Did Gary Neville really prove Arsenal fans wrong?
As it stands, it looks almost impossible for Arsenal to win the Premier League. The Gunners would have to win their final two games, with Manchester City losing two and drawing one of their last three matches – at least.
Even one draw for Arsenal or one win for Manchester City will confirm Pep Guardiola’s side as champions, and all hope seems to be lost.
According to some fans on social media, this has proven Gary Neville right. Neville had suggested that Arsenal would fall away in the second half of the season and that Manchester City could go on a run, and that’s how it turned out.
But the Arsenal fans’ feud with Neville goes much deeper than that.
It all kicked off back in 2021, after Arsenal had gone on a summer spending spree to sign a number of young players for the future. Ben White, Martin Odegaard, Aaron Ramsdale, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Albert Sambi Lokonga, and Nuno Tavares all joined the club.
The season got off to a bad start, with Arsenal losing to Brentford, and Gary Neville said this: “I don’t know the plan at Arsenal. The recruitment, to me, has been really poor. They’re poor at it compared to other clubs. They’ve been poor in the last few years.
“I don’t get the strategy, I don’t get the direction of how they’re taking the team.”
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Arsenal went on to have a decent campaign, improving on their previous eighth-place finish to challenge for the top four. Though they ultimately fell to fifth at the last hurdle, the long-term strategy seemed clear to the supporters.
When challenged on his previous comments, Neville doubled down, tweeting in July 2022: “You blew up with the best chance you’ll have of finishing 4th! Is that the strategy?”
Arsenal continued to invest in the squad, signing Gabriel Jesus, Oleksandr Zinchenko, and Fabio Vieira. But when Neville made his top-four predictions at the start of the season, he clearly didn’t think much had changed.
“I think City, Liverpool, and Tottenham will finish in the top three,” Neville told Sky Sports, adding: “I know Chelsea and Manchester United are struggling a bit in terms of where they are and they might both blow up.
“But I think both will have to happen in order for Arsenal to land in the top four.”
In October, when Arsenal had been top of the league for a few months, Neville still wasn’t convinced they’d even finish in the top four, let alone challenge for the title.
“I look at Tottenham, Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City, and Liverpool – it’s still a big job for Arsenal [to finish in the top four].”
Then, in January, Neville made the comments people are pointing to now.
“[Arsenal] won’t win the league,” Neville predicted. “Manchester City will win the league, and I think Manchester United will finish second, and I know that will annoy Arsenal fans.”
In all fairness, Neville got that first part right. It does indeed look like Manchester City will win the league. Eventually, by moving the goalposts for two years, he got one right.
But when he said Arsenal didn’t have a strategy, he was wrong. When he said Arsenal had missed their best chance to finish in the top four, he was wrong.
When he predicted Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur to finish above Arsenal in the top three, he was wrong. When he said both Chelsea and Manchester United would need to blow up for Arsenal to finish fourth, he was wrong.
When he predicted it would be a “big job” for Arsenal to finish in the Champions League places, he was wrong. The Gunners are 19 points clear of fifth, and European qualification has been a breeze.
Finally, when he predicted Manchester City and Manchester United to finish above Arsenal, he was half right. City probably will, but United won’t.
So did Gary Neville prove Arsenal fans wrong? It looks like he did, once. And by contrast, Arsenal proved him wrong five or six times over. That part clearly isn’t so important.