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- Manchester City against Arsenal: the home team ref v Arsenal
By Bulldog Drummond
Among the media which go in for ruminations about the highways and byways of English football there is a feeling that this is a chaotic season. Certainly in one measurable sense that is true, as this season has brought more managerial changes than any before it. We are now at 14 for the season – the previous all-time high was a mere half of the managers (ten) losing their way.
Of course it has been enjoyable at times with Chelsea and Southampton each getting themselves in a tangle while emulating Oscar Wilde, for whom Lady Bracknell says “To lose one parent, Mr Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.” Swap manager for parent and I think we have a sense of what’s going on. And Tottenham larking about in a similar manner too; what fun.
And oh, those poor old press people who don’t do statistics. The Athletic is STILL ruminating on Arsenal “from finishing fifth and 24 points off the top last season to potentially being a few games away from the Premier League title.” Except if only the media had ever looked at the last 35 games of last season, they might have had that hint of the direction Arsenal was moving in.
But there is a downside, and to be fair the Atheltic has picked up on this noting, “Fan behaviour has become more extreme. Earlier this season, the Home Office released figures that suggested incidents of disorder at matches were up by nearly 60 per cent compared to the last pre-COVID-19 season.” Apparently, a reader sent a journalist a “Gif of a shotgun being loaded in response to an article about Bruno Fernandes”. It is getting out of control.
But even with all this nouveau analysis there still is little attempt to see the patterns that evolve into the results we see.
Last season Arsenal had five separate dips, a dip being signified by a sudden change for the worse in a short sequence of 3+ games. So last season we had several sequences of results such as those in late November and early December, where in four games Arsenal lost three times to Liverpool, Manchester United and Everton, with just a single win against Newcastle in between.
Obviously the most famous of these blips was the one at the start of the season where the club lost three league games in a row, with just a league cup victory in the midst of those.
This season Arsenal have been much better, and the blip we are into now (three successive draws) is not on the level of last season. In fact we’ve just had one serious blip this year, with a defeat to Manchester City in the Cup, to Everton and then Mancheter City again (in the league) and a draw with Brentford, all in the space of four games.
This is what Manchester City avoid, and it is the next step for Arsenal – to take a blip of three draws and lessen it. Manchester City’s worst run this season involved two goalless champions league away games, a 1-0 away defeat to Liverpool and a home victory over Brighton. And Arsenal are improving. We have not suffered consecutive defeats in the league but have suffered three consecutive draws, and that’s the bit we have to improve on.
This is not just an Arsenal thing of course. Take a look at Newcastle and you will find the same blips (two draws and three defeats in five games in February – one of those being in the league cup). Not to mention the five draws and a defeat in six league matches at the start of the season.
Tottenham are currently in such a run at the moment, (one win in five league games), and they had a similar run in November / December, although one of the five then was a league cup game. Manchester United went three wins in seven games earlier in the season.
So it is commonplace, and to be avoided – not least because three successive draws in the league at the end of last season stopped Arsenal being in the Champions League this season.
Manchester City don’t completely avoid the blips – their one win in four in October shows that, but two of those games were Champions League matches which in the end didn’t matter. That is the technique that is needed. Dip when it doesn’t matter!
In 2021/22 we had five of those negative runs. And in 2019/20 we had a real disaster of one win in 15 games (including League Cup and Europa League games). So the club is getting better and better at getting rid of bad runs – but Manchester City show us that there is still further to go.
A first step would of course be in getting a win tomorrow!
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