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October 2016
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Arsenal 2015/16: A Faltering Season with a Flattering Finish.

Arsenal 2015/16: A Faltering Season with a Flattering Finish.

By Fishpie

And so another season comes to rest. Sleep gently 2015/16. We had high hopes for you. And indeed you will go down in history as a season of great miracles, when the apparently impossible happened and improbable dreams were answered. A saint of a season; nurturing the underprivileged, rewarding the lowly.

My own high hopes, in fact, were not quite as grande or as lofty. My hope was simply that Arsenal could build on the two previous years of trophy success and at least establish a serious challenge for the title.

And, on the face of it, coming second looks good. Runner’s-up!! Not been in that position since 2004/5. And of course, the way we secured second place on the last day of the season was pure joy.  A 4-0 win, a hat trick for Giroud, the return of Santi and Jack, a goal for the retiring club captain scoring with the last kick of his career, and Spurs going 5-1 down to a relegated 10 man team and thus facilitating our runner’s up spot. A jubilant sunny atmosphere topped off with some fond farewells to a couple of loyal Gooners who had served the club well. “Oh what a perfect day..”

It was, it has to be said, in stark contrast to what has been a fractious season overall for the club.

And to be fair to all, even in our moment of unexpected second place joy, the Manager and the departing club captain both acknowledged the season hadn’t ended as they had hoped. They had planned and hoped for more…the title.

As a fan who has questioned the club’s ambition, I was grateful that Mr Wenger didn’t describe the season as “a 2nd place trophy.” Whatever he may have thought about the scale of the fan protests during the season, Mr Wenger was at least prepared to acknowledge tacitly, there are greater expectations among the fans that cannot be ignored completely.

Mr Wenger can also continue to take pride in yet again managing his team to a Champion’s League qualifying finish. Possibly more than any other, with Man United, Chelsea and Liverpool (via the League) failing to qualify, this season only went to highlight this remarkable achievement even more.

But where, in reality, does this season leave us and what does it suggest about the future?

In a piece I wrote for Untold before the season began, “Champions-ready, or More to do?” , I suggested, in order for us to fight for the title, we would probably need to try and match the average performance stats the Champions of the preceding ten years had achieved – 27 wins, 6 draws, 5 defeats and 87 points; meaning we would need to finish with an additional 12 points on top of our tally of 2014/15.

As it turned out, in order to win the Premier League this year, actually Arsenal would only have needed to have attained an additional 7 points over and above the total they achieved the season before; two extra wins and one extra draw. Not such a lot really.

Unfortunately that didn’t happen. In fact, as the chart confirms below, not only did we not match the average Champion’s points of the previous 10 years, we did not match the lower attainment of Leicester this year. Furthermore, in total, our final tally of points was 4 points less than we actually achieved the season before.  We won 2 fewer games and scored 6 fewer goals. And this in a season where the bigger clubs, normally providing the more difficult games, were not firing on all cylinders.

Season W  D  L  F A Pts
Average Champions’ attainment 05/06-14/15







Leicester 15-16







Arsenal  15-16







Arsenal  14-15







So the second place finish may look like progress but these stats indicate there was no progress at all. In fact there was a marginal drift backwards. The FA Cup elimination to Watford and our usual Champion’s League exit at the knock-out stage only underline that impression.

As we know, some Arsenal fans (like me) are often heard complaining about the repetitive, deja-vu quality of our seasons and 2015/16 conformed nicely to the established pattern. Comparing this season with Arsenal’s average across the previous ten, Mr Wenger once again delivered the kind of season we have become well accustomed to:

Pts behind Champs
Arsenal Average 05/06-14/15
Arsenal 15-16

And thus it’s fair to say that apart from the 2 very enjoyable back-to-back FA Cup successes, the extra player investment seen over the last 3 seasons, has not, as yet, seen a corresponding improvement of any significance in our results and our challenge for the league title.

As I said earlier in this piece, I am relieved to hear Mr Wenger acknowledge he felt his team could attain the title this year and regrets not doing so, so I will not criticise him for also saying second place was progress. It is only natural he wants to talk up his squad’s efforts, most of which will be with us next season. But he is, I’m sure, not fooled.

It was pretty clear he had really wanted to get a better striker last summer but wasn’t able to and what were probably, in private, his worst fears were realised; Giroud once again had a terrible lean spell just at the wrong time of the season,  Danny’s injury-prone past transmuted itself into virtually a whole season of absence, Alexis’s over-exuberance and insistence on playing all year round finally caught up with him, and Theo’s transformation into a striker was a complete non event.

With Danny tragically out for another 9 months, Mr Wenger has advance-notice that another striker is an absolute necessity from the upcoming summer transfer market. More than that though, as we’ve seen on numerous occasions before, to win the league, you often need a 20 plus goals man (Aguero, Vardy, Van Persie, Thierry etc) and if we can get that man, extra points are more likely to follow.

Having said that, even if Mr Wenger gets in the three players he says he wants (he said this after the Villa game), I am, following this season, even more concerned about the very nature of the football we play.  Whereas I felt, following last season, there was a momentum and purpose about the team which bode well for the next campaign, this season has left me worried about the collective whole that defines what our team stands for. It seems to me the team has, for much of this season, gone backwards in its cohesion and purpose. If I close my eyes and recall the overriding impressions of our season, the following images dominate:

1) In defence, I see our full backs too often only half-heartedly closing down and blocking crosses. I see our central defenders losing their strikers in the box. I see fast attackers running at an exposed back four, hitting unchallenged shots, from the edge of the box, low and hard into the bottom corner of the net. I see Cech, undoubtedly winning us points with his saves, but missing  those lows shots, and proving he is only human and thus not enough, on his own, to improve our defence significantly enough. Overall, even though we had 18 clean sheets during the season, I see an insecure defence which is still not in command and looking like it could concede (and occasionally collapse) at any moment in any game.

