A lot Can Happen In 16 Years! By Dan Smith
This Sunday will be the first time Arsenal and Leeds have met in the Premiership in 16 years!
2004 was a historic year for both clubs for contrasting reasons. For the Gunners, going a season unbeaten remains our finest achievement. On the same day, this weekend’s opponents got relegated, just the start of their dark days ahead.
As we were parading the title around Highbury, up in Yorkshire fans were in tears at Elland Road. They thought they had hit rock bottom, they were wrong! It took over a decade and a half for Leeds to return to the top flight. They would have assumed as they left, that Arsenal might have added more Championships while they were gone.
Not just are Leeds back in the big time, some make them favourites when we meet this week. When you consider how big the gap between the two would grow, I’m not sure if it’s ‘well done Leeds’ or Arsenal standing still?
A lot can happen in 16 years! Equally, things change, yet…… stay the same
2004- 2005 Arsenal 2nd, Leeds 14th (Championship)
Even in the Premiership, Leed’s supporters had gotten used to selling a star on the cheap just to get them off the wage bill, so naturally that would intensify now in the second tier. As pre-season approached they barely had a squad, eventually relying on loans and free transfers. Let’s just say their car park suddenly looked different.
More serious was the sale of their training ground and stadium. The opposite was happening at Chelsea. Thanks to a Russian Billionaire suddenly they could outbid (and did) anyone in terms of fees and wages.
It meant we had to settle for the consolation of the FA Cup, not realising Vieira’s penalty would be his last kick as a Gunner and our only trophy for 9 years.
At least we were not being ‘saved’ by Ken Bates!
2005-2006 Arsenal – 4th, Leeds 5th (lost In Championship play off final)
In the month of May both clubs took part in a game where a win would change their history. We played in our only Champions League Final, seen as the end for the ‘Invincibles’.
Without publicly admitting it, Mr Wenger already knew the restrictions facing him moving to the Emirates. He was expected to raise capital yearly to pay off debt, hence the decision to break up the Invincibles early.
Leeds meanwhile got to the Play offs. If they could just beat Watford, they would be back in the big time and avoid years of more financial hardship. They lost 3-0.
2006 – 2007 Arsenal 4th – Leeds relegated to League One
Ironically, Leeds were being used as an example as to why our board refused to spend outlandish money to compete with Chelsea.
Leeds had taken out loans to ‘live the dream’, and once they failed to qualify for the Champions League, they were in danger of going out of business. As we moved to a fancy 60,000 seat stadium, Leeds were near the bottom of the Championship.
Once relegation seemed a formality they smartly went into administration, accepting a deduction of 10 points now, rather than in the new season.
Leeds would be playing in the third tier for the first time ever. That’s rock bottom !
2007-2008 Arsenal 3rd, Leeds lose League One Play off final
This is when we bottled the title, a young squad not having the right mentality to handle the pressure of the run in. Yet have you ever heard the saying, ‘there’s always someone worse off? Leeds now owed serious money to HMRC.
The Football League only gave them permission to play and sign players days before the season was due to get underway.
Considering a new 15-point deduction, it was some achievement to reach the playoffs. That was credited to the double act of Dennis Wise and Gus Poyet. The former Chelsea team-mates gave hope to the city until they both jumped ship in January. First Poyet gets a coaching role back at Spurs, while Wise became executive Director of Newcastle.
2008-2009 Arsenal 4th, Leeds lose in play-offs
Despite more heartbreak in the playoffs, Leeds fans have hope due to the run that new boss Simon Grayson puts together from January onwards, anticipating what he can do in his first full season?
Gooners start to worry that the club only cared about finishing top 4. We are reassured. A few years of paying off stadium debt will be worth it as after that, we can compete with the Bayern Munich’s – well that’s okay then!
2009-2010 Arsenal 3rd, Leeds 2nd (promoted from League One)
Having trusted UEFA financial fair play, Arsenal’s business model never took into account what happened at Chelsea, then Man City! It made us be self-financing pointless.
It’s viewed that as soon as City qualify for the Champions League, they will become serious contenders in English Football. We fast track that by giving them Kolo Touré and Adebayor. To this day, there are suspicions that behind the scenes we were happy to get these offers so we could repay loans.
Years after playing in European semi-finals, it’s sad to consider Leeds winning at Old Trafford an FA Cup shock. With Jermaine Beckford scoring 31 goals it’s seen as now or never in terms of promotion. In truth they threw away 1st, so promotion was met more with relief then joy.
2010-11 Arsenal 4th, Leeds 7th (Championship)
The closest we come to winning the title since 2004. When we played Birmingham in the League Cup Final, we were top of the table and had just beaten Barcelona.
The manner of how we lost that final tough saw us fall apart, lacking the mentality to recover. Leeds were more stable off the pitch, promoting Ken Bates to become controlling share holder.
