Being top of the league at the right moment

By Walter Broeckx

Looking back at the league season is interesting but also a bit painful. We know it could have gone differently if only… if only….

In a way Arsenal has made a big step forward this season in the league and I do have the hope and the feeling that next season we will be even better than this one. It will just need a few details that might be enough to make this team even more competitive in the league.

The detail of having Theo fit for around 30 matches instead of only 9. The detail of not losing Ramsey for almost  half of the season. And the same goes for not losing The Ox and Podolski for half of the season.

And of course getting another world class player in might help. But to be honest… I don’t know who that would or should be. I’m just here to support whoever, whenever someone is brought in. Then I will start sheering for him. But before that…I think we have a rather decent squad that still has a lot of growing potential in them.  Theo and Ramsey can improve a bit if they can keep fit alone that would be improvement. But players like The Ox and Jack Wilshere will improve in the next seasons. They are a bit younger than Theo, and Aaron and can and will step it up in the next season(s).

Now why is it that I am so confident in this team? Well simply because when you look at the numbers it gives me every reason to be optimistic.

Now I must say that the numbers I will offer below are both great but also a bit painful. I will show you the numbers how long clubs have been top of the league this season. Something to be happy about but also something to say: damned this could and should have resulted in more.  So what about just giving you the numbers on how long the top 4 teams have been top of the league this season and added to that their final league position:

  • -Arsenal spent 128 days at the top of the league…came 4th.
  • -Chelsea spent 64 days at the top of the league…came 3rd.
  • -Liverpool spent 59 days at the top of the league…came 2nd.
  • -Man City spent 15 days at the top of the league…came 1st.

So for those who have been saying: it’s not about the silverware for me but I want us to compete….well this is competing. Arsenal has been top of the league more than the double the length of time of Chelsea and Liverpool.  Manchester City have been top for hardly two weeks. But the weeks that counts most where within those weeks.

This shows that the most important thing is to show up at the end.  A fact you already knew that of course but being ahead in a marathon for 40 km is not enough if you get overhauled in the last 2 km.  But only someone with an agenda will say that we didn’t compete.

For me these numbers show that when our team was having their best players more or less injury free we were as strong as the rest if not stronger.  And that is what gives me so much confidence in this team. Next year the core of our team will be the same. Some younger players with more experience. Some younger players making the final step up to the highest level. I look at you Jack and Alex. Make next season your year.

And if only those two would make up that extra step by scoring more goals and producing higher quality all-round performances would make it easier for us to overcome injury problems. If The Ox could do a Ramsey next season and start scoring some 10 goals a season it wouldn’t matter if Ramsey gets an injury as The Ox could step in at that moment. Now he couldn’t do that this season because he also has lost half a season with injuries and had some bad games. The Chelsea one…. but this is natural for younger players.

Younger players will have ups and downs. The Ox was remarkable against Wigan in the semi final and looked very dangerous during the whole match. But he had a terrible match against Chelsea. These things happen to younger players. But when they get older they will be able to be more consistent and produce more high quality performances.

And with them being older next season I am convinced they will perform better. As most players have under Wenger. Look at what he did with the Dutch person a few years ago. Turning him from a difficult kid in to one of the best players in the world. He can do this again as he has done it again this season.

So let us hope for a more injury free next season with all the players performing better than they did this season. And who knows…even some good additions in some places.

The PL season is just over and believe it or not…I’m already looking forward to the next and with full confidence. With or without new signings. As I don’t really worry too much about that. I leave that up to the people who know more about that than I do.

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44 Replies to “Being top of the league at the right moment”

  1. I think I’ve done enough debating on the other threads and none of us are ever going to change each other’s opinions on that particular subject so thought I’d drop a quick note on this one.

    Those stats are interesting – I think City having games in hand from around February onwards has contributed to the low number of days we spent at the top of the league but it’s astonishing how much time Arsenal were there. I’ll also add that Arsenal were genuine title contenders for much of the season and in no way do I think they “bottled it” which is the line that a lot of other opposition fans have used. That difficult run of games during February and March would’ve been a nightmare for any team and if you’d had some easier looking games during that spell then you may have fared better.

    Either way, Arsenal clearly improved this season and I can see you improving further next season as well. Makes you wonder what van Persie is thinking now 😉

  2. M18

    Not only a Nightmare run of games but it just happened to coincide with the loss of Theo, Ramsey, Wilshere, and Ozil.

