Arsenal are quite clearly a top four club, but there’s just one problem

By Tony Attwood

There have, for many years, been certain clubs that are apart from the rest, because of their crowds and their historic results. The exact list of such clubs has changed over time, but it has, since the end of the first world war, included Manchester United and Arsenal, because of the consistently large crowds the clubs get and their success across both cup and league competitions.   Liverpool might make claim for such a position, but their runs in the second division suggest there was a variance in their form that others did not see, or saw far less.

True, within just a few years of the achieving the double in 1971, Arsenal had slipped into a series of poor displays, missing relegation twice by just a few points and not challenging for any trophy at all.  But most of the time Arsenal’s crowds have been above 30,000 on average and they have been recognised as a major club.  And famously they have avoided relegation.

But now the demand of course is for a top four finish, simply because this is what Mr Wenger delivered year after year after year, slipping only at the end.   However should we consider Arsenal a natural top four team?  Or are we just top six?

In one way we are most certainly a top four team, as can be seen from home results this season.

P Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Manchester City 14 13 0 1 49 11 38 39
2 Liverpool 13 11 2 0 35 7 28 35
3 Arsenal 13 10 2 1 28 11 17 32
4 Chelsea 13 8 4 1 26 9 17 28
5 Tottenham Hotspur 13 9 0 4 24 12 12 27
6 Manchester United 12 7 4 1 25 16 9 25

At Arsenal Stadium, this season, as last season, we are a very solid club when it comes to our games at home.

The problem however is our away form as I have often mentioned.   And I return to this again because the fact that we are poor away from home really does need an explanation.   Why is this happening?  Is it psychology or is it something else?   And whatever it is, why can it not be solved?

We get a clue as to what is going on by looking at the league just from the point of view of goals scored – both in terms of home and away goals.

P Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Manchester City 27 21 2 4 74 20 54 65
2 Liverpool 26 20 5 1 59 15 44 65
3 Tottenham Hotspur 26 20 0 6 54 25 29 60
5 Arsenal 26 15 5 6 53 37 16 50
4 Manchester United 26 15 6 5 52 35 17 51
6 Chelsea 26 15 5 6 45 29 16 50

We are in fourth place in terms of goals scored.  Manchester City are way out in front, and then come four clubs within a goal or two of each other.  In this regard we are a top four or at least top five side.  It is Chelsea who are woeful, having scored just 45 goals.

There is then the obvious other measure – goals against…

P Team P W D L F A GD Pts
2 Liverpool 26 20 5 1 59 15 44 65
1 Manchester City 27 21 2 4 74 20 54 65
3 Tottenham Hotspur 26 20 0 6 54 25 29 60
6 Chelsea 26 15 5 6 45 29 16 50
7 Wolverhampton Wanderers 25 11 5 9 33 32 1 38
17 Newcastle United 25 6 6 13 21 33 -12 24
8 Watford 26 10 7 9 34 34 0 37
12 Leicester City 26 9 5 12 31 34 -3 32
13 Crystal Palace 26 7 6 13 27 34 -7 27
4 Manchester United 26 15 6 5 52 35 17 51
5 Arsenal 26 15 5 6 53 37 16 50

In terms of conceding goals we are worse than Newcastle, Watford, Palace etc.  OK Manchester United are nearly as bad as us, but we are really poor in defence if considered as a top four team.

OK, you might say, you knew that.  That is why everyone said we needed to buy new defenders.  And we all know that most of our injuries have been in defence.

But here is the big anomoly.

If we just look at goals against at home, we are very much a top four club.

P Team P W D L F G GD Pts
2 Liverpool 13 11 2 0 35 7 28 35
4 Chelsea 13 8 4 1 26 9 17 28
1 Manchester City 14 13 0 1 49 11 38 39
3 Arsenal 13 10 2 1 28 11 17 32
5 Tottenham Hotspur 13 9 0 4 24 12 12 27
17 Crystal Palace 13 3 4 6 9 12 -3 13

In terms of defence at home we are equal with Manchester City having conceded 11 goals.

So again, what is going wrong.? Why do we have a defence that can work at home, but not away?   I do think psychology is part of this, but there must be something else – and that must be tactics too.  We are not getting our tactics right away from home.

Now I am not by any means an expert on tactics in terms of taking into account home and away performances, but I really can’t see any other reason for this huge disparity.  Our defence can work at the level of a top four club.   But they don’t when we are away and that is dragging us down.

If my view is right then simply changing the defence is not going to solve the problem – or at least is not guaranteed to solve the problem.   There is something else that needs doing.



7 Replies to “Arsenal are quite clearly a top four club, but there’s just one problem”

  1. I recollect that at least 4 goals conceded at away grounds were from dubious penalties and at least 2 as a result of free-kicks for imaginary fouls.

