Why the predictions of Arsenal’s season have thus far been soooo wrong

By Tony Attwood

Last night as I drove back to the Midlands after the Arsenal match there was a piece on the radio about a guy who, before each game, bets on Exeter winning 4-1.  For each match he gets different odds, but he never changes his approach, and keeps betting. Apparently he is £600 to the good, largely because he has chosen a singularly unlikely score.

However the fact that he is apparently winning money should not mean that most people who make public predictions should also bet on them.   Certainly the people who went public and predicted the outcome of this season’s Premier League are not looking too clever thus far.

Of course they were predicting who would win the league next May, not who would be doing rather well come the end of October, but I think it is worth looking back at what was said, because these predictions reveal something rather interesting.

One of the first things to note is how quickly predictions are undone and changed.   By 5 September TalkSport had their super computer predicting that Man City would win the league and Arsenal come second.   By 16 October the Sun was running “Five reasons why Arsenal can win the Premier League this season.”  Way different from their earlier predictions.

The Sun’s reasons were (in case you are interested) that the defence was sorted, Theo is on form, there is no anxiety in Wenger, there is still more to come, and the squad is balanced.  Not very profound reasons really.

But to go back to the start of the season; the Independent had Arsenal finishing somewhere between fourth and seventh by the end because “Arsenal have not done enough in the transfer market.”

The BBC asked, “How do you even start to work out Arsenal?” and answered…

“The temptation is to simply put them in the top four because they always finish there.

“No chance of the title, but they always seem to win enough games to keep qualifying for the Champions League. Granit Xhaka’s arrival from Borussia Moenchengladbach for a reported £35m will add steel to midfield.

“Manager Arsene Wenger will need to reach for the chequebook to buy class in attack and in central defence. If he does, the outlook may be brighter. If he doesn’t, expect more of the same – or even less.

“And will be that be enough in the final year of his contract?  Fourth place prediction…but with doubts and with fingers crossed.”

Paul Merson on Sky said we would be fourth. “If Arsenal had bought a world-class centre forward and centre half, I would have picked them for the title, but they haven’t. It would probably help them in the long term if they didn’t finish in the top four for one season because it would force them to make some changes – but I expect them to be around fourth.”

This was the style of all the leading commentators, and just by way of contrast I tried a totally different site – Joe.com which asked several of its writers of whom I had not heard, to give their predictions.

Dion Fanning wrote, “This may be the year. Not the year when Arsenal win something, but when their failures have an impact. The summer has been characteristically frustrating, but the reasoned explanations of Arsene Wenger for their failure to spend big are no longer enough. Arsenal’s rivals are spending and that is all that matters for some fans, especially when a big signing is needed.”

Carl Anka added, “I really thought Arsenal were best placed to win the league this season.  Then Walcott said he’s meant to be a winger and then Arsenal had their centre back injury crisis early and I remembered that Wenger is the closest thing to a false god in football.”

Tom Victor went with “If they didn’t look like winning the league last year, there’s nothing that suggests things will change this time around. They’ve bought well for a normal year, but this isn’t a normal year.”

Rob Burnett’s view was “This time around Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City will all sort themselves out – and finish above Arsenal”

Kevin Beirne came in with “This summer has seen Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United upgrade manager (not to mention on the pitch), while both Liverpool and Spurs have had some extra time to gel over the off-season. Arsenal, meanwhile, have not really done a whole lot besides add a defensive midfielder and an inexperienced centre-back.”

While Simon Lloyd added, “This season will be the most competitive of Premier League seasons and, although the signing of Granit Xhaka looks to be a good bit of business, it’s hard to say that Arsenal’s squad is the strongest of those sides that should be in the mix for league success.”

Back in the mainstream Sam Wallace of the Telegraph wrote, “Wenger as ever seems slow to invest in addressing the squad’s shortcomings.”

Now of course they could all be right.  Arsenal could finish 4th, 5th, 6th or 7th, but it seems fairly unlikely thus far.   What we can say is what none of them foresaw was just how many goals we would be scoring, or the re-emergence of Theo, or… well pretty much anything that has happened thus far.

Nor come to that, the goals.

  • August: 6 in three games
  • September: 16 in six games
  • October: 10 in three games.

So what made all those people and so many more express such grave doubts about Arsenal’s future?

One obvious reason is the fixation with the transfer market.   Remember over 100 players were predicted to join Arsenal this summer, and something like 98% of the predictions were wrong.  Indeed although there was much talk of signing a central defender the only time when the right prediction was made, was when the deal was just on done.  By that time around 20 different central defenders had been nominated, no one predicted the man we actually got, and yet, he has turned out to be rather good.

Another reason was that none of the writers saw any sense of development or growth within Arsenal.  All they saw was the same old same old mistakes.   For a club that had won the FA Cup twice and come second in the league that was a curious mindset, but nothing would shake the people with it.

Beyond that, no one was willing to look at how Mr Wenger had built a winning team before with the careful development of a squad made up of younger and older players, selecting not necessarily the best player for each position (although some were) but above all players who could work together.

