So, 19 games gone. The half-way mark has arrived. And…we’re top of the league!! And what more can you ask for?
And you know what it means too, don’t you?
Well, it means we are now in the coveted position that eight of the last ten Premier League title-winning teams were in at this same point in the season before going on to lift the trophy; Chelsea (three times), United (four times) and City (once).
So hey, that’s an encouraging precedent. But unfortunately you can’t rely on precedents in football can you?
Oh no, even at the most certain of times, you can’t ever bank on what’s gone before to continue to carry on unabated into the future.
This season especially, there has been some unexpected and weird shit going on. Quite a lot of what we were in the habit of seeing happen, didn’t happen. Everything seems to have shape shifted.
For instance, and most obviously, who would have predicted the imploding, total collapse of the devil’s machine that is Chelsea? And the departure of the devil’s angel himself?
Also, although some suggested the less fashionable teams, now endowed with significantly more TV money, might prove to be harder opposition than they had been previously, who would have predicted the rise and title-challenging form of the great Leicester City?
Furthermore, although some had speculated that Van Gall’s methodical style of football might not suit the expressive traditions of Man United, I’m not sure many of us had imagined we would witness the club going backwards quite to the degree it appears to have done under his tenure.
Certainly, Chelsea and Man United, being all out of sorts, have eliminated themselves completely from the title race and left the door wide open for others to take advantage.
So yes, this season so far, is proving to be an exception to the norms established during the previous ten.
This is reflected in some of the stats too. Looking at the average of the last 10 seasons, the eventual champions, had, by the half-way stage, won 14 games, drawn 3 and lost 2, accumulating 45 points.
In contrast, this season sees Arsenal at the top with just 39 points, having won 12, drawn 3 and lost 4.
So, if Arsenal do go on to win the league, it will be from the lowest points tally achieved by a Champion team at the half-way stage of the season in the last 10 years. Indeed, we would be the first team in the last 10 years to win the title having achieved less than 40 points by the half-way stage.
|Eventual Premier League Champions: 1st half of the season performance.|
So there’s a lot different in the way the season has panned out so far. And Arsenal have worked hard to put themselves in a position to take advantage of that.
Yet some might argue, or worry, that we haven’t really been in championship form at all, not by the standards set by the previous 10 Champions at least. To have been in true championship form, based on what’s gone before, we would have needed to have won 2 of the 4 games we’ve lost.
West Ham at home, or WBA or Southampton away were all entirely winnable on paper (even Chelsea, in retrospect, was too).
I acknowledge that West Ham, this season, have shown much greater form than recent Hammer’s teams, and we’ve had to deal with a depleted squad for the whole of the campaign so far but I feel, these defeats were largely of our own making with the traits of the Arsenal past resurfacing; switched off, ill disciplined and less than fully committed performances.
These kind of performances may have been be in the minority but, when you want to win the league, 4 of them, by the half-way stage, is normally not good.
Indeed, if you compare Arsenal’s 39 points tally by the half-way point this season with our average of the last 10 years (36 points) you might feel we have shown little progress this season at all. In fact, in the last 10 years, there have been three occasions when we had obtained over 40 points by this stage and still failed to go on and win the league.
|Arsenal at the half-way stage.|
But whatever reservations some of us may feel about the club’s injury record, or the team’s facility for losing to beatable teams or for not really yet showing the swagger or ruthlessness of true Champion contenders, the fact remains that we are top of the League, albeit on goal difference.
And that’s because, despite our squad injuries, we have actually done better than anyone else and we are, therefore, in a strong position to go on and fight for the title.
All things considered however, it is very unlikely at this point, that we will now be able to achieve the points tally the previous champions of the last 10 years had achieved on average, by the end of the season; 87 points. To do so means we would have to attain 48 points out of a possible 57 in the second half of the season to add to our current crop of 39. And for the second half of the season, 48 points is actually quite a lot to get.
From the table below in fact, you can see that only one of the Champion teams of the last 10 years has attained more than 45 points in the second half of the season; Man United in 08/09, with 49.
|Eventual Premier League Champions: 2nd half of the season performance|
So looking at the very best we might realistically hope for, I could envisage us collecting another 43 points or so.
At home, I think it’s an achievable target to avoid defeat and win most of our remaining games; we have Leicester and Chelsea to visit us but all the other title contenders or big name clubs have already been to the Emirates. So assuming 8 wins and 2 draws, that would give us a bedrock of 26 home points.
Our 9 game away schedule looks more daunting however, including visits to United, City, Spurs, Liverpool, West Ham and Stoke City. We will do well to win 2, draw 2 and lose just 2 of those. And if we also win our other 3 away games at Everton, Bournemouth and Sunderland, we will have collected 17 away points, totalling 43 points for the second half of the season.
And thus we would end the season with a haul of 82 points, providing, and its a big “providing”, we avoid another slip up in the Southampton and WBA mould.
A total of 82 points would have won the league just once in the past 10 years (in season 10/11 when United won it with 80 points) but this season, it might just be enough. If most of the last 10 year precedents have less to offer us for this season, maybe, at least , that one does.
Leicester will have to match us to stay with us and Man City and Spurs will have to do even better than obtaining 43 points in the second half of the season to overtake us. Although they are all fine teams, I‘m not sure they can do that, anymore than we can.
So let the faith be with us.
And Arsene, maybe a couple of January signings will help too.
More from the anniversary files
- 30 December 1995: Arsenal 1 Wimbledon 3. One of the low points of the Rioch year, coming during a spell of one win in eight games. Ian Wright scored in front of 37,640.
- 30 December 2006. Sheffield Utd 1 Arsenal 0. Arsenal 7th league game of the month, and their only defeat. The result left Arsenal in 5th place, 17 points behind the leaders.
From the History Society… The 13th instalment of Arsenal in the 70s is now published… July to Dec74. Flirting with relegation