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Another Step Taken; it was closer than you think

Another Step Taken

By Ian Jenkinson

@Gooneriano

Please note this article contains a wide table towards the end, which you may find doesn’t fit onto your screen and runs over to the right.  If this happens, when you get to this part click Ctrl and the minus (-) key at the same time, repeatedly, until it fits.  Then if you want to continue with the text and want it bigger click on Ctrl and +

I am still feeding off the buzz from our fantastic FA Cup win and I cannot stop smiling when I think about it! This cup win for me has really cemented how I feel Arsenal have come on, especially over the last couple of seasons. We won the FA Cup but with a bit of luck we could have been celebrating a double.

Despite 2013/2014 being a fantastic season, Arsene will look back and think that it could have been much better but let me park that thought for now.

I don’t do “I told you so’s” but in an article I wrote for Untold all the way back in September which you can see here, I predicted EXACTLY what Arsenal would do this season. That article was a few words on why I thought Arsenal had started so well (we were top of the Premier League and top of our Champions League group at the time the article was written) but at the end of the article I wrote what I felt would constitute a good season for Arsenal.

The whole article is worth a read but let me just paraphrase a few lines from it (remember, I had written this in September and Arsenal had only played 5 Premier League games):

“………………..Arsenal finished 16 points off the top last season. If we closed that gap to 6 or 7 points I would consider that to be a good season. I would then expect us to build on that and seriously challenge for the league title over the next number of years. Our league position will fluctuate this season no doubt…….

………I know a lot of people think that we can win it this season, and they are right…… If we get a handle on our injuries you never know ………….i for one think that it is very much a step by step process, get closer to the top…….. and hopefully nick a cup in the process.”

So there you have it, I predicted that we would finish 7 points behind the eventual winners, win a cup and that injuries would have a massive say in how we do overall.

Now I am not saying all this so that I will look like a clever clogs or that I am some sort of psychic. I say this because I feel that when we are assessing our team’s chances in any given season we have to have a real sense of where we have come from to enable us to imagine where we are likely to go and what we are likely to do. We need to assess what has happened over the previous 12 – 18 months to give us a glimpse into the future.

The reason I felt we would do so well is because last summer for me was a landmark summer and not just because we broke, actually no – blew to smithereens our transfer record to sign Mesut Özil. Far more importantly we didn’t sell any of our best players, in fact we signed a few of them to new long term contracts. That made me sit up and take notice because for the first time pretty much since we acrimoniously sold Ashley Cole to Chelsea we had kept all our best players during a transfer window. The tide had changed somewhat.

The huge list of departures had suddenly stopped and in came Özil, Flamini and Sanogo and all our current main and younger players were another year matured. I was very excited at the start of the season and that was before we signed Özil.

So, when I assess Arsenal’s chances at the start of each season I don’t just blurt out that we should win the league just because we are Arsenal or that we “should” do this or we “ought” to be doing that, I take a level headed approach and think realistically about what has happened and what we can achieve.

During previous years where we found ourselves in a position where we had to sell our best players to keep financially stable during the building of the stadium I can’t honestly say that I thought we would win the league, we had too much on our plate and the birth of the mega rich clubs had also taken hold. I thought we might have taken a cup or two along the way which we very nearly did on a couple of occasions. But the funny thing was for me that I didn’t mind the barren years because I could see the light at the end of the tunnel, I knew what the club were striving to be and trying to accomplish.

“But we keep finishing 4th!”I hear some people scream! But the reality is that we haven’t been this close points wise to the top of the Premier League since 2007/2008. In the past three seasons we have gone from 29 points behind in 2012, 16 points behind in 2013 and now just 7 points in 2014. “Yes but the league is getting worse, Man Utd were out of the race, Liverpool are now challenging for god’s sake!” they will say. But the league is not getting worse, it is getting tighter yes but not worse. The points total that has won the league over the past three seasons has been 89 in 2012, 89 in 2013 and 86 in 2014. I don’t see the league getting any worse. The bar is as high as ever, we are just getting closer to it.

So why did we not win the league this season?

Well firstly, for all that’s been said about Liverpool’s title challenge and the media love in that accompanied it, there was only one game in the difference between them and us. If we had beaten Liverpool at Anfield we would have finished above them. That is how tight it was.

An obvious slip up from Arsenal in the league this season was not taking any points from any of our away games against the other top three. Had we even drawn away to Liverpool and Man City we would have closed the gap even further. Defeats to your closest rivals have doubled the effect.

Had our penalty at home to Chelsea been given and had we nicked a deserved win at home to Man City things could well have been so different. Even though these defeats were damaging we can equally look at losing away to Stoke away and that ill fated opening fixture at home to Villa. Don’t even make me mention the last minute OG against Swansea at home.

These are all big ifs but I am just highlighting the extremely fine margins on which league championships are won. I’ll say it again, we are not far away.

We conceded 41 goals this season but 23 of those goals were conceded in just 5 games, the rest of the season ended with Szczesny getting a well deserved share of the Golden Glove. The problem with the majority of those goals conceded was that a number of them were conceded against the top three so the damage was doubled (purely from a points perspective), it didn’t really matter if we had lost those 6-0 or 1-0.

Arsenal scored over 30 goals less than Man City and Liverpool but that is slightly misleading as both those teams beat many teams by four or more goals this season and as I always say, you get 3 points for a 1-0 win as much as a 4-0 win. Would more goals have pushed Arsenal over the line? Yes but we wouldn’t have needed 30 more to do it. A mere six or seven more goals in the right places this season would have won Arsenal the league. One at home to Man Utd, one at St. Mary’s, one at home to Everton and that would have been another six points from just three goals. Fine lines.

And then there’s the elephant in the room – the injuries. They make me sick.

