At home last season Arsenal’s defence last season was better than when we were champions

By Tony Attwood

As I have argued before, Arsenal’s home and away form have been quite different from each other in the past two seasons.  I have also argued that last season we were particularly unfortunate in having injuries to several key players in defence.

But even without anything like our first choice defence operating for much of the season, when it came to home games we had a home defensive record that was not too far away from any of the other top clubs.   Even when compared with Liverpool, the club with the best home defence in the league conceded one goal more at home every three games than Liverpool.

And across the season at home we let in just four more that Chelsea and Manchester City.   In fact at home we let in the same number of goals as Tottenham (while incidentally scoring eight more).  And yet Tottenham were lauded all season long by the media and their fans.

Now of course the league is played at home and away, but if our defence was as atrocious as many commentators like to make out, it is curious that at Arsenal Stadium we had the fourth best defence in the league.  The table below is arranged in order of defences and reflects home matches only.

Pos Team P W D L F A GD Pts
2 Liverpool 19 17 2 0 55 10 45 53
1 Manchester City 19 18 0 1 57 12 45 54
4 Chelsea 19 12 6 1 39 12 27 42
3 Arsenal 19 14 3 2 42 16 26 45
5 Tottenham Hotspur 19 12 2 5 34 16 18 38
11 Leicester City 19 8 3 8 24 20 4 27

All of which means that our misdemeanours were committed primarily away from home.   And that suggests to me, yet again, that the issue was one either of tactics, or of refereeing, or both.   I don’t have the evidence from last season to judge referees as we have done in the past, so I can simply say the conclusion has to be, we simply did not organise ourselves tactically in a way that would help us reduce goals conceded away from home.

Certainly the argument that says that Arsenal were rubbish last season because we had Xhaka and Mustafi playing defensive roles does not work when one looks at the home games.

Nor when we look at events season by season, because in 2017/18 we conceded 20 goals at home but were the second best home team in the league collecting just three fewer points than Manchester City.  And that made me wonder just how far away were we from our best last season, in terms of the defence at home.

Here is the result of that wondering: the table below shows the goals conceded at home in the last two seasons, compared with the seasons prior to this in which we came top or second.  The worst totals are in black the best in red.

Season Goals conceded at home Goals conceded away Final league position
1998 10 23 Champions
1999 5 12 2nd
2000 17 26 2nd
2001 13 25 2nd
2002 17 11 Champions
2003 20 22 2nd
2004 14 12 Champions
2005 19 17 2nd
2016 11 25 2nd
2018 20 31 6th
2019 16 35 5th

The fact is that the 16 league goals that we let in at home last season was a  LOWER total than three of the seasons in which we came second in the league and actually LOWER than 2002 in which we were Champions.

As the headline says, at home last season Arsenal’s defence last season was better than when we were champions.  Of course only one of the three Wenger champions seasons

These are not the figures of a team that simply cannot defend because this manager and the previous manager were both morons who insisted on playing terrible defenders.   The difference between the last two seasons and earlier seasons was very little to do with the defence at home – it was to do with the defence away

So when we look at the goals conceded away from home, we can see that these last two seasons had us conceding three times as many goals away from home as we did in our last two championship seasons.

If that same disaster had happened at home as well then yes, all the bleating about needing to buy six new defenders etc would be right, but it was not.  We had a team that could not defend well away.  And what I find particularly interesting is that there were signs of this in 2016 when we conceded 25.   In 2017 (not shown in the table above) it was 28 goals.

So across the last three seasons we have lost the ability to shut up shop away from home and be BORING BORING ARSENAL.   Indeed if you think back to the “1-0 to the Arsenal” days, yes we used to sing that at the Arsenal stadium but it was only for a few minutes before the second goal went in.  If you were an away supporter in earlier seasons you could be singing it all the way through the game.

Thus I come back to my basic point.  Getting rid of a whole raft of defenders because they cannot defend is not the way to take Arsenal back up the league.  The way for Arsenal to get back into the top four and then challenge for the title is to change the tactics away from home.

Now that the club has fallen out with Koscielny there is another vacancy at the back, but I suspect we have much of our defence in place with the return of Bellerin and Holding.   I stay true to the position I have been pushing in these articles since I don’t know when: it is the away tactics, not the defence, that is the problem.

Here’s our list of defenders for the coming season.

Bellerin, Holding, Monreal, Maitland-Niles, Mustafi, Sokratis, Kolasinac.  That is not that bad a collection of players if they can all stay fit.


20 Replies to “At home last season Arsenal’s defence last season was better than when we were champions”

  1. Tony,
    The last paragraph of your (full of positive thinking) post, sets out Arsenal’s present defence stat, without any newbies from the current Window.
    That alone, bearing in mind the eventual return of Messrs Bellerin and Holding gives rise to hope for a good season to come.
    That is not to say that the signing of one or two good defenders would not go amiss.
    Your stats simply emphasise though, that our much maligned defence last term compared favourably with seasons when we finished higher up the table. 😎

  2. Tony

    “All of which means that our misdemeanours were committed primarily away from home. And that suggests to me, yet again, that the issue was one either of tactics, or of refereeing, or both……………..we simply did not organise ourselves tactically in a way that would help us reduce goals conceded away from home.”