2) Our midfield, as I recall the season, apart from when Le Coq and Cazola play together, I see an ill disciplined and dysfunctional deep midfield.  Certainly when Ramsey and Flamini are playing I see them appearing in all and any kinds of positions and the opposition is passing through them effortlessly. I see our midfield losing the physical battle. I also see our midfield players giving the ball away needlessly, as though they are not focussed, conceding possession sloppily, struggling to move the ball into attacking areas. I see Elneny looking better on the ball, neat, more assured with his passing, steadier but not adept at winning the ball so much.

3) In my mind’s eye, our attacking play is disjointed and faltering. It is blunt, slow, little penetration and too many players struggling with form (Giroud, Walcott, Alexis and the Ox). Attacking players seem not to be on the same wavelength. We are being easily repelled.

4) I see low intensity football. 80% commitment. Slow and loose in possession and slow too in closing down. We are under pressure from more committed teams. I see us being overwhelmed or coming up short in critical matches.

5) I see a handful of really good performances, ironically often against the better teams

6) I recall a growing atmosphere of anger and I see persistent and growing fan protests with flags and signs, mostly pretty respectful of Mr Wenger but only being expressed in an overt way by a small minority of fans.

Clearly, these are mostly negative impressions which of course reveals my negative orientation. I know we have won many games and scored good goals but I must admit the season is not defined in my mind by what we did well but by what we didn’t do well enough.

The game against Villa yesterday was a much needed reminder of how joyous being an Arsenal fan with Mr Wenger in charge can be.

But most teams are not as poor as Villa. Last season’s last game in the 4-0 FA Cup Final victory over Villa re-enforced my hope we were building towards something bigger.

This season’s last game, another 4-0 victory over Villa, was just a welcome relief from a season that has served to dent my hopes for any kind of meaningful progress next year.

May Mr Wenger prove me wrong.


Untold Arsenal has published five books on Arsenal – all are available as paperback and three are now available on Kindle.  The books are

  • The Arsenal Yankee by Danny Karbassiyoon with a foreword by Arsene Wenger.
  • Arsenal: the long sleep 1953 – 1970; a view from the terrace.  By John Sowman with an introduction by Bob Wilson.
  • Woolwich Arsenal: The club that changed football.  By Tony Attwood, Andy Kelly and Mark Andrews.
  • Making the Arsenal: a novel by Tony Attwood.
  • The Crowd at Woolwich Arsenal by Mark Andrews.

You can find details of all five on our new Arsenal Books page

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48 comments to Arsenal 2015/16: A Faltering Season with a Flattering Finish.

  • porter

    That’s as good a season’s assessment as I have seen so far. You are correct that playing wise the team lost momentum and at times enthusiasm . We were affected by injury but at times the team just lost drive and the will to overcome the barriers put in our way. The loss of Arteta possibly took away the value of a inspiring captain and no other player looked to step up to the plate. The dressing room needs a large wall length mirror which both the players and manager need to take a long hard look at themselves in. We have the attributes to win this league but ability only counts for so much. Maybe a new motto “” stand up and be counted “” is needed.

  • nicky

    While the Villa game was indeed a joyous occasion to savour Arsenal under Arsene Wenger, I cannot forget that the second and defining goal was not scored until the 78th minute and before then there was much exasperation and complaining from many of those present, known for their fickle support.
    Would they have had a little more faith.

  • Goonermikey

    In your admonishment of our defence you forgot to mention that we conceded as many goals as the Champions.

    You also forgot to mention that they only scored three more goals than us whilst being awarded ten times as many penalties.

    You also forget to mention that they had almost 20% fewer shots on target than us.

    Oh and you also made no reference to us being unlucky enough to have hit the woodwork more times than anybody else.

    For a team that you identify as being “loose in possession”, it is also interesting that we had the highest possession stats in the league!!

    The point you raise about the growing discontent of fans is perhaps because they hear/read negative stuff based upon a misleading premise (see examples above) and find (with their HINDSIGT OR BLINDSIGHT) it necessary to seek to blame everyone except those responsible for peddling this unsubstantiated rubbish,……..just a thought!

    And all this without making reference o referees who were the overwhelmingly biggest influence on our season. Are you sure you’re writing for the right website?

  • Zedsaunt

    I’d rather watch five minutes of Arsenal playing well than watch an entire season of any other team winning the title.

    The four aspects of season 2015/2016 I will remember:

    Leicester City winning the EPL title and knocking the Hillsborough Inquiry off the front-pages.

    Senior FIFA executives arrested and charged by the FBI all reportedly pleading guilty.

    A Danish Arsenal fan, met in a sports bar on the island of Fyn in Denmark, exclaiming, ”Nobody trusts referees.”

    Before we parted we made our tributes to the grace and genius of Tomas Rosicky, a player who made us happy to believe in football, who made it possible to believe in what Cruyff had said – you can play football with your intelligence.

    Roll on next season.

  • porter

    He also said that :- Winning without playing attacking football is boring, but playing attacking football without winning is pointless.

  • porter

    Nicky , where I was the general feeling of the crowd was that Spurs were losing and as the goals went in they were anticipating a Villa equaliser. With our way of defending 1 goal is never comfortable and fortunately their attacking did not take advantage of the chances they had.

  • Nick

    At last on untold a well balanced and well thought out blog on the season.Fishpie you havent bulled the season into something it wasnt and you certainly havent made excuses for our failed season .

  • Josif


    I think you are a bit too harsh. Whilst I agree with you that we have been going backwards in many statistical parameters (games won, goals scored, points collected, home record, biggest defeat margin, biggest victory margin, number of games without scoring, European record – 36% of victories comparing to 60% in 2014-15, FA Cup demise), I think Arsenal have been subjected to four decisive factors.

