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Last season, this season, later this season… is Arsenal on the way up?

By Tony Attwood

It is not normally my style to emphasise the fact that things are getting worse, but then also it is not my style to ignore statistics that take all issues into account.  And if we compare Arsenal after seven league games this season with the same moment last season the comparison does not make good reading…

This season…

Pos Team Pld W D L F A GD Pts
1 Manchester City 7 6 1 0 22 2 20 19
2 Manchester United 7 6 1 0 21 2 19 19
3 Tottenham Hotspur 7 4 2 1 14 5 9 14
4 Chelsea 7 4 1 2 12 6 6 13
5 Arsenal 7 4 1 2 11 8 3 13

Last season…

Pos Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
1 Manchester City 7 6 0 1 18 7 11 18
2 Tottenham Hotspur 7 5 2 0 12 3 9 17
3 Arsenal 7 5 1 1 16 7 9 16
4 Liverpool 7 5 1 1 18 10 8 16
5 Everton 7 4 2 1 11 5 6 14

We’re three points worse off, five goals worse off and we’ve conceded one more.  So should we just say that is proof that we are going nowhere except downwards, or find some other prognostication from these numbers?

This year the results run like this as you will of course remember

Date Match Result Score
11 Aug 2017 Arsenal v Leicester City W 4-3
19 Aug 2017 Stoke City v Arsenal L 1-0
27 Aug 2017 Liverpool v Arsenal L 4-0
09 Sep 2017 Arsenal v AFC Bournemouth W 3-0
17 Sep 2017 Chelsea v Arsenal D 0-0
25 Sep 2017 Arsenal v West Bromwich Albion W 2-0
01 Oct 2017 Arsenal v Brighton and Hove Albion W 2-0

This season we now have a four match unbeaten run going, although but this time last season it was five matches in a row and they were all wins.

Last season it went…

14 Aug 2016 Arsenal v Liverpool L 3-4
20 Aug 2016 Leicester City v Arsenal D 0-0
27 Aug 2016 Watford v Arsenal W 1-3
10 Sep 2016 Arsenal v Southampton W 2-1
17 Sep 2016 Hull City v Arsenal W 1-4
24 Sep 2016 Arsenal v Chelsea W 3-0
02 Oct 2016 Burnley v Arsenal W 0-1

So is there any hope?

Well we could also try comparing this season with the games last season against the same teams, and with a relegated team from last year substitute that for game with a newly promoted team this year.  Here’s what we get.

2016/17: Beat Leicester (h) 1-0, beat Stoke (a) 4-1, lost to Liverpool (a) 1-3, beat Bournemouth (h) 3-1, lost to Chelsea (a) 1-3, beat WBA (h) 1-0, drew with Middlesbrough (h) 0-0.

13 points.

2017/18: Beat Leicester (h) 4-3, lost to Stoke (a) 0-1, lost to Liverpool (a) 0-4, beat Bournemouth (h) 3-0, drew with Chelsea (a) 0-0, beat WBA (h) 2-0, beat Brighton (h) 2-0.

13 points.

Identical against the same teams.  Which pretty much suggests that this season will be the same or worse than last.   Except for one thing.

Our team against Chelsea in the opening games a year ago was

Čech
Bellerin, Koscielny, Monreal, Mustafi
Coquelin, Özil, Santi Cazorla
Iwobi, Sánchez, Walcott

What we have lost from that team is any starting line up which includes three of those players together:  Özil, Santi Cazorla, and for some games Alexis Sánchez.

Now obviously we are not going to have Santi Cazorla with us at least until the new year, and I know that the current flavour of journalism is to knock Özil, but the long delay in getting Alexis and Mesut back to their best, and the return of Santi Caz is (for me) a prime reason for things not being quite so good as a year ago.

Of course it is possible – and I hope it is likely – that come the end of this latest fiasco of players going off to play elsewhere, we will be able to see Özil, Lacazette and Sánchez playing in the same team.  And although there will be no Santi Cazorla there is Ramsey, whose progress I think has been remarkable.

Things really started to go wrong for Arsenal last season with the defeat to Watford on 31 January.  By that time the team included Gabriel in the defence, Mesut Özil in midfield with Aaron Ramsey, and  Alexis Sánchez playing alongside Giroud up front.

Which seems to knock my theory on its head, except for the fact that Ramsey was injured on 20 minutes and went off, and Giroud went off at half time.  In the following game against Chelsea, Bellerin went off on 17 minutes.

Of course all teams get injuries – but injuries very early on in a game to a key player can be particularly unsettling, and we were indeed unsettled.

So will things get better this season?  Although I know many disagree with me concerning Mesut Özil I do think that if he can come back fit, and play in a forward line with Lacazette and Alexis, with Ramsey playing behind them we have a team that even after a poorer start than last year can turn things around.

Also I retain the view that Darren Burgess will make a difference to Arsenal’s fitness.  Under the deal struck with Port Adelaide, Burgess returned to Australia in August but by my reckoning with the Grand Final in Oz now done he should be back in England – or at least due back any day, ready to take over full time.

For me, buying smart, clever tactics, improving fitness, reducing injuries and nurturing youngsters is the only way forward for Arsenal, because with the FFP rules falling apart there is no way Arsenal’s owner is going to plough money into the club to take Arsenal to the same level of expenditure as Chelsea, Man C and Man U.

I know of course many people still see the solution to be sacking the manager, but a new manager would still have the same restricted budget when it comes to buying.   Yes of course such a manager could spend a bit more than Mr Wenger, but then Everton spent £140m last summer.  Liverpool spent £80m.  It doesn’t quite guarantee success.

