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July 2021

Winning the Community Shield normally means a top three finish in the League

by Tony Attwood

It is always interesting in the final week before the season starts to see how the journalists who have made such an absolute and total mess of predicting everything from how the last season will pan out to which team is buying which player, deal with the return of the real thing.

Given their abject failure week after week to analyse, review and predict properly, it is perhaps not surprising that we still get simplistic one liners, the return of “Everything you need to know” columns before each match, and “Five things we learned” after each game.

In any other business (except perhaps economic forecasting) failure on this scale would lead to the employee being shown the exit, but turn on the radio or TV or read the papers and it is the same bunch who failed last year, pontificating once more.

Allow me, if I may, to give one example of their failure before a quick look back to what we learned from the Community Shield.  (Did I really say, “what we learned”?  Hell, it’s getting at me too.)

There has been a lot of talk this summer about a form of analysis called “Expected goals”, how it works and what it means.  It is an interesting mathematical model and in some circumstances it might be useful.  And in consider the approach, many writers have referred back to a book called “The Numbers Game” by Chris Anderson and David Sally.   It’s front cover sub heading is “Why everything you know about football is wrong”.

The book deals with statistical analysis of football matches, and throughout it makes one huge assumption.   Now there is nothing wrong with assumptions in statistical analysis, everyone who uses statistics does it, because when analysing one can’t cover everything in the world.  But what we have to do is make our assumptions plain, so that the reader knows what we have assumed.

But The Numbers Game, and all statistical analyses of football thereafter, along with all “analyses” of games in the media make an assumption, which they never ever mention.  They assume that refereeing is competent not random, and that there is no bias in the refereeing.

Now that assumption needs to be questioned because of the work the Untold Referees Team did last season in analysing, with video evidence, the first 160 games played in the Premier League, from a refereeing point of view.  And do remember these were not just Arsenal games: the team looked at referee accuracy across all PL games in that period.  And found it severely wanting.

All of which means that whenever journalists say anything about drawing conclusions we need to ask “what assumptions are you making?”   And we find lots of assumptions, but still they go on and on doing the same old same old, making endless mistakes, and assuming on top of everything else that we’ll never notice what a pig’s ear they are making of their job.

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Here’s the five things we “learned” from the charity shield game, according to the Independent.

1: Both managers have work to do before next weekend

Well, yes.  You wouldn’t exactly imagine they were going to sit around doing nothing.

2: Lacazette’s class invigorates Welbeck

Ah, the notion that the team is, well, a team, and that they influence each other, and are selected to play to each other’s strengths.  That of course is missing from all the transfer gibberish, wherein the players are considered totally as individuals.

3: Wenger still seems unsure of his best formation

Now this one is silly.  Moving from a back three plus two, over to a back four after Mertesacker’s injury was an accommodation of the players that we had on the pitch and on the bench.  It was done instantly and certainly, and had clearly been practised.  If there had been no injury there would have been no change.   Besides Mr Wenger said weeks before that he would continue to practise playing a back four because it could be helpful.   A better line would have been, “Journalists still seem uncertain how to write “five things” headlines in relation to reality.”

4: Pedro’s rash challenge proves costly

Well, yes.  Getting sent off can do that.

5: Conte’s power play backfires – or did it?

Now this one is cheating.  If we learned five things we learned five things.  You can’t then introduce question marks.

But let’s try one of our own.   What did we learned from winning at Wembley six times out of six?  Here is a list of the Community Shield games this century, showing where the winners ended up the following season.

 Year  Winners  Score  Losers  Venue Next season
2000 Chelsea 2–0 Manchester United Wembley Stadium (old) 6th
2001 Liverpool 2–1 Manchester United Millennium Stadium 2nd
2002 Arsenal 1–0 Liverpool Millennium Stadium 2nd
2003 Manchester United 1–1 Arsenal Millennium Stadium 3rd
2004 Arsenal 3–1 Manchester United Millennium Stadium 2nd
2005 Chelsea 2–1 Arsenal Millennium Stadium 1st
2006 Liverpool 2–1 Chelsea Millennium Stadium 3rd
2007 Manchester United 1–1 Chelsea Wembley Stadium (new) 1st
2008 Manchester United 0–0 Portsmouth Wembley Stadium (new) 1st
2009 Chelsea 2–2 Manchester United Wembley Stadium (new) 1st
2010 Manchester United 3–1 Chelsea Wembley Stadium (new) 1st
2011 Manchester United 3–2 Manchester City Wembley Stadium (new) 2nd
2012 Manchester City 3–2 Chelsea Villa Park 2nd
2013 Manchester United 2–0 Wigan Athletic Wembley Stadium (new) 7th
2014 Arsenal 3–0 Manchester City Wembley Stadium (new) 3rd
2015 Arsenal 1–0 Chelsea Wembley Stadium (new) 2nd
2016 Manchester United 2–1 Leicester City Wembley Stadium (new) 6th
2017 Arsenal 1–1 Chelsea Wembley Stadium (new)

So out of the 18 playings of the game in the 21st century, we see that the winner ended up in these positions in the league the 17 following seasons (obviously the 2017/18 result is not yet known – not even by the writers of Untold, who know everything.)