    1) absolutely the worst refereeing I have ever seen in my almost 30 years of watching football and I have watched a game where the referee had to run away in front of my neighbour, a gentle 240 lbs school janitor, who would have eaten him alive if he had caught him) starting with Mike Dean’s Grand Theft Stamford Bridge. We didn’t get a single penalty at home throughout whole season and just two away from Emirates. Alexis was fouled by two players in the Everton box but the ref didn’t point to the spot. Giroud had his masculinity measured by Vertonghen’s grasp but the Belgian didn’t receive marching orders. Drinkwater went with his studs on Ramsey and Ramsey was the bad guy for…not getting his leg broken or something.

    And, this is just a little bit. I didn’t even mention Moss’ approval of pushing our players to the pits (Debuchy, Alexis).

    2) The Emirates should be our fortress. Instead it look like something that should be renamed to “The Autopsy Arena” as it looks like a place where our players are more scared than the opponents. Commentators don’t miss a chance to make a dig at Arsenal about it and they are right.

    3) Injuries of key players. As I have successfully proven a month ago or so, the club has failed to diagnose Welbeck’s knee problem last season and we lost a 16 million pound asset for 9 months. Now we lost Danny again but at least we know it from the start. He missed 26 matches due to injury. Jack made his first appearance in 35th match of the league season. Rosicky lasted 20 minutes against Burnley in FA Cup. Santi missed over a half of the season while Coq and Alexis were out for two months each. Even Cech was out with a hamstring injury. Two of our players got injured during warm-up in cup-matches and neither restored their form afterwards.

    Leicester practically went through season unscathed and the same goes for Spuds. City, on the other hand, struggled a lot with injuries of key players (Kompany, Silva, Aguero) which means we are not alone but in a good Kompany (OK, I’ll take my coat now…).

    4) Lack of ruthless striker. Mr Wenger himself gave the best assessment of Giroud when he said that Giroud had gone through bad spells before. Oli is a great guy (literally) and is a perfect super-sub (he was ruthless as a super-sub at the beginning, before Theo’s injury left him as our only striker) who can offer us additional dimension in the attack. But he doesn’t score 20 in the league and has never done it for Arsenal. What’s even worse, he disappears for a month or, this season, for three months. Idiots who boo him are idiots though. Thierry’s harsh criticism of Giroud last season when Oli was playing the best football of his life didn’t help either.

    Theo had a bright start and I think no other player in the league has scored against Leicester in both fixtures. The way Mr Wenger used him as the end of the season approached and every point mattered suggests he is on the exit door.

    I would give Alexis a thump up for his second season though. He scored in all big matches away from home and was the key during our ten-game unbeaten streak that we will carry to next season and, I hope, significantly stretch. I’m worried about how we enter the season after big international tournaments and, sadly, both Euro and Copa America take place next summer.

  • Fishpie


    Ok fair points, but just to counter what you say:

    Goals conceded were same as Leicester: True, but they only conceded more than 2 goals only once all season, ironically 5-2 against the Gooners. Whereas we conceded more than 2 goals four times: we were taken apart by Southampton 4-0, we couldn’t hold on at Liverpool drawing 3-3, Utd’s youth team romped through our back 4 winning 3-2 and we collapsed again at West Ham conceding 3 goals in the space of what, 10 minutes. Now imagine we were a steadier, less flakey defence, and instead we got a 0-0 draw at Southampton, and kept Liverpool out at the very end, and actually marked Ashford at United and got a draw and defended our 2-0 lead at West ham. That’s an additional 8 points. Who are champion’s now? My point is 18 clean sheets is all very well and good but we are prone to very very poor defensive performances.

    Leicester had more pens than us: Again true and I agree that is significant. It has been for us in years gone by. I think we only had one all season. But I must admit I can’t recall us having too many really obvious penalty claims. Perhaps we spent too much time passing the ball around in the back four or up around the box rather than forcing our way into the box to increase our chances of being fouled there.

    They had 20% fewer shots on target than us: Ok but they scored more or less the same number of goals. That says something more about their higher efficiency at converting their chances.

    We hit the woodwork more times than anybody else: I didn’t know that. Yep, agree that is unlucky, so agree I should have acknowledged that.

    Our possession stats are highest in the league: Ok cool but I wonder whether a lot of that possession is back-four side to side/ outside box side to side possession, which in our game plan I accept has a purpose, but I still “feel” (i.e. no stats to back it up) we were particularly prone to just losing the ball needlessly or because we were not tuned in to the intensity of the pressing game we were facing. But I accept that is an impression on my part.

    Discontented fans being led by unsubstantiated stuff: Even if there is unsubstantiated stuff out there, as some but not all of mine is, I don’t believe the majority of fans are not capable of making their own minds up having watched the games. If anything, in my experience football fans like to disagree with the pundits and reporters etc rather than follow their opinions blindly. Please give a little bit of respect to people who have different opinions.

    Referees: Until there is a full analysis of how other club’s do with referring decisions, with all due respect to the guys on this site who diligently record and analyse arsenal match refs, I can’t take it seriously that we lose more points than other clubs due to bad or biased ref decisions. Sorry.

  • Chris


    I agree with you about the defense and the sinking feeling that 1-0 is just not enough
    However, I feel that it is not enough because just then an ‘interesting’, ‘imaginative’, ‘out of the blue’ referee decision just change the game.
    And I am left wondering how this plays in the minds of the players and makes them far more cautious than they ought to be ?

    Just a thought

  • para

    Theo has become such a disappointment this season, especially as i think AW gave him a chance to shine by not getting a striker(even though the unavailability of such). Him crash down.