    Basically 4 of our 5 best offensive players.

    Read Liverpool without 3 from suarez, Sturridge, Gerrard and Stirling. How would they of done without 3 of those 4?

    So I think you’re right, we didn’t bottle it and also it was nothing to do with squad size, which is another rock thrown at us, but I think any team, even City, though not as much, would suffer under similar circumstances.

    I hear they’re touting Judas for captain. Good luck with that one LVG.

    I’m looking forward to next year.

  3. Yes, i agree completely, this team is special, another one made by AW, and i have had the impression that they were not even fully firing yet, there is much more to come, and i for one cannot wait for next season.
    Just hoping we are more fortunate with injuries, and we will rock the world.

  4. “In a way Arsenal has made a big step forward in the league this season…”

    Relative to what? The points total?
    Our immediate competitors gained even more points year over year;

    Man City +8 more than last season
    Liverpool +21
    Chelsea. +7
    Arsenal +6
    Everton +9
    Our head to head against top clubs is disappointing to put it kindly.
    Arsenal scored less goals this season than last but on the plus side they also conceded fewer goals .
    Liverpool and City scored around fourty and twenty more goals this season respectively
    Placing fourth shows remarkable consistency but over all pretty disappointing league season.

    Winning the FA cup and strenghtening in key areas will go a long way to having a better year next season, I hope.

  5. jambug

    Yes, it’s not gone unnoticed by me that you’ve had big injury problems throughout the whole season. Liverpool were fortunate that they kept those front 3 fit and playing together for so long. They had a great season but it’ll be a different scenario entirely next time around because they’ll have to factor in at least 6 Champions League games.

  6. M18

    Plus, personally, I think they will lose Suarez to one of the Spanish Giants.

  7. Jambug

    Not at all, hence the “plus side goals conceded and remarkable consistency coming fourth” remarks. I just refuse to sugar coat things and stretch the truth but I am very optimistic about next season as well and very assured of a great performance by our guys at Wembley against Hull City.

    Arsenal 3 : 1 Hull City
    You heard it hear first.

  8. I think there is much to build on. We have improved this year and we have every single building block coming back next year. This is very exciting especially with an impending FA cup final.

    We must become a more efficient attacking team next year. We pour far to many people forward and have far to much of the ball to constantly score under 2 goals a game on average. I believe AW understands this.

    The team must learn to play in different ways according to how a game is going. People say we cant absorb pressure but Dortmund away this year we were every bit as resourceful as Chels in Madrid but with added sting. Thats what makes the collapses against Liverpool and Chelsea so hurtful.

    There can be little doubt that the manager needs to act quicker this summer. Im not saying its right but the good will has evaporated and anyone at the cup semi can tell u the manager must deliver this summer as there are no excuses next year

  9. Tom

    You quote this:

    “In a way Arsenal has made a big step forward in the league this season…”

    Then say this:

    “I just refuse to sugar coat things and stretch the truth”

    How is that ‘sugar coating’ anything or indeed ‘Stretching the truth’ ?

    Oh, well.

    As for Saturday,

    I actually feel confident, which with my record is slightly worrying, but 3-1 sounds good to me 🙂

  10. Jambug

    Let’s not talk perceptions here. Your feelings and observations might be different than mine, fair enough.
    Looking at numbers alone , it’s impossible for me to state Arsenal have made progress relative to their direct competitors in the league. To state otherwise would be sugar coating it.

  11. Jeez Tom, whatever.

    I’m just so glad I don’t live in your World because it must be one hell of a miserable place.

  12. M18

    Where are you when I need you?

    You more positive than some of our own fans.

    After what you went through with your team you wont believe the negativity some of our lot come out with.

  13. Tom

    If this year has been a definite improvement (i think it has) it is also then true that we didn’t improve in the previous 2-3 years.

    Its these years which I believe have most offended a significant portion of the fanbase.

    Walter can talk about transfer spend over the last 5 years but in reality we know its has been our own choice not to spend that money certainly for the last 2 years.

    Our revenue didn’t improve this summer becuase of any deals so the transfer deficit came from money saved. Not all fans are doom and gloom but one can definatly ask questions about our front office

  14. jabbadb

    No we haven’t been improving we’ve been treading water whilst this questionable Club of ours built, and paid for our nice new Stadium.

    You might of missed that.

