By Tony Attwood
Just how bad are we in November? Not just this November but each and every November. Year after Wengerian year after Wengerian year…
Curiously, given that this year this has been the topic there hasn’t been any real analysis of this. Indeed I have seen commentators writing that this is the worst November ever for Arsenal, or at least the worst in the current manager’s reign but without quoting any figures.
Mind you, it was ever thus. So I thought I’d better waste a Sunday morning doing the work no one else wants to do.
This November we’ve played two and drawn two, so depending on your outlook we’ve either dropped four points or are unbeaten. Two 1-1 draws then, against Man U and the Tinies. Now let’s go back in time (you can make whoooooooo type noises if you like as they would if this were on TV) and see what the last 10 years have been like.
And then for fun let’s compare with the last three times we won the league.
Two draws and a defeat. 1.5 points a game – final league position 2nd.
- We drew with Tottenham and Norwich, and lost to West Brom.
Two wins and two defeats. 1.5 points a game – final league position 3rd.
- We beat Burnley and WBA and lost to Swansea and Man U.
Three wins and one defeat. 2.25 points per game – final league position 4th.
- We beat Liverpool, Southampton, and Cardiff, and lost to Man U.
One win, two draws, one defeat. 1.25 points per game- final league position 4th.
- We beat the Tiny Totts, drew with Aston Villa and Fulham and lost to Man U.
Two wins and one draw. 2.33 points per game – final league position 3rd
- We beat WBA and Norwich, and drew with Fulham.
Three wins and two defeats. 1.8 points per game – final league position 3rd
- We beat Wolverhampton, Everton and Aston Villa, and lost to Newcastle and Tottenham.
One win and two defeats. 1 point per game – final league position 4th.
- We beat Wolverhampton and lost to Sunderland and Chelsea.
Two wins and three defeats. 1.2 points per game. Final league position 3rd.
- We beat Man U and Chelsea and lost to Stoke, Aston Villa and Man City.
Two wins and one draw. 2.33 points per game. Final league position 4th.
- We beat Reading and Wigan and drew with Man U.
So that is the last nine years and two of the games in this one. The best year in terms of points per game in November were 2011 and 2007 when we got 2.33 points per game and came third and fourth in the league. The worst was 2009, when we got one point per game and came fourth in the league. So not much of an indicator there.
Last season when we came second we got 1.5 points per game. In five seasons out of the ten we did better than this in November and yet came lower in the league at the end.
But what about the years when we won the league? How did we do in November?
One win and three defeats. 0.75 points per game. Final league position 1st.
- We beat Man U, and lost to Derby, Sheffield Wednesday and Liverpool.
One win, one draw and one defeat. 1.33 points per game. Final position 1st.
- We beat Man U, lost to Charlton and drew with Tottenham
Three wins and one draw. 2.25 points per game. Final position 1st (unbeaten)
- We beat Leeds, Tottenham and Birmingham, and drew with Fulham.
Our best ever Novembers in these years (the last ten and the three most recent championship years) were 2011 and 2007, when we came third and fourth. The three seasons in which we won the league we did worse than this in November.
So does this mean you can prove anything with statistics?
No not at all, but it does mean that you can prove pretty much what you want to prove by selecting very few statistics. What it shows is that just taking one month and trying to extrapolate from that to the whole season is meaningless. It shows what must be blindingly obvious to everyone, that you cannot judge 38 games on the basis of between three and five games.
And yet the media and the bloggettas go on and on and on and on and on and on and on (plus a few more) talking about Arsenal’s disaster in November and how this is a perfect example of Arsenal’s inability to win anything under Mr Wenger.
In 2001/2 we had an average points per game ratio of 2.29. In November it dropped slightly below that. But so what? Getting above that level in November doesn’t mean anything at all and most certainly doesn’t mean we will win the league.
In fact whoever told you that November was some sort of indicator to the whole season, and that Arsenal always fail because of November was talking rubbish. To know how well Arsenal do in the total season you need to look at the league table at the end of the season.
But here’s a funny thing. In the 13 Novembers we have looked at, in six of them we have played Man U and five of them Tottenham. However if the games across the season were drawn out randomly we would expect to play each team either two or three times.
Yet we played Man U six times and Tottenham five times. Is that just a quirk, or after the computer has drawn out all of the league fixtures, is someone mucking around with the fixtures, giving Arsenal two of the games that bring an extra intensity.
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