by Tony Attwood
There was something astonishingly satisfying about that win against Liverpool. It wasn’t just the media’s overwhelming assumption that Liverpool would in fact be Liverpool!, the team that would swat Arsenal aside with a mere flick of the wrist. It wasn’t just the media’s belief that Arsenal’s winning of the FA Cup was one of those chance events that happen from time to time.
It wasn’t even the overwhelming arrogance of the commentators and players combined that Liverpool! could get away with anything, could do anything, and would of course always win, come what may, because they are Liverpool!
It was in fact the culmination of an improvement in Arsenal’s performance both under Arteta, and the improvement in refereeing performances when there is no crowd present, coming on top of Untold’s little analysis of the oddities of the tackles / fouls / yellow card statistics that we undertook last season. As ever we had been sticking our heads out and being criticised, and for once we actually were proven right!
In the runup to the community shield game the media implied that yes, Arsenal certainly have done better since Arteta arrived mid-season, but are not really good enough to destabilize the almighty wonderful Liverpool! And who cares if Liverpool! have socially irresponsible mass celebrations in the streets of the city, in contravention of the virus regulations? To object to such celebrations would surely be churlish.
Thus inevitably yesterday’s game had been talked up by the media as what would undoubtedly be the continuance of the dominance of Liverpool! It was Liverpool’s right to win it, of course it was. And in the end let’s not forget that Arsenal didn’t save a penalty, the Liverpool! player missed it. Probably a glint of sunlight from an Arsenal ball boy in the stand behind the goal playing with a mirror. Typical Arsenal cheating.
Mind you even the media find it hard to hide Saka’s movement to give the ball to Aubameyang or Auba’s shot for the goal. But the media could not quite realise was that this is how Arsenal have been playing of late and was indeed what they were up to in the cup final. Saka, Aubameyang, Xhaka-Elneny, Tierney, Maitland-Niles… blimey there are some real players there! That can’t be!
What Arsenal did was to ignore the hype that said that Liverpool! had no weaknesses, and instead look for the weaknesses that all teams have and play to them, particularly by making their defence go into places they were not used to going.
Of course the media is rumbling on about Liverpool’s “runs” and “passes”, “pulling Arsenal out of position”. But what of the statistics? We gave them possession, they had more shots, but we still took the game. How did that happen?
After all, when Arteta arrived and got going as manager, Arsenal were sitting around 11th in the league, below clubs like Burnley and Newcastle.
In the 16 games between his arrival and lockdown Arsenal lost just twice and as you will know, eventually we finished 8th the league. That obviously required an improvement in results, and if we take the league table just based on results of PL games played after Arteta arrived we can see that in the Arteta part of the season Arsenal were actually 5th. Arsenal were the biggest movers in the upper part of the league. Here is the league table just showing the games in the second half of the season
Of course, a season’s position is based on all of the season, but this table is informative. The clubs that did poorly in the latter part of the season were those with fewer resources in depth as we might expect – Wolverhampton, Sheffield and Leicester.
But Leicester, you may recall, were also hit after the revelation of their very curious statistics which showed them committing the most tackles, but getting far fewer fouls and far fewer yellow cards against them. It was, of course not a topic that the English media would touch (too many numbers and suggestive of referee bias), and the PL made life hard for those who wanted to do the analysis by not publishing all the figures. But eventually we got them and once the story was out, Leicester’s season started to unravel.
Naturally many will say that this was just a coincidence. After all, how could a simple analysis by Untold into the number of tackles, fouls, and yellow cards affect a team’s performance? And yes of course that could be a complete and absolute coincidence. But one fact remains: no one publicised these strange stats until we did, and until then, Leicester were flying high. And after that it appears that referees were far less lenient in letting Leicester get away with their constant tackling game.
But the English media doesn’t like stats very much, so they don’t publish comparisons between the first and second half of the season, just as they don’t publish the tackles / fouls / yellow card figures. But that does not make the statistics unreal – and the second half league table (which again they don’t publish) does make the point about Leicester’s decline.
But back to Arsenal, and we must admit that even after Arteta’s arrival, we were not top-four material. But we were better, and as the cup results showed, we were better when it mattered.
Now with yesterday’s win, we can really begin to see the results. And maybe also, Arsenal has been particularly helped by the lack of crowds, since it was the crowd that was particularly causing difficulty for the team, by making it harder and harder to persuade players to come to Arsenal. If we can just make a good start in the league and have a decent position in the table by the time the crowd comes back, that could stop the negativity in the ground once and for all.
This coming season could, indeed, be quite good.
- Most fouls fewest yellow cards – how do they do that?
- There’s something very odd with fouls that the media will not discuss
- Arsenal v Leicester: Leicester’s declining tackles
- The home and away scandal: ignorance, or cover up?
- The reason why Liverpool and Man C are ahead of Arsenal.
- How which referee a club gets has a major impact on the result of each game
- The statistical evidence that shows PGMO are biased against Arsenal
- How European football has taken up the fight against clubs breaking FFP