Progress for a club like Arsenal happens over time. We’re now reaping the benefits



On the Arsenal History Society site today: Arsenal announce a school children enclosure, and undersoil heating, and 20 other Arsenal anniversaries for today


By Tony Attwood

There is no doubt that Arsenal has progressed in recent years on multiple fronts, clearing away preview problems one by one, so that now we seriously can contemplate a very positive run-in over the last games of the season.

As we have so often noted Arteta joined Arsenal as manager on 20 December 2019 – a moment when Arsenal were below halfway down the table if one counted just away games.

The record on that day was played eight, won two.  Ten goals scored 12 goals conceded.

So a 25% win record and an average of 1.25 goals scored a game.

This season so far we have played 16 away, won ten, and scored 37 goals.  Whcih makes a win rate of 62.5% (more than double that when Arteta arrived), and a goal-scoring rate of 2.31 a game (almost double that of the moment in which he arrived).

It is an astonishing turnaround, and one I was reminded of through a recent article in the Athletic.   Indeed it reveals a factor which in its own right gives us hope for a title this season.   

We have three away games left: Wolverhampton, Tottenham and Manchester United and although at least two of those three look challenging we should not be too worried in my view.  And this for two reasons.

First there is the progress that we have seen year by year in terms of away success.

Looking at the points gained away from home, in 2019/20 it was just 20.  By 2023 it has almost doubled to 39.   This season we are on 33 points with three games left, so could possibly exceed the 39 points of 2022/23 away from home.

But there is more.  In 2020 Arsenal managed 20 goals away from home.  Last season it was 35, a 75% increase.   But this season it is already beyond that, at 37 goals.  With three games left we might well expect at least 40 away goals.

And to give a spot of context to that, in the unbeaten season, Arsenal scored 33 goals away from home.  So both last season and this season the team is outscoring its illustrious forebears of the unbeaten campaign, in away goals.

But what about defensively?   Across the last five seasons the worst for conceding goals away from home was 2021/2 when 31 were let in.  Last season we almost cut that in half going down to 18 away goals conceded.

Of course, anything can happen in the remaining few games, but given that we have just three such games and have thus far only conceded 11 away goals I think again a collapse is unlikely.

Maybe we can also pause for a moment to look at the away goals difference in the unbeaten season.  That was +21.   Back in Arteta’s first half season it was minus 4.   And indeed it got worse for in 2021/22 it was minus 5.

In the illustrious last season of which we have spoken, the away goal difference was +17.   Not quite up to the standards of the unbeaten season (+21 as noted above) but still rather impressive.  And this season?   It is currently +26.  If Arsenal were to win the remaining three away games that would take the club to +29 away from home – or more.

But is that +26 goal difference that the club is currently on away from home, actually that impressive?  Perhaps not, since I can’t recall the media ever mentioning it.  So let’s see….

  • 2024: Best away goal difference – Arsenal +26 (second place Manchester City, +15).
  • 2023: Best away goal difference – Manchester City +18 (Arsenal +17)
  • 2022: Best away goal difference – Manchester City +30 (Arsenal -5)
  • 2021: Best away goal difference – Manchchester City +25 (Arsenal +13)
  • 2020: Best away goal difference – Manchester City +23 (Arsenal -4) .

Now of course I know that goal difference isn’t the key issue, as obviously points are, but it remains an interesting issue since sometimes a club can sneak up the table with a large number of lucky draws and victories, through goals in the last minute or 1-0 wins.   The goal difference tally shows the depth and breadth of Arsenal’s improvement just as much as the rise in the number of points does.

And it is figures like this that remove some of the inevitable worries that there might be an end-of-season collapse this campaign, just as there was last season.

The great problem last season, and indeed in recent seasons, has been what we’ve called the “dip” – the fact that Arsenal don’t just lose or draw a game they were expected to win, but rather that there is a sequence of three, four or even five such games, which they destroys the chances of winning the title.

This is something Manchester City have overcome: they expect to win each game, and so an occasional dip tends to be just one game and so does nothing to mess up their progress.   I think that maybe Arsenal have now got that psychological strength too.   The odd slippage is nothing more than that, rather than the harbinger of a six or eight game decline in results.

Over the last few games we shall see..

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