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After a very good start, we need to do even better

 

By Fishpie

With this weekend’s 2-1 victory over Everton, we have officially completed the first quarter of the league season and entered into the second. Those long, hard, dark, cold Autumn and Winter months lie ahead. So I think its a good moment to pause, take stock of how its gone so far and consider what it will take to build on what we’ve started.

And what has gone so far has been, hey, you gotta say, very good indeed!

We’ve enjoyed, particularly recently, a level of form that bodes very well and, in particular, the victories over Man Utd and Bayern are the kind of back-to-back home victories we always dreamed the Emirates was built for; big occasions, big matches, big opponents, great moves, great saves, great goals. Wonderful, emphatic, impressive victories; the Stadium rocking.

Most crucially, with our first-quarter start to the season, we’ve established ourselves as joint leaders at the top of the Premier League and just three points behind the leaders of our Group in the Champions League. And we eliminated Spurs from the League Cup along the way for good measure. All very nice.

Last season, you’ll remember, we started quite a way short of title-contention form which, given how well we did subsequently between Christmas and May, turned out to be the specific bit of the season that scuppered our chances of challenging for the domestic league title.

Top 10 after 10 games last season

 

So, this season, we needed to correct that and start well. And despite the opening game defeat vs West Ham, that’s exactly what we’ve done.

We’ve gained 22 points so far this season compared to 17 last season when we were in fourth position after the first 10 games. You’ll remember Chelsea had a superb start to last season having gained 26 points out of a possible 30 by this stage. Our 22 points tally this season is within touching distance of that form, so this is definitely encouraging.

Top 10 after 10 games this season

 

Looking at things from a slightly different perspective, I wrote a piece in the summer for Untold entitled, Champions-Ready or More to Do?  In it I highlighted that in order to emulate the average points and average performance stats attained by the Premier League Champions of the previous 10 years, we would need to obtain 87 points, win 27 (71%) of our games, draw 6 (16%) and limit our defeats to 5 (13%). I suggested if we could do that, we might well have a good chance of being in contention for the trophy come the season’s close. (Clearly we can obtain a different configuration of wins, draws and defeats to win the league but basing it on what had gone before seemed to be a reasonable way of looking realistically at what might be needed)

And so far this season, after 10 games, our stats are 7 wins (70%), 1 draw (10%) and 2 defeats (20%). This isn’t looking bad at all and, specifically in terms of wins, we are on course and travelling very well.

However, if these overall percentages were to pertain by the end of the season we’d only end up with 85 points, just below our theoretical Champions target of 87.  This is clearly not a large shortfall but trophy success might rest on such fine differences.

To nudge us completely back onto the right trajectory during the second quarter, we either need to win more than 70% of our next 9 games or tweak the ratio of draws and defeats in favour of draws. The harsh reality of these percentages is that it pretty much means we need to limit our defeats to just 1 between now and Christmas.

The more we don’t keep on this track, the more we have to make it up in the second half of the season and end up banking on a faultless finish. This is of course something a few teams have done over time to win the League but I guess, in an ideal world, we’d want to sustain a decent pace and ensure each part of the season is as productive as possible.

There’s a lot to encourage us to believe we can do this I think.

So far our new goalkeeper has been superb at making point-winning saves, our awesome threesome up front of Walcott, Alexis and Ozil have created a lot of chances and scored some stonking goals (not forgetting Giroud’s fine performance v Everton), Bellerin, Monreal and Coquillan have carried on from where they left off last season and the delightful Cazola has been superb in his deep-lying pivotal midfield role.  Our defence, while not always totally commanding, has been mostly disciplined, only conceding 8 goals, with Gabriel, as hoped, adding some additional depth at its heart.

Perhaps significantly, for a team which has a bit of a track record over the years for falling foul of a few bloopers each season, we have done very well, in Premier League terms at least, to limit such customary blips to just two games.

Firstly, there was the home game against West Ham (which to be fair to Arsenal is not the only surprise result the Hammers have served up under Bilic this season) and secondly, there was the first half of the Liverpool home match when we looked like the Keystone Cops from a season or two back. To be fair once more however, this largely came about because, at the last minute, we were forced to play two central defenders who between them had only played a handful of games for Arsenal, and none of those together. And of course in this game, to give the team the credit they deserve, they did recover well in the second half.

The Chelsea game was one we might, at the beginning of the season, have half expected to lose, so I don’t count that as a blip. And of course we lost that match, not by being outplayed, but by being cheated. If anything, I took great solace from that match in seeing the return of our cult hero, Martin Keown.  Reincarnated in the form of our new, fighting, passionate, driven, and battling Brazilian centre half, Gabriel stood up for his team mates and having been thumped on the back by the cheating Costa, he turned round and thumped him right back, hard on the chest in retaliation. I loved that reaction. It’s good to see you back Martin.

