Disappointing result of course, but look at the two clubs’ trajectories


By Tony Attwood

Trajectories are not that popular in football journalism because they take a little bit of working out and involve some numbers, but they do actually tell us much more about where a club is going than most reports in the media do.

But Arsenal’s progress under Arteta is truly sensational.  On 20 December 2019 Arteta joined Arsenal, and at that moment above them in the league (with all the clubs having played the same number of games) were among others Liverpool, Leicester City, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Sheffield United, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Crystal Palace.  Today one of those looks like they might be relegated this season, while another is in the Championship, hoping to come back to the Premier League.   And none of them is likely to get into next year’s Champions League.  Arsenal are top, and even though after the last four results it looks like the club won’t stay top, that surely is progress – especially when compared to all those other teams that were above Arsenal when Arteta joined.

And if you want to have it set out more graphically, just look at the table.


Pos Time P W D L F A GD Pts PPG
10 Arteta joined 2019 17 5 7 5 24 27 -3 22 1.29
8 End of 2019/20 season 38 14 14 10 56 48 8 56 1.47
8 End of 2020/21 season 38 18 7 13 55 39 16 61 1.60
5 End of 2021/22 season 38 22 3 13 61 48 13 69 1.82
1 Today 33 23 6 4 78 38 40 75 2.27


That level of progress is truly phenomenal.  Even in that first season of rescuing Arsenal from free fall the points per game improved from 1.29 to 1.47.  Now it is 2.27 points per game.  That is an improvement of 0.98 points per game from where we were when he arrived.

So let’s consider how Manchester City have improved during this spell.  They too have been improving by 0.3 points per game.  Not much, but still a notable improvement given how well they were doing previously.  PPG is points per game.


Pos Date P W D L F A GD Pts PPG
3 20 December 2019 17 11 2 4 47 19 28 35 2.05
2 End of 2019/20 38 26 3 9 102 35 67 81 2.13
1 End of 2020/21 38 27 5 6 83 32 51 86 2.26
1 End of 2021/22 38 29 6 3 99 26 73 93 2.45
2 Today 31 23 4 4 82 29 53 73 2.35


So the point is Arsenal are not trying to improve from being very much a mid-table club when Arteta joined in 2019 to being at Manchester City’s position at that time. 

Arsenal are this season doing better than Manchester City were doing when Arteta took over Arsenal.

No, the problem is that Manchester City, with their unlimited spending, have been able to improve further and further.  Indeed if they carry on winning every game as they are doing at the moment they will even exceed last season’s total number of points, and thus obviously last season’s points per game.

Thus my point is that Arsenal are not trying to catch up with Manchester City – Arsenal are already doing better than Manchester City were doing in 2020/21 when Manchester City won the league.  The problem for Arsenal is that through their unlimited spending Manchester City are still getting better and better, and will go on doing so until their spending is curtailed.

Now of course there is a chance that Manchester City won’t be able to go on like this.   The Premier League has charged them with over 100 offences under financial fair play rules, and in an ideal world even if Manchester City win the league this season, they will be stripped of the title, and other recent titles they have won.

Of course nothing is certain in this world of financial very-unfair play, but it is possible eventually they will be reigned in.   And indeed even if the hearings against them do drag on for four years as has been suggested, it might be that in order to try and clean up their act, they will finally stop spending the money they have been spending on buying in other players.

However Manchester City are being aided by the collapse in the finances of Juventus and Barcelona – clubs that in the past could outbid Manchester City for top players

Indeed as the Guardian has reported, “In 2022, Juventus’s revenues slumped 8%, while its operating costs increased 7.6%. In the past five years, the club has asked shareholders for cash injections of €700m (£619m) to cover losses of €612.9m.”

“It’s as if there’s been a sinkhole,” Giovanni Cobolli Gigli – chair of Juventus between 2006 and 2009 – said. “There has been this continuous chasing of revenues when what they should have been doing was limiting the disproportionate and senseless costs.”    Indeed not only have Juve been accused of grossly false accounting, their “accumulated debts of Italian football currently stand at €5.3bn.”  

However, in order to get around their problems with football’s financial rules Juventus have been “systematically using player exchanges to increase the revenues of the company without actually receiving any money, an accounting technique called plusvalenze incrociate (exchanged capital gains). The system worked because, as with modern art, it’s notoriously difficult to put an accurate figure on the value of a football player. If two clubs could agree to sell to each other players that were officially, on the balance sheet, worth €1m for 10 times that amount (for €10m), each could record a capital gain of €9m, and add to their books a new asset reportedly worth €10m.”   Bizarrely that is not illegal in the crazed world of football.

