How Arsenal’s defence has improved in comparison with the defences of other top clubs



Our last two articles have shown that in terms of progress revealed by points gained and goals scored Arsenal are the supreme Premier League club in terms of progress year on year.   While other clubs have risen and fallen back, or in the case of Tottenham scoring goals have made progress that is so minute it might as well not be there, Arsenal have marched ahead.  (Data comes from 11v11).

It is of course not a matter that is mentioned in football reporting because it doesn’t fit with the media’s narrative, but it is there for anyone to see if that person fancies looking.

So having checked on points achieved and goals scored, there is just one metric left to consider and that is goals conceded.   As before he final column (Diff) once again measures the difference between the best and worst seasons.


Team GA 2021 GA 2022 GA 2023 GA 2024 Diff
1 Manchester City 32 26 33 34 14
2 Arsenal 39 48 43 29 19
3 Liverpool 42 26 47 41 21
4 Aston Villa 46 54 46 61 15
5 Tottenham Ho 45 40 63 61 21
6 Chelsea 36 33 47 63 30
7 Newcastle Un 62 62 33 52 29
8 Manchester U 44 57 43 58 15
9 West Ham U 47 51 55 74 27
10 Crystal Palace 66 46 49 58 20


Now whereas in our two previous tables showing points and goals for, Arsenal hav been making consistent progress, and indeed have been the only team improving year on year, in 2021/2 Arsenal conceded more than the season before.

In fact only one of our ten clubs has moved consistently in this table: West Ham have let in more goals each season across these four campaigns.

But in fact Arsenal have recovered from thir blip, and for the last three seaons Arsenal  has been reducing the number of goals conceded until this last season Arsenal had the best defensive record in the league, conceding just 28 goals.

If one works down the league table one only has to go down to  the clubs conceding the fifth fewest goals in the season (Crystal Palace and Manchester United) to find two clubs that had conceded double the number of goals Arsenal conceded this past season.

In fact the gap between the best defence and worst defence in our selected ten clubs was an astonishing 40 goals – the largest difference in any of the last four seasons that we have been looking at.

And this table, as with the two previous tables in this series (through the articles highlighted at the top of the page) once more shows clubs that are working on a consistent theme, and those that are jumping all over the place – generally through a change of management.

Manchester City have been at a steady position in the low 30s, with one extraordinarily good season in terms of defence slotted in.  But their particular achievement was that when that season (2021/2) was over they returned to their regular position.

And indeed what we must hope for is that Arsenal’s extraordinary achievement of conceding just 29 goals in the league is not followed by a return to their previous position of goals against.

And again in this chart it can be suggested that Aston Villa, having made the top four, might well struggle as they achieved fourth with their worst defensive performance over the last four years.

But the point overall is that of course neither attack alone nor defence alone is enough.  What is needed is a solid and improving attack and a solid and improving defence.   And this is what Arsenal has shown in the past four seasons.

Everton, this past season, had the fourth best defence in the league, conceding ten fewer than the likes of Tottenham H.  Their problem was they had the second worst attack in the league, scoring fewwer goals that Burnley and Luton Town, who of course were relegated.

So what we have seen is that Arsenal have been improving both their attack and defence over recent seasons, and last season reached the positin of having the best defence and second best attack in the league, resulting in them having the best goal difference of +62, equal with Manchester City.

That was a goal difference of 17 better than Liverpool, and 39 better than Newcastle (who had the fourth best goal difference in the league).

Thus as we have seen, Arsenal uniquely in the Premier League, have been improving year on year in terms of points, goals scored and goals conceded .  The single blip was more goals conceded in 2021/2 than 2020/1.

It is, in my view, this consistency of imrprovement in terms of attack, defence and hence results, year on year that has been one of the most important elements in Arsenal’s progress.

And it gives us a good guide as to what might happen in 2024/5 which I will try and consider later.

But in terms of these metrics, I will, if I may, leave you with this thought.  These are interesting and powerful numbers, revealing exactly why some clubs such as Tottenham have been stagnating, while with others such as Villa we might be cautious about predicting a continuation of their progress, because they have not been consistent.

But I have never seen them considered at all in the media.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *