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By Tony Attwood
We’ve been talking a bit of late about managers being sacked, and how Arsenal now have the fourth longest-serving manager in the Premier League, and it brought to mind the case of Unai Emery.
He was at Arsenal from May 2018 to November 2019 and his record at Arsenal was quite good until the bad run of form started on 21 October 2019 with a 1-0 defeat to Sheffield Wednesday. When the run extended to 29 November without a win, he was sacked and undoubtedly due compensation was paid by the club. Arteta was appointed on 21 December, three and a half weeks later; clubs are not allowed to talk to another club’s manager while they still have a manager in place, although there is often the feeling that this does happen behind the scenes.
That situation – sacking a manager of after 18 months, made it look like Arsenal were just following the pattern of most other clubs wherein the churn of managers has never been higher. Indeed of the 20 clubs in the Premier League this past season, only five have managers who have been in post for over two years: Klopp, Guardiola, Frank, Arteta and Moyes, and there is a lot of talk that Moyes will soon be out of West Ham.
Overall, 12 (that is 60%) of the managers have been in their job for more than a year. Eight of the current PL managers are English but seven of that group of eight have been with their current club for under seven months. Only Eddie Howe among the English contingent has been with his club longer – in his case one year six months.
Now if you have worked in a business in which the people at the top change regularly you’ll likely know that this can lead to turmoil, especially if each new top manager brings in his own team of people to fill other positions.
Guardiola survived at Manchester City however because he had success quickly. He joined on 1 July 2016. The club came third in the league and won no trophies (having won the league in 2012 and 2014, and the league cup in 2014 and 2016).
The following season however he won the league and league cup, and thus Manchester City did not have to ponder whether he was what they wanted. But it was this fast return to success at Manchester City that has helped along the notion that if a manager isn’t delivering straight away, he should go. And hence we now have clubs having not just two managers in a season, but in some cases three.
So what has made Arsenal different? Arteta was appointed on 21 December 2019 with the club 11th in the League after 18 games. But if we built a league table of the remaining games of the 2019/20 season we would find Arsenal 5th. Two points behind Chelsea in fourth.
In short, Arteta made immediate progress in the league, although the media refused to recognise this, for the sort of league table based on a partial season is of no interest to journalists and bloggers unless it shows Arsenal bottom of the league. Thus no one remembers that Arsenal were fourth in the league after three games in 2020/21, but everyone remembers Arsenal were bottom of the league after three games in 2021/22.
In fact, quite a few people recall that Arsenal were 15th in the league in the 2020/21 season after 14 games, but not what happened in the rest of the season. Only Untold publsihed the table for the rest of the season excluding the first three games (in which Arsenal were second) to show the progress the club was making.
And indeed 2022/3’s campaign with Arsenal being top of the league for a long spell, was hinted at by the league table of the last 35 games of 2021/22, over which Arsenal were third. We were cautious and thus predicted for 2022/23 Arsenal would come third, rather than second, but we were much closer than the media at large.
If we use the same analysis again (Matchday 4 to Matchday 38 from last season) Arsenal are still shown as second. Tottenham however sink to ninth. It’s a good place to start making predictions.
These tables show trends, and of course, are not definitive guides but they are helpful in giving a view as to exactly where a club is going. And here’s one other little observation that comes out of this sort of work of taking league tables over a certain period. If we take the table built on the second half of last season Leicester, Southampton and Leeds still finish in the bottom three. But one place above them is… Chelsea.
And a final thought: although Arsenal slipped in the second half of the season, across the last 19 league games of last season Arsenal scored 43 goals in the league: more than any other team. Including Manchester City. That observation gives me a rather good feeling for 2023/24. I don’t think Arsenal will overtake Manchester City next season (unless the enquiry into Man C’s affairs finishes early), but I do think it is going to be great fun watching Arsenal play.
The top of the table for the last 19 games of last season
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- Arsenal v Tottenham: the key fact the media won’t to tell you – and why they won’t
- Arsenal v Tottenham: different clubs, different managers, different successes