In fact no one, whose pre-season commentaries I have found, talked about the team.  Everyone talked about individual players.  Which is odd when by and large this is a team game, and a squad game.   Nor did anyone really consider the fact that Arsenal included some players who could be expected to grow, develop, and improve.  Players like Iwobi and Bellerin for example.

Even when the early transfers came in there was dismissal of what was being achieved.  Holding?  £2m.  What a laugh.  Yet the young lad turns out to be sensational.

Overall, there is not only a fixation on transfers but also a lack of realisation that things can change.  Just because x happened before it does not mean x happens again in the real world.  But that is how these “experts” see it.  More of the same, unless interrupted by a big money transfer.

Let me give just one example.  Ospina.  Seen as a minor back up because he only cost £3m.  Useless because in one game last season he made a costly mistake.   Yet Ospina in virtually every other game he played was good, and this season he looks very good indeed.  In fact several papers commenting on last night’s match not only pick out Ozil (of course) but also Ospina, for particular praise.

Plus the fixation on buying a new centre forward – when we already had one who was scoring as often as Henry had done.  And no one saw what might happen to Theo.  It is always “more of the same”.

As long as this unidirectional approach to predicting remains, so the predictions will continue to go horribly wrong.

Anyway, as things stand we are in a run of six straight wins in the league, and seven straight wins in all competitions.   Just for the record, here are the records

  • Record consecutive wins: 14, from 12 September 1987 to 11 November 1987
  • Record consecutive league wins: 14, from 10 February 2002 to 18 August 2002

Recent tales from Untold and the Arsenal History Society

Wenger ponders whether Yaya Sanogo will ever really be good enough for Arsenal. 

CL Arsenal – Ludogorets: 6-0 with an Özil hattrick

Arsenal against Ludo. The teams and the score.

Players used vs league position, and the range of top scorers so far in the league.

How the media twisted Arsenal v Swansea and Liverpool v Man U

The sprint and the marathon. How much Arsenal’s start tells us about where they will finish.

How Arsène Wenger’s faith in Theo Walcott is paying off this season

Granit gets 3, and what would it have been like if we had signed Icardi?

Parliament is going to propose that corruption in football is investigated by…. The FA!!!

Referee Appointments and Results Matchweek #07 complete with video evidence

Arsenal in December 1934: two steps forward, two steps back.

Former Arsenal player John Barnwell talks about his years at Highbury


23 Replies to “Why the predictions of Arsenal’s season have thus far been soooo wrong”

  1. Tbh, the only prediction I made in the summer was that the press and pundits would predict Arsenal finishing 4th or lower. Let them continue to compare Wenger unfavourably to the latest crop of miracle managers, and let them continue to denigrate our players, and laud the latest overrated and overpaid summer acquisitions in other teams. It’ll be all the more sweet when we do rather nicely, thank you.

    What amused me most about reports on last night’s games was how little criticism one heard about Guardiola and Man City. They almost seemed embarrassed to have to report that their darlings hadn’t done especially well. Contrast that with their treatment of Arsenal: yes we had a good game, but Ozil may leave, and it’s too early to say if this team is any good.

  2. Thanks Mr Tony.the thing is the so called pundits doesn’t know the most important things about football.they forgot there is more to a squad than what they think they know.Am just enjoying the moments. COYG!

  3. Amused to see this comment on the Online Gooner (completely off the topic – how Theo is doing). Very sad.

    “jjetplane 19:35pm 19th Oct 2016

    Over on Untold Walter is ready to type as soon as a ball is kicked. Match reporter who never goes. Other posters do not even know Hen and Chickens from The Cock and talking about avocado fries on the Holloway Rd so that site is full of cyber fans with no Arsenal history. Pathetic wankers! – Post No. 99484”

  4. Last night’s Ucl match 6-0 home win by Arsenal over Ludogorets Razgrad was a masterclass performance win by Arsenal not seen by the Gooners for a long time.

    I had predicted a 4-0 victory for Arsenal. But the Gunners had somehow made my prediction a child play as they furthered the win to a 6-0 victory to strengthen their hold as the leaders on Group A table.

    After their opening day EPL match home lose to Liverpool, Arsenal have since gone unbeaten in all competitions and if they will maintain consistency in this their current match winning and unbeaten run in all competitions which they have attained up to the end of December which will bring us to the 1st half of this season, the sky will become the limit for Arsenal in regard to winning titles this season as they will only need to consolidate the gains they got in the 1st half in the 2nd half of the season with an enhanced consistent performance run that can see them claim the quadruple for the 1st time in history by any PL club.

  5. Interesting that Man City defence gifted at least 3 goals to Barcelona. In particular, Stones, the wonder centre-back we should have bought but didn’t, because of our lack of ambition, was one of the guilty ones. Contrast the media treatment of Ospina’s mistake last season, with its silence on Bravo’s major disaster (he is the keeper who replaced Hart, because the infallible Pep Guardiola wanted some-one good with their feet- well he’s certainly showed just how good he is!… Hart must have had a little laugh last night).

