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How Arsenal are planning to rise to third this coming season: and it’s a surprise!

By Bulldog Drummond

When looking to improve a team that is losing too many games, it is generally thought that the best approach is to tighten up the defence.   Get the defence working as a solid unit, and then at least play for a 0-0 draw.  The old George Graham approach.

The alternative is the Wenger approach: to stimulate the attack.  Now of course in terms of results it doesn’t make any odds if you score one more or concede one fewer goal in each game the improvement in results will be the same.

However if a team is considered to be letting in too many goals the answer is normally given: improve the defence, and that has been the knee jerk reaction of journalists and bloggers this season, but actually that doesn’t always bring the best improvement.

What you have to do is look at the results.  If, as with Arsenal, matches were mostly lost by one goal, then it might be thought that it doesn’t really matter if you improve the defence and let in one less goal per game, or improve the attack and score one more.  Except with goalless draws.  If you are getting goalless draws, improving the defence doesn’t help.  So overall it is generally better to improve the attack.

But also there is the psychological effect.  Home teams naturally attack, but if the away team has a very powerful forward line, their natural tendency is reduced, and they hold back.  That gets the home fans restless.  Then if the home team responds to the crowd and edges further forward, the away attack finally finds space to nick a goal.

This is relevant since when we look at Arsenal’s form we can see the main imperative is to improve the away form as we only drew three and lost two games at home, a major improvement in our form to give us a perfect home record would only garner another 12 points.  And no one gets a perfect home record so that is not a very good plan.  Better to improve the away form where we were only the 8th best team in the league.

And within this area there is another even more frightening figure.  If we look at goals conceded away from home we were the fifth worst team in the league.

Pos Club P W D L F A GD Pts
15 Arsenal 19 7 4 8 31 35 -4 25
16 Southampton 19 4 4 11 18 35 -17 16
17 Burnley 19 4 5 10 21 36 -15 17
18 AFC Bournemouth 19 5 1 13 26 45 -19 16
19 Huddersfield Town 19 1 4 14 12 45 -33 7
20 Fulham 19 1 2 16 12 45 -33 5

Yes only four teams conceded more goals than Arsenal away from home, and two of those were relegated.  That is what made home teams attack us in a gung-ho manner.

So again the logical thing to do would be to bolster the away form defence.  But appearances can be deceptive because when we look at Arsenal’s away results we find that in most cases the games were close.  In almost every game scoring one more goal per away game, or conceding one fewer goal per away game has the same effect on results.   And it would be a profound result.

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And that latter point is true, since although our away form was poor we were still the sixth best team in scoring goals away from home last season…

Away games only

Club 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

Last season we only scored seven goals fewer than Manchester City away from home and just three fewer than Liverpool!

This is where it gets strange and dramatic.  Here are all our away games last season, with the final columns showing what would have happened if we had scored just one more goal per game…

Date Game Res  Score 1 goal extra Score 2 more
18 Aug 2018 Chelsea v Arsenal L 3-2 +1 point +2 pts
02 Sep 2018 Cardiff City v Arsenal W 2-3
15 Sep 2018 Newcastle United v Arsenal W 1-2
07 Oct 2018 Fulham v Arsenal W 1-5
28 Oct 2018 Crystal Palace v Arsenal D 2-2 +2 pts + 2 pts
25 Nov 2018 AFC Bournemouth v Arsenal W 1-2
05 Dec 2018 Manchester United v Arsenal D 2-2 + 2 pts + 2pts
16 Dec 2018 Southampton v Arsenal L 3-2 +1 point + 2pts
26 Dec 2018 Brighton and Hove  v Arsenal D 1-1 + 2 pts +2 pts
29 Dec 2018 Liverpool v Arsenal L 5-1
12 Jan 2019 West Ham United v Arsenal L 1-0 +1 point +2 pts
03 Feb 2019 Manchester City v Arsenal L 3-1 +1 pt
09 Feb 2019 Huddersfield Town v Arsenal W 1-2
02 Mar 2019 Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal D 1-1 +2 pts +2 pts
07 Apr 2019 Everton v Arsenal L 1-0 +1 point +2 pts
15 Apr 2019 Watford v Arsenal W 0-1
24 Apr 2019 Wolverhampton Wanderers v Arsenal L 3-1 +1 pt
28 Apr 2019 Leicester City v Arsenal L 3-0
12 May 2019 Burnley v Arsenal W 1-3
Points gained   + 12 points + 18 points

One more goal scored a game gives us 12 more points.  Two more goals a game gives us 18 points.  And then in addition Chelsea, Man U, Man City and Tottenham would all get fewer points, because they were in fact four of the teams we were taking points from last season.

We would not have caught Liverpool or Manchester City last season with this “one more goal” approach but we would have got a lot closer and would have easily been in the top four.

Now of course we are not going to score eight more goals exactly in the games we needed – but then as noted we didn’t need to do it in all eight games – just one would have done it.

So Arsenal’s approach, at least thus far, involving improving an already impressive forward line and doing less about the defence, could well be exactly the approach we need to secure third.

And for anyone leftover from the “fourth is not a trophy” days, I know you don’t get anything for being third – except a place in the Champions League.   But it is a good start.

 

16 comments to How Arsenal are planning to rise to third this coming season: and it’s a surprise!

  • Desert Gooner

    A well reasoned and thought out argument. Pepe makes sense now.

  • Steve Vallins

    I agree with your reasoning with regard to scoring more goals but on the conceding of goals in certain matches it wasn’t the teams fault but a lot of individual errors .
    Some really stupid penalties given away along with some strange refereeing decisions , away to Sp#rs for example penalty awarded after an offside and definite encroachment on our penalty .
    So with the introduction of VAR and if applied properly would the above penalties been awarded ? These decisions would have seen our quest for a champions league place succeed

  • Tim

    Crystal Palace in 5th for away goals tells a story about Zaha pursuit.

