Take away the double and who were we really?
Today I want to move a little away from my yearly review growing up and take a look at Arsenal’s place in English football over this time and compare it with now. A little bit of perspective before I go into 1984-85 next blog. 1953 was the last time we won the league and if you took away the double from 1953 to this time, 1984, we had won the (UEFA)Inter Cities Fairs Cup and an FA Cup. Yes, a few beaten finals and some decent finishes in the league but what were we really? An average enough team, but well short of others in this period:
· Liverpool 10 leagues, 4 European cups, 2 FA cups, 4 League cups, 2 Uefa cups, 1 Uefa Super cup, and 9 Charity Shields
· Manchester United 4 Leagues, 3 FA cups, 1 European cup, 4 Charity Shields
· Leeds 2 leagues, 1 FA cup, 1 League cup, 2 Uefa cups, 1 Charity Shield
· Everton 2 Leagues, 2 Fa Cups, 3 Charity Shields
· Man City 1 League, 2 FA cups, 2 League cups, 1 European Cup winners cup, 2 Charity Shields
· Chelsea 1 League, 1 FA cup, 1 European Cup Winners cup, 1 Charity Shield
· Wolves 3 Leagues, 2 Fa cups, 2 League cups, 2 Charity Shields
· Notts Forest, 1 League, 2 European Cups, 2 League Cups, 1 FA cup, 1 Uefa Super Cup, 1 Charity Shield
· Aston Villa, 1 league, 1 European Cup, 1 Uefa Super cup, 1 Fa cup, 3 League cups, 1 Charity Shield
· Even the Spuds, 1 League, 5 Fa cups, 2 League Cups, 4 Charity Shields, 2 Uefa cups,1 European Cup winners cup
Plus Derby (2), Burnley and Ipswich won the league in this time. As you can see, even adding the double to our list probably puts us below the ones above. However, we did have a history, and we were indisputably the best team in England in the 1930’s. Of the teams in the list, only Liverpool, Man Utd and Wolves could claim that for any length of time, except possibly Leeds for a shorter period. But the wonderful magical blip of the double obscured the fact that we were has-beens, living on a faded glory of long ago.
Terry Neill and Arteta
Now, my purpose is not to depress you wonderful Gooner fans out there, but to let you see what it was like for me when I was a young fan. And to put some perspective on the sacking of Terry Neill. Because his time reminds me of now, with Arteta. Neill had given us great service as a player in the 60’s, like Arteta in the 2000’s. They were both hired very young. Young players were coming through under him just like now. Brady, as a kid was our best player, just like Saka now. Fans liked Neill, just like we like Arteta.
But there are many differences, it is hard to say that Bertie Mee was a great manager, certainly without the double. But George Graham and Arsene Wenger were. Our 2 great periods in my time were about to happen and they have raised the expectation level to the point that it is hard to see Arteta being given the leeway Neill had. A mid table and not reaching the Uefa final and he could be sacked. We now expect our Arsenal to be winners, then we hoped they could be. We regarded the double as a fluke, we were able to walk around with our heads high, that we had knocked out the big boys, but I don’t believe we really felt that we were truly better than those same big boys. I certainly didn’t. Neill had us playing good football with lots of homegrown talent but we all knew who our best eleven was. We don’t know that now. There are 30 players in the squad and there are fans who will argue for all of them.
In my last few blogs I have tried to show how I felt about Neill, he made an improvement, he got us to finals, got us up the league, played good football, and of course, lots of Irish players to make me happy. But I recognized that he probably had got us as far as he could. Selling our best players lost him for me and probably most of us. He had 8 years and Arteta won’t get anywhere near that unless he starts, and keeps on winning. For me, I would like to see him get next season no matter where we finish this season. I doubt if many agree with me. What I like about him is that like Wenger and Graham, he has his own vision of how the game should be played. We no longer leak goals, but we need to be ruthless at taking them. We need to stamp on teams and send them home crying. We need to be Arsenal, the great Arsenal of Graham and Wenger.
Arsenal need a ruthless attitude and the confidence to swat teams away
Can we do that? I am not sure but Arteta was ruthless at taking penalties, I don’t remember him missing. Nowadays if we get a penalty, my heart is thumping until I see it in the back of the net. That’s what I would like to see with the whole team, the attitude and confidence that he had taking a penalty. That we have confidence that we can put teams away. I haven’t felt that since Wenger lost his mojo, no matter who the opposition. We are the Arsenal, the team who weren’t beaten for a whole season by either a good or bad team. And now? We don’t know whether we can beat anybody.
So are we back to where we were? Just an ordinary team, with many teams better than us? I don’t believe so as we can put a team out that can beat anybody. Our young guys are as good as I have ever seen at Arsenal. What we are relying on is the manager getting the best out of them, old and young. At the moment, we can’t see that on any sort of consistent basis. But it is early days. My conclusion is he won’t be given a huge amount of time to get it right. Our current owners are not going to lose any sleep at all, unlike Peter Hill-Wood in sacking Terry Neill. In short succession we have had Emery, Llungberg and Arteta as opposed to 3 in the period I have been writing about up to now, 1969 to 1984. Arteta is on a tightrope with 76 points the maximum this season and a likely total maybe not much better than last years 58. I suspect unless he qualifies for Europe via the league or wins the Europa League he will be gone.
The owners are the biggest difference
The 2 eras are totally different, now we have a magnificent ground, a river of money flowing through it, far bigger squads, a level of expectation that’s far higher, and owners that care nothing for Arsenal, their staff or their fans. A Bertie Mee miracle is unlikely to happen again. But a manager that can get the best out of THIS squad could put us on top. Is Arteta that manager? I really hope so, and that hope is underscored with a good deal of belief, but only results will buy him the time necessary. Winning is the only currency he can trade in to the end of the season. The young players should be that bit better next time. So the squad should be more competitive especially if we buy well. I doubt if you read this Irishman, Mr Kroenke, but give Arteta this season, no matter what happens, and have him at the helm for next. I feel you will be happy if you do so. It will be the brave thing to do if we don’t qualify for Europe, but I say it will be the right thing for Arsenal.