- The referee problem: the difference between incompetence and bias
- Did Arsenal want Mykhaylo Mudryk? Have Arsenal really missed Jesus?
By Tony Attwood
If you are a long-term reader of Untold Arsenal you will know that last season we did something rather different from everyone else in terms of analysing Arsenal’s progress. We argued that the first three league matches, which as you will recall, Arsenal lost, were an aberration, caused by covid and other illness issues, and a League Management Committee that would not allow the postponement of the opening games.
So the club lost the first three league games and were bottom of the league, and the lead story in every single newspaper and a lot of websites. The fact that Arsenal then climbed back up the table wasn’t a story, for obvious reasons.
Obviously, this season we haven’t been running such a table – although to get an idea of form we have from time to time run the table of the last six and last ten games, which tends to give quite an insight into the likelihood of the next result.
Also, we’ve focussed on the way that a lot of clubs tend to have bad runs and good runs. Arsenal last season, after recovering from those opening three league games went on a solid run, but then hit another wall in November / December with three defeats in four league games.
Indeed what became apparent was the fact that almost all teams (the exclusions generally being those at the extremes of the league table) have positive and negative runs, and that the way these runs work gives a very good insight into how the club is doing – and will do in coming matches.
As part of this work, we generated a league table for this season of the last 16 games played by all clubs – which is not something we normally do. And I thought I would publish this because we are talking about a decent chunk of the season (42% in fact) and it allows us to see which clubs are on an upward and which a downward trend.
|8||Brighton & Hove||16||7||4||5||31||22||9||25|
With tables like this there is a balance to be had. Take a small number of games such as the last six, and you can see how teams are doing in the immediate run of recent results. But a longer spread like this gives us a chance to remove any short-term oddities caused by a key player or two being injured, and also by the oddities of the fixture system which can lead to one of the top clubs suddenly playing several of the other top teams.
In January this year, for example, Arsenal played Newcastle, Tottenham and Manchester United in three successive matches. Now as it happened Arsenal came out of that with two wins and a draw – but it was a tough run.
In an earlier part of the season Arsenal played Manchester United, Brentford, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool in four consecutive games. Again Arsenal did well in that run, but for teams a little further down the league such a run of matches can give a false impression if a “last six” table is built around that.
So we went for a last 16 game table, and this shows how in the last few months it is not so much that Arsenal have stayed top of the league but just how close Manchester City have been in matching Arsenal’s results, game by game.
It also shows that although the current top four of the league table has Tottenham fourth, and Newcastle fifth, this is not a reflection of form of late. Tottenham for example, over this longer period of time are performing like a mid-table team: eight wins, one draw, seven defeats.
And here’s another factor across this run of recent games – Arsenal have a better goal difference than Manchester City. Maybe we don’t need another striker!
Of course some people say “you can prove anything with statistics” and yes if you are willing to manipulate figures enough that is probably true, although I think it might be hard to find the stats that show Tottenham are actually top of the league.
But for those with a more open mind, this sort of table gives insights into trends. Although overall, for example, Arsenal are not the top-scoring team in the league, over this recent period we have been – and that has been without Gabriel Jesus. And although the club has only the third-best defence across this period of games, the goal difference is just edging it over Manchester City.
However, the main thing I take from this is that it is the current form – these are the last 16 games played by all these clubs, and for me current form is always of interest.
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- Are Arsenal really making progress, or are we starting to slip back?
- Luton 3 Arsenal 4: maybe it is time to say positive things
- Luton v Arsenal – the referee, the team, Saka and Cliff Bastin
- Luton Town – how do they play the game. The tackles, fouls and cards.