  6. “Its only Ludogorets.” Knock knock…Its Champions League. Some of the media darlings couldnt even make it.3 to be precise. Who as per their predictions almost always will push ARSENAL out of the CL qualification spot.

    talking of predictions,

    Are we the only ones who got predictions right? Curious case of Theo?? Have we not predicted Theo to be lethal from the wide position, although we’d seen it long back…

  7. I remember a pundit in Indian channel, he praised ARSENAL for their summer transfers. He was of the opinion that ARESNAL got a better deal for their money than Man Utd got for theirs.

    Dont give a efff about their opinions though. If summer spend was a decider, why play 38 games at all.

    BTW, Is Ozil still nicking a living??

  8. Ozil fast turning into Bergkamp of our generation…….

    Now Balboa has a CL ball for his playtime too.

  9. Agree with you Robert.

    Gary Lineker et al on BT Sport were banging the drum for how well in the game Man City were up to the point Bravo was sent off. Err.. no they were losing 1-0 at Barcelona. Had it been 11 v 11 sensible predictions would all point to Barcelona only continuing to pull further ahead as they did when both teams went down to 10 men. But BT sport continued to try and keep the spirits up for the poor Citeh fans.
    Talksport this morning made a comment about how bad the cricket was going and it was as equally bad as the football last night. Eh? City lost. Lovely. Celtic lost to superior German opposition. Arsenal annihilated their opposition. What wasn’t there to love about all that!

    Why the City love in?

  10. I really like the way one of the guys you mention said that Liverpoo! and the Spuddies have had a season to ‘gel’ but did he say the same last season or did he moan about not buying an outfield player 😀 .
    Isn’t that what AW has been saying for years, that he doesn’t like buying too many new players because the team chemistry is what counts…

    Unfortunately all the pundits and hacks really don’t understand that it’s more important that 11 players actually play as a team , than it is to have 11 high quality players.
    That’s not to say 11 high quality players playing as a team aren’t be even better but it’s the team that makes the difference. And of course the team is no longer 11 players, it’s a squad and all the management/medical etc team.
    We’ve had an excellent example of that last season by the Foxes, whose team included the PGMO!

  11. In his post match press conference Arsene Wenger emphasised a couple of times how we are an attacking team. Wonder if he was thinking of Mourinho and the bore draw with Liverpool?

  12. Ye Old Spurs striker, will have no choice but to ask his pundits to wax lyrical, whilst he looks on quizzically with his face contorted by false scepticism.

    It’s scripted like Fifa, except we refuse ot read our lines, I wanna see Jenks and I want a LB and another transition player with pace, Giroud needs to prov it to me, Theo I expect so much more, it’s just that simple.

    He’s watched Klopp from game 1, he might lack some ingenuity, but he makes up for it.

    Ozil WC 2006, I tweeted him his own video, I expect even more, Alexis, give and they will come, the ad boards can’t score for you.

    CB was a must, and the tag on Xaka, plus that wand left, is everything, now competition, fight for your contract, your start, we are entering new territory in terms of the team and squad.

    Nobody wants to sell, we don’t have to, Santi is our only problem, he’s a high value asset for 2 years, should have been sorted. Not AW, he won’t lie.

    Offered his extension, yay! 3 years please! I want domination, 2 players please! As and when people under perform, we upgrade, we done now!

    We just went Elite class, by the end they will know, we just became Giants in the game, the right way!

  13. Pete,
    and I do go to matches. Usually 4 per season. If I would win the Euromillions I would go more of course. But then you wouldn’t have a quick match report….
    I stay at home for you all 🙂 😉

  14. I’m guilty on the avacado fries business. But I got that from Evening Standard doing a story about that establishment.

  15. All this talk of predictions reminds me of this highly intriguing (and somewhat scary) article: http://waitbutwhy.com/2015/01/artificial-intelligence-revolution-1.html

    In general, people are awful at making predictions. We’re naturally predisposed to think linearly. We’re bad at accurately assessing all the factors; especially with subjective “facts” like player ability and potential. We look for and accept simplistic answers to unknowns.

    I don’t know who will win the league this year, but I’m looking forward to being entertained finding out.

  16. Look – I come from North London and have had a season ticket for many years. But so what – doesn’t make me a “better” supporter than anyone else.

    Just thought that comment was so gratuitously offensive on so many levels. Walter, Leon, Gord and I have every reason to be annoyed by someone who has never posted anything positive ever on that site.

  17. Considering that Alan Partdrige made his debut as a football plundit during the ’94 World Cup he must be very disappointed with the standard of his successors in the world of football plunditry.

    Let’s be honest, Alan Partridge was and is a far better plundit then any of these jokers barring our very own Adrian Clarke.

    Steve Coogan is indeed a genius.

  18. I’d bet that the lot of them pundits , experts and ex-players may not have enough grey matter collectively for ONE normal brain !

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