By Tony Attwood
As predicted after the Everton game, the aaa are back. uMaxit – a website I’d not come across before although I am sure it has been there for a long time, has a huge audience and the fault in not seeing it is entirely mine – having told us after the Stoke game all about “Rampant Arsenal” is now telling us how awful Arsenal are.
This isn’t their persistent style – for example even in the depths of Man U’s struggles earlier this season they gave us “Manchester United Are Actually Being Properly Rebuilt – Even If Results Don’t Prove It”. But it is something reserved for Arsenal. So what we now get is…
“Football is supposed to be the thing that breaks us away from the monotony of whatever it is we usually do. The end of the season feels so strange because it is both the time when we return to monotony and the time when football itself is shown to be slightly monotonous.
“But, for Arsenal fans, it is hard to imagine that football does in fact allow any escape from monotony. The experience of Arsenal and Arsene Wenger is so predictable and so glumly boring that this season’s hopes can be reduced to the pitiful phrase “Chuba Akpom looked good in pre-season.”
The approach is obviously one that comes directly from either a Daily Mirror writer (and yes it turns out that is what the author is or was) and Last Game Syndrome, in which you take the last match a club has played and then generalise out from that and ignore everything else.
We those of us closer to reality know of course is that no matter how long or short a run is, all runs end, and so all hearts are broken. But that isn’t really the issue. The issue is building on the run, overcoming the upset of the run ending, and then starting again.
It did strike me that that particular site however, being linked as it is to a gambling operation, the writers might be deliberately using the “only as good as your last game” attitude in order to give misleading advice to those who indulge in gambling. But no, I am sure they could not be doing that – it was just a fleeting fancy. To give misleading information to gamblers – that just wouldn’t be fair.
Of course most players are individually and collectively affected by the last result of the game they played in, and part of the manager’s job is to pick the players up after that result if it was a defeat or a depressing draw, or keep the confidence under control after a solid win.
But there is still the bigger picture. Take Manchester Airport’s last 10 games for example.
|10||29.10.2016||West Bromwich Albion||away||W4-0||1|
The “Baggage Handlers” as they are now affectionately known after their sponsor (ok they aren’t but with my lunatic sense of humour it just struck me as droll as I wrote it, although perhaps in retrospect it isn’t very funny), have only one thing to cling onto – beating Watford in the last game. But as the colour blue above shows you, there have only been four of those wins in the last ten as they’ve sunk into the play-off position in the Champions League.
Arsenal’s last 10 games tell a different tale…
|14||03.12.2016||West Ham United||away||W5-1||2|
Our position is much more variable – seven wins but not in a block. Positions wandering from 1st to 4th. And yes I know Arsenal are now third – for consistency the “pos” column reflects exactly where the club was after the games on that day. The table comes from the excellent statto.com site.
So the question is, can you really judge everything by the last game? If you look at Chelsea’s record at the moment the answer is yes, but all runs end – be they good or bad runs.
And there is the fact that Arsenal under Mr Wenger have been able to beat Mr Guardiola and the big money teams.
In the 2-1 win over Barcelona in the Champions league in 2011 Arsenal won 2-1 by holding back at home and working on the counter attack: Arshavin at his best. Arsenal with 47% possession.
Building on this Arsenal then took the possession rate down further for the 0-2 away win at the Airport in the 2014/15 season. This time possession sank to around 35% – quite unusual for Arsenal. In fact very unusual for Arsenal.
And there was the 2-0 win over Bayern last season.
That victory was interesting for Mr Wenger must have liked what he saw as he then really turned it on and actually under 30% possession for the Bayern game at Arsenal Stadium (as it is called on Euro nights).
The game involved Mesut Ozil playing in a different role – and he is easily a good enough player to do that with effect.
And Mr Wenger has does this elsewhere. In March 2015 Arsenal had a quarter final FA Cup tie away to Manchester United, that looked rather tricky. Arsenal had won none of the last seven games against Man U either home or away. But this time Arsenal pulled back and had only 42% of the possession but let Man U get more and more frustrated. As the home side got worried and the fouls count rose inexorably Arsenal simply took the game on the counter attack.
Now what makes me so fascinated by the counter attack is that it was the prime tactic of Herbert Chapman who bought players specifically to play in this style. Obviously we don’t have film of the Chapman matches to observe it in detail, and newspaper reports of the day didn’t really do too much in the way of tactical analysis for fear that their readers wouldn’t quite be able to grasp the nuances (a bit like today).
But we do get a clue from the results he got – for both with Huddersfield and with Arsenal, Chapman achieved similar numbers of wins home and away in his championship winning seasons. He played the system home and away.
I can’t see Mr Wenger going for counter attacking both at home and away as Chapman did, but we have seen that he can use it when he wants. This might be the occasion.
On the other hand, as I write this, the fog around my house is so dense I can’t see my hand behind my back. Let’s hope it lifts.
Tales from Untold