If anybody has any doubt as to the effect injuries have had on our season please take a look at this (stats taken from the fantastic www.arsenalreport.com/injuryroom, I just collated them differently, there may be some anomaly’s but I trust the source):

If you find this table doesn’t fit onto your screen and runs over to the right  click Ctrl and the minus (-) key at the same time, repeatedly, until it fits.  Then if you want to continue with the text and want it bigger click on Ctrl and +

Pos Timescale Inj
16 Aug Wk 3 3 Arteta Ox Diaby
9 Aug Wk 4 4 Arteta Ox Poldi Diaby
4 Sep Wk 1 5 Arteta Ox Poldi Sanogo Diaby
4 Sep Wk 2 6 Arteta Rosicky Ox Poldi Sanogo Diaby
1 Sep Wk 3 8 Arteta Santi Theo Rosicky Ox Poldi Sanogo Diaby
1 Sep Wk 4 7 Santi Theo Rosicky Ox Poldi Sanogo Diaby
1 Oct Wk 1 8 Santi Theo Sagna Rosicky Ox Poldi Sanogo Diaby
1 Oct Wk 2 8 Santi Theo Sagna Ox Poldi Sanogo Diaby
1 Oct Wk 3 7 Santi Theo Flamini Ox Poldi Sanogo Diaby
1 Oct Wk 4 6 Theo Flamini Ox Poldi Sanogo Diaby
1 Nov Wk 1 7 Theo Jack Flamini Ox Poldi Sanogo Diaby
1 Nov Wk 2 6 Theo Jack Ox Poldi Sanogo Diaby
1 Nov Wk 3 5 Theo Ox Poldi Sanogo Diaby
1 Nov Wk 4 4 Ox Poldi Sanogo Diaby
1 Dec Wk 1 5 Sagna Ox Poldi Sanogo Diaby
1 Dec Wk 2 6 Kos Sagna Ox Poldi Sanogo Diaby
2 Dec Wk 3 5 Kos Ox Poldi Sanogo Diaby
1 Dec Wk 4 5 Ozil Ramsey Ox Sanogo Diaby
1 Jan Wk 1 9 Arteta Giroud Theo Gibbs Ramsey Ox Verm Sanogo Diaby
1 Jan Wk 2 9 Arteta Giroud Theo Gibbs Ramsey Rosicky Ox Verm Sanogo Diaby
1 Jan Wk 3 6 Arteta Theo Ramsey Rosicky Verm Sanogo Diaby
2 Jan Wk 4 6 Arteta Theo Ramsey Jack Verm Sanogo Diaby
1 Feb Wk 1 5 Theo Ramsey Jack Verm Diaby
2 Feb Wk 2 4 Theo Ramsey Verm Diaby
2 Feb Wk 3 4 Theo Ramsey Verm Diaby
2 Feb Wk 4 4 Theo Ramsey Verm Diaby
3 Mar Wk 1 4 Theo Ramsey Jack Diaby
3 Mar Wk 2 5 Ozil Theo Ramsey Jack Diaby
4 Mar Wk 3 7 Ozil Kos Theo Ramsey Jack Nacho Diaby
4 Mar Wk 4 8 Ozil Kos Theo Gibbs Ramsey Jack Nacho Diaby
4 Apr Wk 1 8 Ozil Kos Theo Gibbs Ramsey Jack Nacho Diaby
5 Apr Wk 2 6 Ozil Kos Theo Gibbs Jack Diaby
4 Apr Wk 3 7 Ozil Theo Gibbs Jack Ox Verm Diaby
4 Apr Wk 4 6 Theo Gibbs Jack Ox Verm Diaby
4 May Wk 1 5 Theo Jack Ox Verm Diaby
4 May Wk 2 3 Theo Ox Verm

 

In the first column is our league position, then the month (broken down into 4 quarters) and then the number of injuries we had in each particular week and then the name of the players who were injured at any particular time.

The names highlighted in green are who I would consider bankers to start in the first 11. The names in orange are those who could easily be in the starting 11 but I consider just outside it and the names in yellow are those who I would consider very strong squad players (The Ox could easily be in orange) of course, who should be where is open to opinion and debate. So straight away you can see the huge amounts of injuries we had overall but also in each individual week.

From the 28th of January (Jan Wk 4 in the list above) to the 6th of April (Apr Wk 1) Arsenal had a severe run of tough fixtures where we played Liverpool, Spurs, Stoke, Chelsea and Everton all away and Man Utd and Man City at home. And when you reference those dates to the injury table above it is no wonder we slipped in the title race. It was a double whammy, not only did we get the injuries in the first place but we got the worst of them (in volume and first team players) just at a time when we needed them most to face these big games. It was just typical Arsenal and so, so frustrating.

If we had a full strength squad (or even a few less key injuries) during that period we would have ran Man City and Liverpool all the way to the end of the season and might have won it.

Take Sterling, Gerrard, Coutinho, Henderson and Sturridge out of the Liverpool team for two months and see how they perform.

Take Toure, Silva, Dzeko, Nasri and Aguero out of the Man City team for two months and see how they perform.

I won’t even mention Chelsea who have “no strikers” except for £50m Torres, £15 Million Ba and multiple Champions League winner Eto’o. The mind boggles.

Anyway.

What I am trying to say is that even though Liverpool had no Champions League football, were knocked out of both domestic cups relatively early, had very few injuries and they had the league’s top two scorers they still couldn’t win the league. Despite all that going for them they couldn’t do it.

Man City had slightly worse injuries than Liverpool but nothing major, yet it still took them until the last day of the season to win the league.

Arsenal had one of their worst injury seasons ever which coincided with a horrible run of fixtures, played with one striker practically for the whole season. Had 5 first team players out injured for prolonged periods of a very important time and DESPITE all that finished a mere 7 points behind the eventual champions.

We will strengthen this summer and god willing we will find the answer to what is causing our injuries. I think finding the solution to the injury problem is more important than new recruitment. We are not far away at all. We need to buy some players to fill in the gaps if we do get some injuries but we very nearly did it with our squad as it is.

One thing that will be a huge help next season is that the players now have the taste of glory. If you look at any picture/footage from the FA Cup bus parade you will see nothing but unbridled joy on each and every players face. They now know what it feels like to be a champion for Arsenal and they have now seen what it means to the Arsenal community. They saw 250,000 Gooners line the streets. They caused that and you can be guaranteed that they will be even hungrier next season to get that feeling again. It should not be underestimated.

I said we needed to take this step by step and this season we took a huge step, we won the FA Cup and more than halved the gap at the top despite all the adversity.

A great season indeed.

@Gooneriano

 

51 comments to Another Step Taken; it was closer than you think

  • seagoon

    “Had our penalty at home to Chelsea been given”
    Don’t forget the not given nailed on penalty against Man U at the Emirates when Giroud was pulled back by Vidic having got goalside of the defender.
    What is it about us and not getting penaltys? $ really good shouts in the Cup Final waved away or not seen. If it had gone to a shoot out we still wouldn’t have been awarded any penalties.
    Maybe a bit of swings and roundabouts though as we were lucky not to conced a penalty against West Ham when the guy stayed on his feet and who can forget the Ox flattening Suarez in the Cup?
    Then there was the freak equaliser of the against the Swans involving 3 touches by Arsenal players before going in.
    Yeah, so near yet so damned far.