  • 1st: five times
  • 2nd: six times
  • 3rd: three times
  • 4th: zero times
  • 5th: zero times
  • 6th: twice
  • 7th: once

The most likely follow up for Community Shield winners is to come second.  The second most likely is to win the league.   Winning the CS and ending up outside the top three has only happened three times in 17 years.  A decent omen, and a real bit of statistics.  It doesn’t guarantee a result, but it suggests what is likely.

Would you like to know why Chelsea supporters are not the most ideal of companions?  We explored this on Untold Arsenal’s Facebook page yesterday:   “UntoldArsenalToday”    That article was considered the best, and funniest we’ve ever produced.  Do take a look, and follow us on Facebook.


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14 comments to Winning the Community Shield normally means a top three finish in the League

  • Richard

    Great piece Tony. I enjoyed match and Chelsea looked lethargic and not particularly great. We had a decent overall performance. Think lacazette is going to take time to settle at moment having one shot per game may not be enough but he is integrating well into team. Kolasanic well he looks like he has already settled and will be massive for us. As for the league I fully expected us before the community shield to be in top four this hasn’t changed. We probably could do with another midfielder just to cover possible injuries suspensions. But compared to other squads we have a decent chance to challenge in all four competitions.
    There are big questions about are rivals
    Can peps we will score more than you work in this league I’m not convinced it can.
    How will Liverpool and Chelsea cope with champions league and premier league games. Will chelseas lack of big name striker hurt them.
    Now for tottenham the big thing for me here is what will lack of signings donon this squad can it cope with injuries in key positions.
    For us is can we keep consistency and concentration throughought the season.

  • nicky

    Reading the statistic on how Community winners fared in the following season, is NOT something that should be digested with bacon and eggs at the breakfast table!
    Currently, we are being regaled with punditry from Shearer&Co (those masters of the crystal ball) forecasting on how they think Arsenal will finish in the EPL next May. I’m relieved to note that in their opinion and with a great deal of luck, we MIGHT qualify again for the Europa.
    Of course, none of them have read your stat yet. 😉

  • Pat

    ‘Pedro’s rash challenge proves costly.’
    Well, yes, getting sent off can do that.

    Nice one, Tony. Even the pundits and Clattenburg agreed that it was a challenge that could injure the opponent and deserved a red. The fact that we also scored off the free kick was a great added extra.

  • anon

    The thing about analytics articles is that most analysts don’t watch most games. They receive event data from opta and draw conclusions based on team performance in key areas.

    For instance last season it was clear to see early on, that Arsenal’s shot numbers were down and our shot locations were poorer. We were the best in this regard in 15-16 so this was something interesting that demanded analysis.

    When analyzing the process, one analyst, I can’t remember who, showed that Arsenal was number one in the league for passes in the half spaces (usually the most advantageous attacking area to pass from) plus we were close to the top for fullback overlaps. So all was usual as these are key elements of Wenger’s system.

    But our expected goals numbers had dropped significantly so there was clearly an issue. And a key change was that Giroud was no longer our main striker and had been replaced by Alexis. Those two are very different so it was hypothesized that that could have had an impact. Analysis by various analysts showed that Alexis barely spent any time in the danger area like target man Giroud. He loved carrying the ball into the area meaning Ozil had nobody to aim at in the danger zone. Özil’s main target became Walcott in a wider area and so Arsenal weren’t functioning as well as they could have been.

    Analysts generally ignore refereeing for a bunch of reasons. One is even if a ref manages to gift opponents big chances, the numbers say it usually takes 3 or 4 of those to score. Another is, and this is a bigger reason; analysts usually like to ignore small samples, because these can be very misleading. So single games would usually not warrant analysis. (If you are interested in single game analysis though @11tegen11 on Twitter makes good visualizations after each game week). In short, analysts like to use data to uncover trends because that tells you more about a team or player than a single game.

    Of course if a team consistently gets awarded penalties for or against like we sometimes see, that could be a refereeing trend. But, like the analysis of Bournemouth on statsbomb recently showed, managers can set their teams up to consistently try and win penalties.

    Analysis can show you whether teams who score a lot are lucky or just highly functioning goal scoring machines, whether teams who concede a lot are just unlucky or just plain bad, whether teams who are awarded lots of penalties are favored or just set up to get them, and loads more.
    But only with a big enough data sample.

