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July 2021

The underperformance of Arsenal: a graphic analysis


By Arvind

This is a subject that has intrigued me for a long time. When we talk about stupid players or a tactically clueless manager or a greedy board or a crap journalist or even corrupt refs…and point that to be THE reason Arsenal is underperforming…it really doesn’t show you the whole picture.

Now at Untold we have a number of different article categories and all of those are very valuable individually. However, since we look at them just like that, as an entity in themselves, the true value  of the research doesn’t come out. You see it even with the ref reviews; the moment there are conclusions drawn from collected data, the reviews become much more valuable.

So in this article, what I have attempted to do is to create a diagram which depicts every single factor that affects the success (loosely used) of Arsenal as a whole. I don’t claim it is complete but I have made an effort to make it as comprehensive as possible.

The point really is, if over a period of time we can reach a stage at Untold where we can draw reasonable, largely factual calculations on all of these factors, we will then truly be able to pinpoint the exact problems that Arsenal faces and the true solution to all of them.

Again, its not perfect and I’m happy to collect feedback and add/modify/delete/rewrite entries in it or make it even more readable in a future article maybe. For now though, I wanted to get all of your thoughts – Do you think this exercise is useful and a good start to trying to achieve the goal I have in mind?


For those interested, in modifying this, I’ve used a program called FreeMind. I’ll be happy to provide them with the raw file so they can edit it and improve it. Drop in a comment and we can find a way to get in touch : )

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25 comments to The underperformance of Arsenal: a graphic analysis

  • WalterBroeckx

    Arvin, give me a minute or two. or mmmm an hour or two… 😉

    At first sight this is an amazing gathering of all things that could be of interest of winning or losing a game. I think I will have to dig deep to find anything else that could be added or has to be removed from that list.

  • The BearMan

    One thing we are assured of is that this period in the season is what separates the men from the boys. I still want to see if this Arsenal team can raise their game and perform at a higher standard. Run the marathon if you like and finish stronger.

    Players are wanting contract extensions, pay rises. They talk a good game, but seldom do deliver. In the real world you are thrown into the deep end and depends on your on-going performances in the fire, you are rewarded.

    What will Arsenal do against Chelsea? Will they panic or come out with a knockout punch?

  • Gord


    Nice picture. According to FreeCode, FreeMind is a Java application. Which means it should run on any OS. It happens to be use the GPL as a license.

    The point about Off Field discipline, while important, also involves personal freedoms. A manager can’t forbid someone from doing many things. They can suggest, and at some point in the future either not give a raise, not give as big a raise, not renew a contract, or possibly at worst, sell player to an undesirable team.

    Under officials, you have “Card Happy”. The flow of the game is not dictated by the referee. It may be orchestrated by the referee. If two teams came out with the intention of not committing any fouls, the only way a card happy referee could start brandishing cards would be to make up fouls. Place a card happy referee in a game where many of the players have to foul to be competitive, and just by being inconsistent will be able to brandish as many cards as he/she wants. If instead, the referee told the captains at the coin toss that all fouls will be called, you would probably find the first minute or two to not flow, and then I would expect that all players would finally clue in, and not foul. The flow is back.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Spot on that last remark Gord.
    If you want to have a fluent game be strict in the first minutes for all little fouls and the players will adapt quickly. Well the ones with brains will.

  • Jacobite Gunner

    The theoretical framework and desire shown above illustrates another example of articles written on Arsenal Untold that goes beyond the average you find on most (if not all) arsenal blogs. Keep up the good work lads (& lassie’s).

    -much appreciated reader/commenter

  • Hmm… did I miss it – I can’t find any mention of the fixture schedule or the knock-on influence of the European and Asian gambling markets in there?


  • CB

    One quick point – there are a lot of factors on here and there has been research to show that the wage bill is the biggest determinant of success. It might be best to isolate the top few issues that affect results (say the top four from wage bill, longevity of manager, profit, age of players, average time players ahve been at the club, referee bias, injuries, player IQ or whatever) and concentrate on those.

    Other minor issues are all interesting but you should aim to root out the marginal issues or it will be too complex.

  • Arvind

    Thanks Walter. Do look through it when you have time.

    Thanks Jacobite Gunner. Glad you liked it.

    @Gord: Yes its GPL. I tend to use FreeMind whenever I need to plan something. A lot of my Windows friends tend to use Xmind though. Your points though…

    Off Field Attitude can affect the performance of a player and hence it is a variable in Arsenal winning a game. Yes, the manager might or might not be able to control anything but it contributes to the end it’s in the diagram. Its the same logic with Card Happy refs..I get what you and Walter are saying…but this diagram just says…

    “These are ALL the possible factors that COULD possibly affect Arsenal”. Now over the next year it is up to all of us who read and are interested to decide which ones and how much…and try and link all this info plus all the info that is already there to try and predict patterns.

