Arsenal 2022/23 are mirroring Liverpool 2013/14; they f***ed it and will not challenge again

·22-min read
Arsenal 22/23 are like Liverpool 13/14 Credit: Alamy
Arsenal 22/23 are like Liverpool 13/14 Credit: Alamy

The Mailbox has turned against Arsenal; well done and everything but you blew your best chance and are more Brendan than Klopp.

You know what to d0 – mail to contribute.


Roll on 23/24
The form table for the last 6 matches suggests that next season could be another epic win-for-win ding-dong between Man City and Liverpool.
Robert, Birmingham


Arsenal are Brendan’s LFC, not Klopp’s
Rich, AFC makes some perfectly clear points. And thankfully they are the points that make it belly laughingly funny.

You had 50 points at the half way stage. Genuinely well done; it’s actually a nice change to see other clubs fail the ‘top at Christmas test’ as it’s seemingly only ever bloody LFC. But then your own argument highlights in the second half Arsenal have accrued 31 from 16. Mate that’s your form last year?

Getting so het up that people believe it’s within the realms of the possible that this has been your one shot and you missed it, then describing how for all but the first 19 games of this season your form has been perfectly consistent of a 70-points-a-year side for two+ years. You can’t know the outlier is the latter 19 games and not the former. Have some hubris for God’s sake.

You’ve lamented that Arsenal had to be perfect to win it, but explained that you were nowhere near. LFC can argue the club has actually been perfect three times, and only had one title to show for it. And as glib and unfunny as some LFC online trolls have been this week, they are also accurate. Arsenal fans now claiming to ‘know what LFC must have felt’ is daft. LFC got to 97 (and 11 millimetres from going unbeaten, whilst also winning the Champions League), 99 points, and 92 whilst being really bloody close to a quadruple. Your achievements are of merit, but it’s not the same.

What they are similar too (and depending on the next two results, could actually exactly mirror) is Brendan’s LFC team. And this is where it get’s interesting. And hopefully this bit can help the pain of AFC falling short this year.

I bloody adored that 2014 team. Adored it. As is likely, you do the current Arsenal squad. A diamond with Sterling at the tip, and Gerrard at the base. Coutinho with the flair and Henderson with the lungs. Sturridge and Suarez up front. Just an absolutely wonderful team.

They got to 84 points (higher than where you are, but eminently matchable) and played great football. They significantly over-achieved compared to pre-season predictions. They had youth in key positions.

But their success was attributed to a luck with injuries (just a staggering claim, at the time and even worse in hindsight: Sturridge missing 10 games, Johnson missing 10, Agger not even getting 18 starts and the situation at full-back getting so dire Jon Flanagan got 23 appearances. Notwithstanding Suarez missing the opening two months of the season, and playing the last month with injury, having surgery almost at the final whistle prior to the World Cup). Does that sound similar to Arsenal?

Their success was never attributed to the manager and formation and tactics. Credit would go to Steve Peters, or any possible source rather than Brendan. He’d just get the flak for his ridiculous teeth and even more ridiculous soundbites. But he was brilliant. Swap teeth for Lego hair, and would you say the same for Arteta? I would.

You fell short to a City side with far more cash in the bank (and cash in entirely unrelated banks making unrelated payments that were entirely separate to the teams finances). You think it’ll be a building block for next year? But it wasn’t for the 2014 side.

Instead what happened was the star players you build around could be tempted away; LFC lost Suarez. Will the big guns come after Martinelli? Like they did when Wenger tried to build around Nasri and Cesc?

And what of the development of young players? They prove not to be linear. That, as Marcus Rashford has shown, they can be brilliant, laughably poor, injured, brilliant, then invisible again. Young players learn and hit their peak at 26-27; it’s not like a line graph with solid improvements till then. For the 2014 side, with Suarez gone and Sturridge injured, Sterling, still a child but now with the goalscoring pressure on him, flailed badly.

Coutinho, instead of being required to find three goal scorers in front of him, had no-one to pass to. The collective fell apart ludicrously quickly. LFC’s famed forward four fell apart with one departure. Saka is a star; he could be poached like Cesc, over-pressured like Sterling, or just have a bad year like Rashford. Odegaard has done really well; but what if what in front of him changes.