Now I am not in any way alleging Manchester City have been doing this – obviously, I don’t have access to any financial records.   But my point is that clubs like Juventus have been finding their way around financial rules for years, and while I hope any malpractice Manchester City has been involved in will be found out and if there is any, they will be punished, we should not bank on that being the end of FUP (financial unfair play).


7 Replies to “Disappointing result of course, but look at the two clubs’ trajectories”

  1. Yes the result was dissapointing. But this season has been mostly great so far. I think nobody of even us usually positive Untolders would have believed in August last year that we would be still top of the league at the April 29. And it could be even at the end if Fulham would do us a mighty favour. I have enjoyed our season and how our young team (youngest till december even) is the only team that comes even near to Manchester Cheaty. I still believe that losing Saliba is the start of our downfall. Not just for the odd goal he scores from time to time but for the cohesion at the back where he is very important and maybe our best defender in the combination with Gabriel. I repeat myself but since he is injured we haven’t managed to keep a clean sheet.

  2. This is all well and good but Arteta and his technical staff need to employ much more fluidity with their rotation and in game tactical awareness. Having Jorginho and Trossard on the bench at kick off was bewildering. Also, please give the poor lad Saka a rest. He’s done miles for us this season and he looks tired out there. I understand that managers inevitably have their star players, players they really have faith in to take their team to the next level, but the truly elite of managers should be able to make tweaks to the system and weather the storm.

    For the record I am not saying that making these changes would have ensured a win, but by the time we were two down any creativity had slipped the team. We could have had the subs on at ht, bring some fresh legs and energy into the game.

    I am attempting to be as pro-Arteta as I can be here but I don’t see the logic in the games since West Ham, if I’m being honest. It seems to me that Jesus has not fully recovered into the form he was in prior to sustaining that injury in the world cup. I’m not afraid to admit I’m wrong, but what do the contributors at UA think?

  3. I would like to see Tierney, Nelson and Nketiah have more playing time, plus more rest for Saka and Martinelli. Still, I recognise that Mikel Arteta knows better than me.

  4. I don’t know if it’s youth, psychology, fatigue or any other factor. This bad run, culminating in the complete capitulation at City, has seen the team DROP 9 OF THE LAST 12 AVAILABLE POINTS. No way to spin that, even for us diehards. Very careless play and just a lack of awareness on defense. Partey 20 yards from De Bruyne most of the match, Gabriel looking very leggy out there, outrun by De Bruyne and Haaland seemingly every City possession. Arsenal gave away possession with sloppy passing much more than City actually won the ball. Clearly, looking at the results of the last 4 matches, Arsenal have not been able to overcome the loss of Tomiyasu and Saliba. Gabriel needs a rest but there’s no cover, Holding showing he’s a squad player and Zinchenko not celebrated for his defensive nous. That combined with all the giveaways in zone show why Ramsdale looks shell shocked.
    Just some observations. Doesn’t mean I think I’m right in every instance.
    But, I don’t think Martinelli had 3 touches in the first half. Ben White was solid but didn’t have the usual understanding with Saka. The Arsenal team we’ve seen this season didn’t show up. I have no answer or guess as to why. Man City looked miles better pouncing on and converting Arsenal mistakes and weren’t tested. Their midfield outplayed Arsenal’s.
    I hope they shake whatever is affecting their play and win out the rest of the way. Finishing 2nd to this City team is not really a negative, but it shows the work ahead for AFC to win the league. It’s been a wildly entertaining season and I look forward to a strong finish. Perhaps this loss will free up their minds for the run in.

  5. Goonersince, it is not a case of spinning it, it is the fact that 19 out of 20 clubs each year get some bad runs, and Arsenal are in their one and only bad run of this season. Last season we had four such bad runs, now we have had one. Which gives me hope for next season that we might either have no bad runs, or if one, then a very short one.
    The only club not getting the bad run syndrome is Manchester City, so without access to their funding Arsenal is aiming to be like them. But at present our squad is much thinner and much younger. Next season will be better still.

  6. Tony,
    Just commenting on this 4 match bad patch, not the entire season or Arsenal’s resources vis-a -vis City’s. I’m very positive about the season as can be seen in my last few sentences. And I’m looking forward, not back! COYG!!!!!

    Also, thanks for fixing the recent glitch. Good to be back, lol!

  7. Gooner – it is not fully fixed I’m afraid, and what remains of my hair is falling out fast, so there will still be some delays in posting comments, but I am working on it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *