By Tony Attwood
Although you might not know it from the daily blogs and newspaper websites Arsenal are one of the most successful teams in the Premier League. Not in terms of the number of times teams have won it – Manchester United are way out in front of everyone on that score; but by other measures we have done rather well although we are not at the top.
Man U have won it 13 times, Chelsea 5, Arsenal and Manchester City 3 each, Blackburn and Leicester once each. You’ll notice an absence of the wannabes on the list such as Liverpool and Tottenham neither of whom have ever won it.
But I wanted to go further to see how we were doing now against the average of our performances in the league since it was started, just to get an idea of the overall standard against this current season.
Here’s a chart of the six clubs that have the highest average points totals across all the PL seasons – including only those six clubs who have been in the Premier League for each and every season. The best number in each column is put in bold.
So we have overall the second highest number of wins, the second lowest number of defeats, the second highest number of goals scored, the second lowest number of goals against, the second best goal difference, the second highest number of points, but the third best number of titles. However our average points total is second best.
Thus Arsenal have been second best – although we have had our sublime moments of being best of all.
In the current season we have played 22 and won 12 giving an average of 55% while overall in terms of the premier league years the average up to the end of last season of 54%. So fractionally above average this year.
With draws this season we have drawn 23% of our games, overall up to the end of last season, in the PL years we have draws 25% of our games.
In terms of defeat we have lost 23% of our games this season while it is 20% of our games across the PL years – so that is where we are underperforming against our average – we are losing a few games that we might in the past have drawn. (The numbers don’t quite make 100% throughout because of rounding, but I think it is easier in something like this to round everything to whole numbers).
So this season we are doing a little worse than our average across all the PL seasons. Our average points in the league per season has been 72.5 but this season if we carry on as now we are heading for 70.8 points.
Pulling this all together, this Arsenal side, this season, is doing a little bit worse than our average performance, but not by that much. Given the change of management it could be thought to be fairly reasonable and we can still pull ourselves up to our average performance.
But we have a situation in which through mega investment other teams are pulling ahead of us in the League. An average Arsenal performance in the past was enough to give us anything from 2nd to 4th place. But not now. However this trend may not continue.
Last season the gap between 6th and 7th was seven points. In 2017 it was eight points. But in 2016 it was just one point and neither Liverpool and Chelsea were in the top six.
Going back one year before that to 2015 the top six as we know them now were all present in the top six but the gap to seventh was just two points.
Taking just one more year – 2014 – in that season Manchester United dropped out of the top six and the game was five points.
My point here is that we tend to see the situation now as the permanent situation for all time – and while it is true that the top six are fairly strongly established, even in recent years there have been some changes. Also in recent years there have been times when the gap from sixth to seventh has been very modest.
So Arsenal are doing about the average they have been achieving for the whole of the Premier League’s existence, and the PL itself is not performing particularly out of sync with its previous past seasons. The gap of nine points from six to seventh is unusually high – but it doesn’t mean it will be like that for all time.
But last season’s achievements by Manchester City were unusual – just as Arsenal’s unbeaten season was unusual, just as Leicester’s achievement in winning the league was unusual.
Thus although the PL has a regularity about itself, the unusual can and does crop up.
However what is changing is the amount of money several clubs are willing to spend to buy in the best players – and this certainly was seen last season – and I think it is being seen this season too. This is the area where Arsenal are lagging behind, and to overcome it they can either turn out to be the masters of the transfer window, buying in bargains others don’t see, or the masters of the youth development system (and last night’s U23 victory beating Manchester City 5-1 suggests once again this could be the case).
We have to hope that a combination of those two effects is enough to overcome the lack of funding.
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