By Tony Attwood
In the last six games as you will know we have suffered three defeats, and gained a draw and taken two wins, and we are fifth. I just wondered how this compared to the last couple of seasons at this moment.
Here is where we are at the moment.
|8||West Bromwich Albion||31||9||2||4||27||18||3||6||7||12||22||-1||44|
One year ago our recent form was two wins, two defeats, two draws in the last six.
|5||West Ham United||29||7||5||2||22||14||6||5||4||23||19||+12||49|
|11||West Bromwich Albion||29||6||4||5||19||20||4||5||5||11||16||-6||39|
Two years ago we were on a run of five wins and one defeat in the last six.
|10||West Ham United||29||7||3||5||21||15||3||6||5||18||22||+2||39|
In terms of points we have 54 this year. Last year it was 52 and the year before 57. The fact that we are lower placed than last year is undoubtedly due to the vagaries of the way a season can work. This was showed perfectly well in the article “A Millenia of the Pulis/Fat Sam – BundesLiga type EPL” Even when a team always scores twice as many goals as the other teams in the league, it still won’t always win the league.
Our goals totals are particularly interesting. This season we have scored 61 and let in 36. Last season by this stage it was 46-30. The season before we had 56-30. So the attack has soared ahead but we have conceded six more goals than at this stage in the last two years. This might well be down to having two new men in defensive positions – Mustafi and Xhaka. Given that other research we have undertaken suggests that the majority of expensive players do not shine in their first year at a new club, but then come good, there is a strong chance that this will happen next season.
Obviously a lot of increase in goals – 14 more in the league this season – must be down to Alexis, which puts an extra emphasis on either keeping him, or replacing him with a player of similar goalscoring merit.
Our goal difference is much better than this time last season and just one goal worse off than two seasons ago.
Where we have lost out is the decline in our away form – this season is the worst of the three in that regard. Our home form is slightly worse than two years ago but we have played one game more at home this season than at this stage last season.
At the moment we are 18 points off the top club. One year ago it was 11 points and two years ago it was seven points. So given that we are only three points off our position two years ago, and actually two points better off than we were last year, clearly what has happened is that the top club Chelsea has moved further forwards than we have as have Tottenham in second.
This is where the biggest difference shows up. We are 11 points off second, but last year we were only six points off second and the year before we were one point off second.
Thus what has really affected us however is the fact that Chelsea are way ahead of where Leicester were at this stage last year and indeed where Chelsea were two years ago. Tottenham and Liverpool likewise are way ahead of where they were in each of the last two years. Man City have improved over last season, and are back to where they were two years ago. Man U are much better off than last year, and are just about back to where they were two years ago.
So our problem is not that we have slipped back but that we have not progressed in points totals while the other clubs at the top have.
Of course there is a simple knee jerk reaction to this which can say, we should have progressed and therefore Mr Wenger should go. But in fact what we have done is made some significant changes in the team this last summer, and looking at the way in which it normally works for teams that do this, it can take a season for such changes to bed in.
Obviously there are some people who do not feel this is true, and they would like to have the whole system overthrown and the manager removed. And this can of course work – Chelsea is a perfect example. But it is a huge gamble, for quite often changing the manager does not work in this way. Tottenham’s huge number of managers in the last 20 years, and Man U’s struggle to find a replacement for Sir F who can return to his way of winning the league are perfect examples.
Indeed Man City are now just getting themselves back to where they were two years ago despite bringing in a person who was considered by some to be the best manager around shows that quick fixes are not guaranteed.
This doesn’t mean that Mr Wenger should stay forever of course, but rather it suggests that a smooth transition is more likely to serve the club well rather than a forced departure. Personally I think the most important thing is to keep the goals coming and let the new members of the defence come back for a second year, with a deeper understanding of what the PL is all about in terms of the defenders and referees they face.
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Also available on Kindle, “Woolwich Arsenal: the club that changed football” the only comprehensive history of the rise of Arsenal as a league club, and the attempts to destroy the club, from within and without. For full details please see here.