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Was the difference between Arsenal’s home and away form really that unusual?

By Tony Attwood

Arsenal were a different kettle of fish at home and away from home last season.  In fact you may have seen me mention it before.   At home Arsenal were the third best team in the league in term of points with a goal scoring difference of +26.  Away from home Arsenal were the ninth best team in the league with a goal scoring difference of -4.

I have long argued that because Arsenal were so successful at home there is not that much wrong with their defence, and that calls from the like of the increasingly odd (and possibly satirical) Charlie Nicholas and co, for a total sell off of the defence were rather odd.  Rather I thought the fact that we lost two prime defenders (Bellerin and Holding) and still managed to do quite well at home suggested it was a lack of back ups and a tactical problem that led to our coming 5th.

So to look at this again I decided to compare the home and away form of each team in the league.

In what comes below column four measures the difference between the club’s position in the home table from the position in the final league table.  Column six measures the difference between the club’s position in the away table from the position in the final league table.

And then in the final column I look at how many places different the home and away positions are.

What I wanted to know was whether it was just Arsenal that were so different between home and away, or were other clubs like this.

If we look at the two “Difference from” tables we can see that clubs can be up to six places different in either their home form or away form from the final league table.  Arsenal were not the most extreme as both Crystal Palace and Bournemouth were six places different away from home, from their final league position.

Lge Pos Team Home pos Difference from Lge Away pos Difference from Lge Difference between home & away
1 Manchester City 1 0 1 0 0
2 Liverpool 2 0 2 0 0
3 Chelsea 4 -1 5 -2 1
4 Tottenham Hotspur 5 -1 3 +1 2
5 Arsenal 3 +2 8 -5 5
6 Manchester United 6 0 4 +2 2
7 Wolverhampton Wanderers 8 -1 10 -2 2
8 Everton 7 +1 12 -4 5
9 Leicester City 11 -2 7 +4 5
10 West Ham United 9 +1 11 -2 2
11 Watford 12 -1 9 +2 3
12 Crystal Palace 18 -6 6 +6 12
13 Newcastle United 13 0 13 0 0
14 AFC Bournemouth 10 +4 16 -6 6
15 Burnley 15 0 14 +1 1
16 Southampton 14 +2 15 +1 1
17 Brighton and Hove Albion 16 +1 18 -1 2
18 Cardiff City 19 -1 17 +2 3
19 Fulham 17 +2 20 -3 3
20 Huddersfield Town 20 0 19 +1 1

Only two clubs had a bigger difference between their home position and their away position than Arsenal: Bournemouth and Palace.

So we can say that among the top six clubs Arsenal were unusual – we had a disparity between home and away performance way bigger than any other club in the top six.

Thus we can also say that the norm for top six clubs is to have a balance between home and away performance in terms of league position.  If we look just at the top six we can see this

Lge Pos Team Home pos Difference from Lge Away pos Difference from Lge Difference between home & away
1 Manchester City 1 0 1 0 0
2 Liverpool 2 0 2 0 0
3 Chelsea 4 -1 5 -2 1
4 Tottenham Hotspur 5 -1 3 +1 2
5 Arsenal 3 +2 8 -5 5
6 Manchester United 6 0 4 +2 2

A difference in position between the home and away position for the rest of the top six is between zero and two places.  Our five place difference is way out of line.   And the fact that none of the other top six clubs are seeing this sort of difference suggests that it must be fixable through tactics.

If we look at goals scored away from home, we were sixth – hardly out of line with our fifth position in the league.