  • Ian Jenkinson,

    Although I agree that they are more painful because of the high scorelines, I don’t agree with the notion that those 3 losses cost us more than say:

    Home loss to Aston Villa – 3 points (Yes, I know it was Anthony Taylor’s victory)

    Home draw to Swansea – 2 points (Poor Flamini)

    Home Draw to Everton – 2 points (Unlucky Giroud with what could have been his best career goal)

    Home draw to Man united – 2 points (Nothing like the United of old and very beatable)

    That is 9 points right there!

    Ian, do you honestly think that getting points against the trio of Man City, Liverpool and Chelsea away is easier than the lost points above?

    In my opinion and despite Mourhino’s bus parking strategy getting the best of his top rivals, no team plans to win the league based on the points that they will win away to their title rivals. They take the maximum from the smaller teams (which we did very well but can still do better); take the maximum home points against their title rivals (which we did not do enough and a bigger sore spot for me) and then take whatever you can get away to your rivals.

    Other than the humiliating scorelines, I don’t really see the big deal about those losses. Liverpool lost away to Arsenal, Chelsea and Man City while Man City’s only point was that draw at the Emirates. We got the exact same point as Liverpool and only 1 point less than the Man City in the games amongst the top 4. How can we then put such losses at the top of why we lost the league?

    Apologies for my fixation on this matter.

  • nicky

    After a season which “might have been” even better than it was, I find it difficult to accept the recent view of Sagna when he claimed that “every season we start with a handicap”.
    Implying the absence of silverware was on the minds of the team FROM DAY ONE of the season.
    Surely not, from that early
    stage? 🙂

  • WalterBroeckx

    Ian,
    thanks for doing my job.
    I had been thinking of making such a table to see the real impact of the injuries. But I dithered because it must have been a hell of a job to do.

    In that table you can see how worse the injury crisis really was. From the moment you see the names of Theo, Ramsey together out we lose a lot of speed. With Jack we lose a lot of battling brilliance. With losing Kos we lose our golden partnership in the heart of the defence. And with losing Özil we lose one of the best playmakers in the world. So losing them all together at one point as we can see in the table is sick.

    I agree with what you say: we are close. Dealing with the injuries will help us to another 5-10 points. Any addition to the squad might help us to another 5 points.

    Like you say: we are close. Now let us make the final step next season.

  • nicky,

    How can it not be on their minds? Do you know of any bit of information more repeated than when Arsenal last won a trophy in the last 5 to 6 years? And it is 24-7!

    If there is a news story about catering services at the Emirates, the author would find a way to squeeze in “Arsenal haven’t won a trophy in 9 years” there somewhere. If anyone suggested a drinking game at the beginning of an Arsenal match coverage for every time “Arsenal haven’t won a trophy in 9 years” is uttered by the commentators, they’d be arrested for attempted murder by alcohol poisoning.

    These guys are human and just as it rubbed many of us fans the wrong way to hear the mantra repeated to death, it must have been a bigger psychological burden on the players. I think I understand Sagna very well here.

  • nicky

    @B……
    Not THAT early in a 9 months’ season….unless they are paranoid (which I’m sure they are not):)

  • AL

    Thanks for a factual piece Ian. And if anyone were to draw a graph of our progress this season they would notice that the graph would have been rising all the way from August, suddenly dropped at the end of January to the start of April(the period we had most of our key players out) before peaking again(when the majority of them came back. I don’t think we should look for any other reason apart from injuries and refs for our not winning the league this year. And if we want to be brutally honest the buck stops with the refs; the injuries are more often than not a result of them not doing their job properly by letting the opposition kick our players off the park(anyone who watched the FA cup final would not need to be reminded of this).

  • nicky,

    We have to agree to disagree on that. It is not paranoia if they are indeed chasing you or in this case, keep repeating the same negative over and over and over. I think that it will be inhuman to not feel even at the beginning of the season.

    Talking about handicap, do you know any other team who is harangued about not winning any particular trophy(ies) in X years as was done to Arsenal these last 5 years?

    It is not paranoia, it is reality and Sagna does not come across as a coward or overly sensitive person.

  • Stewart

    1st version disappeared from screen. hope not posted…rewrite…rewrite… ANYHOW..In Wenger we trust and long may he be in charge, well for the next 3 yrs…Now that is done…let us stop the excuses..not only could we have won the title this year, we should have won it along with the Cup double. Our squad is that good..next to the big money squad assembled by Man City, we have the best squad in the EPL, regardless of what you might hear in some quarters. OK, Excuse #1,,Injuries. We had more than or fair share of injuries. True, but we had injuries last year, and god forbid, we will have injuries next year. We should have U21s and squad players to cover. Our last two transfer windows have been nothing short of a shambles..Have we learnt our lesson? Hope so, but with mermurs of waiting until after the WC to look at transfers, I am not very confident right now. The injuries were staring us in the face in Jan and we did squat or almost squat.
    Four perplexing noon starting, away game results..I am still scratching my head…Am willing to listen to any conspiracy theories..Did our dinner get spiked? We SHOULD NOT have lost those games, and not in that fashion, We are head and shoulders above Liverpool. Man City we were depleted and tired. WHY were we playing a high line from the start. As a matter of fact, why play a high line from the start in any occasion…let the game dictate when you move the back line up and squeeze the field. Not going to even bother with the zonal making of set pieces. Anyhow..My hopes for this season: 2 new strikers..I would love us to steal Welbeck from UTD (left wing/Center). Am intrigued with Jordan Rhodes (another Shearer?)..Pay the money and take your chances…failing that, Bony/Remy..EPL experience…forget the money pits..”TOP TOP strikers”…unless Lewendowski, decides he suddenly does not want to have a big T on his jersey. Fabregas…roumers..Is he still the same player that left…they ruined our boy. guess we have to take him if stories are true, but might have to put Santi in the shop window…HOLDING MID..Defensive minded…I guess this is the 3rd big problem we had…the offence playing with the hand brakes on, knowing that they had to scamper back to cover..Ball Winner please..I like Wanyama, but am open to all the others names..seems to be a lot out there…Mr Song..you made your bed. lie in it..not named Fabregas…sorry.. Jenks will do the job at RB..get him a Monreal..Aurier? Well guess enough said..Wenger…Love the man but some times he drives me around the bend. Him running around so happy with Champange being pour over his head…priceless. His wife must be a saint.