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8 comments to Last season, this season, later this season… is Arsenal on the way up?

  • nicky

    Tony, I agree with you entirely about Ozil.
    I have always had boundless admiration for his vision and forward reading of a game. The problem is we do not have the players to take regular advantage of his talents. 😉

  • as good as Ozil is and Sanchez , and as much as we love every player in our team , we have to worry about other players in the squad filling those positions now , as both players are on their way out, we can turn things around but rather do it with who we have and the players that are still going to be here come the next transfer window .

  • Cameron I’d disagree with that. We have to do the best possible this season and mount a challenge in all competitions, and do what is possible in the transfer windows. I suspect that the next windows will be even more chaotic than the last, and no one is guaranteed to be able to get the player they want.

  • Jax

    Keown thinks Ozil’s already left:
    And speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live, Mail columnist Keown said: ‘I think he’s testing Wenger more than any other player has. I think it was Belarus the other week, he didn’t fancy going. He didn’t want to go.
    ‘Suddenly he was injured again, he played nine minutes against West Bromwich Albion on the Monday, so how did he get injured there?
    ‘I think in some departments he’s already left. Psychologically, mentally, he’s already left the football club. Maybe Wenger is now trying to do the best deal he can to get some compensation for him.’

  • Jammy

    I swear Keown used to be one of the better pundits. These days, he’s no different to the rest of them; every time he opens his mouth about Arsenal, it’s always negative.

  • finsbury

    Nevermind the Arsenal dears, check out this pristine gibberish:

    ‘Psychological brittleness’ caused England’s Euro 2016 exit, says FA CE Martin Glenn

    That’s one for the FA to admit up to their own failures, though most people in England and especially in Football would describe our sweet FA as sociopathic and idiotic, not brittle.

    I don’t imagine he was talking about the footballers? The inability to trap turn and run and then pass a football without having to break stride is not really the debate they are having, is it? It’s not exactly a cosmic mystery why Rosicky kept on targetting Danny Rose, time after time after time…(and it is most defintely notan opinion!), most beautifully exemplified by that thunderblaster from a a vacant LB area during that memorable Away victory.

    I know Tottenham are the bestest team on the planet know with World Class divers etc, but when was the last time they beat the Arsneal in N5? Not if Riley and his clowns can help it eh! Perhaps Riley’s crows are too brittle and precious *gollum gollum* to enact his deepest desires? When Riley destroyed the league’s credibility with one performance i suppose that is understandable…

  • Jax

    Just been watching England fumble, stumble & bungle their way to Russia. A truly awful performance in which pundit Hoddle was at such a loss to nominate a MOTM that he nominated goalkeeper Hart.
    How bad can a team be and still win?

  • Josif

    Tony

    Arsenal in big games (Man United, Man City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham; Bayern, Barcelona, PSG) since the beginning of 2015:

    1) with Santi Cazorla in the starting line-up :

    v Man United – 2-1-0 (2:1 FA Cup, 1:1 league, 3:0 league),
    v Man City – 1-0-0 (2:0 league),
    v Chelsea – 2-1-1 (0:0 league, 1:0 CS, 0:2 league, 3:0 league),
    v Liverpool – 1-1-0 (4:1 league, 0:0 league),
    v Tottenham – 0-1-1 (1:2 league, 1:1 league),
    v Bayern – 1-0-1 (2:0 CL, 1:5 CL),
    v Barcelona – 0-0-0,
    v PSG – 0-1-0 (1:1 CL)

    TOTAL 15 7 5 3 24:14

    Goals per game scored: 1.6
    Goals per game conceded: 0.93
    Number of clean sheets: 7 (0.47 per game)
    Number of games with over one goal conceded: 3 (0.2 per game)
    Games without scoring: 3 (0.2 per game)

    2) without Santi Cazorla in the starting line-up/injured:

    v Man United – 1-1-1 (2:3 league, 1:1 league, 2:0 league),
    v Man City – 2-2-1 (2:1 league, 2:2 league, 1:2 league, 2:2 league, 2:1 – AET, FA Cup),
    v Chelsea – 2-1-2 (0:1 league, 1:3 league, 2:1 FA Cup, 1:1* – penalties, CS, 0:0 league),
    v Liverpool – 0-1-3 (3:3 league, 3:4 league, 1:3 league, 0:4 league),
    v Tottenham – 1-2-1 (2:1 league cup, 2:2 league, 1:1 league, 0:2 league),
    v PSG – 0-1-0 (2:2 CL),
    v Barcelona – 0-0-2 (0:2 CL, 1:3 CL),
    v Bayern – 0-0-2 (1:5 CL, 1:5 CL)

    TOTAL 26 6 8 12 35:55

    Goals per game scored: 1.34
    Goals per game conceded: 2.11
    Number of clean sheets: 2 (0.08 per game)
    Number of games with over one goal conceded: 16 (0.61 per game)
    Games without scoring: 4 (0.15 per game)

    These numbers underline importance of Santi Cazorla for both our attack and, especially, our defence in big games. The fact we have won more big games since 1st January 2015 with Santi in the starting line-up than without him despite the fact he has started in just 15 out of 41 big games in the relevant period (36%). When Cazorla doesn’t play, it’s more likely we will lose the big game and concede at least twice in the process. The only stat that we are doing better without Santi is our scoring consistency but it’s extremely low and basically irrelevant improvement to our games with Santi on the pitch.

    Of course, mentioning the impact of Cazorla is incomplete without mentioning what his presence meant to Francis Coquelin. That axis was the main reason why we were so great in 2015 (calendar year) and…not so great in 2016 and 2017.

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