Pos Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Manchester City 19 14 2 3 38 11 27 44
2 Liverpool 19 13 5 1 34 12 22 44
3 Tottenham Hotspur 19 11 0 8 33 23 10 33
4 Manchester United 19 9 3 7 32 29 3 30
5 Crystal Palace 19 9 2 8 32 30 2 29
6 Arsenal 19 7 4 8 31 35 -4 25

But if we look at our goals conceded away from home there is a quite different story…

Pos Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Manchester City 19 14 2 3 38 11 27 44
2 Liverpool 19 13 5 1 34 12 22 44
3 Tottenham Hotspur 19 11 0 8 33 23 10 33
4 Newcastle United 19 4 8 7 18 23 -5 20
5 Wolverhampton Wanderers 19 6 5 8 19 25 -6 23
6 Everton 19 5 5 9 24 25 -1 20
7 Chelsea 19 9 3 7 24 27 -3 30
8 Leicester City 19 7 4 8 27 28 -1 25
9 West Ham United 19 6 3 10 20 28 -8 21
10 Manchester United 19 9 3 7 32 29 3 30
11 Crystal Palace 19 9 2 8 32 30 2 29
12 Watford 19 6 5 8 26 31 -5 23
13 Cardiff City 19 4 2 13 13 31 -18 14
14 Brighton and Hove Albion 19 3 4 12 16 32 -16 13
15 Arsenal 19 7 4 8 31 35 -4 25

A league table based on goals conceded away from home has us 15th in the league!  We are behind Cardiff who were relegated.

So when it comes to looking for changes to be made and players to buy, we need to consider the defence away from home.  And here we were undoubtedly hampered by the loss of Holding, Bellerin and Mavropanos, and long term injuries to Koscielny and Monreal.

The problem of course is that Holding and Bellerin will still be out next season at the start.  But they are both proven players – so we don’t really want to spend limited cash on players to replace them.

But what we should be doing, in my opinion (and of course I am not a club manager, just a guy who plays with statistics a little bit) is seeing is we can do anything to improve on the temporary cover for Bellerin and Holding, until they come back.

And I’d be looking at the tactics.  If only we could have got a few draws where we got defeats, we’d be in the Champions League, even though fourth is not a trophy.   So if we do want to climb one or two places up the league all we need to do is improve our away form a bit, by conceding fewer goals.

If we look at some of our defeats in the latter part of the season we can see what a slightly better away defence formation could have done:

16 Dec 2018 Southampton v Arsenal L 3-2 Premier League
12 Jan 2019 West Ham United v Arsenal L 1-0 Premier League
02 Mar 2019 Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal D 1-1 Premier League
07 Apr 2019 Everton v Arsenal L 1-0 Premier League
21 Apr 2019 Arsenal v Crystal Palace L 2-3 Premier League

In each of these games all that was needed was to concede one goal fewer.  Had we done that in all five games we would have had six more points.  But in fact we only needed two more points to come third.  So not conceding that goal away to Tottenham, or not conceding one goal in two other games, and we would have been there – in the fourth is not a trophy position.

I truly think the issue is defensive cover for Bellerin and Holding.  If we’d had better cover we’d have got those points and we’d be talking about progress.

Please note there was no satire in this article.  Just in case you thought there was.

14 comments to Was the difference between Arsenal’s home and away form really that unusual?

  • Wasn’t it Holding and Bellerin, Chambers was loaned to fulham

  • Rajesh

    Technical Note
    Table for Arsenal Away should read -3, not -5, over all diference is 5.
    If the points were also put in the table and their diffrence shown
    it would help assess better especially difference from the top team in home and away.

  • Ian

    Good article, but it would read better if you replaced “Chambers” with “Holding”.

  • Thanks I have changed it. The only excuse is that I wrote the piece lying on my side with an icepack rammed against my calf after getting a stupid injury. It seems it was my brain that was injured too.

  • nicky

    Tpny,
    Well, if you will go jitterbugging at your age….….

  • Nitram

    Tony

    –I posted something akin to this back in May drawing similar conclusions:

    You say:

    “So we can say that among the top six clubs Arsenal were unusual – we had a disparity between home and away performance way bigger than any other club in the top six.”

    I said:

    “….but these figures do show a consistency between our away form in Europe and at home which suggests to me our problems lie more in how we deal with quality opposition when on the road…..”