That’s why people say ‘you missed your chance’. Not because your hoped-for future is impossible, but that history tells us it is very, very unlikely. That what has happened this year is part design, but part accidental chemistry.

I will forever find this Arsenal side failing utterly hilarious. Belly-achingly funny. But that doesn’t stop you loving this side and treasuring this season. I still love Brendan’s side. And that’s where I think the GOAT-ification of football media is changing things; That there is this perception teams have to do something that everyone recognises as brilliant, when they don’t. They have to do something that their supporters find songworthy. So cheer on your side and love them, as I will happily troll you with their falling very very short. It is bloody hilarious. But not to you. And that’s fine.

I see more of Brendan’s LFC than Klopp’s LFC in this Arsenal side. I don’t have confidence you’ll do as well next year, but then the club – nor you – don’t need my confidence. Just enjoy your team and stop trying to convince us we are wrong, because we have facts and you have belief. Both are fine.

But to you, and other Arsenal fans, you gotta stop it with the VAR apology thing. Prattling on about VAR calls (or in other words, human error), when literally every title challenger since the dawn of time has instances of maddening and/or illogical decisions going against them, both pre and post VAR. As has already been commented on, had a (correct) var call gone against City last year at Everton, then LFC would have done the domestic treble. It was painful, but only the idiots said VAR stole the title.

The only thing VAR has done now is highlighted those who want to argue the actions of an individual in February make an impact on their team’s stumbles in May. We now know who they are and so can avoid them in the pub and ridicule them online.
Tom G


Arsenal f***ed it
Just a quick email wondering what “pushing” means? Is a team really “pushing” another when they have been comfortably in front for 80-90% of the season, including a halfway points total that was one of the highest ever, if not the highest?

People can go on about how much money City have spent as much as they want, but it doesn’t explain why Arsenal won 2 out of 7 and let a commanding lead slip. Likewise, City’s supposed annihilating squad depth, despite City having used fewer players in the league than anyone else this season and having one of the smallest squads.

Dress it up how you like, Arsenal have fucked it and if the players have the same loser mentality that the fans do then they won’t be back near the top next season either.

Thanks and have a good day


…Arsenal had the league title in their own hands and they fumbled it. They were winning games left, right and centre, topping the table for 90% of the season and they have slipped up right at the end. They bottled it. And as a rival fan I am going to celebrate that.

If City and Arsenal’s roles were reversed, I would celebrate that too. Ditto Chelsea and Liverpool. And I know for fact any set of supporters from those teams would celebrate Man United doing the same. It’s part of being a rival. Arsenal fans themselves celebrate St. Totteringhams Day and all round general Spuriness in this very mailbox.

So for all the mailboxers applauding and admiring Arsenal for pushing that awful, awful Man City so far, get off your high horse and roll around down here in dung with the rest of us.
David (Reeking of sh!t£), Ireland


Why are we not allowed to say it was a bottling?
I’m sure I’m not the only one thinking that this ‘bottling’ debate is becoming a bit tedious, whilst still being mildly funny at the same time.

It’s funny because there seems to be a bit of disproportionate emotion being shown to a bit of terminology used to describe Arsenal’s drop from league leaders for most of the season, down to second place, right at the end. It’s funny because it seems just a little bit precious and over-protective to suggest we can’t say they’ve bottled it – is this because they’re young and need protecting? Is it because for them to ever lead the league was unexpected? Is it because City winning the league was inevitable from the start?

Anyway, for a game that’s completely surrounded by banter-ish punditry, watched by over-excited fans who sing songs like “Arsenal FC! We’re by far the greatest team the world has ever seen.” I find it funny that the use of the word “bottled” is where we must draw the line. I support Man United, and I’d be the first to admit that if we were to throw away a Champions League place now, to Liverpool, from the position we’ve been in for a few months now, I would say we’d absolutely bottled it. And I wouldn’t expect many mailbox submissions to come out and staunchly say why it isn’t bottling (no one predicted us to finish top 4 before the season, etc.).