  • Ian Jenkinson

    Hi all,

    Thank your for taking the time to comment.

    @seagoon

    I had forgotten about that Giroud foul against Man Utd!

    @Walter

    You are most welcome! I try to help out where i can 😉

    @Bootoomee

    I don’t think that it would be any easier getting points from Man City, Chelsea and Liverpool away than at home to Villa etc but the defeats to the big sides are more damaging purely from a mathematical point of view. If we had beaten Man City and Liverpool (or Chelsea) away from home we would have been champions, that is a fact. Just two games. We cannot say that with any other two games that we lost/drop points in this season.

    I get your sentiment but the bottom line is that defeats to your closest mathematical rivals are more damaging than to lower teams. The view that if we beat all the lower teams we will be champions (i am not saying this is your view) is flawed because the other top teams can do that as well. In reality that is unlikely to happen but we can not rely on just beating the smaller teams. It is a massive help obviously but you do need more wins against those closest to you to push you over the line.

    I take the point that Chelsea had a great record against the other top teams and only finished 3rd but i think that was the exception rather than the rule as Chelsea dropped some really soft points against some smaller teams. That is not likely to happen season in, season out.

    The ideal scenario is somewhere in the middle of both our views, but i would still say that two wins away against Man City and Chelsea would give our title hopes a better chance than two wins at home against Cardiff and Norwich when it comes to squeaky bum time at the end of the season. The lower team wins of course are super important but even more so is beating our rivals.

  • I have to say big yes (agree) u have written already the fact. …omg when I remembering the game @ stock that poor diction from the referee, draw v chelsea N Swansea @home…….oh!!!!. am still feel sad.
    but in fact the gunners family they’ve had a good season than the last few years.

  • Ian Jenkinson,

    You are the one not using mathematical reasoning here but let’s try again:

    Liverpool away to Arsenal – lost 0-2
    Liverpool away to Chelsea – lost 1-2
    Liverpool away to Man City – lost 1-2

    They took ZERO point away from their rivals and only lost the league by 2 points. This is exactly Arsenal’s result point-wise, away to the other top 4 rivals. Where did the 5 points that they got more than us in the final table come from?

    Man City away to Chelsea – lost 1-2
    Man City away to Liverpool – lost 2-3
    Man City away to Arsenal – drew 1-1

    They got exactly ONE of your so called most valuable points and they only got it against their farthest top 4 rival in Arsenal but still won the league. Where did the 6 extra points that they got more than us in the final table come from?

    The fact that Chelsea that you have conveniently labelled an aberration got 7 of such points and still lost the league by 4 point vindicates me.

    Where did Man City and Liverpool made up for the home and away losses to Chelsea from?

    Answer: from beating the smaller teams

    Why did Chelsea, despite leading Man City by 9 points in the top 4 mini league, lose the league by 4 points to the team that they had beaten home and away and by your yardstick, taken 6 most valuable points off?

    Answer: because they failed to beat the smaller teams!

    I will agree with you that we need to do better against our rivals but it just makes no sense to me to continue to put the larger share of the blame for our failure on the wrong teams.

    Numbers don’t lie and on this particular issue, they are on my side.

  • nicky

    @B…….,
    All this nonsense about not winning silverware since 2005 is exactly that.
    Those supporters of our great Club who are of more mature years, have always regarded perennial qualification for the CL of far greater importance and achievement.
    The euphoria enjoyed by much of the younger element of Arsenal
    followers is, of course, perfectly understandable. But a few rounds of a Cup competition with a lucky draw and an opponent near to relegation in the Final simply doesn’t compare with what Arsenal had already achieved in this season’s 38 match League.

  • nicky,

    Of course. That is the position of Untold and most of us associated with it. Unfortunately, when the media are talking about “no trophy since X years”, they don’t talk to people like you and me. They seek those that I call the “trophy junkies” who make great TV interviewees and say what mirrors the slant that the media wants to send out. And that, whether we like it or not is the repetitive message of how it has been Arsenal last won a trophy.

    It is not strange that that sort of barrage of negativity got to the players.

  • Ian Jenkinson

    @Bootoomee

    Those are very nice statistics and if this was Untold Chelsea or Untold Liverpool and we were talking about why Chelsea or Liverpool didn’t win the league then all would be great. But we are talking about Arsenal’s season and it is very clear that if Arsenal had a better record against the other top 3 we would have had a very good chance of being champions.

    I have agreed that more points against lower teams would have been a help but it is harder to win 32 games home and away against lesser teams than it is to say win, 25 or 26 plus 2 or three games against the other top 3.

    We did very well against lower teams this season and there was room for improvement but the results against our rivals away (and dropped points at home against Man City and Chelsea) did a lot of damage as it put those teams further out of reach.

    You have proven my point with your Liverpool statistics above. Liverpool as you point out lost away to the other top 3 teams and didn’t win the league. Exactly. If they had a better record against the other 3 teams they would have won the league. My point proven.

    Man City lost this season to Cardiff who got relegated, Aston Villa and Sunderland who nearly got relegated, they dropped more points against the likes of Stoke, Norwich, Southampton and Sunderland again and still won the league. Yes they had a poor away record against the big teams but they did well at home against those. But they by far didn’t light the world on fire against the smaller teams either.

    As i said in my first comment that the ideal scenario is somewhere in the middle of our points of view. For this commentator a big contributing factor to Arsenal not winning the league is our failure to pick up more points against our closest rivals. Dropping points to lower teams is also a factor obviously but of the points dropped by Arsenal this season we’d need to win LESS of the big games than the small games that we lost to make up the difference due to the “6 pointer” nature of those big games. And that, for me is what swings it.

  • Ian Jenkinson

    @AL

    Thank you. When i started off compiling the table of injuries above i was going to do it in graph style but i think when you see the names as well as the volumes of players who were missing, the way i did it above is quite startling.

    A squad can have 8 injuries but they might be youth team players and fringe players so a graph wouldn’t truly show the extent of the situation. When you have 8 injuries and 5 of them are first 11 players and the other 3 are very important squad players you know you have a crisis on your hands. With the names listed above we can look back with more clarity at the severity of what we actually had to deal with.