    And yes of course Wenger and the board embarked on the stadium project just so they could stash away a nice tidy sum in the bank and sit on it.

    No your not doom and gloom just another little ingrate !!

  15. Jambug

    Firstly I’m not questioning the club

    Secondly not everyone has to be in the happy as larry camp and doom and gloom camp.

    Im delighted with the stadium but its fair top ask whether the club has had good transfer windows in the last 2-3 years. Its also fair to ask whether the club has done all it can to be as competative as she can in that time.

    We know last summer and January were poor windows from the front office is it not fair to ask why after 2 years of poor windows before that.

    Thats not to say spending big means good windows. I think we are all adult enough to say whether the club has done a good job or not.

    The stadium had no bearing on these windows that much is certain.

  16. Jabbadb 10

    If it’s Arsenal squad only that we are talking about then of course we have improved from last season. We got the best Nr 10 in the World. Players like Ramsey and Kos have reached new levels and the rest of the squad has improved as well. Unfortunately we are not talking in abstract here but rather in context of the EPL as a whole.
    The league has become more competitive at the top and bottom as well , the trend which will only continue due to massive cash influx from the broadcasting rights.

    Arsenal get some £92M from the league alone this season and the relegated Cardiff City get almost as much as United got last season when they won the league( £60M plus)

    Any one who thinks we are going to be competitive next season without being aggressive in the TM is asking for the repeat of this season.

  17. Tom

    I think everyone believes we will be aggressive though. That doesn’t mean spending 200m it means improving areas which need to be improved with the right player.

    We clearly need to get quicker in attack and challenge the space behind defenses more. Allot of accounts are saying we’ve activated Vela release clause.

    Is he Falcao… is he a significant improvement on Giroud and Sanogo in this area….absolutely.

    If we can do the same on the wing and get in a powerful central midfielder with good passing (not easy) i think we are in a wonderful position to challenge next year.

    We werent that far off

  18. Evening all. There is no doubt we have made huge steps, we were competitive for most of the season.

    In fact, setting aside the terrible timing of some away games after Champions League matches, the least contentious mitigating factor for me is the damage we sustained losing Ramsey and Theo.

    Take away the goals and assists of these two players, I feel it is fully justified to say that had they remained fit, it is probable that we would have obtained the seven point difference we needed. It seems conveniently forgotten that the most expensive sports team in history finished just 7 points ahead of us. The expensively assembled Liverpool team with a player that should not be playing for them finished 5 points ahead and the huge squad of that awful club Chelsea, just 3 points.

    Yet Arsenal get criticised and ridiculed for finishing fourth, Giroud gets slaughtered for being no good and Arsene Wenger gets abused by a small section of our own fans as being tactically inept. We are told we need 5 or 6 players, our training methods are outdated, we overplay and redzone players and ultimately we are a crap club with nothing going for it.

    Well if we really are so bad and deserving of this criticism, how were we so close to winning a potential double? Our squad is nowhere as deep as our rivals but despite that we lead the league for longer than any other team and went very close.

    If we win the FA Cup on Saturday, this will have been a fantastic season. But don’t expect the ignoramuses and naysayers in the press (and the small minority in the Arsenal ranks) to change their colours.They wouldn’t know an achievement if it was a huge three tiered bowl with translucent polycarbonate roofing that held 60,000 people…..!

    So a great season. With a bit of luck, this really could have been another double. And I will drink to that.

  19. PS: The point I am trying to make is that we are better than some people will acknowledge. With a couple of top quality additions, combined with a fit Ozil, Theo and Ramsey we will be a match for anyone.

  20. Proudkev

    I think this idea that the Liverpool team has been expensively assembled is a false one. Much of there spending was done under the previous regime and many of those players aren’t still with the club.

    We also shouldn’t be proud of not spending money which is available to us. There is no glory in not identifying targets to improve us so not spending cash. None whatsoever.

    We’ve improved by 9 points in 5 years. Lets not be overboard with this. This isnt remarkable or wonderful it is ok. The manager better than anyone else understands that the club needs to improve and A Madrid and Liverpool performance this year puts more pressure on that.

    We cant always look for excuses in what we do. For the last 2-3 years the club has done the minimum expected of it. No more no less. I’m fine with that.

    This sumemr there can be no excuses. We must unite the fanbase again. That means the club doign all it can to be as successful as it can. No more pore windows.

  21. Proudkev

    U you say small minority but you know its much more than that who are upset. There arent 2 distinct camps but numerous camps along a wide spectrum.

