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By Tony Attwood
A quick glance at the league table might appear disappointing, after all that this stage last season we were top. And yet a little bit more study will in fact pay extra dividends and bring forth some surprises.
Rather like a little bit of study of the way the media treats what managers say can give us some insights. This morning, for example, we have “Jürgen Klopp rails at early kick-off for Liverpool’s Manchester City showdown” from the Guardian. No ranting at Liverpool, but some railing, and the perception is railing is much, much more polite than ranting. Thus the message is clear. Klopp and Arteta are made from different cloth.
(Meanwhile we are reminded that the FA always want to investigate others, but when they have a problem, why, they investigate themselves! As with “FA investigate Council member after ‘highly offensive’ tweet compared Benjamin Netanyahu to Adolf Hitler” from the Telegraph).
But back to the table. Arsenal are third, so not as good as last season after 12 games (or 32% of the campaign).
However we are just one point behind and four goals away in terms of goal difference, which is not bad considering that we’ve had the harder run this season in terms of games against the other members of the big seven.
And there is more. OK as expected Arsenal can’t score as many goals as Manchester City yet (we are six behind) but we have a better defence (by two goals) and the difference between Arsenal and Liverpool, which separates second and third, is just one goal.
Perhaps most amusing of all is that Tottenham Hotspur have gone all spursy – not just losing their last two games but losing them with a goal difference of two goals for and six against. And neither of those games were against current members of the current top nine.
So Arsenal are there near the top, but are Arsenal actually making progress? Here’s the table to reveal where we were at this stage in recent years…
|5||Arsenal 2021/2 (1)||12||6||2||4||13||17||-4||20|
|6||Arsenal 2019/20 (2)||12||4||5||3||16||17||-1||17|
(1) On this day Chelsea were top of the league with Arsenal nine points behind – a status that shows us clearly just how quickly clubs can fall as well as rise.
(2) Unai Emery was sacked by Arsenal on 29 November 2019. Mikel Arteta joined Arsenal as manager on 20 December 2019.
By any stretch of the imagination, this is remarkable progress, and if there were to be an argument that because Arsenal this season have four points fewer than last season, and so we are doing worse, the 12 matches a year ago had included just three games against members of the Big 7: against Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspure and Liverpool.
This season the first dozen games have included matches against Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City, Chelsea and Newcastle United, which is a tougher array of games.
And perhaps more to the point, the defence is the best that we have seen it for years.
It is also interesting to note how Arsenal are doing this season as opposed to the last time the club won the league – not just because it was such a special season, but because it was 20 years ago – which makes it an anniversary year.
So as we can see here, in the unbeaten season there was one prime difference in the first dozen matches. This season we have lost one game – and (rather obviously) Arsenal did not do that in the unbeaten season. But this season we have scored one more goal than in the Unbeaten campaign’s first dozen games, while the defence remains the same on 10 goals conceded.
That season Tottenham were 14th and Manchester City 16th, at the end of the season, but the other members of our “big seven” did end up in the top five places. And during those first 12 matches we did only play three of those clubs – again unlike the five in this campaign.
So really, I don’t think we are doing too bad at all.
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