  • Ian Jenkinson,

    Don’t sneer at inconvenient facts with: “Those are very nice statistics”. If you think my data are wrong say so but don’t shoot the messenger because the message counters your belief.

    “I have agreed that more points against lower teams would have been a help but it is harder to win 32 games home and away against lesser teams than it is to say win, 25 or 26 plus 2 or three games against the other top 3.”

    This is false and you need not look further than Manchester United!

    In 2008/9 season, Liverpool were Man United’s closest rivals. They beat them home and away with a 4-1 humiliation at the Old Trafford. Man united still won the league by 4 points (90 to Liverpool’s 86).

    Although Man City won the league in 2011/12 season, they only did by goals difference and that was after having beaten Man United home and with a 6-1 humiliation at Old Trafford. Ironically, had Man United won at home rather than draw against (a smaller) Everton team, they would have won the league that season.

    It is true that we did very well against the smaller teams but we still lost 7 (9 if we include Man United) points at the Emirates to these same teams while Liverpool and Man City took more points than us from such teams.

    Where did the points that they beat us and Chelsea with come from? Chelsea did worst against the lower 16 teams followed by Arsenal. Man City and Liverpool took most of their points from those teams.

    FACT!!!

    I will suggest that you look at the actual results breakdown and table of other teams and see how they are doing before concluding that we could not do better against the smaller teams. The truth is that we can do better against the smaller teams and most importantly, beating such teams is the secret to winning the league.

    According to: http://www.teamtalk.com/premier-league/table , we won more away games (11) than any other team in the league. Conversely, we won only 13 home games while Man City won 17. That is 8 lost points right there on the 4 more home draws than Man City! And they are part of those that I listed earlier!

    “You have proven my point with your Liverpool statistics above. Liverpool as you point out lost away to the other top 3 teams and didn’t win the league. Exactly. If they had a better record against the other 3 teams they would have won the league. My point proven.”

    So, Liverpool lost the league by 2 points to a team that they lost no head-to-head points to and who only got 1 more point than they did in those away fixtures. You are willing to buy this rationale but then turn around and call Chelsea’s case an aberration? Come on dude, at least be consistent! I know I am.

  • menace

    I get amused with all the maths and calculus to work out what should or could have happened. The simple answer is that if we played with a fair set of officials we would have won the league by mid February and the cup in 90 minutes.

  • Ian Jenkinson,

    Further, I would expect all post season analysis to be focused on our poorer than rivals’ home point returns rather than seeking to get one over our rivals on their home turf.

    We got 35 points away against all 19 oppositions while Man City got 34. At home on the other hand, Man City accrued 52 points while we got only 44; with 7 of our points being lost to Swansea, Everton and Aston Villa. I don’t know about you but I expect us to get home wins against these oppositions and our failure to do so is more damaging than 6-0 and 5-1 away losses to our title rivals.

  • Josif

    Bootoomee, Ian: both of you have a point.

    We lost to City 6:3 and our next match was at home against Chavs. Wenger did well to avoid another defeat in a row (it would have been third after Napoli and City), we had some chances to win and Dean was an ass. Psychological pressure on our players was there.

    We lost to Liverpool 5:1 and then played against Manure. A handbrake-approach was clearly visible. Psychological pressure was terrible.

    We lost 6:0 to Chavs. Next match was against Swansea. We looked flat and again with a handbrake-approach visible. Psychological pressure: enormous.

    My point is, we lost six points at home due to three terrible defeat on the road. Add three points from Villa game and that’s a double.

  • Micheal Ram

    I really fear for the EPL. We signed Ozil for big money and got Flamini and Sanogo for free, as a result, we almost conquered England. I wonder what will happen if Wenger decides to buy three more quality players next season.

  • Ian Jenkinson

    @Bootoomee

    I did not sneer at your stastics, i agreed with them, i did not think they were wrong as you claim i did and i’d like you to quote me where i said that your statistics were factually wrong please.

    I said that your Liverpool stastics proved me right, for as you pointed out Liverpool lost all three away games against the top three therefore that is what cost Liverpool the league title. Just like Arsenal, which is my point.

    I really don’t know what the 2008/9 season has to do with anything but you said that i was wrong that it isn’t easy to win 32 games against the lower opposition – just look at Man Utd in 2008/9. Man Utd won only 28 games that season including some against the bigger teams so i really don’t know what your point there was?

    You mention the 6-1 Man City win at Old Trafford. You say that Man City “only” won the league on goal difference because of that game. EXACTLY! It wasn’t Man Utd drawing at Everton that lost them the league that season, it was losing 6-1 in the first place to their closest rival that did the damage, even a smaller margin of loss in that game would have won Man Utd the league that season. It was a massive game between two rivals that settled the league thus further proving my point of the importance of these games in how a season ends. I really don’t know how you can’t see that. If you ask any Man Utd fan why Utd lost the league that season they will point to the margin of that 6-1 defeat to Man City.

    I have never once denied that we dropped points against the lesser teams, that was never my point so i will not deny your stats on points we lost at home and away to lesser teams. My point is that all we had to do to win the league this season was win 2 (just two) games against top teams providing one of them was Man City. In your version we would have had to win three or maybe four more games against lesser teams.

    You said “I will suggest that you look at the actual results breakdown and table of other teams and see how they are doing BEFORE CONCLUDING THAT WE COULD NOT DO BETTER AGAINST THE SMALLER TEAMS.”. Again, could you quote me where i said that please?

    From what i remember, what i actually said was – “We did very well against lower teams this season and THERE WAS ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT”. So may i suggest now that you should pay a bit more attention to what you are accusing me of saying. I said there was room for improvement, ie that we COULD have done better. I almost said the opposite of what you claim i said.

    You also said “So, Liverpool lost the league by 2 points to a team that they lost no head-to-head points to and who only got 1 more point than they did in those away fixtures. You are willing to buy this rationale but then turn around and call Chelsea’s case an aberration? Come on dude, at least be consistent! I know I am.”

    No, all i said was that had Liverpool’s record against the top rivals (not rival) been better they would have won the league, had Liverpool beaten Chelsea at Anfield they would have been champions (it didn’t have to be against City). My whole point (again) is dropping points against your rivals (plural) can cost you the league.