    Really do not want to see him in PL at some other team, bur doubt anyone abroad will want him, especially with his wages. His wages can be put to better use next season.

    Let’s see if the performance of Ozil is enough to lure some striker to Arsenal.

    Maybe Zlatan, but he must be told that he will have to have a trial though. 🙂 (This is a joke for those who don’t realise).

  • porter

    To say that fans are discontented because they believe what they read in the papers and hear on the radio is an insult to many that have either watched or played the game for some considerable time. Fans are not stupid , they understand the game . Many are tactically aware and most can see what is happening before them.
    Yes there are cheats that get penalties , Vardy and Hazard and once upon a time Rooney are classic examples they get them by driving into the box at speed and forcing a defender to make a rash move. When did you last see an Arsenal player do this ? Premier refs don’t regularly give penalties for holding , blocking off , and physical fouls , they are totally confused by hand ball decisions as there are too many variances in the laws . Ball to hand , arm in an unnatural position , player less than a yard from the kicker etc. That’s why we don’t get penalties because we don’t have great movement in the box we tend to play wall passes and try to bring other players into the move . Our speedsters E.G Theo and Hector seem to get so far and then turn inside looking for Ozil , rarely do they go for a return inside a fullback as they pass and stand as we switch play laterally , they don’t do cross overs with Giroud who tends to be static as the ball is bought closer to him . Penalties are won by quick movement disorientating defenders and making them stick out a foot or try to grab a passing player.
    We don’t do these things and consequently recieve no spot kicks.

  • Andy Mack

    If we’d played to our potential then we’ve have been champions.
    If the refs had been a little (not a lot) fairer then we’d have had a close finish with Leicester and if the refs had been correct every time (yes unrealistic as they’re supposedly human) we’d be champions.
    If Leicester hadn’t had the rub of the green with the refs, who knows…
    But we’re not. So there will be changes this summer.
    As for the points tally, time will tell but I suspect that in the future we won’t see the big points totals that we’ve seen in the past. The small teams now have enough money to buy quality creative players that can lead a win against anyone ‘On their day’, but the difference between the lesser teams and the top teams will be the consistency of those players.
    Who could imagine the Chavs being beaten by the smaller teams this year after their showing last year. Although they had some awful games, they also lost some where they weren’t actually bad and in previous seasons they would have ground out a result, but give Bournemouth, Watford, West Brom etc a sniff and they have that little bit more than previously.
    Finally, I re-watched the game on ArsenalPlayer last night and noticed one big thing. When the crowd cheered then the team did better. Yes they didn’t get the 2nd until late but when the crowd were quiet Villa had their best spell. A cheer for a toon goal = the game at the emirates moves into the Villa third. What a surprise! 😀

  • Andy Mack

    And one more point, I’ve been seeing comments on here that we’ve never been a club that buys big. That’s not quite true in as much as we’ve always (with money available) been prepared to spend on a top player or two, but we don’t buy a team.
    Players like Peter Marinello, Charlie Nicholas, TH14 and “God” cost big money but they played with cheap buys and lads that came up through the ranks.
    We buy top players for top money, but the team /team spirit is what wins stuff.

  • Zedsaunt

    Giving penalties is a far deeper issue than ”penalties are won by quick movement disorientating defenders and making them stick out a foot or try to graby a passing player.”

    How does a referee decide a penalty claim on a 50:50 call? How close do you play a game to the already existing pre-disposed bias of the referee?

  • Fishpie

    Josif, Hi.

    Ok Harsh? Maybe. Personally, I think I am being fair and trying not to let my Arsenal bias cloud reality. But on the other hand I do have a negative orientation which possibly clouds my rational self. I agree about injuries to key players for long periods this season but I have less sympathy with Mr Wenger in that we always have significant injuries and never cover ourselves well enough in squad terms. For instance it was obvious beyond obviousness that If Le Coq got injured, our cover was significantly weaker and it needed much stronger cover. You make your own luck sometimes and in this case we did not. The Emirates has a significant proportion of fans whose patience on seeing the same problems going unresolved adequately enough is getting thinner and thinner. So yes it doesn’t help the players that thin patience gets expressed in the Stadium. But Mr Wenger has the all the power to change the mood. It may be too late now. As for the striker, yep I agree , in the end ruthlessness was missing in a way it wasn’t with Vardy and Kane.

  • Jambug


    Amidst a terrible article, sorry, it was the following I wanted to comment on.

    “Referees: Until there is a full analysis of how other club’s do with referring decisions, with all due respect to the guys on this site who diligently record and analyse arsenal match refs, I can’t take it seriously that we lose more points than other clubs due to bad or biased ref decisions. Sorry.”

    Are you serious?

    Okay, the Referee reviews are subjective, but it’s not only the reviews that show there is something seriously wrong with how we are refereed. There are statistics out there that are irrefutable and damming regarding cards and penalties, that tend to strongly support there conclusions, subjective or otherwise.


    There have been numerous articles on here that show that, averaged out over the last ten years and longer, we have more bookings per foul than any other team.

    They show that Referees have, season after season, treated us with a severity far beyond that of others, when it comes to meeting out punishment for physical play.


    There have been numerous articles on here that show that, averaged out over the last ten years and longer, we get less penalties per season than any other team with similar possession/attacking profiles.

    They show that referees have, season after season, failed to awarded us penalties that they would have no problem awarding to our rivals.

    It continues this season with not ONE single penalty at home. Not ONE. In anyones book, that is an unbelievable statistic.

    Leicester where 5000-1 to win the league. I would suggest similar odds would of been available for us not getting a single home penalty wouldn’t you? But never the less, like Leicester winning the title, despite such enormous odds, it happened.

