What are our chances of getting top four this season?

By Tony Attwood

There is a lot being said and written about Unai Emery and the changes he is making to Arsenal in relation to the style of play and his methods of training.  

And of course the result of this so far – as with the way the team doesn’t score in the first half, the instructions to the players in detail rather than an emphasis on them expressing themselves, the suggestion that he is selecting unbalanced teams, and the set rules like building from the back rather than the grand improvisational approach of the Wenger teams at their best.

Some players have found their mark – Ozil has been transformed on occasions, Iwobi likewise has in some games looked a new player, and Bellerin has become the assist king in the team.

But with the recent run of draws we appear to some to have run out of steam, and of course the conventional and rather dull response of the much (although not all) of the media has been to suggest that new players need to be brought in.  But that is always the solution. Got a problem (perceived or real)? Buy six players.

But I wondered if we could learn anything from the way Mr Emery started his work in his two previous jobs, at Sevilla and PSG.

Mr Emery took over Sevilla in 2013/14.  After eight seasons in which they had finished between third and sixth in the League, they had just had two seasons of finishing 9th.  This is a rather curious parallel to Arsenal – after years and years of finishing in the top four we’d just had a 6th and 5th place finish.

Mr Emery stayed at Sevilla for three years and gave the club a return to its previous expected position – at least for the first two of those three seasons with two 5th places.  In his third and final year the club slipped back to 7th. But what the manager is known for, is winning the Europa League in each of those three seasons he was at the club.

Winning trophies was certainly not unknown to Sevilla.  Between 2005/6 and 2009/10 they had won the Uefa, the Europa and the Spanish Cup – the latter being taken twice.  But three Europas in a row was something new and special.

However what has particularly interested me was his first season at Sevilla in 2014/15.  Although the club ended up fifth, the start to that first season was anything but settled.  By 12 matches the club had only won three, losing five and drawing four. Then they recovered with a run of eight unbeaten followed a little later with eight wins in nine.  Att the very end of the season as the Uefa final approached there was, as might be expected, a final blip, although fifth place was captured. Not bad for a team with an average attendance of just 34,000.

The other thing we can note is that in each season once the Europa final was reached the manager played backup and junior players in the intervening league matches, which reduced their position in the league – particularly in his final season at the club.

Mr Emery reached PSG in 2016/17 by which time they had just won Ligue 1 four times in a row and the cup double twice.  In short their total dominance of French football was well and truly underway.

However it did not continue as although Mr Emery did the cup double PSG did not win the league in his first season – coming second to Monaco.   The manager redeemed the situation in the second and final year with the treble. However his Champions League performance was not quite of the standard of his predecessors.  Whereas PSG had reached the quarter finals for four successive seasons, he only reached the round of 16 in his two seasons.

Again if we look at his opening 12 games he had two defeats and two draws in that run.  In fact he also had a mid-season dip with two defeats and two draws in a run of seven games.

So what does that tell us about Mr Emery at Arsenal?

First some experimentation, second a push for fourth, and third an emphasis on the cups looks to be his style.

Now I have suggested in the past (and rather boringly repeated quite often) that our best route back to fourth would be to hold the home form of last season and take the away form back to that of those “fourth is not a trophy” years.

If we compare this season with 2015/16, the last time we came fourth we find this

In 2015/16  we won 12 games at home (63%)  had four draws and three defeats.

This season so far at home we have won four (57%), drawn two and lost one.

In 2015/16 we won 8 games away from home (42%), had seven draws and four defeats.

This season so far away we have won five (60%), drawn one and lost one.

So it is not too bad so far.  We just have to make sure that the recent dip in League form with three draws does not continue.


6 Replies to “What are our chances of getting top four this season?”

  1. Our last result against Wolverhampton Wanderers should be viewed in the prosper perspective. Wolves results against the top 6 clubs have been exceptional and that seems to be their coach’s Nuno Espirito Santos’ style of announcing himself as a big club manager. A 1-1 scoreline against Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal, and an ‘error strewn’ 2-3 loss against Tottenham cannot be a fluke. What he does is that he plays a cup match against these sides which is usually difficult to cope with.

    I see him securing a job with a top 6 epl club in the future. Maybe Tottenham may go for him if things don’t work with Solari at Real Madrid and they come back for Pochettino at the end of the season.

  2. I remain persuaded that too much may be expected of Emery AND the new boys this season.
    To ask that such a traumatic change in the Club will bring immediate success may be perhaps ” a bridge too far”.
    There are though, signs that the prospects are good for next season, after a year of bonding and tactical gel.
    Certainly the early signs are there of a “happy ship”. 😉

  3. Tony

    When it comes to 2015-16, we have to take a look at the final table for understanding the context.

