That’s right; my summary of the 2013/14 season is that it is the season that the media got it all wrong. There are very few things that I love more than the media being wrong, so I have enjoyed this season very much. The media’s smarmy “we know what is best” and “we set the agenda” attitude irritates me to no end, so you might understand why I rejoice every time they end up with eggs on their faces. The problem, though, is that they are experts at conveniently forgetting what they said minutes ago talkless of months or years before so they seldom, if ever, own up to or account for being wrong. But we know when they are wrong. We always know and we’ll take every opportunity and available avenue to rub their noses in it.
Let’s get started on the themes and memes of the season and how the media flubbed them all.
Spending Equals Glory
My favourite of all the media’s wrong prognostications is their fanatical belief that spending always equals glory. While this is not wrong in professional football, it is not a water tight theory either. In fact, there are other viable theories but none is as exalted by the chattering class. Spending doesn’t always lead to glory which can be equally achieved with great team work, tactical discipline and of course, luck.
The league was predicted to be a 2 horse race between Chelsea and Manchester City because they have spent the most with Chelsea having the added bonus of rehiring Jose Mourhino ‘the tactical genius’. Some of the pundits had their snouts so up either of these 2 clubs’ rectum they nearly asked that the league trophy be handed over to them before a ball was kicked. To be fair, one of the 2 anointed teams ultimately won it but it was done in a manner that brought some modicum of humility to all concerned. Arsenal and (more closely) Liverpool had their say on the title and while Man City eventually won it, it was nothing like the walk in the park that the pundits have predicted based strictly on the amount the duo have spent. Poor Chelsea and Jose Mourhino could only come 3rd.
To maintain the record for the most often predicted outcome of the season for the last 6 seasons, Arsenal were again predicted to miss out of top 4 and by consequence, Champions league because they wouldn’t spend. Tottenham Hotspurs, after spending the windfall from the sale of the player who carried them all the way through the previous season and about £20 million more, were definitely going to overtake their tight-fisted rivals at long last. When on the eve of the North London derby Arsene Wenger, in his usual thoughtful manner said that Tottenham would struggle on the account of the number (7?) of new players they’ve just added, he was savagely ridiculed with many of our own fans shamelessly leading the verbal assault.
It is interesting that the same pundits who ridiculed Wenger (who was the first person to mention this drawback to Tottenham’s spending) would then turn around to use the same rationale for Spurs struggles immediately after their defeat at the Emirates and for the rest of the 2013/14 season. But in their true character (or lack of), none of them gave Wenger any credit for being the first to raise the issue and neither did they apologise or show any remorse for ridiculing him when he prophetically raised it.
Jose Mourhino’s return to Chelsea will be bring back the good times
Since Mourhino left Chelsea in 2007, Chelsea have been to the Champions’ league final twice winning it once. They’ve won a premier league title, 3 FA cups and a Europa cup. In one of their only 2 barren seasons (2007/8), they were in 2 finals while also coming 2nd in the league. The point being made here is that Chelsea’s performance and results this season are arguably their worst in Abrahamovic’s era. They made no final of any of the 3 cup competitions and came third in the league as they did under the much hated (by Chelsea fans) Rafa Benitez. Looking at the chain of results that Benitez pulled off in the 2nd half of last season, I feel very strongly that he would have achieved much more with Chelsea this season.
As always, the media bought his “I have no striker” line rather than question his tactics. He is described as a ‘tactical genius’ when he beat his rivals with bus parking, a strategy that his ‘ingenuity’ seemed incapable of dealing with when employed against him by smaller teams.
The only thing that Mourhino gave Chelsea this season is boring football and a return to the days of the club being universally despised by neutrals due to his many childish statements and generally uncouth behaviour. As a bonus, he got rid of the club’s best player for the 2 previous seasons and is on the verge of getting rid of the current player of the season.
What we see this season is in clear contrast to the cocky predictions of the yammering class who bought is “Happy One” tag like every other spoilt good that he has always sold them. After his “specialist in failure” jab at Arsene Wenger, Chelsea ending the season empty handed is my most satisfying outcome of the season. Mourhino’s failure becomes more apparent when we remember that 2 less regarded managers have won 3 trophies including 2 European triumphs (one of which is Abrahamovic’s Holy Grail, the Champions league) in 2 previous seasons for the club.
The Signing of Ozil is Lifting Arsenal
This is the one that my friends on Untold might not like but I am saying it as I see it and I intend to use facts to back my points. I already wrote about this issue where I objected to the word “lift”. To my understanding, it connotes “getting out of dire position” or “raising to a higher position that wouldn’t have been achieved otherwise”. And therein lies my problem with this meme.
There are 2 reasons for my objection: 1) Ozil being given unearned credits for Arsenal’s success and 2) the media being wrong about this long used talking point.
Walter wrote some weeks back about how the media didn’t want Ozil to succeed. Now, I rarely disagree with Walter but he is wrong about this particular charge. The media wanted Ozil to succeed and this can be easily verified by Googling stories on Ozil from September 2013 to the end of the year. Actually, during this period, Ozil could do nothing wrong, according to both our fans and the media. Passes that other Arsenal player are clearly capable of and have indeed made in the past are analysed with the common conclusion that ONLY a player of Ozil’s class could have made them. Every Arsenal victory was credited to the club signing Ozil. This from a club that was the best in the last half of the previous season and for which the only blight was the Anthony Taylor inspired debacle on the opening day of the season!