    On a side note, you are criminally factually wrong in what you said above. You said – “Liverpool lost the league by 2 points to a team that THEY LOST NO HEAD-TO-HEAD POINTS TO”. When in fact Man City beat Liverpool 2-1 at the Etihad. Ironically, a game had Liverpool won would have made Liverpool Champions.

    You were trying to make out that the fact that Liverpool had beaten Man City twice this season (factually wrong) and that still couldn’t win Liverpool the league(thus proving your theory correct) when in fact the complete opposite is true, that 2-1 defeat at the Etihad cost Liverpool the league thus highlighting the importance of dropping points to your rivals.

    You are consistent alright.

    But, to end, as i must go to bed now. Let me quote the one person that i know you, Bootoomee wouldn’t dare argue against as i know you hold him and his opinion in such high regard (as i do). Let me quote Arsene Wenger at the start of May at London Colney as he lamented Arsenal’s faded title challenge.

    “We had a good strong home record, but the restriction we had was in the big games we didn’t win some of them,”

    “That’s where the missing points are at the moment because we are very close to the top. Maybe one or two wins would have made that difference.”

    “I think overall in the season we have been remarkably consistent. We have missed some vital games and that is the regret we have of the season, some turning points in the season away from home where we failed to turn up with the right performance, but overall we have been remarkably consistent.”

    Well now, that’s kind of straight to the point. What i believe Arsene is saying is that we have been very consistent in general (against lesser teams) “but the restriction we had was in the big games we didn’t win some of them,” and “away from home we failed to turn up” and “That’s where the missing points are at the moment.”

    He wouldn’t be talking about our defeats to Liverpool, Man City and Chelsea now would he?

    Arsene knows.

    Goodnight.

  • Josif

    Ian, Liverpool would have won the title with just a draw at Etihad. City would have 2 points less (84) and Liverpool would have 85.

  • Ian Jenkinson

    @Josif

    Correct and thank you. I think that further drives the point home how important those big games are.

  • AL

    “The simple answer is that if we played with a fair set of officials we would have won the league by mid February and the cup in 90 minutes.”

    That is my view too. Of course there’s nothing wrong with people doing calculations to zero in on exactly where things were taken away from us, but yes Menace, your one line sums it all up.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Bottom line: we are close. If we can make another step next season we could be there.

  • Mike T

    Have been in Malta watching the under 17 tournament so its my first chance I have said well done to you lot for your FA cup win. It will be interesting to see if that’s the monkey off your back!
    Every club can look at why they didn’t win the league. The reason both us and you didn’t win it and that is over a season we weren’t the best team.
    This sort of article makes all sort of assumptions such as if that player had played you would have been better scored more goals or we would of scored that penalty that we didn’t get awarded.
    Next season things will be vastly different. We will be far more balanced as a squad, Liverpool will be in the CL , Man Utd will be desperate, Man City will improve so the challenge to Arsenal is how do they improve. Its an old argument about spending and yes I know you find solace in the % of injuries you suffer and also in what you feel are un fair decisions but nothing I, as an, outsider has seen, suggests that the first will change unless something major is discovered and addressed and the second I don’t think is an issue.
    @Walter you were close but others were far closer.

  • Ian Jenkinson,

    “It wasn’t Man Utd drawing at Everton that lost them the league that season, it was losing 6-1 in the first place to their closest rival that did the damage, even a smaller margin of loss in that game would have won Man Utd the league that season.”

    Every Man United fan that I know would disagree with you on this but hey, let’s agree to disagree on here.

    On that Arsene quote, it’s nice to see you change the argument from the AWAY LOSSES TO THE TOP 3 (which was all I was ever arguing against) to points dropped to “top teams” which I never had any issue with. You wrote this in your article:

    “An obvious slip up from Arsenal in the league this season was not taking any points from any of our away games against the other top three.”

    But in the same article, you forgot to mention the more vital points lost from draws to Chelsea, Everton, Man United and Man City at the Emirates. That is 8 home points lost to “top teams” and I am pretty sure that Arsene Wenger is more upset by those than by the away losses. I am amazed by how you could leave those points out of reckoning while raising our away losses to Chelsea, Liverpool and Man City as bigger issue. (Yeah, I know you rued the incidents that made us draw those games but you did not attach as much importance to those dropped points as you have the 3 away losses to the top 3.)

    I seldom (but not never) disagree with Arsene Wenger but even in the quote, he never said anything about the away games being the MAIN reason why we lost the league. He talked about our results against the big teams in general. I agree with that but if even my idol, Arsene Wenger, has said that the MAIN reason why we lost the league was because of those 3 away losses, I would vehemently disagree with him.

    In the end, the most important thing is to have more points than your rivals, where you get the points from is of no importance and that is why I want Arsenal to get all our easier to get points, especially against ALL oppositions at home. I want Arsenal to win 52 points at home rather than 44, you want us to just beat our rivals away from home. No problem. To each their own.

    I am signing out.

  • Pete

    A word of caution. While we have shown consistent improvement over the last few seasons, we do, historically, tend to relatively underperform in seasons after major tournaments during the Wenger era. Probably due to the high proportion of our players competing which exhausts them and exacerbates injury issues. This is now mitigated by our closest rivals have similar issues (we were the first to fully internationalise) but they do also have larger squads!

    While I am excited about the possibility of bringing in a couple of big name players, we are also likely to have to find a new right back, goalkeeper and probably a centre back. Therefore we have immediately failed to match our achievement of last summer where nobody significant left. I am very conscious of Wenger’s comments that bringing in more than 3 players is risky (ref the Totts).

  • Josif,

    I am a mathematician, not a psychologist. I deal strictly in logic and numbers.

    I’ll leave the psychological analysis of why we lost points after the heavy away defeats to Don.

    Looking at stone cold numbers though, those losses are no worse than losses to Stoke City, Everton and Manchester United. We lost exactly 3 points in each of them!

  • Josif

    @Bootoomee, actually, all teams that you mentioned ended below us. If we had won at Anfield, it would have been a six-point-swing in relation between Liverpool and Arsenal on the final table and that would have meant we had ended above Scousers. If we had beaten, say, Stoke at Orckham Asylum that would have been a three-point-swing.

  • Abhishek Kumar

    Hi Tony, Walter

    Can we have a like/dislike button too for comments which may just cheer up the commentators. I know we dont intend to have 500 comments (with idiotic comments like first) but such a good debate may be more interesting if they know what other untolders think about their comment.

