By Tony Attwood
At present, after six games, Arsenal have conceded one goal fewer than the club did last season after six games, and that (at least according to some commentators) proves that the defence is in a mess.
Although this being the work of media commentators, they generally fail to note that the situation is that the defence this season is doing better than last season.
Apparently it is also clear that Arsenal’s catastrophic demise comes about because Arsenal have no idea how to defend at the start of the game. The notion is that somehow the team is not well-prepared for the game meaning it is easy to score against Arsenal in the opening minutes.
Indeed 90 min made a whole piece out of the subject saying that “No other team in Premier League history has ever stumbled so early, so often in a single calendar year.”
I’m sure the statistics are correct – Arsenal let in more early goals than most clubs, but there is a second question here: does it matter?
And that is a valid question because as things stand Arsenal have the third best defence in the Premier League this season and have in fact let in one fewer goal than they let in, in the first six games last season. Which is not a bad thought since last season Arsenal had the third best defence in the league.
But more than this, that point does still raise the issue – does having the second or third best defence matter? After all the club with the second best defence in the league last season was Newcastle who finished 13 points behind Arsenal.
Apparently it doesn’t matter, and so being one point behind where we were last season after six games, but having a better defence (having let in one fewer goal than this time last season), is all a disaster. And we know that because as MSN says, “Arsenal have spent £250m on new players but too many problems remain unsolved”.
But let’s consider this. Arsenal had a season last year that totally confounded the journalists and critics alike who universally armed with mythical supercomputers predicted Arsenal would finish fifth or sixth (and for which error no apology was forthcoming this summer). Instead, the fact that Arsenal didn’t oblige has outraged them as they had to work hard to conceal their total lack of understanding of the game. So now they are seeking to gain revenge by telling us how useless the Arsenal defence is, rather than noting that it is doing 15% better than at this stage last season.
But does this mean that everything at Arsenal is hunky-dory? No of course not, but in noting that the club is one point worse off than a year ago we also might note that Martinelli is injured. Of course he is just one player, but he happens to be a player now valued by CIES Football Observatory at a staggering €150m (£128m).
And more than that. Arsenal played last season with Saka on one wing and Martinelli on the other – an approach which totally stretched most defences they played against, which resulted in the unprecedented statistics at the end of the season showing four players scoring 10 or more goals in the league.
Ah well, it is said in return, Arsenal had an easy start to this season. But remember what happened at the start of last season… Arsenal in their five straight wins beat the mighty Crystal Palace, Leicester City, Bournemouth, Fulham and Aston Villa before losing to Manchester United. This season it has been a tougher start with two teams from the big seven to be played (Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur). In short it is not surprising that without one of the most valuable players in the country, and a tougher start, Arsenal have slipped by a whole one point, compared to last season.
Indeed at the current rate Arsenal will end up with 89 points this season – five more than last season.
And that in spite of the injuries to Declan Rice, Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli, Thomas Partey, Jurrien Timber, and Leandro Trossard.
Any reasonable commentator would be looking at that injury list and note that Arsenal have done rather well, in the face of a more difficult fixture list at the start of the season than the year before, and a large array of injuries, to be undefeated thus far.
But that would be the work of a reasonable commentator and we don’t have many of those, for some reason.
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