and that the failure to get any of them would be an indictment of the club and its management and Arteta, Edu and the rest would have to go.  (I’m summarising of course, but that struck me as the general tenor of the articles).

The series continues.

Today in Arsenal’s History: 15 February 2015: 85 years after beating Middlesbrough in the cup Arsenal did it again

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