    @Dogface: Yes obviously…missed that out. Thanks. Will add it in.

  • Abdulaziz Alfarhoud

    @Arvind amazing work :)i like the way you defined Arsenal !

  • Arvind

    Thanks CB. Good point. Right now, I just want to get everyone’s thoughts…

    @Abdulaziz: Thanks. Glad you liked it.

  • Richard B

    This has a very qualitative feel about it. It’s difficult to put a ‘score’ against each item in order to compare with other clubs and many of the points are matters of opinion rather than ‘fact’. Work in the community and the fanbase (size and loyalty) are obviously missing and the ‘doing the right thing’ needs to be much more tightly defined. What is seen to be ‘right’ by one person will be viewed as a barrier to progress by another.
    The Arsenal Boards basic strategy of custodianship (making sure that the club gets stronger over time and is handed over to the next Board in a better shape than it was found) is, or has been,one of the single biggest points of differentiation. That it is now seen to be ‘right’ is probably best evidenced by the UEFA FFP regulations which basically say that all clubs must now act like Arsenal.
    How well they do it and what Arsenals response is to what might be a very sistuation will be of great interest.
    Arvind – you are to be congratulated on your effort!

  • bob

    “The point really is, if over a period of time we can reach a stage at Untold where we can draw reasonable, largely factual calculations on all of these factors, we will then truly be able to pinpoint the exact problems that Arsenal faces and the true solution to all of them.”

    Your sincerity is spot-on. That said, imo, your Total Quantification Project to “pinpoint the exact problems” of anything is fundamentally unsound on many levels and, in the wrong hands, potentially harmful. Imo, you seek a utopia with a reductionistic means (a rage to quantify everything to “correct” disorder) that most probably leads toward further empowering (and enriching) a technological elite and takes a step (however well-intention) toward dystopia.

    It doesn’t take that massive number-crunching engineering apparatus (which depends on LOTS of qualitative and value-laden judgments) to make powerful and penetrative analyses of the key issues that plague any entity, AFC or otherwise. And, in any case, you will run into the same problem of non-transparency in many power centers that plague researchers and similar people of goodwill everywhere.

    That said, I look forward to our many other points of agreement and contention, but definitely not this project.

  • T2T

    I believe the issue of international games need to be addressed separately as well. I.e., the bigger teams have typically most of their starting XI and some on international duties while the smaller teams have few, if any.

  • SouthernGunner

    Thats a great visualisation. Helps to understand how the club is structured and what contributes to our results.

  • Matt Clarke

    What an achievement! Well done.

    When I started reading the article I had no idea how thorough you were going to be. As amazing as that is I suspect that was the easy part. The factoring will be much harder. Gl with that!

    It has the makings of a football manager game methinks 🙂

    Oh, you forgot random events – that space ship that fell onto the pitch during the 1976 game against Derby was the only highlight of the game :p

    But seriously, I do wonder if you should add Opposition Fans to the list. Their attitude to us and to their own team can be important.

    And if you check out the AFC website’s Behind The Numbers series of articles you will see that our performance is seemingly influenced by whether or not the game is televised and the kick-off time.

    Anyway, nice one – I look forward to the output.

  • Gerry Lennon

    I get it, from the title, that this list will be the factors on the negative side … and by itself, I cannot see where you can run with it? Especially as different things combining will probably have a different effect on different players, games, etc.
    What I was thinking of when reading it was the time I gave up smoking. This was years ago when the Daily Express was a big paper … in the physical sense as well. They had a big advert placed(by the Gov/NHS I presume?), and in it was a list of all the reasons why people smoke down one side. There was not a single factor I could see that any smoker could not apply to themselves … Down the other side was a much smaller list of the greater likelyhood of you getting a disease/ailment if you smoked as opposed to a non-smoker. Forty years on, and still a confirmed non-smoker since seeing this ad, I can still recall the main ones:

    16 times more likely to die from Bronchitis
    13 times more likely to die from Cancer of the lungs
    8 times more likely to die from Cancer of the stomach
    3 times more likely to die from from Heart disease
    … and they were only a few.
    While I was a school bus driver I made a point of telling the ‘first years’ (11/12 year olds) to think of life as a great big highway you have to cross, but instead of cars coming along, you have diseases and illnesses. The common cold is a quick moving one that come down any lane of this highway. Because they are quick most people will have been hit by one sometime. The killers, Cancers, etc, are slow moving … and if you smoke you are also going to be slower crossing this highway of life. Which is why you are more likely to get struck down than if you don’t smoke.
    It was the best analogy I could come up with, based on the memory of that advert. Feel free to use it.