Overall, in most of our Premier League games in fact, we’ve either been superb or just plain effective. Either of those kind of performances, superb or effective, as we know, is exactly what’s needed to compete for the title.

The Champions League, on the other hand, it has to be said, has been, until Bayern, another story; one largely written by our Manager’s bizarre team selection. Even if you can justify why it was done, you can’t deny the result: disastrous.

Certainly, by not keeping pace in the Champions League in the first quarter of the season, the consequence is that it puts more pressure on us now in the second quarter where we almost certainly need to avoid defeat in the last three Group games to make it through to the Knock Out stages.

So between now and Christmas, can we limit our defeats across both of the two main competitions to a single solitary game?

That’s a tough ask. Especially when a) some of the second choice players, when selected, have looked a little short (Ospina, Debuchy, Gibbs) and b) our squad is still carrying injuries to Welbeck, Wilshire, Rosicky and now Ramsey. Purely from a tiredness point of view, we could definitely do with some of the squad players turning in better performances when called upon and, among those injured, one or two getting fitter sooner rather than later.

So although we really couldn’t of asked for any more than we’ve achieved in the first quarter of the season, we really might have to ask for a bit more in the second.

This is of course unreasonable, unfair and even ridiculous as the Manager and his players deserve all the credit in the world for rediscovering the momentum of last season’s Cup success, being joint leaders of the Prem and hitting some impressively heady heights along the way.

But to stay on the ideal course for the ultimate prize, somehow we’ve got to turn it up yet another tiny notch.

It’s tough at the top. As well as great.

Next staging post; Christmas and the half-way point.

Anniversaries from first to last

  • 26 October 1863.   Representatives of several football clubs met at the Freemasons Tavern, Holborn and formed the Football Association after Ebenezer Morley wrote to Bell’s Life newspaper, suggesting that football should have a set of rules.
  • 26 October 2006: The Duke of Edinburgh opened the Emirates Stadium.  The Queen was unable to attend and so the team and Arsène Wenger were invited to the Palace on 15 February 2007, for tea, making Arsenal the first ever football club to be invited to the Palace for tea.

Major new article on the Arsenal History Society Site

The Untold Books

25 comments to After a very good start, we need to do even better

  • apo Armani

    Ecellent article Fishpie!!

  • apo Armani

    >Excellent 🙂

  • Mandy Dodd

    Great article. Hopefully, we will be getting some very important players back in the New Year to sustain a real title challenge.
    Think this bunch are too good , strong and experienced to be derailed like we have been in the past, so I expect us to put in a very good season, as long as we don’t get too any Mike Deans

  • Brickfields Gunners

    What gives great heart for this season is the fact that we have double the points of last year’s champions ( and this year’s pundits first choice.) .
    Not to mention that the fireworks haven’t start in earnest there yet ! Lots of smoke , sparks and plenty of simmering resentment ….. let the show begin !

  • nicky

    We WILL do better when Welbeck and Wilshere return to bolster the attack force. Both have been absent for so long that their return will seem like two new signings.
    And let’s hope Ramsey’s absence will not be too prolonged.

  • Pryce

    Nice post

  • Brickfields Gunners

    ” If you fall , I will be there ” . – Floor

    ( But the timber is rotted and been sawn halfway through !)

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin.

    Fishpie, I say good morning to you. How are you? You’ve identified well. Arsenal have done well on the field of play in the 1st 1/4 of the season that ended last Sunday as they got a total of 22 points from the maximum possible 30 points. And are now 2nd in the table on goal difference behind Man city going in to this weekend matches. To take command of the title challenge in the 2nd quarter of this season, Arsenal must do better on the field of play on points collection wise. The Gunners must collect more points(28 points?) in their next 10 games than the 22 points they collected in their last 10 games. By so doing, Arsenal will be in control of the championship challenge in the 2nd quarter going in into the 3rd quarter of the season. Therefore, the Boss must put the technical & tactical machinery in motion to see that Arsenal collect not less than the envisaged 28 points minimum. That collection will see Arsenal on 50 points before they confront the 3rd quarter campaign. In the Champions League campaign, the Boss and the Gunners know that beating Bayern Munich at the Arena Allianz is not an issue to contemplate. But a task that must be accomplished to give more breathing to Arsenal hope of reaching the knockout stages. Right now, we have an issue of a lack of adequate attacking midfield depth as Oxlade Chamberlain doesn’t looks he’ll fit in into Ramsey’s role adequately in the team. Therefore, the Boss must solve that issue before the Gunners visit their boggy team – Swanseas City next Saturday. Thanks.