Now, I know it’s all based on the word ‘bottled’ being termed inflammatory language but, that’s just part and parcel of football – we gloat to rivals when you beat them, we laugh when someone makes a mistake, we marvel when someone does something unexpected, and we most certainly use silly terms to wind up over-sensitive fans when their team throws away what looks like a healthy lead in a game / championship. To debate this one term in particular just seems a bit… pointless? Take it on the chin, hope you kick on next year and take the kids out of the bubble wrap.


On those Arsenal injury ‘woes’
Jesus, Arsenal fans are a whiny bunch aren’t they. They lose ONE centre back for what, 10 games, and suddenly it’s one of the main reasons brought up for losing the title.

Man Utd just had seven games in 22 days, 6 of which were away from home and included extra time in a tough FA cup semi final, and got absolutely slated for the results despite missing several key players. United have lost Sancho, Martinez, Varane, Eriksen, Garnacho, Rashford, Martial, Casemiro and Van de Beek for long periods this year. Tottenham lost Kulusevksi, Bentancur, Bissouma, Seseegnon, Lloris for significant portions of time. Liverpool a few years ago lost most of their defence for most of the season and it affected them badly with players out of position (same as United’s defence recently).

Losing a back up right back and one centre back is not a crisis that cause you to concede 3 goals to Southampton, the team seem to just be reverting towards a more sustainable level of play. It’s a terrible excuse.
Calum, MUFC (also, young players don’t always get better, did Walcott do better at 27 than 18?), Wokingham


The Arsenal Invincibles would have lost to this Man City
As an Arsenal fan for 40 years, living in New Zealand, here’s my take on the season that just unfolded.

Ultimately, Arsenal were not able to prevent Manchester City from winning their sixth title in seven years. Prevent is the word as this Man City side is easily the greatest and most sustainably dominant team the Premier League has ever seen. They would paste the Invincibles over a season. They won because they are the best.

So not, Arsenal were not good enough to win to the title despite getting themselves in a position where that was possible.

But they’ll finish a damn sight higher than everyone else. So f*** off.
PS The sycophantic antics of Carragher and Neville when Arsenal get slammed is pathetic. The cringeworthy arse-licking pantomime we saw with De Zerbi and Frank after losing to Brighton this season and Brentford the season before is pathetic. Grow up. Congrats to Brighton and Brentford for great seasons this year.


Brighton beware
So it would seem the title race is finally over with Manchester City set to win another title (what a shocker). The aftermath of Arsenal’s loss has focused mostly on their collapse, a fair argument perhaps, but their season needs to be put in context of their development and the unstoppable force that is City.

But I intend to talk about their glorious conquerors, Brighton. What a magnificent team they are. Run efficiently and effectively, playing brilliant attacking football that leaves even the elite dazed and confused. The envy of all.

But where do they go from here? The identity of the teams scrapping at the bottom end of the table should serve as an ominous warning for Brighton. Southampton, Leicester and Everton have all been the default Elite Botherers at some point in the not too distant past.

A couple of years ago, Leicester were the perfect illustration of how to run a club. Routinely identifying rough gems, polishing them into shiny stars and selling for massive profits. And they have much more to show for it than Brighton do now or perhaps ever will. The Foxes won the damn Premier League and the FA cup. Now, a couple of years after the latter triumph, they are going down. What happened? Can Brighton avoid it? The odds aren’t in their favour.

Brighton, like others previously in their position, have two possible paths ahead and they both lead to almost inevitable ruin.

Path One: Maintain the status quo

This seems reasonable and perhaps the wiser path. After all if it’s not broken, why fix it? Except history has proven this isn’t sustainable. This was the option chosen by Southampton and Swansea before them. A model built entirely on signing hidden talents and selling for profits is riskier than simply breaking the bank. There’s a reason the top clubs don’t do this. Why spend £200m when you can get the same for £50m? A few failed gambles can send the whole thing crashing down.

