Arsenal lost, but it is all part of the drive toward long-term sustainability




Budiling Arsenal sustainability – at the top

By Tony Attwood

After Arsenal’s game finished and before the rest of the weekend’s fixtures have been completed the league table still looks rather promising, as all that has happened is that Arsenal have used their game in hand.  It’s hardly a disaster.  Indeed last season Manchester City had 50 points as well, by this stage of the season.

The season before (that is 2020/21) after 20 games Manchester City only had 44 points, having also lost two games.

As for 2019/20 when Liverpool won the league, they had one just one draw and no defeats after 20 games, giving them 58 points, but that Liverpool achievement was a one-off, it seems.

And it is illuminating I think to go back to that season of 2019/20 and look at the league table with Liverpool, the eventual winners having playing 20 games, as Arsenal have now.  All I have done here is taken that table and looked to see where the top ten teams of the day were then and where they are now.


P Team P W D L F A GD Pts NOW
1 Liverpool 20 19 1 0 49 14 35 58 10
2 Leicester City 21 14 3 4 46 19 27 45 13
3 Manchester City 21 14 2 5 56 24 32 44 2
4 Chelsea 21 11 3 7 36 29 7 36 9
5 Manchester United 21 8 7 6 32 25 7 31 3
6 Tottenham Hotspur 21 8 6 7 36 30 6 30 5
7 Wolverhampton Wanderers 21 7 9 5 30 27 3 30 20
8 Sheffield United 21 7 8 6 23 21 2 29 2/Ch
9 Crystal Palace 21 7 7 7 19 23 -4 28 12
10 Arsenal 21 6 9 6 28 30 -2 27 1


Much was made of Arsenal’s demise at this time, and indeed on 20 December 2019, Arsenal had appointed Mikel Arteta as “head coach” with Arsenal in tenth.

And once again let us not forget that the “project” was to get Arsenal not to win the league, but just to be in the top four – against the expectation of the media.  Most of us would have smiled in disbelief at the suggestion that three years on, after 20 games we’d be top of the league by five points.

But just as Arsenal have risen over those three years, so others have sunk and others have just sat pretty much where they are.

In fact only one team in the top four, three years ago, is there now.  Only half of the top six three years ago are in the top six now.  And one of the top 10 is in the championship and another is looking very much to be heading that way.

And my point in all this is that rising and falling in the Premier League, or indeed in and out of the Premier League, is the norm.  Staying at the top is very unusual.

But then so is the ability of pundits to predict the future.  Tottenham have for a number of seasons been predicted to be a regular top-four club, but after their four seasons of glory wherein they came second, third (twice) and fourth, their last three seasons have shown them ending up sixth, seventh and then to much media heralding, fourth.

Seen like that one wonders why the media were so sure they would make top four again this season, a season when the financial realities of the new stadium would well and truly start to bight since this is the season when the repayments in full kick in.

So if we are looking for consistency over the last four seasons beyond the obvious case of Manchester City we might consider Liverpool (a title, two runners-up and a third place) who are now in 21 points behind Arsenal in tenth.  Consistency followed by collapse doesn’t seem so clever.

The fact is that clubs that have pretensions of even just the top four, need to build not just for this season but for years to come.  Manchester City have done it because of their finances of course, but at the moment no one else is managing it.

Thus my point is that Arsenal at this moment should be working not just to win the league this season (which will once again differentiate them from Tottenham who haven’t won it for 62 years, but to stay at the top beyond one or two years, and avoid that desperate yo-yo reality that has besieged Chelsea across the years, and now is afflicting Liverpool.

Given the propensity for these clubs to have a mix of good and bad seasons, Arsenal’s achievement of a top four finish each year from 1997 to 2016 should not be ignored.  Only one team has ever exceeded 19 consecutive years in the Champions League, and that is Real Madrid whose finances, like those of Manchester City, are unreal.

Of course, I want Arsenal to win the league, but I also want an avoidance of the yo-yo game that other clubs have been playing.   The greatly lauded Tottenham side had four finishes in the top four in a row (2016-2019 inclusive), and that was the height of their achievement.  Let’s win the league, and build a team that can stay at the top – but without spending a fraction of Manchester City’s expenditure.  Now that would be one hell of an achievement, and that is what the club must aim for.  Long-term sustainability at the top without making the club utterly dependent on another country’s finances.




