How Arteta can restore Arsenal to greatness

By Bulldog Drummond

Pundits presenting themselves as people who know, getting it wrong, offering no apology, and then doing it again is what football journalism is made of.  Like the wholesale prediction for yesterday’s game that Saka would start the match.  Totally wrong prediction; no one seems to have apologised.

Which is why Untold likes statistics.  They can be explained, explored, analysed and challenged

The run Arsenal had in 2018 when the club was managed by Mr Emery shows an interesting statistic.  11 straight wins in the Premier League, Europa League and League Cup.  By 13 December we had recovered from starting the season with two straight wins and talk in the media of our “worst ever start” etc, were fifth in the league, just two points off third spot and with a decent goal difference.  It was looking quite good.

Then in the next couple of games we lost to Southampton in the League and were knocked out of the League Cup and from there on, instead of pushing on to third spot, the season faded away.

This season we have been affected again by runs.  Starting on 30 October we went eight consecutive games in the League Cup, Premier League and Europa League without a win.  We did win the next game – against West Ham, but then had another five without a win, to give us one win in 14.  A fairly shocking run.

Now we have turned it around again – we are undefeated in the last 11 games including six wins – the last three games being three wins in a row.

Date Match Result Score Competition
23 Nov 2019 Arsenal v Southampton D 2-2 Premier League
01 Jan 2020 Arsenal v Manchester United W 2-0 Premier League
06 Jan 2020 Arsenal v Leeds United W 1-0 FA Cup
11 Jan 2020 Crystal Palace v Arsenal D 1-1 Premier League
18 Jan 2020 Arsenal v Sheffield United D 1-1 Premier League
21 Jan 2020 Chelsea v Arsenal D 2-2 Premier League
27 Jan 2020 AFC Bournemouth v Arsenal W 1-2 FA Cup
02 Feb 2020 Burnley v Arsenal D 0-0 Premier League
16 Feb 2020 Arsenal v Newcastle United W 4-0 Premier League
20 Feb 2020 Olympiakos v Arsenal W 0-1 Europa League
23 Feb 2020 Arsenal v Everton W 3-2 Premier League

Quite clearly the problem for Arsenal is not that we have runs – we are quite good at having runs – it is that the positive runs such as the one we are currently on, not only come to an end, they tend to come to an end and be followed by a negative run that is just as long.

What is needed is an approach that allows us to treat the next defeat, whenever it happens, as a one-off defeat, rather than the start of the next run of awful results.

Of course this is easier said than done.  After the 49 games undefeated run came to an end, Arsenal only won three of the next ten games.   The great arrogance of the team seemed to vanish, and I suspect (although self-evidently can’t prove) that the actions of the referee in ending the 49 run made the players very aware that even their sublime abilities could not overcome that sort of bias.  From here on they were watching the referee as much as the opposition, instead of having that overwhelming self-belief that signified much of the 49.

At the moment there is something of a return of belief – or rather I should say, that is how it looks from the stands  Saka seems to have an absolute belief in what he is doing and if anything does go wrong he seems to treat that as an aberration of reality which will be put right the next time he touches the ball.  Aubameyang when on form has that belief too, as does Leno, who appears to take any attempt to score when he’s in goal as a personal insult.

To make something good of this season, that self-belief has to continue through the forthcoming series of highly winnable games.   There is Olympiakos in the Europa on Thursday, Portsmouth away in the FA Cup, the stumbling and fumbling West Ham, in the midst of their own civil war, at home (on a Saturday at 3pm!!!!) in the League, followed by Brighton away, Southampton away and Norwich at home.

We’ve noted before that, of course, we don’t just have to win these games, other clubs have to slip if we are going to make it into the upper positions of the table to qualify for Europe, and we’ll pretty much have to be there by the final whistle of the Norwich game, because of the fixtures that come after that.  My fear is thus that when the run finally ends, we could slip into another slough of despond, which sees us tumble back down.

If Mr Arteta can ensure that the next defeat, whenever it comes, is just a one off, from which we instantly recover – that will be the sign that we potentially have a really clever manager who can restore Arsenal to greatness.  If it starts another run of poor results, we’ll know we still haven’t broken that all-important (but ignored by the media) psychological barrier.

The journalists won’t recognise it of course, but that’s just part of their insistence on looking the immediate, rather than the trend.


4 Replies to “How Arteta can restore Arsenal to greatness”

  1. Arsenal have profoundly improved since Arteta took over and I see that continuing. One of your problems is the bias of referees towards the opposing team and it is that which may hinder Arsenal’s progress.

  2. Very fine article, maybe my first to have patience to read from this writer.
    I think, that M. Arteta is profiting well from the recent awful failure of U. Emery. I was not expecting much from him before now, but the way he ensured those hated players are playing again is a wonder. They were probably, daily dying from all kind of wickedly comments and assisted by the shortcomings of UE.

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