- So why did all the predictions of this season go so wrong?
- Where it all went wrong for football journalists – conclusion
By Bulldog Drummond
Arsenal may have been through their one and only dip of the season, with three draws and a defeat in the last four games, but by comparison Chelsea’s dip has been on another planet when it comes to dips.
And in case you have not been following the evolution of this very simple theory, it says that teams that aim to challenge for the top four places, but then fail, don’t just lose the occasional match, but have runs of three or four results in which they perform more like clubs from the lower part of the division.
Last season Arsenal had four of these runs last season, the final one causing them to end up fifth rather than fourth. This season there has just been the one such run, which we have just been through and which hopefully is now over. And we have been able to see the same pattern with other clubs – they get into a run where they are drawing with or losing to teams we would normally expect them to beat.
The theory is of interest not just because it does neatly describe what happens, but also because it focuses on the difficulty clubs can have of getting out of a negative run – as indeed we have just seen with Arsenal. But Chelsea however have taken this simple notion to a new level:
- 14 to 30 August: two defeats, one draw, one win.
- 19 October to 26 February: two wins, six draws, seven defeats
- 18 March 20 26 April: No wins, two draws, four defeats.
So Chelsea are on a bad run but it is worth noting that although Arsenal have been having a hard time of late, the points picked up from the last six home game work out at 2.17 points per game compared with 2.44 across the season as a whole. Not as good as before, but hardly a disaster.
|Arsenal home all season
|Chelsea away all seson
|Arsenal last 6 home games
|Chelsea last 6 away games
Chelsea on the other hand are actually doing worse than their average for the season in the last six away games they have played picking up 0.83 points per game as opposed to 1.07 points per away game across the whole season.
In short, a good run at home this season, which has dipped very slightly of late for Arsenal, and for Chelsea a bad run away this season, which has dipped very slightly of late – and this despite spending more in the January transfer window than any other club.
Which takes us away from our theory of dips into the notion that clubs can improve their performance by spending money on players is a fallacy. Sometimes it works, but often not, as we can see by comparing the position of clubs in the league with their total transfer spend through last summer and this January combined. Figures compiled from Squawka from raw data provided by TransferMarkt.
What we have added to this data are three new columns at the end.
First: a “spend position” which simply takes the club that has the highest net spend (Chelsea) down to the club that has the highest net earnings (Brighton).
Second: the actual league position
Third: the difference between the two. Here a minus figure shows the club is doing worse than we might have expected given their position in the spending charts, while a positive figure shows they are doing better than we might expect
|West Ham United
So Arsenal are four places higher than we would expect if spending on new players equalled success in the league. Chelsea are 11 places worse off than we might expect. The other big losers are Nottingham Forest, West Ham United and Southampton.
The big winners are Manchester City and Brighton. Man C are obviously benefitting by having spent the Abu Dhabi billions year after year already. Brighton are… well, doing extraordinarily well having lost players and a manager.
This is not to say that all spending is pointless, but rather than as a solution on its own it doesn’t always work. Although Everton and Leicester City are in dire trouble near the foot of the table, they have in fact received transfer money rather than spent it, which shows other factors are of course in play – I am not suggesting they are not. Leicester, in particular, had a tactic that refs let go, but eventually caught up on.
Rather I am simply pointing out that spend-spend-spend does not mean success. To see this we might look at the case of Mykhaylo Mudryk. After the big fight to get him, it seems that Chelsea have decided he can now leave the club in a swap deal with AC Milan maybe for Ruben Loftus-Cheek or Kalidou Koulibaly (according to the Express)
In 2022/23 Mudryk scored 10 goals in 18 games with Shakhtar Donetsk. With Chelsea, it has been 0 goals in 13. Did Arsenal ever really want him? Personally, I think not, but others disagree. He cost Chelsea £88.5m.
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