In case you didn't know, it's been almost nine years since Arsenal won a trophy. During the ensuing seasons, there's been plenty of causes for hope and almost as many moments that would still cause many a Gooner to close their eyes with despair.
Read any mainstream media publication and the entire debate is on the one hand "Arsenal have won nothing for ages" and on the other "ah but…" and then a host of mitigating factors, although the mitigating factors are never nearly well enough explained. Even if you think they are, it's a moot point.
Take this tweet from Bruce Millington:
Happy for Arsenal and Wenger. They take ridiculous amounts of stick and if any team is entitled to scrape through unimpressively it's them.— Bruce Millington (@brucemillington) April 12, 2014
You probably don't know who he is, but I'll enlighten you: Bruce is the editor of the Racing Post and therefore isn't really trying to sell his paper to football fans. Why's that important? Because he isn't obsessed with the 9 Years narrative. As he says, Arsenal take ridiculous amounts of stick.
How long have you been hearing about how long it's been since Arsenal won a trophy? At least four years. And yet take in the following five statistics:
- Liverpool have won one Carling Cup in eight years
- Tottenham have won one Carling Cup in fifteen years, six years ago
- Despite an investment of over a billion pounds, Chelsea have won the League just three times in eleven years since the Abramovich takeover
- Manchester City despite spending the better part of a billion pounds have won one League title since they started ploughing money into the club seven years ago and are yet to win a Champions League knockout tie
- Real Madrid haven't reached the Champions League Final since 2002, despite being subsidised by the Spanish government
You'll never hear any of those things in the mainstream media. The narrative is exclusively what Arsenal have or have not done, with very little discussion of their rivals' failure. All they bang on about is how Arsenal have the fourth largest wage bill in the League and so you'd expect them to finish fourth, and therefore you can mitigate anything Arsene Wenger has done and tacitly claim he is an average manager.
Why is this a weak line of argument? Well, just looking at the 2011-12 data Chelsea and Manchester City's wage bills were vastly bigger than Arsenal's. Manchester United's was 15% larger. Incidentally, Arsenal finished above Chelsea that season but let's overlook that.
Liverpool's wage bill is 15% smaller than Arsenal's, with Spurs spending a similar amount. Presumably if Arsenal are supposed to make up the gap on the teams above them then you could also expect the teams below them to do that to Arsenal? But apparently not. Apparently that is an expectation you can only place on Arsenal.
Even if you don't want to completely ignore the enormous mitigating factor for Arsenal's trophy drought, it still begs the question why other clubs aren't questioned about their lack of success and trophies. Unless of course, Arsenal aren't actually that bad but it's just a good story which sells papers and page views. Because that's when even a cursory glance at the facts shows.