By Tony Attwood
Last season the media and some fans made a lot of noise about getting rid of Mr Wenger as manager. Within the noise there were claims that Arsenal were clearly not keeping up with the rest of the league, and demands that at the very least Arsenal should be challenging to win the league, if not actually winning the league at the end of each season.
So I thought at this half way stage in the season it might be interesting to compare the table with the same position (ie after half the games have been played) for a few previous seasons.
The tables presented show in the first column the position in the league after 19 games played. The date of reaching 19 games for everyone varies year by year, largely depending on what international fixtures are inserted into the early part of the summer. So as can be seen Arsenal has been between top and 6th on the 19 game mark (not necessarily at the end of December). This year of course we are 5th.
Then comes the regular league table. The “Diff” column shows how many points we were behind the leaders at the moment of 19 games being played by all clubs. Thus in 2015/16 we were top of the league at the half way point, and so were obviously zero points behind the leaders – we were the leaders. The worst season was last season.
The final column shows where we were at the end of the season. The asterisk* shows the two seasons in which we won the FA Cup.
Of the four complete seasons in the chart above we have improved our position once, gone down the league twice and stayed the same once, when comparing the 19 game league table with the tablea t the end of the season.
Considering the number of points that we have had at this time in other seasons this is a middling season – twice in the past four years we have been better off, and twice worse off – but the differences are slight.
There is much talk about our defence needing improvement and yes with 25 goals conceded after 19 games this is the worst defence in the table. We have let in seven more goals than in 2015/16 at this point. In our best ever 38 game season, in terms of defence, we let in just 17 goals all season. That was in 1998/9. Mind you that didn’t mean we won the league that year – we came second.
Being 13 points off the leaders at this stage is the same as 2014/15 when we ended up 3rd – the one season in the chart in which we improved our league position between 19 games and the end of the season.
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However overall, if we ask the question, is there a significant change this season from previous recent seasons the answer is no. We are 13 points behind the leaders, which is in the range that we have been in for each of these seasons except for 2015/16 when we were top at this point.
We have won 11 games this season which is a midpoint in terms of recent seasons. In terms of defeats, three defeats is what we were at in 2016/17. Two seasons saw one more defeat by now, one season we had two more defeats by now.
Goal scoring is at the high end – a return to 2016/17 when we had 41 goals as now, but this is the worst defence out of the five years, by this point having conceded 25 goals – seven more than the season when we were top of the league after 19 games.
But being 13 points behind the leaders at this point could still mean that we will make up at least one, maybe two places.
In many regards therefore this is a season rather akin to those which have gone before – a factor which seems reasonable in that it can hardly be expected that a manager would be able to transform the club from a 5th placed team to a top of the table team in half a summer and half a season.
And we should not get carried away with what other clubs are doing near the top of the table – this season with the top club being on 51 points after 19 games, is not exceptional.
What the table does show is that there is still every chance for Arsenal to make it into a Champions League spot – the final positions in the league are not settled by half way through the season.
And yes we do have the worst defence of recent seasons – but only by a couple of goals, and this could be put down to a bad injury run. That is not to say that the club might not be improved by buying a new defender – that could happen – but the figures suggest that the change will only be in terms of a slight decline in the number of goals against.
Here’s the top of the league table with silly names
Today’s anniversaries: The FA decide, no matter what happens, the players are responsible, not the club.