And when you do get it right, the wolves will come knocking on the door. Not just for players, but the manager too. Brighton seem to have accepted this. Like Leicester did, they’re willing sellers at the right price usually having already signed a capable replacement for a fraction of the price. But those replacements – player or manager – have to be good. Maybe not necessarily better than the one departing or even as good, but for the club’s sake, they have to come close. If they’re good, they’ll be gone too before long, and the cycle starts again. If they’re not, the team could start a downward spiral. It’s a vicious unending cycle that can’t be maintained for long. Either the new gems are too rough to be of much immediate use, or they are no gems at all. Southampton know this more than anyone.

Path Two: Evolve

In Premier League terms, standing still usually takes you backwards. No one can maintain the Elite Botherers status for long. You will have to move on one way or the other, up or down. Leicester realized this and chose to evolve. Having spent almost the entirety of two seasons in the top four, albeit without actually finishing there, they decided it was time to actually challenge the elite.

To do this, you have to minimize or stop selling your best players. Not only that, teams who choose this route will have to start spending themselves. Not just on rough gems but on players already shining somewhere else but not enough for the elite to snap them up. Players with more obviously higher ceilings. This will mean paying higher prices, and of course, not selling means less transfer revenue. Leicester kept Rodgers, Ndidi, Tielemans, Madison et al and instead chose to complement them with new players.

This path is perhaps the only way to break into the elite but is way riskier. Without a sugar daddy or a nation state to offset the inevitable losses from failed gambles, the club’s finances will suffer greatly. Leicester’s deteriorated to such an extent they were unable to make significant signings last summer despite a) gaping holes in the squad b) selling their goalkeeper and best defender.

Everton went the same way, though perhaps more recklessly but the destination has ultimately been the same.

So where do Brighton go from here? It almost doesn’t matter. The financial inequality in the Premier League has ensured that, for those outside the elite, no matter how high a ceiling you create for yourself through meticulous planning, your floor remains as deep as anyone else’s.

The best the Seagulls can hope for is that when the inevitable decline comes, it doesn’t take them lower than mid table. Perhaps a couple of seasons of meandering until their gems start to shine and things pick up again. As long as they don’t become comfortable there because there is no safety in mid table. One year you are all snug and relaxed and the next you’re tumbling down into the Championship. Maybe then they can learn a thing or two from Crystal Palace, the absolute masters of quiet, efficient, nondescript mid table seasons.

At least they get to enjoy their moment in the sun, while it lasts.


VAR from enough
It was interesting and refreshing to hear Howard Webb on Monday Night Football and even more so to hear the audio of the various conversations between VAR and the on-field ref with the decision making process on penalties and goals. They used the Kiwior handball over turn in the Arsenal v Newcastle match and of course it was the perfect use of VAR.

It ticks all the boxes for a good advert for the PGMOL, on field it looked like it hit the hand so not a howler from the main ref, clear communication from VAR and the use of the replay to show it actually hit his thigh and his arm ended up in a natural position.

So now show us the decision making process on a cock up or on a very debatable subjective decision. Or even better show us two very similar incidents and why they were called completely opposite. They also released the audio of the goal Trossard had disallowed for Ben White holding the Leicester gk’s arm, again probably released as a good use of VAR as only one camera angle showed the offence clearly.

I’d now want to hear the audio of why Villa’s goal v Arsenal direct from a corner was allowed to stand when Ramsdale was being held and blocked. People may want to hear the audio from the infamous ‘forgot to draw the lines’ one for Brentford’s equaliser v Arsenal but that was quite a unique event admitted as a genuine mistake there isn’t much more we can take from it. Give fans the opportunity to hear the decision making on subjective fouls and show how the weight of the on-field decision has a high degree of influence so we can hear the VAR ref saying that it’s not a clear and obvious error.

I welcome the transparency but it could also highlight even more the inconsistency and the incompetence of some officials.
Rich, AFC (Liverpool are making the top 4 race very much squeaky bum time)


Levy out
I’m amazed there is so little ‘Levy out’ in the mailbox. Or maybe there is but you’re filtering it out because it’s boring? Well, I’m having a go anyway! That there is a lack of noise perhaps speaks to the utterly defeated resignation that comes from being a Spurs fan these days. On Levy, there is no doubt he is a canny businessman, but there is equally no doubt he is a moronic chairman of a football club.

