By Tony Attwood
Things have not been going well for Chelsea, as you might have noticed. Yesterday they lost 2-1 away to Fulham, to make it one win in the last nine league games. Although remarkably despite that collapse they are only tenth in the league 19 points behind Arsenal.
But what has that to do with Arsenal you may ask?
The answer is nothing much except that after 14 games in the 2020/21 season, Arsenal’s situation looked even worse than Chelsea’s now, being 15th in the league, just four points off the relegation zone.
And looking back just two years can remind us how quickly clubs can collapse and how quickly they can recover. Everton were challenging at the top, Leicester were talked of as a new top four club, Southampton were making great strides, Man City were on the slide, Arsenal, Brighton and Fulham were being dragged into a relegation fight.
|9||West Ham United||13||6||3||4||21||16||5||21|
|16||Brighton and Hove Albion||13||2||5||6||15||21||-6||11|
|19||West Bromwich Albion||13||1||4||8||10||26||-16||7|
And yet despite these dramatic and radical changes across just two years, the media still only focus on NOW. Who the club might buy, and what terrible mistakes the management have just made through their lack of insight and knowledge and so on.
And perhaps we expect the world to stay the same, because as Arsenal fans we remember the Wenger years in which Arsenal went 19 consecutive years in the top four. But that was a rarity. Only one club in the whole of Europe has had more than 19 consecutive years in the Champions League, and that is Real Madrid.
Yet because Wenger couldn’t go on delivering at that level, or even better, some of the fans and media turned on him. Which raises the question, how much longer will the fans of West Ham (down 8 places on two years ago) Leicester City (down 11 places), Southampton (down 12 places) and Everton (down 13 places), give their manager?
There will of course be calls for change – just as there are at Chelsea. Not because they are down three places on two years ago, but because they have just had four years in the top four and expect that top four position to continue.
Now four years in the top four seems a bit pathetic compared to Arsenal’s 19 under Wenger, but for Chelsea that was quite an achievement, and now they see it as their right.
But as you will know if you are a regular reader here, change doesn’t come about just by changing the manager. And you will know that because we have kept the data concerning the transformation of Arsenal on this site as a reminder of how things can change.
As we have seen, after 14 games of the 2020/21 season Arsenal were 15th in the league, and four points off the relegation places, and the only issue concerning Arsenal in the media was when Arteta was going to be sacked.
As that same link above will show you, in the next 24 games Arsenal were the second best performing team in the league, behind only Manchester City.
Now you might think that such a dramatic turn around would have the nation’s football journalists scratching their heads to investigate how Arsenal did it, but no, I haven’t seen anything on that transformation. The club of course knew, and indeed I was in a small zoom meeting with Josh Kroenke and the rest of the AISA committee, where he expressed annoyance that the media never covered the issue of Arsenal’s improvement after December 2020, (much to the amusement of the other six people there, who made the the point that Josh ought to be writing for Untold).
But the main point is that given that the media didn’t recognise Arsenal’s extraordinary recovery that season, they couldn’t understand the transformation the club went through in the first 14 games to make that happen.
I don’t know enough about the clubs that are currently failing to know which ones (if any) have been “doing an Arsenal” by radically changing their tactics, but that tactical manoeuvre by Arsenal was noted in other clubs, and someone is going to try it. Or something like it.
If you have never read what Arsenal did to transform their situation from 15th in the league after 14 games in 2021 the full explanation is still online here. I can’t say “it’s worth a read” since I wrote it, but you might find it informative. It involves how the club dealt with referees.
- Arsenal v Wolverhampton: the club that gets cards at over twice the rate of Arsenal
- Arsenal v Wolverhampton Wanderers: where will each team finish?
- Arsenal v Lens: what we found, what we felt, what they did
- Arsenal v Lens: the team, the home/away form and the strange coincidences
- Arsenal v Lens: they had a poor start but are now flying