  2. Why the manager is keeping Ozil out of his team Ozil remains one of most expensive and experience Player the manager should told to Play Ozil regularly it look like the manager hate the Guy a Player who Is on £350,000. Per every week and not been used for reasons best known to the so call manager if cares not talking we might find ourselves playing in Europa next season.

  3. Tony

    It is indeed very strange what has happened over the last 2 season regarding our away form, especially the goals against, so I thought I’d take a closer look.

    I say last 2 seasons, meaning season 2017/18 and so far this season, because despite suggestions to the contrary, our away form, including defensively, has been pretty consistent over the entire duration of the Premier League, and has been nothing like the disaster some would have you believe.

    These are our away statistics from season 96/97 to 16/17.

    I wanted to divide my statistics in to 2 distinct sets, pre and post Abramovich, which I have done, but as you will see there were 2 really anomalous seasons right in the middle which are so far out of sink I have left them out of my final analysis, which I hope you’ll understand when you see them.

    All the statistics are the average per season over the period.

    9 seasons 96/97 to 04/05, what could be called the glory years:

    Position: 1.77

    Wins: 9.30

    Draws: 5.80


    GF: 30.60

    GA: 18.80

    2 anomalous seasons 05/06 and 06/07 left out of final analysis.

    Pos: 4.00

    Wins: 6.50

    Draws: 4.00


    GF: 20.00

    GA: 18.70

    10 seasons 07/08 to 16/17 which are mainly the austerity years, but do include the few recent seasons when the purse strings were slightly loosened.

    Pos: 3.50

    Wins: 9.40

    Draws: 4.60


    GF: 33.60

    GA: 24.00

    So lets compare those 1st 9 ‘glory’ years with the 10, lets call them ‘Austerity years’.

    Firstly and most obviously we fell from an average finishing position of 1.77 to 3.5, but how much did that have to do with our away form and especially our defence?

    Well I believe it is not as much as people might of thought.

    We actually increased our ‘goals for’ from an average of 30.6 per season in the glory years to 33.6 in the austerity years.

    But what about that much maligned defensive away form?

    Well it did certainly get worse from the glory years to the austerity years, rising from an average concession of 18.4 goals per season to 24 per season.

    So that’s a net worsening in away Goal Difference of a mere 2.6 per season.

    So how did this slight downturn in GD affect our results. Lets see:


    Oddly enough we actually slightly improved our win average from 9.3 to 9.4.


    This is were we do see a slight dip in points but in all honestly it’s negligible.

    Draws drop from 5.8 to 4.6 and defeats raise from 3.7 to 5.

    So overall the difference in average points won per season away from home between the glory and austerity years is 1 to 2 points per season.

    So WHY did we drop from an average finishing position of 1.77 to 3.5?

    Well it doesn’t seem to be that much maligned defensive away form.

    And although I haven’t looked closely at our home form I would guess it wont be that either.

    So what is it?

    Well I believe rather than Arsenal having a dramatic downturn in quality, even away from home, our fall from title contenders to top 4 contenders is more to do with others improving rather than us regressing, at least dramatically, and given the amount of money that has been pumped into our direct opponents that is of no surprise to me at all.

    But now for the big question.

    What has gone wrong with our away form, especially defensively, over these last 2 years?

    Last year with 31 goals against we conceded our 2nd worst amount away from home in our entire PL history.

    BUT with a meagre 20 goals scored we also registered our 2nd least amount away from home in our entire premier league history.

    And what about this season?

    Well that much maligned defence has already let in 26 goals which suggests we could be in for our worst ever (32) Premier League performance.

    The saving grace is our ‘goals for’ which at 25 is heading for at least the average, hence the slight improvement in overall away form compared to last year.

    So in conclusion, as I said at the start, apart from these last 2 years our away form, including defensively, is actually pretty consistent over the entire lifetime of the Premier League, and nothing like the catastrophe it is often made out to be.

    But what has gone wrong these last 2 years?

    I have my own thoughts, especially on lasts years figures, but really it is so bad it is baffling.

    Lets hope Emery gets it sorted sooner rather than later.

  4. Joe, Ozil is on a contract and can only be sold if he agrees a new contract with another team. If he doesn’t he can stay until the end of his contract.

  5. With Ransey going my heart sinks again.
    For me he, was the Golden boy of the, club .Always played with his heart and gave the best of his abilities.

    His 400k wages at Juve is a big slap on the face of Wobs and the malcontents and the Le, groaners and the Arseblogger who never rated him.

    It’s a pity the new management at Arsenal have failed to keep him. Had Wenger been here Ramaey would have signed with us surely.

  6. Great post Nitram

    We were always well placed and played great football under Wenger bar last year.
    However we are very poor under Emery with regards to the style of football and I am missing that Wengerball big time

  7. Indeed, the two great team goals I recall this year, both heavily influenced by Ramsey and or Ozil

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