His job is to set the strategy, or ‘philosophy’ as it must be called in football and recruit accordingly to execute on said philosophy. As football evolves, he should also evolve the philosophy and again recruit to execute accordingly. This is particularly acute in football where the playing staff are so eye wateringly expensive to turn over, and where developing talent through the academy takes years. A clear philosophy and commitment to the long term is essential unless you’re petro/state doped and can simply bankroll vanity changes and whims.

But when I review Levy’s 22 years at the helm the decisions he is wholly accountable for read like the pinball path a staggering drunk makes on the way home after 22 too many.

2001, he gets rid of George Graham. Hooray. Finish 10th. Pragmatic Arsenal football is not for Daniel.

2001-2003 he goes all feels and brings in Hoddle, but 9th & 10th doesn’t quite feel good enough.

2004 Caretaker David Pleat limps to 14th. Can’t have this kind of failure staining his pressed linens so in comes his first DOF in Frank Arnesen.

2005 Arnesen shits the bed with Santini, a pragmatic coach again veering away from the Hoddle vibes. Arnesen escapes the club, Comolli comes in as DOF, Jol takes the helm and we’re back on an appointment on feels which works with a couple of 5th places after a 9th.

2007 Jol is out, Comolli killing him off and in comes more pragmatism in Juande Ramos, a good start goes to hell quick enough and both he and Comolli are both sacrificed at the altar of ‘Not Levy’s Fault’. 11th.

2008 is vibes again as Redknapp takes over. None of that DOF bullshit for him, he’s proper football. And it kinda worked for 4 years until it blew right up in an entirely predictable way. Made the Champions League twice! Is that a trophy? It’s not? Sorry Dan.

2013 Daniel veers back to pragmstism, so in comes both Villas Powerpoint Boas and Baldini as DOF. Two layers of protection between Daniel and blame. Shock horror, it all goes to crap despite finishing 5th. In come the high falutin’ Adebayor salutin’ vibes of Timmy Gilet who leads a gallant journey to… 6th. He discovered Harry Kane if you didn’t know. Still eating his own FIGJAM.

2014 and Poch is in town, Baldini is out, Mitchell is in. Feels + brains + dare we say it… a plan for the future? This is too good to be true. Some great finishes, actual momentum, some DOF choppiness with Mitchell out, McDermott in but ultimately the time to invest comes as the Champions League Final approaches. What does Dan do? Nothing is written in Levy’s non-existent strategy document, so he does what he does best and pisses himself somewhere in the bowels of the new stadium and Poch sees through the hollow man at the top.

2019. After coming so close to winning with Poch, he gets in a serial winner but an absolute arse. Hi Jose. 6th? 7th??? Bye Jose. Thanks for the memories which thanks to All Or Nothing and goddamned Amazon I will never be able to forget.

I actually can’t do the rest. It’s too soon. In 22 years Daniel has overseen 12 permanent managers, at least 5 interim managers and 6 directors of football all to win four fifths of f**k all (technical term for a league cup every 20+ years). Yes, money, but in what world is this a successful football chairmanship when the leader is playing a private game of Manager Lotto?

ENIC out. Levy out.
Dr Oyvind, Earth


Trent is still playing right-back
It’s difficult to respond to Lee’s Mailbox entry from Tuesday morning, in which he gloated about how he said “Trent moving to a creative midfield role would be a good thing, and (we all) laughed”, for a few reasons:

1. Trent is still playing right back.

2. I’m not sure I saw anybody laughing at anyone suggesting the strategy which is actually happening on the pitch (Trent moving into central midfield positions when Liverpool has possession, while continuing to be the team’s actual right back when defending).

3. Personally, I’m not really convinced that Liverpool’s resurgence in form is connected to the change in how Trent is being used. I think Luis Diaz returning is far more important, even if the stats don’t reflect it. From my perspective, the threat he represents on the pitch blows space open for our other attacking players. In his absence, our other attacking players were repeatedly guilty of playing without any creativity and not taking enough risks. With him (and Jota returning + shaking off his poor form) we have looked much more like the Liverpool of previous seasons.
Oliver (wants to comment on Arsenal but ran out of paragraphs) Dziggel, Geneva Switzerland

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