    As well all know, after 38 weeks of very strange refereeing even for PGMO standards, Leicester City won the league with mere 81 points. I say “mere” because the champions in subsequent seasons – Chelsea and Man City – have won 93 and 100 points respectively and judging by the first 12 weeks of Premier League (a little less than a third), it’s very safe to predict that whoever wins the league – and it’s very likely to be Man City again – will win at least 95 points. City have 32 points right now after one third of the season so they are on course to win 96 points until the end of campaign. Also, runners-up in 2016-17 and 2017-18 have won 86 (Tottenham) and 81 (Man United) points which means they’d have been better or equal to Leicester in their triumphant season.

    Since 2015-16, Premier League has been divided in two tiers – Premier League 1 (Top 6) and Premier League 2 (rest of the league). There is a huge gulf between the two tiers that the infamous talk about Premier League as the most competitive league around has been laughed off by some serious journalists already.

    In 2015-16, Arsenal finished second with mere 71 points. We won more in 2013-14 when we finished fourth (79), 2014-15 when we finished third (75) and, to add to my point about two tiers, in 2016-17 when we finished fifth (75). As a comparison, in 1996-97, Manchester United won the league with 75 points while three teams behind them collected 68 each. In 2015-16, 70 points would guarantee a Champions League place – now it’s not enough for anything better than fifth place as Chelsea can confirm. Liverpool finished fourth last season with 75 points which means they almost averaged two points per game.

    So, how can we return to Top Four? Easily: average around two points per game which means winning two out of three games played. 25 victories, 10 defeats (i.e. we could lose all seven remaining games v Top 6 and one more game) and three draws would probably be enough to get Top Four spot unless…

    …this season’s trend don’t raise the bar for Top Four place to 80 points. It’s quite possible though – Man City, Liverpool and Chelsea are yet to lose a game in Premier League while Tottenham have won 9 out of 12 games despite playing 8 games away from their provisional home. That means that Tottenham as the worst of the current Top Four are on course to get 85-86 points. As the recent Guardian article suggests, Bottom Six are virtually incompetent to take a point off Top Six and the other eight clubs are not good enough to get more than an odd victory. In 2015-16, we had Leicester City as the champions and West Ham United as the giant killers with obligatory victories in big matches from Southampton, Swansea et all. Now, none of the aforementioned clubs are good enough to get more than a point v Top Six.

  4. With another draw against a bottom team at home. I read somewhere that it was the first point lost to a team out of top6 at home since Jan 17 I. E 20 months. Arev we making progress under UE? I fear no. Winters are fast approaching and one of our striker is out for the season.
    I don’t think we will finish top4 as in my opinion we have a weaker squad than we had in 2013/14; 2014/15 & 2015/16. when Wenger started rebuilding the team post austerity period. I believe had Cazorla been not injured we would have won the league is 2014/15 (leicester year) Pigmob permitting.

    Let’s have a look.

    Gk. Cech >leno
    CBs. Kos Mert> mustafi/papa/holding
    WBs. Bellerin/Monreal. OK the same but litch and Saed not upto that level.
    Dms. Arteta/Coquelin /flamini=xhaka/Torriera/elneny.
    Maybe Torriera better among the lot.

    AMF. Cazorla/Ramsey/ozil>mikhi/ozil
    I am not taking Ramsey as he is leaving.

    Fwds. Alexis/Giroud/welbeck>laca/Auba
    For me Alexis was miles, ahead of the lot and Giroud had better/ different/qualities than Laca. The French manager knows something ۔Giroud was sold under pressure from the Wobs.

    All in all we had better players one on one in the last years of Wenger and if we had let Wenger continue we would have been a better team

    I don’t want to look pessimist but I think we will not be able to finish top4.
    The Wobs wish for the title is far off iIMHO. We would be lucky to finish top4 but that is not the Wobs wanted top4 is not they wish for…….So even if we finish in top 4 will they celebrate? I guess no. Will they Start the Emery out campaign? They are in for a bumpy ride for sure.

    The old gaffer looks to be enjoying his punditry. 

  5. A couple of draws and people are running for cover. This is one season where our position and points are not really that relevant, especially early on. We have to keep the faith and trust that the team, which is full of quality individuals, will eventually improve. Some players will eventually be bought that fit with the gaffer’s style of play. Up the Guns!

  6. I’m just glad to see that our transfers finally seem to be hitting the nail on the head. There was a time not too long ago when it seemed like most of the players we brought in were just not good enough (at least not on a consistent basis). This potentially lined up with the statistics analysis company which we purchased, although there is no hard evidence that this was the main cause of our relatively below-par player purchases, I have seen a few people make the link, and I do think there is some credibility to these claims.

    Whether we still use this data analysis company, I’m unaware, but there did seem to be quite a large spike in quality of purchases since bringing in Sven Mislintat. I guess it goes to show that no matter how complex and intricate the data is, an expert human eye still trumps that in this particular field.

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