    On one of the earlier articles you have written on this subject I said almost exactly what you said above, only with one more observation, psychology !

    I am convinced the diabolical way we are refereed away from home has fed into a defeatist mindset before we even kick off.

    I don’t know if you can blame either the current or previous managers, or staff in general for that matter, for not sorting this out, but I suggest that may be easier said than done.

    As I said the last time I put this theory forward, I believe at times the team just didn’t know what to do.

    A more passive, sitting back and playing a deeper defensive game was fraught with danger as we just know that the slightest touch on a sterling or Kane is going to end up in a penalty or at least a dangerous free kick.

    How many times did I read in UA’s reports the words ‘phantom foul’ ?

    On the otherhand it seems at times that we need to be broken in half to get a penalty ourselves.

    A more aggressive ‘get in their faces’ approach just wouldn’t be allowed.

    How many times did Xhaka et el get a card for their first foul, followed by a “you cant get away with that” type comment from the pundits?

    I’m not even saying that on many occasions it wasn’t warranted, just that others would be cut some slack with a similar transgression followed by a “Good refereeing so early in the match. That’s the sort of common sense we like to see.” type of comment from the pundit.

    I know at times we just didn’t seem to be at the races. But why?

    I don’t believe these players EVER go out with the intention of not playing well, or not giving it 100%, sorry I just don’t believe it.

    But quite clearly something happens on many of our away days.

    Is it bad tactis? Well possibly, even probably at times.

    Is it bad players? Well again possibly, but as Tony continually points out, if they really were ‘bad’ players our home record would certainly suffer as well, but it clearly doesnt.

    So, as I suggest, is a lot of it to do with pyschology, or mind set?

    Many may disagree, but I certainly think it plays a part, at least to some degree.

    But I concede it clearly cannot JUST be about pyschology but it is certainly a part of it.

    How is it going to change?

    Well much better, fairer refereeing would be a start but I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

    Finding a way to turn around the defeatest mind set which has so beset our away day performances.

    Finding a tactical ballance that keeps us more secure at the back, agressive in the tackle, and potent in attack, but that is easier said than done, especially as I say, given the diabolical way we are all too often refereed on the road.

    New players?

    Well, like Tony I’m not convinced there’s that much wrong with the current players.

    Of course they could be improved upon, but who’s defence could’nt, and anyway, given our apparent budget, significant improvements would almost certainly be out of our reach.

  3. “Certainly the argument that says that Arsenal were rubbish last season because we had Xhaka and Mustafi playing defensive roles does not work when one looks at the home games.” Yeah, if only we played 50% games less season then it would have been all roses!

  4. I suppose the difference could be that at home Arsenal get hugely favourable treatment by referees……………only joking 🙂

  5. Or I supposed one could say, “If I only read one sentence from the article and ignore the context I can make a silly comment.”

  6. Tony

    Not unlike Nitram, I believe the problem conceding away goals is mostly down to psychology. I’m not disregarding the shite refereeing because we get that at home as well. The attitude on the pitch home v away is striking. There’s a bit of confidence at home and the side come out on the front foot. Where do they come out on the front foot away? Even against the relegation bound they look tentative and fearful of making a mistake away from home. “A defeatist mindset” to quote Nitram. They don’t just ‘get after them’ on the road unless they score early; which isn’t often. I’d like to see a chart of AFC’s away scoring by time of game. Can’t remember too many early away goals. And then they press. I don’t think it’s as much about tactics because Emery sets up based on the opponent’s style more than venue, as I see it.
    Arsenal could certainly use a defender or two this window in light of the Koscielny situation Also, it seems you’ve forgotten Mavropanos, young but promising.
    But what this team needs more than new players is Belief. Confidence. They wilted under pressure, examples being: away matches, the shambolic run-in and the Europa League final. A manager or coach’s job is as much about instilling belief as it is tactics. The year BEFORE the Invincible season, Wenger told them they could go through a season unbeaten. The belief grew and they accomplished that the next season. And believe me, they didn’t get any help from the referees than either. The belief and commitment were strong. COYG!

  7. Tony

    Off topic. Were UA asked to support #wecaredoyou? I noticed you weren’t listed as having signed. I’d be interested in your thoughts since there have been many comments here on various articles re the ownership by KSE. It is getting some attention in the blogs and media.

  8. I note the BBC is reporting that “Sixteen prominent Arsenal supporters’ groups and bloggers have signed a letter calling on owner Stan Kroenke to “reinvigorate” the Premier League club.” It is a prominent story on their website. The story doesn’t say which groups or blogs but infers that they represent a large percentage of fans, saying, “It is the first time so many fans have come together to express dissatisfaction with the American billionaire.” but it doesn’t even attempt to define how many fans or how these groups represent anyone at all. Yet more evidence of the disruptive and clear anti-Arsenal bias we have to endure. Vomit inducing.

