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- In football the trend is for all evidence to be ignored, and assertions made instead.
- It’s not just Everton, Chelsea and Manchester City that are under investigation
By Tony Attwood
Prior to the fun-time against Crystal Palace, Arsenal won one, drew one and lost three premier league games in a row. Four points out of five games.
That compared with the April/May dip in the league last season in which Arsenal won two but lost three – making it six points out of five games.
But these were not unqiue events. In March and April 2022 Arsenal won one out of five league games… (data from 11v11)
|16 Mar 2022
|Arsenal v Liverpool
|19 Mar 2022
|Aston Villa v Arsenal
|04 Apr 2022
|Crystal Palace v Arsenal
|09 Apr 2022
|Arsenal v Brighton and Hove Albion
|16 Apr 2022
|Southampton v Arsenal
So that was three points out of five league games. Of course that wasn’t the only terrible dip that season for there were three defeats and one win in four matches in November / December 2021, and that start to the season in which all three opening Premier League games were lost.
Of course go back even further to 2020/21 and there are quite a few dips to choose from including an awful run from mid-October through to mid-December 2020 in which there were ten games wherein Arsenal won one (yes it was just one), drew two and lost seven.
Going back to 2019/20 we had a run of 17 consecutive league games (and I have thrown in the word “consecutive” there to make the point – but in fact in all these lists the games considered were consecutive league games) in which the club won two games, drew ten, and lost five.
In 2018/19 the bad run was in April/May with four defeats, one draw and one victory in six matches. And even Arsene Wenger wasn’t immune to the dip in form. In his final season of 2018/19 there was a run of nine games between 31 December and 4 March in which Arsenal won two, drew two and lost five.
And so it goes on as we look backward in time. Even going back to 2015/16 when, like last season, the club came second in the league, the defeats did not come across the season, but instead came in little bunches – one of no wins in three games, another of no wins in four.
So, looking back across ten years, in each and every season we have situations in which Arsenal did not lose or draw occasional games, but lost or drew games in a sequence – what for purposes of being brief we’ve been calling a dip.
Which raises two questions: how does one explain it and how does one overcome it?
The first thing to say is that in recent seasons, with the exception of Manchester City who might be considered a special case in that their run of five wins and a second place in six seasons, even exceeds Arsenal’s run of four titles and a second place in five seasons, virtually all clubs get occasional bad runs.
This season however there could be another exception, in that thus far, Liverpool have never gone more than two games without a win. And indeed when they have gone two games without a win (losing to Tottenham and drawing with Brighton for example) they then recovered.
Thus the question for Arsenal has to be, how to stop the occasional reversal from becoming a run of poor results.
Obviously, the power of the squad is one part of the solution. If there are solid backup players who can come in to cover for loss of form or injuries that can help enormously. And that is not only for the obvious reason of taking over from a player who is injured or out of form, but also because such a change can bring a psychological shift in the side, lifting morale and the spirit of the team
The only point is that these players who can come in and help out the team, must be players of considerable stature themselves, able to help those who remain in the side through the run of draws and defeats.
The question thus is does Arsenal have a strong enough squad – the squad that contains the players who can not just cover for an injured colleague, but also come into the team when it is losing form?
This is where Arsenal has a bit of a problem, because it has the second youngest line-up in the league this season so far at 24.8 years. Only Chelsea have a younger average line-up at 23.7 years. (Data from Transfermarkt)
The differece between Arsenal and Liverpool in this regard is just one year – but that does mean that each Liverpool player this season on average has one more year’s experience than Arsenal’s. With Manchester City the difference is larger.
This suggests to me that if the squad is kept together, it will grow in maturity and it may well be that next season will be the one in which finally, we can recover from a defeat or unexpected draw immediately, and be back on form for the next game.
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