By Tony Attwood
The late autumn is a time when Arsenal can dip; we’ve seen it before. Indeed if you look at where Arsenal stood after 15 games in recent years you get this table of positions in the league
|Year||After 15 games||Season end|
So it is not guaranteed that we will improve on the current second position, but in three out of the last four seasons we have done so.
It is also interesting to have a look at the league table over the last six games, considering points scored.
|Position||Club||Points out of 18|
I think this table makes the point yet again that if you take a short period of time in the season you can get all sorts of odd results, for it is extremely rare for a club to be thoroughly consistent all the way through the season.
But more to the point it seems to me that we had a fairly grotty November, with the whole injury hysteria and disappointing results, and yet over the last six league games we are equal fourth.
Of course some doom mongers will want to argue that this rather unexciting run recently will be continued to the end of the season, and we will finish up fourth. But then they would also be arguing that the four clubs in next season’s Champions League will be Leicester, Watford, Tottenham and Arsenal. I am not so sure this is likely.
Speaking in broad, general terms, history shows us that once Arsenal have got the annual blip out of their system, the club then powers ahead and does better in the second half of the season, and if that is the case, this does indeed look like a very promising season that is opening up before us.
In the double winning season of 1997/8, for example, after 15 games we were lurking in fourth…
That is not only interesting in showing us four points behind Man U, but also having a nine goal worse goal difference, with a worse attack and a worse defence than Man U. It is also interesting to notice that two of the top five at that moment are no longer with us in the Premier League and both are indeed struggling. One of the others (mention no names but they play in blue) is occupying a significantly lower place in the league at this moment. It emphasises the importance of the long term stability our club has had.
And moving on to 2001/2 when again we won the double, after 15 games we were again four points off the lead.
Leeds again were in the top five, but also joined with Newcastle, who we don’t normally consider to be in that position. Chelsea were not in the five, and of course nor were Man City.
And in 2003/4 – it is sometimes hard to forget that we were not top of the league all season despite going unbeaten from first to last…
This time the mighty Fulham joined us in the Top five and we were one point and one goal behind Chelsea, with the top three clearing space between themselves and the rest of the league.
Indeed it is interesting how different each league table looks – the distance from top to 5th spot ranging from 14 points to 5 points. You might recall we ended up 11 points clear of Chelsea and 30 points clear of Liverpool who ended in fourth. Indeed Liverpool were closer to relegation than they were to Arsenal.
Now my point in all this is that if, (and yes that is a big “if”) our late autumn blip has now ended, then we might well feel rather pleased with a league table that looks like this…
Looking at tables like this makes me think that all the talk about “Arsenal have not won in the last three” or whatever it was before the last game skates over broader perspectives about most clubs having a dip or a good run each season.
It also adds to the suggestion that the current Leicester position may not be maintained. In 1997/8 Blackburn slipped to sixth by the end of the season. In 2001/2 the top five were still the top five at the end although in a very different order. In 2003/4 Fulham finished up 9th.
Of course you can argue that the Manchester clubs have had a dip this season too – and that reminds us that this is all speculation. But then speculation is what the aaa do each year when things get a bit mucky. Remember all the stuff about “Worst Arsenal start to a season in 30 years” which we get most years. At least we haven’t had to listen to that this year.
I feel rather confident at the moment, and of course because I am putting this on the internet I may well have to eat my words. Not confident because the quality and style of football in the last few games has been great, of course it hasn’t, but confident because we often go through a spell like this, and we’ve come out of it in second.
I think that at the very end of the year we will see Jack Wilshere and Alexis back in the squad. Of course if another 10 players are injured by then, things would be desperate, but if we’ve had our really bad run, welcoming those two back could be a really big plus. Rosicky could also be available by the start of the new year, and although I doubt he will be a first team regular, he could still be a helpful stand in.
And you never know, we might either buy someone or promote one of those lurking on the bench. If anyone is going to emerge suddenly and grab a headline or two it could be Chambers (hinted as a possible defensive midfielder and as a central defender), Iwobi – who was not allowed to go on loan as Arsene Wenger wanted to manage his development from within the club, or Jeff Reine-Adelaide who has been sitting on the bench, obviously being included in the first team training, travel and events.
Any of those three could arrive as suddenly as Bellerin and Coquelin last season.
- 6 December 1987: Arsenal beat Newcastle U away 1-0 in a sequence in which the club won two out of eight but still went on to win the Double for the second time. (Game 17) The second double: part 1,part 2, part 3.
- 6 December 2003: Leicester 1 Arsenal 1. With no Henry, no Vieira, and Cole sent off for wild challenge Arsenal managed to secure a draw in the 15th league match of the unbeaten season.