All the pundits had Arsenal finishing outside the top four. Why was that?


This article continues our “Arsenal developing” series…

Predictions for this season by the media were covered in considerable detail by Untold, not least because as we reported all the media went for the same top four in the same order as last time, seemingly unable to see that this had never hapened before for a very good reason: clubs never stand still.

Part of this predictionising [our new word for the day] was based on the notion that Arsenal are regularly beaten by the “big teams” (a comment used to define Arsenal automatically as “not a big team”.   So, it is argued, until we’ve faced Liverpool, Manchestder City, Tottenham and Chelsea, the “jury is still out”.  Interpreted that means until that point we are softies; easy to beat.

What this argument does, as do all the negative arguments about Arsenal that circulate even when we have just won the first four games of the season, is to separate out different chunks of Arsenal’s results, without any good reason for doing so.

The first three games of last season were an utter disaster, we were told, because we lost.  But the first four games of this season are not an unmitigated triumph even though we won and are top of the league, because we played smaller clubs than ours.  Last season any notion that the clubs we played at the start were our biggest challengers was dismissed as an excuse because “we have to play them sometimes.”

This is an awful Arsenal-y lack of logic and consistency that runs through analyses both of professional (I use the word in its loosest sense) journalists (ditto) and supporters (double ditto).   It is certainly something that becomes incredibly clear in a Guardian article Four games, four wins: four Arsenal fans on the Gunners’ flying start   The message throughout is, “If Arsenal is bad we must learn the lessons and change the team” (and in some articles the manager).  “If Arsenal win it’s too early to say and besides we’ve only played easy games.”

Since coming runners up in 2015/6 we’ve won two major trophies and qualified for Europe in all but two of the seasons.  Nowhere near as good as the great Wenger era where we qualified for the Champions League for more consecutive seasons than any club other than Real Madrid; but that of course was not enough.  With the Arsenal Supporters Trust accusing the directors of stuffing their own pockets with Arsenal cash, and with Black Scarf wanting everyone kicked out in a total revolution, we didn’t do as well as we had been under Mr Wenger.  Which was apparently all his fault for being kicked out.

And now the narrative is that we are way, way, way behind Liverpool.  But no one asks, since 1989-90 Liverpool have won the league how many times?  The answer is once.  Arsenal have won it four times. 

Which is not to say that everything at Arsenal has been fine, but rather to say, that whether it is a case of comparing us with other clubs, or whether it is a case of considering the club’s decline and rebirth, conclusions seem to be drawn before data is gathered. 

From the regularity of Wenger’s “fourth is not a trophy” years we have had a six year dip during which we have won two major bits of silverware.  Not as good as Wenger in his prime, not as bad as the recent collapse of Manchester United. 

And not as bonkers a rebuild as Nottingham Forest with 17 new signings recruits costing more than the total spent by Real Madrid.  Now that is a story – not least the story of where the money comes from and how this works in the world of FFP – but no, let’s not go there and instead suggest mysteriously, that Arsenal are the club being investigated (even though there is not a scrap of evidence to back up that claim, repeated in virtually every national newspaper in England – largely because of lot of said newspapers are owned by the same company).

Three defeats at the start of last season was utterly unacceptable; the media and some fans were united in this.  Four wins at the start of this season is bloody brilliant (according to fans) or lucky (the media: we’ve had an easy start and it can’t last).

As for it being part of a long term strategy, well, that’s not what most of the media like to report, although it is what more and more clubs are now engaged in, be they Forest, Norwich, Manchester City or Arsenal.

Some are in turmoil of course – Manchester United (discovering that buying everyone is not a strategy), Leicester (oops, sorry, we seem to have run out of money), Everton (let’s spend loads, it doesn’t matter who on). 

Others have a strategy that has run out of, well, strategy… Wolverhampton (scoring four goals more than two of the relegated clubs is not a recipe for future success), West Ham (when a free stadium is factored into the accounts for every year, it ceases to be a factor)….

Clubs need to reinvent themselves regularly, and that process doesn’t always work.  For Arsenal it has been working and is working.  It’s a process, which has been painful at times, but now it’s rather good fun to watch.  And that’s making the media very edgy.

2 Replies to “All the pundits had Arsenal finishing outside the top four. Why was that?”

  1. I believe if we beat villa, it will be classed among the easy matches. If we beat United, they are in disarray, if we beat Liverpool, they have injuries, and so on.
    So lets keep winning and let them keep coming up with excuses…
    I like the look of the table now and want it to remain that way for as long as possible.

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