    But, if you think we are treated the same as everyone else by referees that’s up to you, I just reckon you must of been watching different Arsenal games to the ones I was watching.

  • Jambug

    Andy Mack

    I think Alan Ball was a record signing. £333,333 or something like that.

    Possibly Malcolm MacDonald too?

    Tony woodcock?

    I stand to be corrected but I’m sure these and others where top priced additions.

  • Marcus

    What you, and most of the media/pundits consistently fail to realise, is that the reason why most of the “big” teams have faltered this season is because of the massive increase in quality that was seen across the premier league “small” teams this season.

    In years gone by it has been enough for teams such as Chelsea and man city to buy a few good quality (currently worth 30mil) players to dominate small teams who’s main attribute is their cohesion and knowledge of each other’s game. However due to the TV rights deal we have seen teams like West Ham, Newcastle, Leicester and even newly promoted Watford and Bournemouth be able to compete with foreign clubs just below the pinnacles of their respective leagues.

    As wenger said a year or so ago, big clubs can no longer enjoy the sort of domination which was seen in the “big four era” while only purchasing nearly world class player, and owning maybe one or two actual worldies. He said the answer must be to raise the standard of quality even further (think Barcelona, Bayern, real) and to do so in a way in which the team knows each other’s game just as the small teams know their respective games.

    If you look at our transfer policy over the last few seasons this is exactly what we have been attempting to achieve. Fans bemoan the lack of a striker and holding midfield player being brought in in the summer without realising that their is a trade off between buying a player to fulfill a function and disrupting a squad who knows each other’s games. The only reason buying a player in any position really makes a difference in the first season regardless of who you already have there is if they are of a significant level above said player that their addition cancels out the fact that they must settle in and become accustomed to their team mates.

    The reason Arsenal and totenham and Leicester have done so well this season while man c, Liverpool, Chelsea and United have not is that they each purchased less than 2 outfield players of quality and put them into a squad of players who already know each other well. In addition they all have squads which many may call “thin” however all 3 are able to provide (in various levels of quality) depth through youth promotion policy. This means that they first team are used to playing together and so are organized all know their jobs and are committed, rather than being confused about who has what role in a given situation and scared shitless theyl get dropped if they leave some defensive area exposed through pressing over zealously.

    Arsenal have looked this in the latter half of the season due to the injuries and swapping around we’ve had in central midfield, the most important part of many teams when it comes to “cohesion” due to the dual and dynamic role they play in defence and attack. Last season when santi, Ozil Ramsey and coquelin were essentially constants in our midfield we looked committed and as though the players were “trying” but also able to string passes together. This continued right up until the injuries to santi and Coquelin when we suddenly had to make do on a midfield of flamini and ramsey.

    As cech pointed out recently on we did surprisingly well for a period even with alexis out due to the brilliance of Ozil and our incredible youth system which enables us to have energy and strength in depth without players becoming dissatisfied and demotivated at lack of first team opportunities when everyone is fit. However Ozil tired as he was obviously going to do at some point from the large number of Christmas games and almost no rotation. The assists stopped, Ramsey got injured again and giroud and walcott suffered. We bought in mo cus he was a good buy and we needed not only immediate back up but replacements for our 3 outgoing midfield players.

    This summer we will almost certainly buy a centre back because mertesacker is now at the age where he will not play regularly anymore, don’t expect him to be a big name who will automatically push Gabriel out of the team. This is because since hummels went to bayern, there aren’t really any big name defenders of the right age (imo 27), there really is no telling who wenger will get.

    In terms of any other position I believe wenger will only buy if a player is available who is a) of enough quality to automatically push a first team player out, regardless of who, wenger bought cech last summer even though we’d only had ospina a year and he’d performed admirably b) he is a player with potential who could provide back up without being frustrated at lack of opportunity, he is of a good age with respect to our other players (don’t expect xhaka at 23 when we have coquelin mo and toral coming through). If you look at all of our transfers they fulfill one or the other category whereas Man U, man c and Chelsea have attempted to buy squad depth through many signings which would be great for smaller clubs but average for them. I believe in terms of actual player quality we have in ozil, Sanchez and cech more top top class players than any other team in the league, even if they have more “very good signings”.

  • Pete

    Andy M – I completely agree with you that the “levelling up” of the PL due to the progressive TV money distribution means that, in future, the “big” clubs will not get so many points and that the overall field will be more crowded, with “surprise” results more common. I seriously doubt anyone will get to 85 points next season.

    Fishpie – more generally I think you are guilty of perfectionism. Despite ALL the flaws you identify, many of which I actually disagree with, but I will come to that, we still finished second. Which means that, at best, everyone else bar Leicester must have even worse flaws.

  • doc

    The golden boot winner Harry Kane scored 25 league goals at 1 every 135 mins. Vardy scored 24 at 1 every 131 mins. Giroud scored 16 at 1 every 152 mins. If we take away penalties and only look at goals from open play the Kane would have 20 at 1 every 168 mins. Vardy would have 20 at 1 every 157 mins. Giroud would have 1 every 162 mins. That’s how far worse than the leading strikers he is. I didn’t include Arguero because he’s in a different league. 🙂

  • Goonermikey

    It’s highly amusing when one states some facts in a comment and then some people hit the ‘dislike’ button. Surely the idea that you dislike a fact says a hell of a lot more about you than it does about the facts…….and it’s not terribly complimentary. (I have the email address of the flat earth society if you want that too!)

  • Pete

    As per your detailed points:

    1. I am very happy with our full backs. Monreal, in particular, is superb at blocking crosses. I don’t have stats to hand but don’t think we conceded a particularly large number of goals from the edge of the box. Makes a change of being accused of conceding goals from set pieces, eh? I do agree that Cech seems particularly weak in getting down to low shots. Can think of half a dozen or so goals like that.

