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No Champs League again, but how are Arsenal going to turn this around?

By Tony Attwood

There was an interesting article recently by Nick Hornby which looks back at the past season and says, “We used to blame Wenger and the kinds of players he liked, the technically gifted, physically unimposing attacking midfielders who seemed to occupy every position on the pitch. Torreira, Granit Xhaka and Sokratis Papastathopoulos are of a different build and complexion entirely, but it doesn’t make any difference, apparently. The post-Invincibles Arsenal team will always flake out on you when it matters, no matter who’s playing or coaching.

“Some of the more excitable members of the Arsenal community — perhaps those with no interest in evolutionary biology — want Emery out already. That seems premature to me….

“This summer, however, is critical. My sources inside the club tell me that the decision to release Aaron Ramsey was down to Emery and Emery alone, and that the player was ready to sign a new deal. Emery took one look at him and decided, clearly, that he wasn’t worth the money being offered….

“Unless Ramsey’s replacement is at least as good, fans will quickly resent the loss of someone who could be frustrating, but whose two Cup Final-winning goals, and a decade-long commitment to the club, have earned him Official Club Legend status.

“Arsenal fans are used to pretty sights, and if the choice is between fifth place and no Champions League football, and sixth place with the occasional breath-taking moment of beauty, the Emirates crowd may decide that the grass was not, after all, greener….

“As ever in London N5, the jury is out.

I have quoted quite a lot of the article not just because I found it interesting but also because rather rarely in football journalism it gave us a bit of perspective.  It wasn’t “he’s useless get him out” stuff – and of course being Nick Hornby we can expect some thing more.  But I wondered just how much perspective people really have at the moment.

For a start next season our rivals will be the same as this season: Manchester City (treble winners), Manchester United, Liverpool (Champions League winners), Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea (Europa winners).   So how they will do will be as relevant to our season, as is how well we will do.

Second, the gap between the top two, and the next three in the premier league was huge – I am sure such a gap has happened before but I can’t recall when it was.   Even if Arsenal had Manchester City’s funds I can’t see us closing that gap in one year.  And of course we don’t have anything like Man City’s funding.  Nor of course are we being accused of manipulating the financial rules.

But there is more to this comparison business.  What are we comparing with what?   Are we comparing entertainment value?   If so we probably don’t have too much to worry about, with headlines around such as “Why was Tottenham vs Liverpool Champions League final the flattest in recent memory?”

That was the Telegraph – and the article included the line a little later

“After about 70 minutes of one of the most eagerly anticipated matches in recent history, one of my fellow viewers pithily summed up the mood: “This is really, really bad.”

The Guardian called it “a dreadful match” noting “an hour and a half of scruffy tedium that must have been emptying bars throughout Europe.”  Yes winning points and winning trophies is very important, but if you have a team that doesn’t win a trophy and is condemned for terribly boring football, maybe that says something too.

And there is also history.

Arsenal should be celebrating 100 years of first division football this season (I don’t know if they are, but I have written a booklet on the subject for the Arsenal Independent Supporters Association, so we will be celebrating even if they are not).   That surely is something to be happy about – even though some Tottenham fans might try to resuscitate the old myth that Arsenal bribed their way into the first division in 1919.

On that issue if you want to read the full story it is on the Arsenal History Society site in more depth than anyone has ever produced before.  But if you just want the highlights, scroll down to the foot of that page to the headline “The 1919 Affair” and that will lead you to the relevant articles.    The long and the short of it however is that the fixing that went on around this time involved Liverpool and Manchester United – Arsenal did everything by the book, as the local Tottenham newspaper acknowledged in 1919.

This article continues in the next piece later today.

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