    Back to the article. The positive list as to why Arsenal over-achieve in some games would,I suspect, be considerably shorter?
    Perhaps a few of the positives could overcome may of the negatives? Things like team bonding … the meal(s?) out together that RVP brought about, could have a more collective spirit which might drown out the negativity as to who was refereeing, and make time on the bench still mean you feel more a part of the team effort?

    Does this help?

  • Arvind

    Thanks RichardB. It is qualitative; yes. What I now aim to do is to take each circle above and further break that down into how well or badly we do it. So for example: The node manager has a line on player recruits. So I will look at that – How well did we recruit? How many were needed? How many did we buy? And so on…lets see how it comes along : )

    @bob: As is the norm ; ) [I jest] you misunderstood my motives. I just intend to take a look at each factor in the diagram in some more detail and print out my analysis for everyone to read. I have no clue about fancy math nor do I intend to educate myself too deeply. So my suggestion is, do remain open towards it…see what I come up with next, and then by all means …we can agree to disagree.

    @T2T: Excellent Point. I’ll add International Games in.

    @SouthernGunner: Thank You. Glad you liked it.

    @Matt: Thanks. Glad you liked it. I sort of thought Opposition Fans got covered in the Media section. Maybe when I expand the Media section, I will touch on it explicitly. And yes kickoff times as well..good catch.

    @GerryLennon: That’s a nice way to look at it yeah; but I do think you’d have to look at both. But yes, I will relook at the positive side more deeply. Thank You.

  • Laundryender

    what determines that we are underperforming is my question.

    Having been around the Gaff for a while, i feel we are overperforming, but that is just my opinion. Yes we frustrate, and yes the bar has been raised. but i have not been concerned about relegation for a a good few years.

  • Laundryender

    Just looks like an excercise in excuses to me, for not achieving unrealistic expectation.

    Once again, in my opinion, the most important criteria are missing

    Manchester United being the richest club in the world
    Chelsea being fianancially doped
    Man City being fianancially doped
    The EPL being bloody competitive (unlike most leagues on Europe)
    and the “football bloody hell” factor

    However I am also aware that “I think we should always entertain our opinions with some measure of doubt” (Bertrand Russell)

  • Mandy Dodd

    Interesting comcept.
    Have to agree with you there laundryender.
    I personally think the main source of our woes are
    1/ Injuries – medical staff? Lack of protection from refs? Being targeted by other players/ over playing young bodies etc

    2/ Player retention – struggling to develop a team of elite players tempted by predators is not easy

  • Notoverthehill


    This is a nice idea for The Arsenal to employ a full-time member of staff?

    The Chain of Command starts with the Owner(s). Then the CEO and so on. Is Mr Wenger’s secretary a nab hand at a quick cup of coffee or tea? Is she reliable, trustworthy etc? The cleaners do they go through the waste-paper baskets for the likes of Cross or Winter?
    I have no wish to be flippant, but it is information overload!

    Pros and Cons list is all that is required, IF the infrastructure is in place.

    Mr Gazidis and Mr Tom Fox have a five-year plan and 2012 is the third year of that plan. Results for the commercial side are down from £34 millions in the Financial Year 2008/2009, to £33 millions in the Financial Year 2010/2011. With seat prices increased, why has the Gate etc revenue decreased from £100 millions in the Financial Year of 2008/2009?

    The death on 13th April 2011 of Mr Fitzman, was the root cause of last summer’s debacle. The saving of Arsenal Holdings plc, became paramount, from Mr A B Usmanov!

  • bob

    Would appreciate if you would elaborate on how Danny Fitzman’s death had caused last summer’s debacle?

  • Arvind

    @Laundryender: Thanks. Yes…financial doping is a reason but that is not something directly in control of Arsenal; that’s why I did not include it. Its a point though indirectly affecting recruitment. When I look at recruitment, I’ll consider this.

    @MandyDodd: Thanks. Good points. I’ll add these in.

    @notoverthehill: This is simply an exercise to understand what factors Arsenal’s success depend on. Some are very important, some not so important and some trivial. That however does not mean you ignore anything.As I said, lets wait for a while for my next articles, to see how this goes forward – for now I am just collecting data.

  • Subir Kumar Roy

    very interesting…

  • AidanGooner

    It’s all about the owners and the lack of funds made available as far as I am concerned- no ambition for sporting success- pure business to them