    2. I think you are very harsh given the devastation of our midfield to injuries this season and associated disruption. Think Coquelin and Elneny are very effective defensive midfielders.

    3. I acknowledge that our attacking has been inconsistent. Again, injuries haven’t helped at all here.

    4. We have had some poor games but, in general, I think we have done OK and rarely been “overwhelmed”. No losses to Leicester, Totts, Man City, Liverpool. Very unlucky twice against Chelsea (3 red cards!) but poor away to MU. Even then we weren’t overwhelmed at all. Most of our losses have been due to smash and grab type situations.

    5. Agree.

    6. Agree, sadly. And it has certainly cost us at home.

    I continue to insist that we only have two significant issues:

    (i) Incontrovertibly biased refereeing.
    (ii) Consistently poor injury record.

    Taken together, this has cost us many more than 10 points. Nevertheless, both of the above have been an issue for several years and neither seem to be getting resolved.

    I don’t have a problem with the players, the management, the tactics and so on. If we buy a world class player or two in the summer that would be fantastic. Perhaps a striker and centre back but otherwise think we are well-served.

  • bjtgooner

    I don’t think it is fair, sensible or logical to be so negative about our team bearing in mind that we have had up to 29 points lost due to ref incompetence. Those 29 points should be put into the debate before our players are so triflingly gelded.

    Apart from the 29 points – which are based on wrong major decisions, the accumulative effect of many wrong, but more minor, ref decisions has not been quantified.

    Sorry Fishpie, I don’t like the article, for now I am still enjoying and celebrating St Tott’s Day & letting AW get on with managing the club!

  • Goonermikey

    @ Fishpie 3.05pm

    Thanks for your measured response.

    I would make the following observations and will address you points in order.

    In terms of the matches you quote in respect of us conceding more than two goals; I need only to refer you to the ref reviews carried out so ably by Usama and Walter to put a significantly different perspective on your argument.

    Regarding your recollection about unawarded penalty claims; ditto.

    Your statement about how we managed the possession is supposition and would not claim that you are right or wrong about that. The initial point however was that you claimed we were “loose in possession” whereas the fact I gave was that we held possession better than any other club.
    I totally agree that the majority of fans are capable of making up their own minds. Indeed the majority of fans are also pro-Wenger……….

    As far as your comment, “Please give a little bit of respect to people who have different opinions.” I most definitely do in most cases, however, if people argue black is white when the only facts that are available suggest otherwise, it is difficult to give credence to an opinion that the facts prove are undeniably wrong.

    An example of this would be the AAA’s who sit behind me. A couple of seasons ago (and to this day) they continually moan about the “fact” that “we always piss about passing and trying to walk the ball in” and that “we never shoot from outside the area”. The fact was that the previous season we had scored more goals from outside the area than any other club. On alerting them to this fact, I am told to “stop talking shit”. I find it very difficult to respect opinions of people who are, stupid, ignorant, rude and in total denial of facts that are available for all to see should they have a modicum of interest in educating themselves in that regard. (I do not in any way direct that comment to you but it is certainly my argument as to why some opinions deserve no respect whatsoever and are, on the contrary, worthy of contempt.) I will not labour that point as much as I would like but let’s just say that I have a lot more respect for people who use facts to support their opinions than just argue something blindly because they just feel like it.

    I see my earlier retort in respect of referee reviews will have been lost on you as you “can’t take them seriously”. Until I see reports to counter the time consuming, considered assessments made by Usama and Walter, I’m afraid I will have to beg to differ. I am happy to stand corrected but there doesn’t seem to be much willingness by anyone (I assume yourself included) to actually put forward an alternate analysis to support your scepticism. I do accept that I do not agree with every interpretation they make but I am convinced that they get a hell of a lot more decisions right than they get wrong.

  • Goonermikey

    @ Fishpie

    Sorry I forgot to mention you’re assertion, “They had 20% fewer shots on target than us: Ok but they scored more or less the same number of goals. That says something more about their higher efficiency at converting their chances”.

    It might, but then again it might not.

    It’s equally possible that it might mean the opposing goalkeepers played better against us and worse against them. I’m not saying it does mean this but it is certainly not conclusive evidence that it means what you claim.

  • Leon

    29 points? This sounds like Andrew Crawshaw speak. That would have given us a record total of 100. With the best will in the world I don’t see us as a 100 point team yet. I think we may have been robbed of at the most ten, and with Leicester gifted five penalties still might have finished first.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    A big LIKE from me for all the usual suspects . Some very fine arguments and comments .

  • Andy Mack

    Jambug, yes and I’m sure there are others but those were just a few examples.

    Fishpie, I’m actually not sure you watch the games. I can understand some questioning of the ’29 points’ (it’s difficult not to see things your way in 50/50 situations) but to think we get a fair shake of the stick makes me think you don’t watch.
    There are far too many clear ref mistakes (judgement calls!) that go against us and very few clear decisions called wrongly for us (against someone else).

  • Polo

    @ Fishpie,

    First, thank you for taking the time and effort in writing this article, well done.

    Most of your points are valid observations, so no argument from me. However, looking at statistically I don’t think this season is as bad as most are making it out to be as per below, taken from Sportsmole.