2011-12 Arsenal 3rd, Leeds 14th
Both sets of supporters strongly question their club’s ambitions. Arsenal lose Fabregas, Nasri and Clichy in one window, yet it takes an 8-2 battering at Old Trafford to pressure them into spending not even half of that money.
Recording their best profit margins since being in the top flight, Ken Bates is questioned for only investing 0.7 million on the squad yet 7 million on posh renovations at the ground.
Bates labels those taking part in small protests as ‘morons’ (imagine Mr Kroenke doing that!)
2012-13 Arsenal 4th, Leeds 13t h
Even Arsene Wenger struggled any longer to say we had any ambition when Sir Alex Ferguson picked up the phone and convinced him to let Van Persie go to Old Trafford, where he fired them to the title.
Leeds fans were given fresh hope all fans get when there is a takeover bid. Investment Bank GFH Capital buy 100 percent shares in the club’s parent company.
2013 – 14 Arsenal 4th, Leeds 15th
Arsenal are pressured into doing something big in the market after leaking out all summer that they believed they could get Luis Suarez for 40 million and a pound.
They settle for Ozil.
The likes of AFTV launch as social media causes a rise in fan channels. Despite ending our trophy drought Mr Wenger and Stan Kroenke are being questioned.
At least though our owner isn’t found guilty of an offence under Italian tax laws. That prevents Massimo Cellino from buying a majority stake in Leeds. He gets the decision overturned and ends up with his 75 percent stake. Due to constant legal wrangling, the football side is ignored.
2014-15 Arsenal 3rd, Leeds 15th
Some gooners are impressed with the manner of how we win the FA Cup again, others feel Mr Wenger should leave on a high after throwing away a lead in the title race.
Try though sulking in front of a Leeds fan about ‘only top 4 and an FA Cup.’ They have 4 different managers, a transfer embargo and their owner disqualified from football (who saw that coming).
Legal issues in Italy means he still can’t pass a fit and proper persons test. He would later admit not bothering if he realised how complicated it was to buy a club in the UK.
2015-2016 Arsenal 2nd, Leeds 13th
Leicester winning the title is seen as a missed opportunity for the Gunners, who bottle it in the run in. Allowed to be in control again Cellino carries on his high turnover of managers, giving Uwe Rosler only 12 games in charge, then sacking Steve Evans after 6 months. At that point, the Italian had sacked 6 managers in 2 years
2016-2017 Arsenal 5th, Leeds 7th
Arsenal finish outside the top 4 for the first time under Arsene Wenger. Despite this he maintains the outcome of the FA Cup Final won’t have any bearing on him extending his contract (we win).
The manager though does acknowledge the verbal abuse he is getting weekly on YouTube, pointing out some were in danger of losing the club’s proud values.
In the Championship, Leeds throw away a playoff spot despite having an 11-point gap with 8 games left. Many blame outside distractions, the owner again suspended, this time for making money off agents by selling his own players.
2017-2018 Arsenal 6th, Leeds 13th
A big season of change at both clubs.
Not helped by the Sanchez and Ozil contract sagas, Arsenal again fail to make the top 4, persuading Mr Wenger to walk away after 22 years.
Cellino sales his shares to Andre Radizzani. He’s shocked when Gary Monks quits in pre-season. He did a PR master class by buying back Elland Road. Leeds were in the top 5 for the first half of the season but fell away. Many put that down to youth, the owner went on Twitter and questioned was the competition fair?
2018-2019 Arsenal 5th, Leeds lose in play offs
Both clubs welcome high-profile Foreign coaches to England.
We hire former PSG boss Unai Emery, Leeds recruit South American legend Bielsa. The likes of Pep Guardiola explain how he bases so much of his work off what Bielsa had taught him.
Both clubs are on course to meet their targets before poor form in the run in. The consensus was Leeds lost their grip on the top 2 due to tiredness based on their coaches high press. Arsenal’s failure to finish in the top 4 seemed to be pit down to complacency.
Chelsea beating us 4-1 in The Europa League Final was humiliating.
A contrast in emotions for both clubs.
At 64, it wasn’t clear if Bielsa wanted to stay another year in England, which is why he liked a rolling contract. Especially with people questioning if his high press could work in Britain. He simply made his players fitter and this time they stayed the distance.
Over in London though Arsenal had their worse finish in 25 years, just pipping Sheffield United and Burnley to 8th. Unai Emery couldn’t get confidence in him back after Baku.
Last November was the worse I have seen the club in my life time. Arteta showed great man management to lift morale, and get each player to tactically believe in his ethos to win the FA Cup (without that we wouldn’t be in Europe). Some got a bit carried away with talk of titles and us having Pep’s clone.
Equally, talk of sacking someone who hasn’t had a year in the job is madness. I maintain some gooners want success so much they don’t want to wait.
Sometimes to get to the highs you have to go through some lows.
You don’t believe me? Ask a Leeds fan!
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