Arsenal’s tactics: 2023/4
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By Tony Attwood
A really interesting article has appeared in Just Arsenal which contains this sentence: “For some years now there has been a mismatch between the expectation that our team compete for all the top trophies available and the reality of under par performances and a lack of clear direction.”
If you are a regular reader here you might not be the slightest bit surprised by my picking this sentence out, since we have been dealing with the issue of Arsenal’s approach to the game since 2020/21, and the publication at the end of that season of the “Key Data Tables” piece, which of course is still on this site.
To summarise what we found through an analysis of statistics was this
- Arsenal were getting a phenomenal number of yellow cards (more than any other club), which was hampering the team. Worse, it could be argued from a review of the statistics that many of these cards were not deserved, but the awarding of these cards was making life very difficult for the manager and players to get the team to perform as wanted.
- The club then addressed the problem – as the statistics for subsequent seasons showed.
- However the club was unable to make any of this public because clubs are not allowed to criticise refereeing, but clearly things changed. And yet the media (from blogs to TV) refused to touch the subject. This made dealing with Arsenal in the media in a realistic way impossible.
For example take the league table on Christmas Day 2020.
Table 1: the first 14 games of the 2020/21 season. 14 games is an interesting dividing line since it took us up to Christmas Day. Here is how the league table looked on entering the holiday season.
|9||West Ham United||13||6||3||4||21||16||5||21|
Now consider a league table built from the remaining 24 games of the season…
|4||West Ham United||24||13||5||6||41||28||13||44|
The club moved from one point per game to 1.96 points per game a phenomenal improvement.
Then we looked at the number of yellow cards being given against Arsenal per game and it was clear that Arsenal matches were being given to referees who gave out above average numbers of cards per game. For Arsenal to reduce the number of cards they got in the face of such manipulation was extraordinary.
Now the reality of the change that Arsenal made doesn’t stop there. As we showed more recently in the article “Why Arsenal get fouled so often” this situation Arsenal are seen as fair game by much of the rest of the league, and although since our articles the referees are awarding fouls for the awful tackles on Arsenal, they are continuing to foul the club a lot.
So when the author continues, “We need to find the right words to understand and put into context what we have just lived through, and it is important that we do it well so that we know how to then interpret what will come next season,” I would agree. But the article then makes no mention of what we have lived through in recent seasons.
The article also notes that many people now see 22/23 as a “disappointing season”.
And yes it was disappointing because it showed how far we have to go.
|Team||Tackles pg||Tackles pos||Fouls pg||Fouls Pos||Yellow PG||Yellow pos|
|20. Manchester City||12.4||20||9.1||20||1.16||20|
Arsenal are still committing 2.5 more tackles per game than Manchester City which leads to more fouls and more yellow cards.
But that is not all.
For now that we are looking at the number of fouls Arsenal receive against the team each season (and remember these are just the fouls the referee sees, so we are not at the moment looking at any referee bias here in terms of fouls they ignore) we can see further problems…
And that is what has been going on… analysis, analysis and analysis. That allowed Arsenal to cut the yellow cards in half, and it allowed Arsenal to rise up the league to second when all around them were predicting fifth or sixth.
What we should notice now is the abject failure of the media to apologise, and for their utter inability to explain how they got it wrong.
The article continues tomorrow.
- Why the media’s new statistical analyses of football is just a trick to stop you noticing what’s going on
- Yesterday’s game: how Arsenal won, and where the journalists got things wrong
- Brentford v Arsenal: past exploits and the Arsenal team news
- French authorities issue arrest warrant over awarding of World Cup to Qatar
- Brentford v Arsenal: the history and the build up, with some extraordinary odds