By Tony Attwood
Summer is always the time for a bit of a meander around the subjects we’ve plodded through during the past season, looking for bits we’ve missed and issues that maybe we could take a bit further.
And of course it is also a time for taking a deeper look into what other people have said on topics we have covered.
Usually that simply means reading different opinions – we are after all “Untold” Arsenal so there is not much point us covering topics that other people write about, but I was intrigued to see an article in the Guardian which appeared getting on for two weeks ago (16 May to be exact) which ran the headline “Crystal Palace: the Premier League team who are better away from home.”
That interested me because for some 18 months we’ve been paying special attention to home and away form, both as predictors of results and for the issue the difference between the two raises for Arsenal.
And we took a particular look at Palace in the article A lesson in how a club should not treat its core fans and therein noted the home and away difference of the club.
In a subsequent article on Arsenal v Palace we wrote, “Incidentally Crystal Palace’s home form is awful – only Huddersfield have a worse home record. And this is not a one off caused by the supporter rebellion we talked about earlier in the season – it is the sixth season running where Palace have been better away from home than at home.
That was on 21 April this year, so it was with interest that I turned to the Guardian’s article on 16 May which ran the big bold headline “Crystal Palace: the Premier League team who are better away from home”
Of course the issue is not a secret, but the article did seem to make rather a lot of the issue – not least because it was not in any way tied to a match – it was just a piece out of the blue. It read…
“Crystal Palace were the only team in the league who won most of their points from away games – and this is not a new trend…”
“They have finished higher in the away form table than in the home form table for the last five seasons”
A certain similarity one might say – and of course it is just a coincidence that they have picked up on this story noting this oddity about Palace – even if they did it without the context of a particular game (as you may have noticed, the league season is over).
The Guardian article however had nothing in it about the issue raised in our “Core fans” article. Here we noted the dispute between the Holmesdale Fanatics, the hard core noisy group, and the club.
The noisy gang asked Palace if they could move from their position at one corner to behind the goal, to create more impact on the game. The club made positive noises about the scheme, then turned it down, on the grounds the move was unworkable. The “fanatics” claimed the club reneged twice. The manager Roy Hodson made matters far far far worse by saying, “If there’s a small band of people who for some reason are in some sort of dispute with the club, I hope that will get sorted out in the best possible way. But it won’t affect me, it won’t affect the team and it certainly won’t affect the atmosphere because, as I say, we’ve got 24 and a half thousand people who make the atmosphere and not just a particular group…”
Eventually some sort of arrangement was made and I understand the fans returned, although I didn’t go to Palace away this past season so I can’t say for sure. We shall see.
But it is interesting that very slowly and very occasionally writers are picking up on the notion that we have been running, that studying home and away form can give an interesting insight.
And specifically, if one is going to criticise certain players for being not good enough, it is worth looking at the separate issue. For two seasons there has been a much bigger disparity between Arsenal at home and Arsenal away than we would expect. We were the third best team in the league last season if one only counts home games, but if we build a league table based on away games we were eighth, below such luminaries as Leicester City and Crystal Palace.
If two of those eight away defeats had been draws, we would be in the Champions League for sure.
As for the Guardian, we have plenty of other articles here if they’d like to follow up one or two of them. And if they could actually add some new research, or perhaps update the research we did, that would be even better.