    So a similar conclusion, but as you will see I went slightly further to show that the issue was more specific in that the problem was our performances AGAINST the top teams themselves.

    Against both the bottom half of the table, and Europa league opposition, our away performances were almost identical, and more or less in line with other top half teams.

    As you will see bellow, I showed quite clearly our away issue was specifically against ‘Quality’ opposition.

    You say:

    “And the fact that none of the other top six clubs are seeing this sort of difference suggests that it must be fixable through tactics.”

    I said:

    “….which suggests to me our problems lie more in how we deal with quality opposition when on the road, and this could well point directly at our defence, (look at the goals) or perhaps more accurately, how we DEFEND, as a team.”

    IE Tactics.

    This is a copy, in full, of what I posted back on the 17th of May:

    Nitram

    17/05/2019 at 12:35 pm

    I thought I’d look a little closer into our away form to see if I could shed any light onto it.

    Firstly my idea was to see how our away form in Europe compared to our away form in the Premier league. But when I started looking closer I thought, given the overall relatively low level of our opponents in the EL making a direct comparison to the entire PL would not be a fair comparison. I thought perhaps a comparison into how we faired against the bottom half (10 Teams) would be more accurate. Once I’d done those I thought I’d look at how we faired away from home against the top half (9 teams) of the PL.

    Here are the 3 sets of figures:

    Europa League

    P = 7
    W = 5
    L = 2
    D = 0
    F = 13
    A = 6

    GD = +7

    PTS = 15

    Won 71%

    Scored………..1.8 goals per game
    Conceded…..0.8 goals per game
    Points…………2.1 per game

    Bottom half of Premier League:

    P = 10
    W = 7
    L = 1
    D = 2
    F = 23
    A = 13

    GD = +10

    Pts = 23

    Won 70 %

    Scored………..2.3 per game
    Conceded…..1.3 per game
    Points…………2.3 per game

    As you will see apart from the fact we scored and let in slightly more against the bottom half of the PL, the win % and points per game are almost identical.

    Now here’s the figures against the top half (9 teams) of the Premier League:

    P = 9
    W = 0
    L = 7
    D = 2
    F = 8
    A = 22

    GD = -14

    Pts = 2

    Won 0%

    Scored…………0.88 goals per game
    Conceded……2,4 goals per game
    Points………….0.22 points per game

    As you can see the contrast is absolutely amazing.

    What does it tell us?

    Well to state the bleedin obvious we have trouble away from home against quality opposition. Ok I know we achieved a couple of away wins in the EL against good sides but would either of them of made the top 10 in the PL ? It’s at least debatable.

    Now I’m the first to agree that we get some real crap from the referees away from home in the PL, but these figures do show a consistency between our away form in Europe and at home which suggests to me our problems lie more in how we deal with quality opposition when on the road, and this could well point directly at our defence, (look at the goals) or perhaps more accurately, how we DEFEND, as a team.

    At least that’s what I draw from those statistics, others may disagree.

    NB Sorry for any errors. If spotted please point them out

  • Jezzy

    I think the way Emery’s teams nearly always play worse away from home is indicative of how he runs his players into the ground. At a home game you’ve got the entire crowd cheering behind you which can very easily motivate players to step up their game and fight through any stamina issues (whether subconsciously or otherwise).

    That’s my theory anyway.

  • Yes, but the problem with the home and away difference actually began under Wenger.

  • omgarsenal

    Jezzy……your thesis doesn’t hold water because the players overall condition and form, home and away, are closely monitored and verified by electronic and parametric measures the club has been using for many years. The real issues have more to do with;

    1) the novelty of adapting to a new manager, where away form will inevitably display more disparity than at home because of crowd influence, pitch variation, weather and other factors, psychological form etc.

    2) the mental confidence preparedness is also an issue. Home was a fortress for Emery’s players last season, whereas some poor defeats against ¨lesser¨ teams allowed doubt to slip into their subconscious belief and confidence all too often when away.