  • Dom

    Interesting article Tony, but as you know presentation of stats is the decisive factor in upholding any ‘fact’. However I’m not sure I’ll totally depend on the historical data for my expectations of this season 😉
    I am however really pleased that our team’s performance has got up the nose of that idiot Piers Morgan and interestingly enough our ex Gunners Charly N and Paul M.Can’t see why the latter two are so neg.

  • anon

    Also, we should remember that analytics in the public sphere is usually much more basic than what’s done inside clubs, and is free, done by independents, outside their usual jobs.

    A good recent article that shows work beyond expected goals is this on the transfer of Kelechi Iheanacho.

  • Nitram

    Paul Merson would find fault in the fact we only fielded 11 players, so hearing that he is moaning, yet again, is hardly a surprise. I just wish head f…off down the bookies with a bag of powder and do us all a favour. Plus as we all know, he is a Chelsea fan, so hardly surprising he’s crying in his cornflakes this morning is it.

    As for Charlie Nick. That is disappointing. He seems to me to of been one of the more balanced commentators of Arsenal, or at least he was when I last listened to soccer Saturday or SSN, but that was a long time ago.

    Yet another ex gunner gone to the dark side.

    Maybe he could toddle of with Merson and do us an even bigger favour.

  • alexanderhenry

    Good performance yesterday. I think we might have a proper goal poacher in lacazette.

    Surprisingly, it looks like Alexis is staying. I don’t think anyone expected this but if it’s true, the squad is looking pretty good.

  • Chris

    Funny how everyone on the web is AGAINST the ABBA system now that Arsenal have won with it….

    I can’t remember a tennis player saying it was unfair, and complaining he’s lost a Grand Slam because of it….

    And, well, they were ahead when Walcott had to shoot his, and we were ahead when Courtois lined up for his.
    So it seems we have better nerves, manage pressure better and have players who do have a killer instinct…

    Just that this does not fit the Kommetariat propaganda about Arsenal unable to handle pressure and players crumbling nervously when asked to perform.

  • Andy Mack

    Richard, the big question for The Tiny Totts is will they ever feel like they are at home at Wembley. I’m sure they’ll have good games there but IMO it won’t be ‘Home’ and IF they get into a bad run then that insecurity could cause them problems.
    Whereas Pep’s issue is how quickly he can integrate the new faces into the team.
    I expect a couple of their 2nd season players to show real class but I still can’t see them being a strong enough team, especially with the injuries his style of play attracts. But I could be wrong…

    Dom, Merson seems to hate AW which is probably because AW didn’t want to keep him at AFC. Although his addictions were probably a strong reason, he also noticed that Merson only played well if certain other players were in the starting 11, which wasn’t always possible.

  • Samuel Akinsola Adebosin

    I think by their winning the Charity Shield yesterday, Arsenal have qualified for the 2017/18 Europa League competition. Or have they not? But that qualification in that year is not the kind of European football qualification we are after but a Ucl one. So, if our winning the CS suggests we might finish 2nd in the League next season, but 1st is preferable, then of course we’ll be in the Ucl campaign again in next upper season. But even then, Arsenal should try to win the Europa League Cup next season to double qualify for the Ucl.

  • Flares

    I tend to take anything Paul Merson says with a pinch of coke…er, I mean salt, but his assertion that we’ll finish 6th this coming season really is a stretch of the imagination. Arsenal have kept all the first team squad together and added (so far) a couple of quality additions up front and at back. We’ve got enough strength in depth to rest the A guys for Europa League games and one would imagine a certain level of hunger in the team to get back into the CL via a high placed finish. Alexis has painted himself into a corner. He’s hung his entire schtick on playing in the Champions League, so if he stays all season and we qualify, where does that leave him? If none of his preferred destinations win the damned thing then leaving makes him look like a complete fool. We’ll see. I’m confident Arsenal will comfortably get back into the top four, at the expense of either Liverpool or Man United.

  • Gord


    I think perhaps a pinch of strychnine might work? Actually, I looked up a list of common poisonous “chemicals”, and was slightly surprised to see hydrogen peroxide listed.

    Batrachotoxin was listed as the must poisonous non-peptide poison. One list suggest botulinum toxin as the most potent peptide poison. But, it is used to remove skin wrinkles in the cosmetic industry.

    Maybe that is why these pudnits (deliberately mis-spelled) have such wry smiles?

  • nicky

    Just read the headline on a down-market site…..
    “Why Arsenal won’t the title” by Alan Shearer.
    What does he mean?
    “lose a game in winning”?
    “fail to win”?
    And then in the text Mystic Alan says it’s because we haven’t signed enough new players in the Summer Window.
    This, while there are 24 days still to run….
    I wouldn’t pay him or the others in washers. 😉