    League table:
    1) Leicester – P38 W23 D12 L3 F68 A36 Points 81
    2) Arsenal – P38 W20 D11 L7 F65 A36 Points 71

    Best defense total: Goals Against (GA) Clean Sheets (CS)
    1) ManU – GA 34 CS 18
    2) Spurs – GA 35 CS 13
    3) Arsenal – GA 36 CS 18
    4) Leicester – GA 36 CS 15

    Best defense home:
    1) ManU – GA 8 CS 12
    2) Arsenal – GA 11 CS 10

    Best defense away:
    1) Leicester – GA 18 CS 6
    7) Arsenal – GA 25 CS 8

    Own Goal:
    1) Arsenal, Aston Villa, Swansea, Spurs, WBA – 3

    Goals conceded in first 15 minutes:
    1) Newcastle 10
    16) Arsenal, Leicester – 3

    Goals conceded in first half:
    1) Bournemouth – 37
    12) Arsenal – 20
    20) Leicester – 13

    Goals conceded in second half:
    1) Aston Villa – 45
    15) Leicester – 23
    20) Arsenal – 16

    Best attack total:
    1) ManC – 71
    3) Leicester – 68
    4) Arsenal – 65

    Best attack home:
    1) ManC – 47
    4) Leicester – 35
    10) Arsenal – 31

    Best attack away:
    1) Arsenal, Spurs – 34
    3) Leicester – 33

    Goals scored in 15 minutes:
    1) ManC – 11
    2) Arsenal – 10
    8) Leicester – 6

    Points from losing positions: Win (W) Draw (D)
    1) Spurs – W5 D10
    5) Leicester – W2 D10
    9) Arsenal – W2 D7

    First goal scored in game:
    1) Leicester – 68.4%
    2) Arsenal – 63.2%

    Penalties: For (F) Against (A)
    1) Leicester – F13 A3 Home 6 Away 7
    2) ManC – F8 A1 Home 6 Away 2
    19) Arsenal – F2 A1 Home 0 Away 2

    Penalties for season 2014/15
    1) ManC – F8 A4 Home 6 Away 2
    3) Arsenal – F7 A3 Home 3 Away 4

  • Pat

    Moany article, Fishpie. Not really interested.

  • Josif

    2) The Emirates should be our fortress. Instead it look like something that should be renamed to “The Autopsy Arena” as it looks like a place where our players are more scared than the opponents.

    Arsenal had the second best home record in the Premier League. Only Leicester were better. We had 12 wins as did Leicester. Of the rest we drew four they drew six.

    That means that using your analysis 19 of the 20 clubs in the Premier League have home grounds that should be renamed to “The Autopsy Arena”

  • Andy Mack

    Tony, Josifs point that the atmosphere is usually poor at home is valid.
    Despite the stoic efforts of a small section which sing their hearts out, the collective sigh from half(+) the ‘fans’ when the first pass goes astray is clearly intimidating to the players and it regularly takes them a few minutes to get back into their stride.
    The fact that the players usually overcome that is obviously a big plus but for any new player that’ll have an effect, if only that it’ll take them a bit longer to get used to playing at our stadium.

  • Menace

    Fishpie – stats are great as ‘evidence’ for arguement. What I dislike more than anything are the sighted blind. People who can see but don’t look or who look but don’t see.

    I have been watching Arsenal for most part of 50 years & generally the officiating was reasonable until the formation of the PGMO at the beginning of this millenium. This FA accepted bunch of selectively blind bits of garbage have destroyed football in England. They have taken away some of the most beautiful footballers by allowing ‘the robust English tackle’ (Eduardo & Diaby to name two). It is against all that is sacred in sport for opponents to cheat & use foul physical bullying to gain advantage. The Laws of the Game are there to ensure sporting competition.

    Sadly all of your post fails miserably because you fail to include the Table of Shame in your assessment particularly on this site. After seeing the blatent cheating that went on in the FA cup finals in full sight of the worlds press the officiating has to be a consideration by any true Arsenal (football) fan. Josif was gentle in his assessment but I am not nor have I ever been diplomatic. I say it how I see it.

    Arsenal were consistently robbed of results, fair officiating & fair play. Despite all that, Arsenal finished 2nd. In itself a feat beyond compare. If we given half the benefits the Winners got our position would have been even more remarkable.

    Some of the earlier cheating involving communications has been uncovered by former officials but the corrupt FA have done nothing. We have witnessed the Chelsea v Spuds debacle & seen the FA reflect their impunity. Wenger would have been fined more that both clubs if he coughed during a press conference.

    Faltering with age, Flattering with blindness.

  • Menace

    Leon – We are better than a 100 point team on a balanced pitch with unbiased officials. Our football is class. We may not be ruthless & bullying but we play good all round football. We get stopped by a combination of fouls & pseudo fouls that impact our performance.

    We defend with a zonal marking system & do not grab players as a consequence. Teams that defend with a man marking system tend to grab players & PGMO do not consider amorous hugs to be foul play. When Kos hugged a player last season he was red carded.

    We also do not go down after contact unless our balance is impacted. Leicester played the game with dive on contact. Watch any of their games & you will see it done consistently.

    Arsenal play within the Laws of the Game – the Wenger way. It is accepted by PGMO as being clean when a player falls after being pushed. If the player pushing is an Arsenal player, the world comes to an end. Pundits throw their toys out of studios & officials think Christmas has come early so cards are in order. Arsenal players are rarely spoken to (must be foreign muck) while chats are often used to evade bookings of opponents.

    I can, like our previews, predict what action/nonaction the PGMO official will take. It upsets some fans because they think the officiating is correct. So many are fooled by pundits who do not know the Laws of the Game they made their living at.

  • Florian

    With so many stats available, I will try to look at the issue from a slightly different angle.

    There is no question that there are 2 categories of factors that influence the performance of a football team: internal and external (from a club’s point of view).
    Internal – players, management, medical team, ownership.
    External – opponents, fans, referees, FA, EUFA, FUFA (fans are a weird bunch, but since they are not employees of the club I placed them at “external”).