    3) long-term injuries to key elements of the defense and an aging squad were also factors, but the Arsenal seemed to be too focused on attacking when away, hoping to get the first goal and carry on from their.

    4) Emery was still learning the ropes and necessary strategy for playing in different away venues. His tactical abilities were really tested away from home and that could explain his constant experimentation, also force don him by injuries, which unbalanced the team. This isn’t a criticism of Emery, just an observation.

    I watched Adrian Clarke’s on-field game analysis all season and his ultimate conclusion was that poorly coordinated and naive defending, combined with too many midfield and attacking players not helping their defenders caused a lot of the issues both away and at home. He feels that Emery got things right most of the time but that far too many key players did not do their best at playing both their required attacking and defensive roles.

  • Gord

    OT: Corruption Prosecution in Switzerland on Shaky Ground

    https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/michael-lauber_scandal-circles-swiss-prosecutor-at-heart-of-fifa-case/45051556

    The Federal Prosecutor is “forgetting” too many things, and this could derail many corruption investigations; not just limited to football.

    OT: Update to Mafia Influence in Italian Football

    https://www.business-standard.com/article/sports/fans-lose-faith-as-mafia-and-corruption-scandals-rock-italian-football-119062400339_1.html

    It’s not just Juventus that is involved, but you would have thought Juventus might be more careful after having been found out not too long ago.

    This should be stalled for publication as it has 2 URLs in it. If Tony wants to write about either of these, perhaps toss this comment out?

  • Happy to publish this – as you say anything with two links in it is held for moderation because we get a load of people using the comments just to try and publicise their own web site. I’ll have a look at this and see if we can take it further. Thanks.

  • Nitram

    omgarsenal

    2) the mental confidence preparedness is also an issue. Home was a fortress for Emery’s players last season, whereas some poor defeats against ¨lesser¨ teams allowed doubt to slip into their subconscious belief and confidence all too often when away.

    Yes we had the odd hiccup against ‘Lesser’ teams, but as I showed in my stats, our issue was NOT with that. Yes, our performances against those teams was indeed slightly worse than some of the other top 6 teams, but our real problem, again as my stats show, was with how we performed against the better sides.

    The conclusion I drew was that there was definately tactical problems with how we play away from home. But as Tony said, that is not something we can lay solely at Emery’s door because this away day problem started under Wengers reign.

    Now anyone who bothers to read my ramblings will know I am pro Wenger but that doesn’t mean I think he was perfect.

    I think he did make some tactical errors in how we set up away from home in his final 2 seasons, as I think has Emery, but I think both of them have another, and I think bigger issue to deal with, and that is pyschology.

    I honestly believe the way we are refereed away from home is, and has been for a while, diabolical, and that has seeped into the pyshy of the squad.

    I think when we play the ‘lesser’ teams, often as not our superior players can overcome this, but when we play the better teams we are simply not good enough to surmount good, very good, and sometimes brilliant opposition, as well as the ref.

    I’m not saying refs cost us bucket loads of points against the big boys but I believe in some of the closer encounters it did cost us.

    Just my opinion, many will disagree, but there you go.

  • Nitram

    What I was trying to say was, yes our problems away from home were with how poorly we played, but how pooly we played was as often as not due to psychology, as much, if not more so than tactics.

    Often we played with fear because we knew that the opposition would be allowed to ‘get in our faces’ with impunity, whilst if we dared to try and ‘impose ourselves’ on them we would be punished to the full letter of the law.

    Can you imagine how many playrs we’d have left on the pitch if we went at Liverpool at Anfield in the way some teams are allowed to go at us ?

  • Jezzy

    omgarsenal “your thesis doesn’t hold water because the players overall condition and form, home and away, are closely monitored and verified by electronic and parametric measures the club has been using for many years.” I’m curious how exactly that disproves my theory in anyway?

    You should really look into what differences outside stimuli can make on stamina and endurance before completely disregarding it.

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