Progress and regression: How Arsenal have outdone every other club in the league


By Tony Attwood

The prime talk during the summer is always about transfers, and as that link shows,  yet we know from the review of transfers each summer, that only around three percent of all the transfers mentioned on websites and in the rest of the media actually happen.

So we have been trying  to find other ways to think about where clubs are going and what might happen next season.   And one very simple way to begin this is to take a measurement of clubs’ change year on year.

That measurement could be goals scored, goals conceded, goal difference, or indeed points – and points is where we start.

What we have done is take the top ten clubs of this last season, looked where they were in the previous three seasons in terms of points to see if there had been progressing, declining or zigzagging.

At the very top Manchester City have indeed done a spot of zig zagging (with points totals of 86, 93, 89 and 91.   And this makes an immediate point.  Manchester C have won the league each year but with a variance of just seven points between their best year (2022) and their “worst” year (2021).

But of course that difference is not much – their difference between the best and the worst season was just 8%.

Arsenal in contrast have had constant growth, and their points tally this last season was 46% above that of 2020/21.

Liverpool also have a high range of difference (37% between their best and worst season), but unlike Arsenal there is no progression – they have a zigzag performance of 69 points, 92 points, 67 points, 82 points.

Aston Villa have had a three season upward curve rising by 51%, but Tottenham on the other hand have zigzagged, but their difference between best and worst is only 18%.  Thus they are zigzagging around a moderate number – something the media never mention.  Although they do hav the most profitable stadium in the league (allegedly).

The final colum (Diff) is the difference between the best and the worst season, but of course one also has to see if the club is currently on the rise or the fall.


Team Pts 2021 Pts 2022 PTS 2023 Pts 2024 Diff
1 Manchester City 86 93 89 91 8%
2 Arsenal 61 69 84 89 46%
3 Liverpool 69 92 67 82 37%
4 Aston Villa 55 45 61 68 51%
5 Tottenham Ho 62 71 60 66 18%
6 Chelsea 67 74 44 63 68%
7 Newcastle Un 45 49 71 60 58%
8 Manchester U 74 58 75 60 29%
9 West Ham U 65 56 40 52 63%
10 Crystal Palace 44 48 45 49 11%


Chelsea’s “progress”  is in fact a zigzag in which their best season was 68% better than their worst.  Unfortunately the worst followed the best and this last season they got fewer points than in 2021.

Newcastle are another club in a slump.  Having shot up by 45% two seasons ago they fell back, but are still above the position achieves in 2021 and 2022.

What does the table show?

First, only one club has grown its number of points each year over this four year period: Arsenal.

Second, the difference in points totals over just four years, between a club’s best and worst performance is much higher than we expected when we started this little investigation.

Third the biggest progress has been made by Aston Villa who this past season gained 51% more points than just two seasons ago.

Fourth, the lowest growth rate comes from Manchester City, not least because they have very little space to grow into.  After all when you are only losing between three and six games a year, it is hard to improve on that.

But mostly what the table shows is that consistent growth is very rare.

Erratic changes dominate

While we can see consistency in Manchester City and Crystal Palae, and consistent growth in Arsenal, along with three seasons of growth in Aston Villa, the rest of the pack are rock n rolling all over the place.   Just consider Manchester United, a club with phenomenal resources who have over the last four seasons ended up with 74, 58, 75 and 60 points consecutively.

Now what is interesting is that all focus in the football media is in improving on last season.  No one seems to look at the broader perspective.   But the reality is that only one of the ten clubs above has progressed year on year, and the question therefore has to be can Arsenal make it progress five years in a row?

That question of course is not posed by the media, because it would mean acknowledging the progress Arteta has made.  The media would sooner focus on the oddballs who suggested that Arteta was a useless manager because he wouldn’t rotate his team.

However this is perhaps not very surprising since everything in football journalism is about the short term – the “you’re only as good as your last match” syndrome.  (Or perhaps we might say for journalists, you are only as good as your last sentence).

But it is, we must admit, a very clever way of hiding what Arsenal have achieved in  the last four seasons.


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