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin.

    Fishpie, I say good morning to you. How are you? You’ve identified well. Arsenal have done well on the field of play in the 1st 1/4 of the season that ended last Sunday as they got a total of 22 points from the maximum possible 30 points. And are now 2nd in the table on goal difference behind Man city going in to this weekend matches. To take command of the title challenge in the 2nd quarter of this season, Arsenal must do better on the field of play on points collection wise. The Gunners must collect more points(28 points?) in their next 10 games than the 22 points they collected in their last 10 games. By so doing, Arsenal will be in control of the championship challenge in the 2nd quarter going in into the 3rd quarter of the season. Therefore, the Boss must put the technical & tactical machinery in motion to see that Arsenal collect not less than the envisaged 28 points minimum. That collection will see Arsenal on 50 points before they confront the 3rd quarter campaign. In the Champions League campaign, the Boss and the Gunners know that beating Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena is not an issue to contemplated. But a task that must be accomplished to give more breathing to Arsenal hopes of reaching the knockout stages. Right now, we have an issue of a lack of adequate attacking midfield depth as Oxlade Chamberlain doesn’t looked likely he’ll fit in into Ramsey’s role adequately in the team as his playing looked to make Arsenal game a bit unbalanced in the Everton game. Therefore, the Boss must solve that issue of team rebalancing before the Gunners visit their boggy team – Swanseas City next Saturday. Thanks.

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin.

    Fishpie, I say good morning to you. How are you? You’ve identified well. Arsenal have done well on the field of play in the 1st 1/4 of the season that ended last Sunday as they got a total of 22 points from the maximum possible 30 points. And are now 2nd in the table on goal difference behind Man city going in to this weekend matches. To take command of the title challenge in the 2nd quarter of this season, Arsenal must do better on the field of play on points collection wise. The Gunners must collect more points(28 points?) in their next 10 games than the 22 points they collected in their last 10 games. By so doing, Arsenal will be in control of the championship challenge in the 2nd quarter going in into the 3rd quarter of the season. Therefore, the Boss must put the technical & tactical machinery in motion to see that Arsenal collect not less than the envisaged 28 points minimum. That collection will see Arsenal on 50 points before they confront the 3rd quarter campaign. In the Champions League campaign, the Boss and the Gunners know that beating Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena is not an issue to contemplate. But a task that must be accomplished to give more breathing to Arsenal hopes of reaching the knockout stages. Right now, we have an issue of a lack of adequate attacking midfield depth as Oxlade Chamberlain doesn’t looked likely he’ll fit in into Ramsey’s role adequately in the team as his playing looked to make Arsenal game a bit unbalanced in the Everton game. Therefore, the Boss must solve that issue of team rebalancing before the Gunners visit their boggy team – Swanseas City next Saturday. Thanks.

  • Polo

    I thought we were unlucky with all the injuries we had early in the season, most of our defense was out injured and Giroud was out, if we didn’t have so many injuries I think we would have been a lot closer to Chelsea or even challenge them to the title.

  • nicky

    On another site, this morning’s headline reads “Wenger to sign talented Belgian in January”.
    Does it mean Walter is going to play as well as write for us?
    Our cup runneth over indeed. 😉

  • Fishpie

    Many: There’s nothing we can do about the Dean’s of this world. And, albeit in a different competition, the officials did brilliantly to spot the Ozil goal against Bayern.
    SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin (can I call you Sam for short?) you are even more demanding than me. 28 points from a possible 30 in the second quarter? Wow. Here’s to your high expectations.
    Polo: Let’s hope our current injuries don’t catch up with us this season.
    Nicky: there are a lot of good Belgian footballers around these days, and with all due respect to Walter, I’d prefer to pick up the reportedly unsettled Hazard.

  • Fishpie

    Sorry, I meant MANDY, not Many.

  • proudkev

    Morning all.

    I think it important to note a few other indicators for the challenge this season.

    Le Coquelin came in January and has protected the back four, gradually developing an understanding with Cazorla.

    Young Bellerin has also taken his chance, after injury to Debouchy and Callum Chambers failing to make the position his own.

    For me January 2015 was when it all changed.

    The defensive cover we now have too, will prevent the problems we had at the start of last season from happening again. Losing Mertescaker and Koscielny has not been a problem due to the ‘Invisible’ signing nobdoy wants to talk about – Gabriel.

    Peter Cech has come in.

    So lets look at our results since January 2015 when the demographic of the team changed:

    End of last season: 01 January to May 2015

    Team Played Won Drawn Lost F A Pts

    1 Arsenal 19 13 3 3 38 13 42
    2. Chelsea 19 12 5 2 32 18 41
    3 Man City 19 11 3 5 42 21 36

    So from january 1st to the end of last season Arsenal earned more wins and more points.

