I was involved in a rather depressing and thought provoking conversation on Monday on the Footballtasitically Arsenal podcast. The cause of the depression or enlightenment perhaps was Alan Alger from Betway. Armed with indisputable statistics Alan suggested in strong terms using various metrics that the only thing Wenger’s Arsenal improved upon in their Premier League campaign last season over the previous one was in league postion. We had a worst record against the top teams that is for certain after seemingly improving our tactics away against our rivals in 2014/15. Most depressing among the barrage of relevant facts from our betting guru panelist was the fact that on every single occasion where Arsenal have been odds on favourites with the bookies since they last won the Premier League in 2004 that have failed to prove the experts right. As Alan elucidated, in a compelling fashion, every single time when all the experts are convinced we have a better than 50% chance from the position we are in to go on win it, we confound them, defy the odds and throw it away. Of course the last rime this happened and we were installed as odds on or better was when Danny Welbeck’s dramatic late winner secured victory over the then leaders Leicester and cut the gap at the summit. And yes we fell away again….
Of course the reason for Alan bringing this up now was his annoyance at the usual Arsenal fan overreaction to a run of good performances and results against lesser teams early in the season. We do get carried away most October’s only to be brought back down to earth with a bump in November. Soo was Sunday’s insipid display against the old rival the start off the reality check or are we actually improving in some of the metrics that count this time around. Is Alan correct to be analytical as is the want of his profession or can his team convince the fan in him to ignore the bookie in him?
So is the scepticism well founded when we improved our league position in 15/16 and finished ahead of all our conventional rivals, some of whom failed to even make any European competition for this campaign? Sadly yes he is….
|Players in Double Figures Goals||2||2|
Now the above stats are not exhaustive but it would be hard to argue that Arsenal made strides last season despite the slightly higher league position. We scored fewer goals, won less matches and ultimately attained a lower final points tally. So our rivals under achieving by more than us, whilst enjoyable to a degree in the moment should not allow us to be under any illusion that we made much progress in 2015/16. The reality is we won a major trophy emphatically in 2014/15 on the back of winning the same one in 2013/14 whilst we won nothing last season and again failed to sustain a challenge in the Premier League.
So that is all rather demoralising but what of the early over expectation this year? On the face of it we had a good close season with 4 first team additions arriving, 2 of whom have already integrated into the first team reckoning. Indeed Mustafi alongside Koscielny is by any yardstick a massive improvement on the previous partnerships. We are 11 games in, so over a quarter of the season has passed and we have played 3 off the main 5 rivals, admittedly 2 of them at the Emirates. Just for the sack of argument perhaps we could consider the same benchmarks we looked at for 14/15 and 15/16 and extrapolate?
|Stats||16/17 to date after 11||Extrapolated to 38 game total|
|Players on track for Double Figures Goals||3||3|
We certainly look to have goals from more areas on the pitch with Alexis through the middle allowing both Ozil and Walcott to move into the spaces he leaves when dropping deep and the defence looks to have a more solid feel to it with Mustafi involved. In essence if you score more and concede less one has to assume the results and points logically follow.This is obviously just musings backed with some interesting numbers but the signs are that whilst we undoubtedly did not progress in 2015/16 we are beginning to do so in 2016/17. Well at least on the evidence so far there is a suggestion we are on an upward trajectory and interesting 83 points would have won the division last year. We will know considerably more by the end of December when we have faced off against all our rivals but there is room for encouragement.
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There are other precedents that often bear scrutiny and having 3 players in double figures tends to signify title contention and only once this century has a team with a worse goal difference than 35 won the Premier League. At present Liverpool are out scoring all their rivals but are simultaneously conceded more. They will not score at the rate they are all season, or at least we hope they won’t, so it is worth keeping an eye on their defence.
So was this a downbeat reality check or an upbeat prognosis for the remainder of this campaign? I will leave you to decide but a win at Old Trafford might just leave us all incapable of anything but optimism. On the other hand a loss at Old Taffford…….
Passionate fifty-something Arsenal supporter who has been making the journey to N5 regularly since the early 1980s – although his first game was in 1976. Always passionate when talking about The Arsenal, Dave decided to send a guest blog to Gunnersphere in the summer of 2011 and has not stopped writing about the Gunners since.
He set up his own site – 1 Nil Down 2 One Up – in February 2012, which he moved on in 2016 to concentrate on freelance writing and building Gunners Town, which he launched with Paul in 2014.
The objective of GT was to be new and fresh and to give a platform for likeminded passionate Arsenal fans wishing to write about their team. Dave still of course, writes for the site himself and advises the ever-changing writing crew.