As I have always stated in all my writings on Ozil and, more importantly, based on my conviction: Ozil is a class player and one that I am very happy the club signed (although, the price tag is something that I don’t like for VERY personal ethical reasons). My objection has always been with him being credited with the work of other 12 to 15 players by overzealous fans and agenda driven pundits.
Initially when Ozil’s form dropped (as it happens to all players), Olivier Giroud was getting blamed for not making the right runs that Cristiano Ronaldo or Theo Walcott would have. In other word, when things were going well, it was because of Ozil’s greatness. We were regularly told that the mere act of signing him has lifted the club’s spirits. But when things were going south, it was because his team mates (especially everybody’s favourite scapegoat, Giroud) suck.
Well, this was until our friends in the media couldn’t take it anymore and then the vitriol started and many of our fans who have bought and (or) fed the media narrative were disappointed witch-hunt that Ozil was a victim of. “The media are picking on our dear player in their usual anti-Arsenal manner” they said. But the truth is a little different.
The media have only one constant: they loathe Arsenal and loathe our manager even more. They were happy to praise Ozil earlier as a backhand way of saying: “Told you so, you stingy Frenchman. Spending brings success. You finally spent big and voila, your team is doing well. If you had only spent as we have been telling you for years.” The little fact that the club had been doing well long before Ozil was signed was largely ignored. Now, if we collude with the media to hype our players up, we can’t complain when they maliciously tear them down with a vengeance at their slightest drop in form.
While this may sound bad on my part, I must confess that I was a little relieved when the media’s Ozil witch-hunt began. I knew that whatever the team achieved at the end of the season, it won’t be credited to a single new player. Considering how this team plays and the number of heroes it has, I consider that unjust. I derive a lot of satisfaction from not hearing anyone say that Arsenal’s long trophy drought is about to end because we bought Ozil. I know it is not that big a deal but as a lover of fairness, it is a big deal to me.
Confirmation of the Media’s Arsenal Hatred and Liverpool Love in
Arsenal led the league for longer than Chelsea and Liverpool combined but throughout these periods, we got told repeatedly that Arsenal would not win it. We were always told that it was strictly between Man City and Chelsea. Well, except for those periods earlier and later in the season when Liverpool were sitting on top. No questions were asked of Liverpool’s ability to win the league. They were cheered on, with their manager being hailed as a ‘genius’ and some including many of our fans asking: “if Rodgers can do it, why can’t Wenger?” Both teams will ultimately fail in the end and Man city would go on to win it.
Granted that Liverpool came closer than Arsenal in the end but it is upsetting nonetheless that Arsenal’s ability to succeed was vehemently denied on the account of Man City and Chelsea’s greatness while the same standard was never applied to Liverpool. So much for objectivity!
Remember Gooners, when next you hear the pundits tell you that Arsenal being top doesn’t matter as they will ultimately falter that they only apply that standard to Arsenal. When others top the league, they are credited for doing so while being given the chance to go all the way.
Why Arsenal Lost the League (Part 2)
In an earlier article on why we lost the league, I challenged the emerging talking point that we lost the league because of those infamous away defeats to the top 3. My position is that if you fail to meet a target, you can’t blame the most difficult points for your failure. You should rue most the easier to achieve that were not achieved.
The home loss to Aston Villa (irrespective of how it came about) and home draws to Swansea, Everton, Man United, Chelsea and Man City and the away loss to Stoke should come before away losses to the top 3 teams in my opinion. The media were driving the narrative because of the scandalous nature of those 3 losses and it is one that many Gooners were willing to accept out of the hurt that they feel from the nature of the results rather than look at the entire results from the league for why we lost. The eventual league champions and runners up got only 2 and 1 more points than Arsenal in the top 4 mini league while the all-conquering Chelsea could only come third despite getting 9 more points than Man City in the mini league.
On the human front, the main reason why we lost the league is because of Aaron Ramsey’s injury. I know that we lost quite a few key players to injury and I didn’t hold the position that Ramsey’s absence cost us the league title until after our last game away to Norwich. I look at Ramsey’s form throughout 2013 and Arsenal’s form throughout 2013 and then I look at our form when he was away and finally his form and our form since his return, I have got to conclude that missing Aaron cost us the league.
I am not sure if we would have taken any points from any of the matches away to any of the top 3 with Ramsey around but I feel very strongly that we would have taken more points from those ultimately costly home draws and that fatal away loss to Stoke. My doubts about this were removed by Rambo returning with his all-action playing style.
An unconventional headed assist to Podolski for our 3rd against West Ham. His initiation of an attack from the midfield while making his usual run into the box to finish it off for our 1st against Hull City; his beautifully chested assist for Podolski’s 1st and Arsenal 2nd and his rebounded shot for Podolski’s second Arsenal’s 3rd. And finally, that scorcher against Norwich. These are in quick succession of games and 2 of which were away from home.
This is what we missed while Rambo was injured: that swashbuckling take no prisoners all action style. He particularly loves running into the box and is never afraid of shooting. Aaron Ramsey ended the season exactly the way he started it and I kick myself for those 3 months that we missed him for. Who knows what might have been?
In summary, we lost the league because of the points that we lost in the previously mentioned games and we lost points in those games because we did not have our most productive player of the season around for over a third of the season. I hope that Ramsey carries his form to next season and that the injury gods spare him this time. Frankly, the young man has suffered enough and so as Arsenal FC.