    I would suggest that paying fans (no better than other fans) are allot more disgruntled in general. Anyone who was at the semi final would know that a allot amount of that crowd were very angry after the result.

  22. OK so its hindsight that creates easier understanding. I think the glass is broken. The team are probably the best at ball retention.
    The issues are how many goals conceded were as a direct result of loss of possession in midfield? How many shots from outside the box were on target? What percentage were goals?

    My opinion is that many of our players do not have good kicking technique. They should be able to bend (hook or fade) a ball. They should also be able to make a shot bend and dip. Their passing is excellent but so many one on ones are saved because players rarely lob the oncoming keeper or the final shot lacks technique. I also believe that a free kick must hit the target particularly considering the money these players earn. It can be saved or hit the wall but should never reach row Z!

    The other aspect that grates is the relaxation after ‘the game is won’. When there is an opportunity to score more goals do not relax. Keep scoring till the final whistle. It is the professional way. Ruthless hunger for goals is how we should play.

    Our team must retain position to prevent quick breaks. The player supporting the man with the ball must be blocked and not given room to run into. Our goalkeeper is always blocked on corners and if officials allow that then blocking of ‘runners’ is fair.

    Our squad is good. Our key players are brilliant. All we need is a little more improvement and we can excel.

    I’m hoping for a good victory in the FA cup final with a ruthless professional approach.

  23. @Jabbadb10
    ‘For the last 2-3 years the club has done the minimum expected of it. No more no less. I’m fine with that.’
    If you are ‘fine with that’ why are you moaning.

  24. There must be something wrong with me or maybe I am easily pleased, but I think we have had a fantastic season for the reasons proudkev advocates. If we win the FA Cup it will be the icing on the cake. If next season produces further progress then great, if it is a similar one to the one just gone then you still won’t find me complaining. In fact if it is worse than the last you won’t find me complaining, I will be disappointed of course, but that is what SUPPORTING a club is all about.

  25. Agree with your optimism Walter, we can improve further next season. But we really have to stop the heavy away defeats….by tactical approaches…if need be, the end justifies the means in these games. We are capable of parking the bus if we have to.
    We have some,superb players who will get better. Perhaps improved injury management will help.
    Though, still think the better wenger does , and the more of a threat Arsenal become….well sadly, you know what happens.
    RVP indeed M18, though I guess he is happy he helped arranged for his mate as next manager. Think we have seen serious examples of player power at Utd and spurs recently….is that always a good thing?
    Agree with your cup final score Tom. If it happens, will do this team the world of good

  26. Mick

    If half way through the summer of 2013 you were told we had a huge budget to improve and with those improvements we improved from 73 points to 79 and won an FA cup would you say that was fantastic or what was expected from a settled squad with continuity in coaching.

  27. expected is the wrong word as we can never expect trophies but to say fantastic for a 6 point improvement from a points total just beaten by Everton I would hardly say is fantastic with our resources.

  28. Mick

    You can support the club but still question some of the decisions. I believe the most extreme doomers as well as akbs are equally as harmful to the club.

  29. I would hardly say our record in the last 5 years P30 w7 d5 l18 f35 a59 against our main rivals should fill u with joy and pride especially considering we had our worst year this year.

  30. I like facts, so here are our points totals since the Invincibles season:

    04: 90
    05: 83
    06: 67
    07: 68
    08: 83
    09: 72
    10: 75
    11: 68
    12: 70
    13: 73
    14: 79

    We can see the impact the stadium development had – with minimal money to spend – as we fell away sharply after the Invincibles down to a low of 67 points in 06. After another relatively mediocre season we challenged hard in 08 finishing with 83 points. But the team broke up and we subsided back to 68 in 11. But it has been a steady improvement ever since up to 79 points this season.

    As the finances continue to improve, allowing a positive net spend for the first time in 10 years (smoothed), we look in great shape. Confident we will be over 80 next season and really pushing very hard.

  31. @Jabbadb10
    Exactly how is an AKB as you put it, in any way harmful to the club? Doomers yes because they cast negativity over everything about the club which can only be bad, but AKB’s spread positivity which can only be good.

  32. Pete,

    Numbers and facts: gotta love ’em!