  • Pat

    Good article Ian. Interesting how your predictions came true.

    Menace and AL – fully agree with you. The referees made the difference, because they let our players be freely kicked and injured, and because they did not referee us fairly.

    Anyway, we STILL won the FA Cup! On to the next season!

  • Josif @9.54am,

    We could do that all day as 2 can play that game. Here we go:

    IF we had beaten Swansea, Aston Villa, Everton, Man United, Chelsea and Man City at the Emirates (our HOME ground, remember?) we would have had 13 points more. Hell, IF we had not dropped points against just 4 of those 6 teams at HOME, we would be champions today irrespective of some elusive “6 point swinging” away victories to close title rivals.

    Man City got 34 points away while we got 35 but they beat us by 7 points in the final table because they only drew and lost a game each. We lost 13 points at home while they lost 5 with 3 of those being your “6 point swinger” to Chelsea! But it did not matter in the end and they won the league because unlike us, they drew 4 less game at the Etihad.

    I think this is ridiculously easy to understand and the fixation with losses to our close rivals is beyond my comprehension. If you want to complain about the heavy losses being embarrassing and should be avoided in future, I’ll be on your side but I continue to reject the notion that the MAIN reason why we lost the league is because of those 3 losses.

  • ……Man City got 34 points away while we got 35 but they beat us by 7 points in the final table because they only drew and lost a game each AT HOME….

  • Ian Jenkinson

    @Walter 7:45am

    Exactly, that was the whole point of the article. There are almost 2,500 words in the article above and for some reason a side show developed from about 50 words of it which is a shame as a lot of time and effort went into the whole article.

    @Pete

    Interesting point about the summer tournaments. They are normally a big hindrance to us and like you say hopefully taking in a few new players won’t upset the balance of the squad like Spurs found out.

    @Josif 9:54am

    That is the exact point i’m trying to make. Defeats to our rivals have double the impact. I thought even a mathematician could see that but hey ho.

    @Bootoomee

    I think it is for the best, i feel i have more than made my point. Nobody needs to put up with us two and i’m sure we’ve both got better things to be doing.

    @Pat

    Thank you, i must have a go at the lottery this weekend! And i also agree with Menace and Al about the referees.

    @Everyone

    I am sorry there was a distraction from the article, sometimes that happens. The article was aimed at hopefully showing us all how close were were to further glory this season and that we can be very optimistic for next season. I hope you all enjoyed it.

  • Ian Jenkinson

    @Bootoomee 10:34am

    Last one, i promise.

    Again you have proven my point. And i’ll say it one more time.

    All we had to do was win 2 (just 2) more games against our main rivals providing one of them was Man City to win the league. You are saying above that had we not dropped points against 4 (four) of those teams we would have won the league.

    What is it they say about the quickest route between two places?

    Over and out.

  • Micheal Ram

    Ian Jenkinson,

    I believe your opinion is very insulting to lower teams. I always believe all players in EPL are very good to start with, just that pure talent and consistency will always bury the hatchet. Winning against any teams is worth 3 points. If failing to get that 3 points in a match you should win is a much bigger failure than losing it in a 50/50 match. That said, those matches are more important however the human factor plays a part too. All of us always underestimate the essence of squad rotation. Since EPL goes on without break through the season, no player can play full potential in all the games. Important players are usually rested against so-called lower teams but will weaken the playing team. Opponents are not stupid, they will take that as a chance to nick some points. At the end of the day, every match is a gamble. The thrill is, its a 90mins gamble. Managers can play according to teams’ strength or opponents weakness, change formation or tactics anytime and replace any three players. Of course, the team assembled is dependent on the clubs capabilities. This is not Championship Manager.

  • Ian Jenkinson

    @ Michael Ram

    I don’t understand how you can say my opinion is very insulting to the lower teams?? If anything i am giving them more respect. While other commenters on here think we should beat every lower team in the league home and away, i believe that is a very hard thing to do because of the standard in the Premier League hence my point about beating the bigger teams to see us over the championship winning line. I thought my stance was really clear on this no?

    Plus, on top of that i have agreed that winning matches against lesser teams is very important, i have zero argument with that and I have said this numerous times above. We need to pick up as many points as possible in this regard but it is nearly impossible to not drop points against the lesser teams for many of the reasons you mention above.

    My stance is that winning a couple more of the bigger games will go a long way to helping you win the league. That is all, pretty simple.

    I’m a bit confused by that one Michael, I really think you have gotten it backwards but i’d be happy to hear more.

  • Pete

    Ian – I have tried to stick to topic, but have finally been sucked in! As discussed on previous threads, I believe our record against the bottom half was sensationally good. And I would immediately accept the same points outturn for next season against the bottom 10 if offered now.

    To do a meaningful statistical analysis of points/game required to win the League against teams from different segments of the table, you really need to go back many seasons.

    It would be interesting to see the average points per game achieved by the Champions against:

    – Teams in Bottom 5
    – Teams 11-15
    – Teams 6-10
    – Teams 2-5.

    I would expect this would range from 5 (home and away) against the bottom 5 to 3 (2-5). I strongly suspect that the outcome of the Top 4 mini-League was freakish for the season just finished.

  • Ian Jenkinson

    @ Pete

    Yes, i thought we did very well this season against the bottom teams, much better than in previous years (although i don’t have statistical proof of this). It is difficult to pick up most/all your points from these teams as they are better now than they have been in previous years.

    The statistical analysis you propose would be very interesting. Do i sense an article on this from Pete coming soon??!

    The stats i’m sure would show up some anomalys but would be a great pointer in what wins Premier Leagues. At a guess i would say that figures along the lines of these would surface:

    100% win rate against the bottom 5 = 30 points.
    80%-90% win rate against teams 11-15 = 24 or 27 points.
    75%-90% win rate against teams 6-10 = 22 or 27 points.
    50%-75% win rate against teams 2-5 = 12 or 18 points.

    If a team had these success rates on the lower level which would be more realistic, they would accumulate 88 points which would have won the league this season. I am just playing around with those figures and of course games that are drawn have to be factored in but if you were to do a statistical analysis on the league Champions from the past 5/6 seasons i reckon they wouldn’t be too far from those percentages in each category.

    So, off you go Pete! Get number crunching 🙂

  • menace

    @bootoomee seeing as numbers is your game, hope you enjoy this a la @brickfields

    Two gorgeous girls asked me if I’d like to go bed with them,

    …………………… they said it would be just like winning the lottery!