    Lets now look at this seasons current standings of last seasons top 3:

    1 Man City 10 7 1 2 24 8 22
    2 Arsenal 10 7 1 2 18 8 22
    3 Chelsea 10 3 2 5 15 19 11

    So form looks pretty strong over the 29 games since 1st January when I would argue our team found the right balance. Because when you look at these 29 games, the following table emerges:

    1 Arsenal 29 20 4 5 56 21 64
    2 Man City 29 18 4 7 66 29 58
    3 Chelsea 29 15 7 7 53 37 52

    So based on the last 29 games played, you can see that we are the form team there is no doubt.

    Does this mean anything? Well it means that most of the narrative you read about us not being strong enough for a title challenge due to our defensive fragility is exposed as a lie. In the last 29 games we have conceded just 21 goals, compared to Chelseas 37 and Man Citys 29. The next best team to us in goals against is actually Man Utd with 26.

    We are no longer biting our nails about those injuries to our back four. The bench has Gibbs, Gabriel, Debuchy and Chambers all more than able to cover.

    We should believe. We have a settled team, good balance and most importantly we have been able to keep Ozil and Sanchez in the team together. We have a strong bench and we have Wellbeck and Jack to come back.

    I hinestly beleive this could be our season for all these reasons.

  • proudkev

    *Honestly believe!

  • WalterBroeckx

    Excellent article Fishpie and the same about the comments. It helps ban out the fatigue from travelling… 🙂

    And Nicky the only position I could be of any value would be to inform the players about the ref they will have to face. Play to the ref as I once wrote in an article a while ago…

  • Fishpie

    proudkev, respect, great stats. That is impressive stuff. In the piece “Champions Ready or More To Do?” I too identified last Jan as the period the make up of the team changed. The fact that your stats prove just how we have sustained our form since then is very very encouraging. Can’t help but worry if Le Coq gets suspended or injured, Flamimi and or Arteta won’t be adequate cover, but yep, I need to have more faith in the defence. Its stats are good.

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin.

    Fishpie, the Boss won’t buy an overpriced Hazard from Chelsea. Arsenal don’t spend that kind of money. Hazard transfer to Arsenal@(£50m?) Wouldn’t that be too much? Let PSG, Real Madrid and Barcelona have him as they have excess money to burn. But I would rule out Man Utd & Man City. They too are not that behind in excess money. Meanwhile, Aleksandr Kokorin, Ross Barkley* and John Stones could be shown the Boss’ interest for their possible signings in January?

  • Oluwatoba

    Anybody comparing Arsenal and Chelsea since the beginning of the year will notice there seems to be an inverse proportionality relationship existing between the fortunes of both teams. Whereas Chelsea were able to win the Championship, a closer look at their results shows a team on the decline even from the beginning of the year. Arsenal on the other hand has establish a steady progression in strides. Proud Kev’s summary captures this succinctly.

  • GoingGoingGooner

    Something to chew on other than our nails!

  • hrishi

    Excellent article Fishpie!
    As you mentioned, it is vital for us to have an excellent second quarter- more so because, over the second half of the season, we have 6 tough away games- City, United, WestHam, Liverpool, Everton and Spurs. It would nice to go in with some sort of a buffer.

    And Nicky @12:12
    Absolutely brilliant comment! 😀 … And knowing the media, that story is probably as likely as us signing Walter….

  • AJ

    @Fishpie
    Based on the topsy turvy nature of the results of the season, where every club seems to be capable of beating anybody on a given day. I believe 83 points will be enough to win this season.

    We are on track
    @aj_goofygooner

  • Fishpie

    @AJ, yep, quite possible and obviously its less about hitting some theoretical target and more about just keeping pace with whoever else is at the top with whatever that level of points turns out to be so that in the last month or two we are in a position to go for it. But I guess we shouldn’t plan for the pass mark, so to speak, being lower. Aim high I say.

  • Michael Ram

    I think the best thing for Untold readers to do now is keep cheering and supporting the team until the end. Projectile points by certain number of games is not helping anyone honestly. To say that Arsenal will keep playing like this all season is premature. They are not machines. The important thing is that they keep improving and stay strong together. By the way, their opponents are not gonna sit and watch them play as the EPL teams has generally improved a lot with the funds available for everyone now. Ranieri, Pardew, Bilic and Koeman have proven that quality is always around. AW always talk about respect for the opponents so each game should be treated competently. Generally, Arsenal are rolling because they are more of a team than previous seasons. Not to mention about luck too. Keep humble and low key until it’s confirm to open the champagne.