  • Omar

    Agree and further the diabolical mistakes were made by “Three Individuals” consistently; Mustafi, Maitland-Nilers and Guendouzi. These three players Lost Arsenal “Eight Games” (i.e.) “16 – 24 points!” Unai Emery is the Ultimate Culprit why Arsenal are not in “top 3”. but that is now done and dusted.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    I like to think that Socratis and Holding will make much more a meaner , harder and resilient defence pairing , be it two center halves or part of a threesome.

    And with a more improved attacking option , we should be able to rotate , create more chances and bang in more goals.

    I think that we are in more better shape overall now than before .

    Up the Gunners !

  • Omar I think that having made such accusations you need to provide us with specific references to back up your point.

  • Josif

    Final prediction:

    2.Arsenal 38 28 0 10 112-84 84

    Top scorers: Aubameyang 37, Lacazette 32, Pepe 29.

    Top assistant: Özil 56, Lacazette 21, Pepe 20.

  • Menace

    I don’t get involved with the method of play but for a change here goes.
    Leaving the blind out of the equation…. Arsenal lose more goals because of the ‘new’ pass the ball from defence. The press on this method results in several chances to the opponent where in effect the ball should be in the opponents half. The back pass to the goalkeeper is effectively resignation to the press.

    Keeping the ball is key to a good defence but is also key to good team work. If the ball is passed from goalkeeper to defender without making forward momentum it is basically pointless. It is the defensive players that hold the ball that create pressure on themselves. If there is no midfield player showing for the ball the defender should kick it toward the opponents corner flag, giving the opponent a defensive problem. It also moves the team forward. Generally Arsenal forwards have sufficient pace to get to a long ball, specially if it is an awkward distance for the opponents goalkeeper.

    Quick one touch passing is probably the most appreciated by fans and is also the most likely to create goal scoring chances. The forward momentum has also got to be part of this movement.

    Arsenal are capable of this and have shown it many times despite the pseudo foul that spoils the movements. It is Emerys way of playing the game and is gradually taking shape.

  • alexanderhenry

    I’m really liking the look of this transfer window- for a change. We’re actually buying players that we need in the positions that need filling.

    I’m especially surprised but delighted with the David Luiz signing- who would have thought it? At 32 it’s a stop gap signing bit a clever one.
    He’s experienced, quick technically excellent and has plenty of vibe.

  • MickHazel

    Omar
    You forgot Granit Xhaka, he must have cost us at least 25 to 30 points on his own before Christmas!!!!

  • Samuel Akinsola Adebosin

    It’s a generally believed in the rank and file of the Gooners that after Arsenal have completed the likely signings of David Luis and Kieran Tierney in the next few hours, the re-shaped Arsenal defence comprising of: Bellerin*, AMN, Luis, Sokratis, Chambers, Holding*, Mavropanous*, Monreal, Kolasinac and Tierney*. All 10 in numbers but 4 asterisk of the 10 are unfit to immediately start playing for the Arsenal whose defence has been revamped after 2 new top quality additions were done to the defense that saw 2 low and medium quality defenders exited the club. Will face the challenge of the inept issue in defending that has plagued Arsenal defence last season mostly at away matches in the PL. But will now as a result of the revamp done to the defence this summer to deal squarely with the ineptness that has existed in the Arsenal defence at away in the PL last season. And us will see a departure from the existing ineptness in defending by Arsenal to immaculate in defending by them next season in the PL I so submit.

    But I think David Luis will mostly be a starter for Arsenal at centreback along with Sokratis in the PL at centreback too next season. And I can see Rob Holding being shifted to the right back position by Emery to be playing from there when he’s fully fit to play before Bellerin is back.

    Main while, it looks like the AMN most Gooners are detasting to see him play for Arsenal at right back again after his Barcelona episode will see him again playing for Arsenal at the same RB position starting for Arsenal in their opening season Premier League match away to Newcastle at St James’ Park on Sunday next week. I think it’s correct to say Sunday the 11th of August 2019 is next week?

  • Menace

    One very important aspect of our game that needs to be addressed. Taking of penalties. The best penalty takers put the ball in the top corner. Goalkeepers cannot get to the ball unless they specifically move their feet to the side that is targetted. The low shot is more likely to be saved. It is not impossible for players to learn the technique specially seeing the obscene amounts they get paid. I hope Emery coaches every player in the art of kicking. Arsenal should never miss a penalty.

  • Steve Vallins

    @Menace
    I pretty sure it’s been worked out mathematically that if you put the ball inside the post high or low ( not sure of the speed ) and the goalkeeper doesn’t move before the ball is kicked it’s impossible to save the penalty ,yes practice is needed .

  • Uzo

    @tony, the premise of the article doesn’t hold. Because make a converse table, where instead of arsenal scoring 1&2 more, this time we concede 1&2 less. You know what we get? Exactly 12 extra points for conceding 1 less away and 18 points for conceding 2 less. So we might as well say tightening up the defense is the key. But at the end of the day this is all wishful thinking, if wishes were horses, beggars would ride. I guess if Huddersfield made their own set of ‘if’ scenarios, they’d be in the championshi league. City and Liverpool aren’t the big winners of last season by wishing/dreaming up scenarios. They did d work. I’m hopeful for next season, not because you have cooked up hypothetical situations, but because Emery seems to be addressing problem areas before we go into the season

  • omgarsenal

    Frankly Mick…your statement is ludicrous and shows unmitigated bias, total indifference to actual facts and a ridiculous prejudice against a player who you have unfairly demeaned.

  • All predictions are either wishful thinking or deliberate negativity.

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