9 Replies to “Arsenal lost, but it is all part of the drive toward long-term sustainability”

  1. Nice try. We lost because we were completely outfought, nothing to do with (que buzzword) sustainability.
    We played poorly. Not a single player did himself justice. W roasted poorly, we lost 90%of challenges, outrun,
    It was that simple
    And not good enough

  2. Frankly, I just don’t give a rat’s ass about all this crap we are reading.
    I’m an Arsenal for many reasons and this season is, to me, a happy one.
    I’m seeing a team, a club, being rebuilt (since Mr Arteta came in), with a long term strategy, with professionalism and talent. Arsenal are on a path to sustainability.

    So all the crap I’m reading makes me just wonder why people cannot just enjoy the moment. And I include some comments here on UA.

    I watched the game and to me Arsenal were having a bad day at the office. The referee did not make himself such a nuisance as I was expecting. To me Arsenal lost because Everton were better. We are seeing the toll of many games coupled with a resurgent Everton who were not the team i’ve seen in games before.

    There are 18 more games to come in the PL, and hopefully quite a few more in the EL. Each and every team will lose points here and there, and most probably to Everton as well.

    I read many pieces telling us how patience was expected for Klopp, Ten Hag, Conte, Guardiola, Potter, Howe, etc etc…not seeing many saying this about Arsenal…but then again, deadwood journalists cannot report. They cut and paste, take sides, ignore facts. Just let it be and stand behind Arsenal.

  3. A bad day at the office. We never came in to our rythm and conceded on a corner. As Chris said this season is very enjoyable and one bad day doesn’t change this at all. Not that I was happy a the end of the match but I know these things happen. Next week we should take revenge for this. COYG! Now what would be the best result later today…. ooh tricky one….

  4. The corner wrongly given shd have been a goal kick.
    Then the game would have been different.
    I have said Arsenal have an uphi ll task to win seeing wrong decisions.
    Error prone linemen ad refs shd be immediately suspended

  5. My observations of certain football matches in the UK, as seen from tv viewings, suggest that some teams seem to follow more robust tactics against certain opposition players, and such teams also instigate time wasting practices, in order to achieve positive outcomes such as winning or drawing matches.

    My observations also suggest to me that such practices are viewed in a positive manner by the comments and analysis from so-called football journalists reporting on such matches.

    Furthermore, I feel that there is also a suggestion that match-day officials are now allowing more robust practices to occur with little or no protection for those players receiving this robust practice, nor for time wasting to be sufficiently compensated for, by allowing for the correct extra minutes to be added on to the end of each half.

    I make these observations after observing the Everton/Arsenal match and reading the follow-up reports as issued on the internet by National media sources as well as social media sources.

    Not for the first time in a match have certain teams attempted to physically intimidate the younger Arsenal players as happened in the Everton match. Such practice being ignored by officialdom and post journalistic reporting. Indeed, reports suggest that the Everton team and especially the new Everton manager were seen to have acted and used positive tactics which led to a positive outcome – a 1-0 win!

    I remember a similar thing happening this season when Arsenal played Newcastle. Reports suggested that the physical and time wasting tactics employed by the Newcastle manager and his team, were positive and needed in order to stop Arsenal from winning.

    The UA site has continually highlighted the research results emanating from various academic sources investigating referee bias, especially with regards to home crowd noise.

    It has also analysed how the Arsenal tackling tactics have had to change in order for the team to be awarded less yellow and red cards. Yet I have a feeling that despite these pieces of evidence, robust tackling and time wasting practices are being allowed and being seen as a positive development that is being reintroduced into the game in the UK.

    UA has suggested the problems emanating through the FA, the Premier League and especially with FIFA

    Now, I remember what football in the UK was like in the past, as I have been watching it from 1957 onwards…..(and yes I can be called an old duffer, perhaps). But, I hate to think that teams are now once again being allowed to physically intimidate certain players in order to secure a more positive outcome, without any real protection of said players by the match officials. I hate to think that time-wasting is now on the increase again as a tactic with little or no monitoring occurring.

    I hate to think that football journalism is once again only interested in the result rather than the tactics and performance helping to yield a said result.

    Arsenal had a poor day against Everton. We are all supposed to move on to the next match and be positive that such a poor day is not repeated. However, if and when some teams realise that certain tactics are again being allowed for and accepted by officialdom and journalistic reporting, how many more poor days are the young Arsenal players expected to endure?

  6. Interesting results so far.
    As for Citeh…. quite a strange situation.
    Expect stories tomorrow telling us Sp*rs are on a run to win the PL…. as Arsenal are doomed because they don’t have enough players….

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