    I agreed, and they were right.

    We all stripped off and to my horror …………………..

    we had six matching balls!

  • Vintage Gooner

    Sometimes abstruse arguments can be carried on until they are irksome! We have in this instance different but relevant facts being used in attempts to contradict another point of view. In reality it must be right that the most points gained wins a team the league regardless of which other teams conceded those points.

    However it is equally true that beating a close competitor both earns you the maximum three points and denies them any so it is quite fair to say that these games have a ‘double’ effect. It is also true to say that for a variety of reasons teams are usually better at home than away and so points dropped at home are less expected and therefore perhaps more regrettable (although mathematically each point dropped has exactly the same effect). Let’s leave these facts to stand on their own strength and not try to play silly games with them.

    I would much sooner we were discussing the injuries issue because I fear this is much more important. I understand the point that dire refereeing can lead to injuries from sustained often rotational fouling but my greatest concern is in muscular injuries and the length of time to return to fitness. A good example of this is Aaron Ramsey who was initially declared out for a fortnight with a thigh strain but ultimately he was out for 14 weeks. Why? Similarly the Ox with a calf strain finished his season four games early and was not even fit enough for the bench at Wembley.

    Arsene has promised us a thorough review and I for one can’t wait to see this and I very much hope it will be published or at the very least lead to radical changes.

  • Damilare

    Amazing injury table there Ian. I believe things will only get better generally for Arsenal in coming seasons.

    Interesting debate between Ian and Bootoomee. Would the argument be different if the four home matches were played during the last lap of the season and the away games earlier in the season?

    Imho, the winner of the EPL is the team that got the best out of 38 games (home and away). Following your arguments, beating Chavs, Shitty and Looserpool away (assuming all other results remain same)would have earned Arsenal additional 9 points bringing us to 88: , Shitty 83, Looserpool 81 and Chavs 79.

    Beating A/villa, Swansea, Everton and Manure at home would have increased our points total by 9 (assuming all other results remain same)bringing us to 88 points still: Shitty 86, Looserpool 84 and Chavs 82. Purely on mathematics both Arguments are valid.

    Generally home matches against villa, Swansea, Everton and Manure are supposed to be ‘easier’ games to win than Shitty, Looserpool and chavs away. I rue not taking maximum points at home against these 4 teams more than not taking MAXIMUM points away against those 3 teams. The only dark side being the embarrassing score lines.

    Imho, PGMOL (Pig-mall) and too many long/medium term injuries cost us the EPL title.

    I’m still celebrating my first trophy as a goner though. Bring on the CL (Real Madrid), WC (Semi finalists: Brazil, England, Germany and Nigeria) and of course THE ARSENAL next season!

    COYG

  • Damilare,

    “Generally home matches against villa, Swansea, Everton and Manure are supposed to be ‘easier’ games to win than Shitty, Looserpool and chavs away. I rue not taking maximum points at home against these 4 teams more than not taking MAXIMUM points away against those 3 teams. The only dark side being the embarrassing score lines.”

    That is the point that I have been making. You summed it up perfectly. Either of my or Ian’s path would have given us the title but my path is easier than Ian’s because these were easier opponents that we lost points to at home.

  • Vintage Gooner,

    Just like you, I am willing to accept that points lost away to rivals and those dropped at home to easier oppositions have the same mathematical effect on our final league standing. What I will never accept, however, is the notion that points lost away to our 3 title rivals are more responsible for our failure to win the league than those dropped at home to easier oppositions.

  • jambug

    Bootoomee/Ian jenkinson

    I have been reading this thread with interest but have resisted posting because I must admit to a certain extent I do see both sides and didn’t think I could add much to what is already a cyclical argument.

    That being said I do tend to agree with one argument slightly more than the other, and like Boo I would like to thank Damilare for summing up my thoughts perfectly with this.

    “Generally home matches against villa, Swansea, Everton and Manure are supposed to be ‘easier’ games to win than Shitty, Looserpool and chavs away. I rue not taking maximum points at home against these 4 teams more than not taking MAXIMUM points away against those 3 teams. The only dark side being the embarrassing score lines.”

  • Ian Jenkinson

    @ Vintage Gooner

    You are right, there are many reasons for not winning a league. I said a few times above that the reality lies somewhere in between Bootoomee’s and my views.

    @ Damilare

    Thank you for bringing the injuries back into focus (and you too Vintage Gooner) as that was the main reason i cited in my article prior to the sideshow between Bootoomee and I as the reason we didn’t win the league. And like vintage Gooner i hope Arsene and the club look into this over the summer. It would make a massive difference to our challenge.

    I did mention in my article that dropped points in those home games against Villa, Swansea and Man Utd as a reason for falling short. I am not denying that they have cost us too.

    Also, I am not saying that we needed to beat all three of Chelsea, Man City and Liverpool. We just needed two victories in those games (once one of them was against Man City).

    A very important point and at the crux of what i am saying is that saying it it easier to beat Swansea, Aston Villa, Everton and Man Utd at home is a lot easier said than done because if we had won those 4 games and our other results remained the same at home this season our record would have read as follows:

    2013/2014 Home Games:
    Played 19.
    Won 17.
    Drawn 2.

    Arsenal’s invincibles didn’t even do that. Their record at home that season read:

    2003/2004 Home games:
    Played 19.
    Won 15.
    Drew 4.

    Arsenal had a very good home record this season, if they had added a couple of vital away wins it could have made all the difference.

    Both arguments are valid, i have said this all along but for me the losses to our rivals narrowly swing it.

  • Ian Jenkinson

    @ Jambug

    Yes, i can see your reasoning but what Damilare states is more extreme than reality.

    Arsenal didn’t need to win all three away games and it is very tough to win 4 games like that at home. Like i said above, it is a lot easier said than done.

    I don’t see how it is easier to win 4 games at home (including games against Man Utd and Everton) than it is to win two away games. Very tough away games admittedly but the 4 homes games were not easy either.

    And cyclical doesn’t even begin to describe this debate 🙂

  • jambug

    Ian Jenkinson

    Ever since Boo first made his case on this I’ve erred back and forth.

    Ultimately it boils down to the fact I can live with dropping points to the other top 4 teams, especially away. But nothing irks me quite as much as not dispatching, and no disrespect intended, the lesser sides. drives me nuts, even when it is the effing refs fault 😉