    Now, the fundamental difference between these 2 categories is that we don’t have any control over the latter. If Riley and his gang decide to screw us of 114 points there is nothing we can do. Conversely, the former is very much under our control. The club has direct control over the players, management etc, which means this is the area where team issues can be addressed and improvements can be made.

    Where am I going with this?

    We finished the season with 71 points, and the refs robbed us of 29 points (so far, let’s give Gollum the benefit of the doubt for the Sunderland match). This means that out of a total of 114 points we lost 14 points on our mistakes. There are a couple of accidents that were clearly avoidable – home with Cheatski and away at Manure – but apart from that there are maybe 9 other points that are spread across the field. Had we not lost those 14 points we would have been champions. Now, I’m not suggesting solutions and I’m not pointing fingers either. But that is the area that if I were Wenger I would analyze to determine why did we lose, and what can be done to avoid that kind of results in the future.

  • Rich


    Interesting stuff. Resonates with me at my most negative, but I guess the big difference between us is that I distrust my own negativity and work to correct it.

    There are other factors, but the refereeing issue on its own means my most negative assessments don’t hold up at all.

    Any time I’m being particularly harsh on the team, if I then assess the refereeing for the year it ends up breaking down that harsh assessment and I have to start again, with a team who got a top four place despite once more having to deal with the gigantic handicap of atrocious refereeing.

    You thinking the officiating is fine guarantees your assessment will always be poles apart from mine and many others on here.

    It’s always amazing to me to properly encounter-i.e in a calm environment where reasonable people speak in detail- those who don’t see anything wrong with these refs, but I’m pretty sure it’s not you whose view puts you in the minority overall.

    Still, I can only be adamant they are wrong ‘uns and that the detrimental effects are massive.

    I don’t think those affects can be accurately measured- 5 points, 10 points, whatever- largely because decisions change games, games affect morale and momentum, pressure,etc; and because the difference between how things are and how they should be is so large that the latter isn’t close enough to existence for us to talk accurately about or ‘know’ it.

    Instead I feel utterly certain something is wrong and that it costs us a lot. Yet we still finish high in the league and are close enough for me to believe we can become as good as we need to be to beat the opposition and pgmol.

  • Nick

    Your blog was spot on you should realise by now that the topic would eventually come round to the conclusion that the only people to blame for end of season capitulation are the referees!!You know as soon as menace gets onto his soapbox that theres only one topic of conversation.Most on here are happy with our season and think its been a sucess.I can assure you that finishing second and above spurs is not success for the so called 6th biggest and one of the richest clubs in world football.

  • Leon

    It’s a nice thought, but 100 is the holy grail of PL points totals and even with no PGMO interference we were nowhere near that sort of consistent quality. They said a season undefeated was unachievable and we proved them wrong, so perhaps in the future, but sadly not yet.

  • Damilare

    Nick May 18, 2016 at 9:58 am

    Why crucify Arsenal for capitulating when tiny tot is there?

  • ob1977

    For people to dismiss the penalty count for Leicester and against Arsenal is ridiculous, the fact that all but 1 of Leicesters penalties came during matches which they were losing or drawing, helping to amount to over 10 points tells it’s own story, obviously not even including the leg up against Arsenal which they failed to capitalise on…

  • Menace

    Nick – 6th biggest & one of the richest? My box costs nothing but you would spend spend spend to get a trophy. How much do you spend on youself or your wife? Why don’t you spend more? You must have so much more that you can spend! Expenditure in any walk of life is controlled (budget or experience). Most people only spend a percentage of their income. Arsenal do the same. If they need to spend more, they have to borrow against colateral. Players are not easily valued for use as colateral so mainly infrastructure is used. It is always easy to spend somebody elses money.

    To win is not easy in any sport. To win hindered is even more difficult.

  • ob1977

    One point I would like to make about peoples reaction of or opinion of referees and how this surprisingly differ…

    I can watch a match with some of my Arsenal mates and nearly every foul, throw in, corner, free-kick given or not given, will be met with “oh f off ref” “how has he given / not given that”, to a point when i’m on the refs side as disagree with some of the complaints.

    Now that is nearly every match without fail, but when 6-7 months down the line you point out that the league champions have had 13 penalties and we have only got 2 and were screwed week in week out, the aswer is “you cant look at the refs”… Well at each and every individual match that’s what we had done, but when pointing out it’s accumulative and resultant effect it’s wrong??? Hmmmm….

  • Rich


    Reminds me of one of the most infuriating things that can happen with commentators- when they don’t add up the incidents in a match.

    Hull cup final was a classic. One of the commentators was saying ‘oh, that’s unlucky; that looked a pen’ on each of our 3 or 4 good pen shouts, but never took the step of adding up and saying ‘bloody hell, they’ve had three/four really good pen shouts ignored!’ One good pen shout turned down can be called unlucky, three or four is extraordinarily unlucky and naturally puts massive focus on what a refs up to out there.

    All season, not one of them mentioned our penalty situation. Pretty sure most of them would be well aware of it. Would add a different complexion as each one was turned down by the ref if they said ‘ haven’t had a pen at home this year’, ‘nothing since before christmas’, etc

  • Yellow Canary

    I think our style of football doesn’t invite penalties. We tend to play it slow, passing intricately in and around the box. Quicker runs into the box often invite reckless tackles. Just a theory.

    @bjt gooner, 29 pts! Are you serious? That would mean we’d have 100 pts. Never been done before and as much I think we have a decent team we have also lost some key players at vital times so I’m sorry but that total is quite crazy. Again applying a simplistic outcome to the data supplied is misreading the data.

  • Menace

    It is not sporting to ‘invite penalties’. The penalty must be given for a foul in the penalty area. Foul on a player includes holding, pushing, pulling, tripping or hand ball (deliberate control of ball by use of arm or hand. It appears that Arsenal nver get fouled in the penalty area.