    Your analysis is pretty sound. Squad stability which is only possible through financial stability is the key here. Last season was the first time in years that the team was not destabilised. We added Ozil without losing anybody that we needed to stay and we have moved forward as a result. Sagna seems to be a gonner but while he is a very important figure, we can all agree that the team will survive without him. Beside, we can afford to replace him.


    As some of us believers (sometimes known as AKBs) have been saying for a while, our financial stability will ultimately lead us to those coveted trophies. We missed out of the league this season (our closest attempt in years) but the FA cup is likely. As long as we keep the nucleus of this team, we’ll be in the mix for the league title next season.

    We are trending upward and that is a great thing. Let the whiners whine on. We’ll continue to support the team at good and bad times but most especially during the bad times because, as you rightly said, that is what supporters do.

  33. Menace….you hit the nail on the head with your first two points, particularly the first one. I have written a number of articles detailing how profligate AFC are when shooting. We usually get as many as or more shots on goal as the best EPL teams yet we miss more shots than them as well! I have seen Giroud, who I rate very highly, completely fluff his shot so many time, and that goes for Sanogo, Podolski and the Ox. IMHO a professional player should be able to hit the net at least 50% of the time he shoots, if not more and should score at least 1 in every 4 shots he takes that are fairly straightforward. I am not talking about shots from impossible angles, nor am I bemoaning free kicks that miss….anyone can miss those most of the time.
    I also agree that we tend to play with the handbrake on at the start of, and when we are leading a game but over the last 5-6 games up until the end of the season we didn’t let up as much….hope that attitude stays with us next season and in the FA Cup.
    Our possession game is a vital part of our tactical approach and attacking strategy and that will always be important for us. What marks us as significantly different from most EPL teams is that we create many more chances during a game…but don’t finish them as well as we should expect…this has been true since Henry and Bergkamp left.

  34. Many of the comments here lack any sense. The factual and genuine reason why Arsenal finished fourth was explained by Tony and Walter many times. Yet the same thing written here again and again. Do you fellas really read the article and absorb it before writing your comments? It seems like a cheap shot to me. Very idiotic.

  35. Jabbadb – what you say is not true – although the fat boy behind me was disgruntled all the way through the semi final there were many many more who were delighted, and stayed on to cheer the players – and continued celebrating as we trudged very slowly along Wembley Way to Wembley Park. Don’t know where you were but we certainly didn’t see a lot of the crowd being very angry after the result. Far from it. Maybe you should choose somewhere else to sit.

    Incidentally over moderation which you raise in another post which I have not published, your posts are held in moderation irrespective of what they say, until a moderator is available. It can take a while, especially in the evening. People are put in permanent moderation because they have posted off-topic, abusively, or repetitively. You have to remember this is a site that openly supports Wenger and the club and the way that it is run. We have published all the variants on the anti-Wenger approach, but don’t feel any need to publish them repeatedly.

  36. Pelegrini seems to think that missing Augeuro for 15 games had a detrimental effect on city’s performance/results.

    Well well; try 4 or 5 of your best players out for very length spells and see how you cope.

  37. @omgarsenal I’m glad you appreciate what I’m getting at. Arsene Wenger is the master of possession football with quality passing. The only aspect that has deteriorated has bee the quickness of transition. With previous squads our transition from defense was lightening. That was with Henry, Freddy & co. The current squad are not so fast and cannot revert to defense quick enough against a team that has quick transition. We have lost some of our coaching techniques and positional play.

    In my opinion we can get to the invincible standard next season with the right kind of additions.

    Jack has got to learn to pass the ball quickly and to select his tackles carefully. He is one of the more gifted skillful players and is targeted for rash treatment.

    Giroud has been an incredible asset both as a holding forward & in defense. He could do with a Ramsey/Walcott type available consistently. There are many who cannot appreciate his presence because he does not spin with the ball and attack at pace.
    Fortunately that is not his purpose but should it be necessary I’m sure he will deliver.

  38. jambug,

    I’m still here mate. To be honest, as an outsider I’m probably not the best person to comment on the goings-on at Arsenal but being impartial to it all, I think I can offer an objective view.

    I can see the merit in both sides of the argument to be honest. On the one hand, I can understand the frustration that a lot of Arsenal fans have with the club (and the manager), but on the flip side as far as I know it was never a secret that following the move to the Emirates the club would have to take a more prudent approach to transfers for several years while the stadium debt was paid down. Personally, I don’t think anyone could’ve overseen this period better than Wenger and that’s something his critics ought to bear in mind.

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