By Bulldog Drummond
In the recent discussion about the November effect on Arsenal it was pointed out that the way in which fixtures are arranged is no longer a matter of chance, and certainly no longer a matter of “it will all even out in the end”. Certain fixtures are arranged to suit the TV companies – so that what the corporations consider big games don’t come at times that the schedulers consider low viewing times.
Thus whereas it was quite possible for Arsenal to be drawn to play Tottenham on the very first match of the season (as happened in fact when Herbert Chapman came to Arsenal in 1925) this sort of thing is no longer possible. Every match now artificially has its place.
And even then that is not the end of it, as with clever use of the scheduling “for TV purposes” some clubs can get a very tough ride while others can gently glide through events watching others get caught up.
Take this Christmas for example. Southampton have three games in six days and West Ham have to travel 343 miles. You might well think that someone doesn’t like West Ham much – and of course that is true. Lots of us don’t like them very much at all.
But it is only when we compare this state of affairs to Chelsea we can see where the real bias lies. Chelsea’s matches are spread not over six days, but actually across 10 days. And there is none of that long distance travelling lark. Oh no. They have to battle with a 14 mile trip to Tottenham. And that’s it.
With data like it really is hard to see anything other than pre-ordained events. Mind you Christmas traffic in London can make such journeys rather difficult so I am sure they will suffer a bit.
Looking at the Physioroom injury league we find we have…
|A Oxlade-Chamberlain||Hamstring||January 1, 2017|
|S Mustafi||Hamstring||January 3, 2017|
|P Mertesacker||Knee||January 7, 2017|
|M Debuchy||Hamstring||January 14, 2017|
|C Akpom||Back||January 14, 2017|
|S Cazorla||Plantaris||February 25, 2017|
Assuming Alexis continues to play centre forward then Danny, when he comes back, would play as one of the two wide men behind him, fighting for a place with the likes of Iwobi, Theo and the Ox. It also means that we would then have four players who can make a decent fist of playing centre forward: Danny, Alexis, Girooooud, and Lucas.
Looking at the two teams and their home and away form we can see that….
|8||West Bromwich Albion||17||4||2||3||16||13||2||3||3||7||8||+2||23|
WBA has two wins away, three draws and three defeats. Arsenal at home have five wins, two draws and one defeat. In goal scoring terms WBA have scored seven away and conceded eight, while Arsenal have scored 18 at home and conceded 10.
If we look at WBA’s away games we see where their problems are…
Their wins have come against Palace and Leicester, their defeats (in brown above) to Bournemouth, Liverpool and Chelsea. But all three defeats have been by just one goal – so we can expect a tedious approach with a line of 4-5-1, or 5-4-1 (in the latter case with the full backs reclassified as “wing backs” and the defence classified as a threesome to make it sound more attractive).
Arsenal’s home form this season by comparison is like this (remembering the position in the final column is calculated immediately after the game in question).
While WBA tend to lose by one goal away, Arsenal’s home wins have been by one goal, two goals and three goals. So again, everything points not to one bus being parked behind the ball, but rather a whole fleet of the wretched things lined up three deep and on top of each other, along with the entire bus station.
Looking at these figures it is hard to disagree with WhoScored’s view that WBA “will be shown a high number of cards” – although that of course does depend on which way the referee is looking at the time.
Their predictions for Arsenal are…
- Arsenal will steal the ball from the opposition often
- Arsenal will dominate possession
- Arsenal will score as a result of individual skill
- Arsenal will control the game in the opposition’s half
The BBC website has a pre-match commentary by Steve Wilson. And I was about to quote him when it suddenly occurred to me that I know of two Steve Wilson’s. There is the Match of the Day man, and then there is the gent who founded Porcupine Tree and who worked with such bands as King Crimson, Jethro Tull, and Yes. And looking at the comments he makes I am still not too sure which Steve Wilson we have here.
Anyway he says, (whichever he it is) on the BBC website, that West Brom have “scored three or more goals in four league games already: that’s rather like the quiet bloke from Quantity Surveying arriving at the office party in a low-cut sparkly number with slingback heels and a Chihuahua puppy in his handbag. Surprising.”
An interesting way of writing football previews and one that I think I might try and adopt. But we might note that none of those games with the amazing three or more goals has been away from WBA’s ground, where refereeing decisions are known to be given under the Genghis Khan Referees Rules (Bold Dog Edition published 1221).
More notes on Boxing Day (assuming I manage to get up on time).
And from the History Society
- August / September 1936: 20 different players used in the first seven league games
- Ralph Birkett: part of the South West club that Chapman built within Arsenal
- Arsenal players 1934/5 and 1935/36 the fundamental problem with the team
- Arsenal in the summer 1936: from winning the Cup to an assassination attempt on the king