  9. I think at the pre-season stage now before the 2019-2020 kick-start on the 8th of August, 2019, ten specialist defenders are still on Arsenal pay-roll. They are: Koscielny, Monreal, Sokratis, Mustafi, Holding, Mavropanous, Bellerin, Chambers, AMN and Kolasinac. But when the new season does kick-start in early August, we could see these 10 specialist defenders who are currently on Arsenal books get downsized to 7 or 8 defenders. 8 defenders is my preferred number to begin the season for Arsenal next season. But since the specialist left-back Kieran Tierney is looking could join Arsenal this summer and if he eventually does, the number of specialist defenders at the pre-season stage before the new season begun will rise to 11 in numbers. Definitely, rationalization of specialist defenders at Arsenal will have to take place to remove the Surds in the Arsenal 10 – 11 specialist defenders before the new season kick-start. Which first of all could see Koscielny get transferred from the club but not on a free. And another defender could be sold or loaned out with another one loaned out but not sold. Making 3 specialist defenders altogether to leave. Leaving 8 defenders to remain in place when new season begun next season. If I may speculate, apart of Koscielny who is looking could succeed forcing a transfer away from Arsenal this summer. Mavropanous could be loaned out this summer. And the axe of selling another defender at Arsenal this summer could fall on Carl Jenkinson. Hmmm.

    Excuse me, what of Bielik? Is he still on the Arsenal books this summer? If he’s still on it, can he be used to replace the Gooners out of favour Elneny as the 4th DMF to Xhaka, Torreria and Guendouzi? This could see Elneny being sold this summer? Sorry Elneny, I wouldn’t want to see you leave Arsenal this summer as the 4th DMF. because you are a good passer of the ball.

    Anyway, I think Arsenal poor away form results on the road in the Premier League last season is two dimensional in outlook. First of all, Emery coaching tactics of making the Gunners to play from the back failed miserably last season in the PL. But was successful to a good degree at home at the Ems despite Arsenal failing to grab a top-four place finish on a plate when the Gunners against all the expectations of the Gooners lost 2-3 to Crystal Palace and played to a 1-1 draw against Brighton & HA to consequently dropped 5 points out of the 6 on offer and missed grabbing a top-four place by just a point behind Tottenham Hs who finished 4th. But had Arsenal finished on the same points with Tottenham in the table last season, but Tottenham who had a superior goals difference to that of Arsenal wouldn’t still have placed 4th, or would they not as the Head To Head rules wasn’t in place last season but it’s looking it’ll be next season?

    I think Emery should have changed his philosophy of making the Gunners to play from the back at away matches last season in the PL since it was failing, but to another tactical play philosophy that will work to stop the rotcontinuing that was making the Gunners to feel psychologically inferiority in complex against their opponent teams at away matches in the PL.

  10. To the medja and bloggers, a large percentage of the Arsenal supporters is probably something like more than 3% of the supporters. They always want to make any potential problem at Arsenal, as big a problem as they possibly can.

  11. Colorado Rapids v Arsenal XI…we have a distinctly young starting lineup.

    Should be 0-1 after 4 minutes…Martinelli missed a sitter.

  12. Get thee behind me –

    Donald Trumph is teaching his children the spelling of ‘assassination ‘.
    ” One ass behind another ass .., behind that i…, and behind me the whole nation “

  13. Have the Kronke out movement identified a new, generous and benevolent owner ?

    Its one thing to kick him out , but a totally different kettle of fish to get someone new to throw all his well earned( or otherwise) money to satisfy the masses .

    What do we the fans, in turn offer him ?
    – Our undivided loyalty to the club ?
    – Our heartfelt gratitude to this saviour ?
    – Our steadfastness in our belief in our team ?
    – Will we unite in our quest for this new and bright beginning ?

    Or will the griping never cease and the fans continue to abuse the owner (new or otherwise) , the board , the manager and the players ?

    Or will they take their medication and chill out ?

    Do I really have to state my personal stand ?
    Up the Gunners !

  14. Charity begins in ……

    ‘ A one dollar bill met a twenty dollar bill and said, “Hey, where’ve you been? I haven’t seen you around here much.”

    The twenty answered, “I’ve been hanging out at the casinos, went on a cruise and did the rounds of the ship, back to the United States for awhile, went to a couple of baseball games, to the mall, that kind of stuff. How about you?”

    The one dollar bill said, “You know, same old stuff… church, church, church.”

  15. Don’t tempt faith we could end up as Trump’s Arsenal. Get down on your knees and pray that Stan finds the heart to fund Arsenal in some charitable way.

    Stan – you can’t take it with you and you can’t breed fast enough to leave it to blood relatives so leave it to the Arsenal family.

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