- Why the media’s new statistical analyses of football is just a trick to stop you noticing what is going on.
By Tony Attwood
Listen to the radio, read the papers, watch the TV, it is pretty much the same message. Apart from Charlie Patino’s Arsenal ambitions are burning bright at Swansea in the Athletic (which of course notes that Charlie is only 19 but has already been given the “right to roam” by the club, the talk was of Tottenham, Liverpool, and PGMO referees flitting off to Arabia to do matches.
There was little about Arsenal having not conceded a single goal away from home in three games this season and having got more away points than Tottenham while having played a game fewer.
Another clean sheet away from home and another win and not a single goal conceded, and not much about being undefeated so far.
So here is another thought. After seven games this season Arsenal have 17 points and sit third in the league, being unbeaten thus far. That much is obvious and can be seen in an instant on websites and in newspapers. (Although just in case you missed it, here is the top three….)
All of which is fairly satisfactory given the new signings and the high level of injuries. A bit of settling down while still not being beaten is good news.
But is there something we are missing here? To find out I decided to do a spot of historical comparison making…
In 2003/4 after seven games in the league Arsenal had 17 points with exactly the same record as now – five wins and two draws. and sat top of the league. But Chelsea were just one point behind with a game in hand.
And of course you will recognise immediately the significance of 2003/4. But really how does this season compare to that?
Before I get to the numbers we ought to remember that at the start of the Unbeaten Season, no one recognised what might happen, apart from Mr Wenger who mentioned the possibility the season before – just as the club was about to lose its first game. Indeed there was a report
And as you may recall if you have an extraordinarily long memory on 31 August 2003, after Arsenal had their fourth straight win at the start of the season, the Times ran a piece in which they said that the Arsenal fans at the Manchester City away game (won 1-2 by Arsenal) said that this was the worst Arsenal team they had ever seen.
Remembering that, and getting bored with the heavy media focus on Liverpool, Tottenham and Manchester City I thought I’d do one of the comparisons of the type we had a few times last season, as in, where are we now compared to earlier seasons at the same point.
And since Arsenal are unbeaten this season, I thought I’d compare this season with that most memorable of years.
Now, after seven games in the unbeaten season Arsenal had scored 14 and conceded five, this season it is scored 15 and conceded six. So actually on that basis the comparison of goal difference is absolutely equal: one goal more in attack and one more conceded.
Also in the Unbeaten season the results in the first seven games were as now – five wins and two draws.
Indeed breaking away from the Unbeaten Season for a moment we might also remember that this is the only time in the last ten years Arsenal have been undefeated in the first seven games. This is only our third best attack over those last ten years but we have our best defensive record.
So it is also worth taking a look not just at the unbeaten season, but also last season: we are currently two goals behind last season’s 17 goals while goal difference is just one worse than last season, And goals scored are only two behind last season.
To consider this further I thought it might be interesting to do a comparison with Arsenal’s position after seven games in the last ten seasons and then compare that with the incomparable Unbeaten Season.
Figures are for each season after seven games and I have added three extra columns on the right.
“Top” indicates how many points the top club in the league had had after seven games
“Diff” is the difference between Arsenal’s points after seven games and that of the top team
“End” is the position Arsenal finished in the league – obviously that is missing for this season.
So in terms of points we are one behind last season, above all the rest for the last ten years, and equal with the Unbeaten after seven – in which season we also had five wins and two draws.
In terms of goals we are two behind last season, one behind 2015/16 and one above the position at this point in the Unbeaten Season.
In terms of defence only the Unbeaten Season beats this season – and that by just one goal.
Of course none of this means this is going to be another Unbeaten Season, nor even that Arsenal will win the league. But it does show the amazing progress Arteta has made especially if one compares now with 2019/20 and 2020/21. And all this from a manager that the media and some fans was demanding must be replaced a couple of years back.
Take for example:
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