Arsenal: the underdogs; exactly when we shine

by Tony Attwood

From NBC Sports to the Guardian, the scribblers are out doing their guesswork as to where various clubs will finish in the League.

To remind ourselves this is what the BBC gave us this time last year.  This is Phil McNulty’s prediction showing the predicted position on the left and the actual position on the right, along with the difference.

Predicted Club Actual Diff
1 Manchester City 2 -1
2 Liverpool 1 +1
3 Tottenham Hotspur 6 -3
4 Chelsea 4 0
5 Manchester United 3 +2
6 Arsenal 8 -2
7 Everton 12 -5
8 Leicester City 5 +3
9 Wolverhampton Wan 7 +2
10 West Ham United 16 -6

The lower half

Predicted Club Actual Diff
11 Watford 19 -8
12 Southampton 11 +1
13 Bournemouth 18 -5
14 Aston Villa 17 -3
15 Burnley 10 +5
16 Crystal Palace 14 +2
17 Sheffield United 9 +8
18 Brighton and Hove A 15 -3
19 Norwich City 20 -1
20 Newcastle United 13 +7

The bigger errors in prediction came with clubs placed to be near the bottom – Sheffield Utd and Newcastle.  But the range is typical, most pundits getting up to three positions correct, with some predictions up to seven or eight places out.

One prime reason for this is that the pundits tend to look at the league tables for the season, and how much clubs are spending on players in the summer, with the bigger spends doing better.  Yet the figures we have come up with show that spending (along with a managerial change) usually makes the club to worse in the first half of the following season, with the table for the second half of the previous season being a better guide.

Generally speaking most pundits are rather bit boring, for as with NBC Sports top of the league is the same as most clubs…

1. Manchester City
2. Liverpool
3. Manchester United
4. Chelsea
5. Arsenal
6. Tottenham
7. Leicester City
8. Wolves
9. Everton
10. Southampton

Now Untold didn’t do too well last season with its prediction either as we criticised the media’s general prediction of Arsenal finishing in sixth.  We thought they would be higher, it turned out we were all wrong as the club finished up lower.

That poor prediction was caused primarily because none of us foresaw that the campaign to get Mr Wenger out, would then continue, stoked of course by the ever willing media, with a campaign to get Mr Emery out.

So is it worth our while having another go having got it so wrong before?   After all what we we know about Arsenal that others don’t?

First that results come out of the blue.   Herbert Chapman came to Arsenal in 1925 and in 1929 we came 14th.  However we won our first trophy. The FA Cup.  The following season we won the league with a record number of points.  No one predicted that – not after having come 11th, 10, 9th and 14th in the previous years.

Our league win in 1948 came out of nowhere as well.  The previous season we had come 13th.

Some of us are just about old enough to remember the first double.  The season before that we came 12th in the league.  Yes we did win the Fairs Cup, but only 12 wins in the league was pretty dire.

By 1989 it was 18 years since we had last won the league.  The season before we came in sixth.  Our top scorer, Alan Smith had got a mere 16 goals.  The next season, playing two fewer games we got ten more points and beat Liverpool! at Anfield in the last minute of the last game to win the league.

In Wenger’s first season we’d come in 3rd – an improvement on the fifth of two seasons before, and the style and approach was revolutionised, so maybe just that once we really did think that the league was a possibility in the manager’s second season, and so it turned out to be.  Although doubters were there many – especially if anyone had mentioned “a second double”.

But what about our four in seven seasons cup run?  In those four seasons we have ended up fourth, third, fifth and eighth.

So my point is that Arsenal wins are often not expected – at least certainly not by the media, who seem to make predictions by and large based on “same as last year but throw in the tweak” (meaning change the positions by one or two so as not to make it look like you have just copied last season’s results).

Thus the consensus is that Arsenal, without another managerial change, will finish fifth or sixth, but let’s remind ourselves of just how things ended up…

Pos Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
1 Liverpool 38 32 3 3 85 33 52 99
2 Manchester City 38 26 3 9 102 35 67 81
3 Manchester United 38 18 12 8 66 36 30 66
4 Chelsea 38 20 6 12 69 54 15 66
5 Leicester City 38 18 8 12 67 41 26 62
6 Tottenham Hotspur 38 16 11 11 61 47 14 59
7 Wolverhampton Wanderers 38 15 14 9 51 40 11 59
8 Arsenal 38 14 14 10 56 48 8 56

But as shown in a recent article, our form in the second half of the season was somewhat different from that in the first half.

If we take the league table just based on results of PL games played after Arteta arrived (which we published a couple of days ago) we can see that in the Arteta part of the season Arsenal were actually 5th and were the biggest movers in the upper part of the league.  Here, once again, is the league table just showing the games in the second half of the season

Team Movement P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Liverpool 20 15 2 3 39 19 20 47
2 Manchester City +1 19 12 2 5 52 23 29 38
3 Manchester United +5 19 11 5 3 36 13 23 38
4 Chelsea 19 10 4 5 36 27 9 34
5 Arsenal +6 19 9 5 5 31 20 14 30
6 Tottenham Hotspur 19 8 6 5 34 20 14 30
7 Wolverhampton Wanderers -2 19 8 5 6 22 16 6 29
8 Sheffield United -1 19 7 4 8 16 22 -6 25
9 Leicester City -7 19 6 5 8 26 23 3 23

Arsenal and Man U were the big improvers, while Leicester collapsed in the aftermath of the publicity concerning their strange statistics in the tackles / fouls / yellow cards chart.  Wolverhampton struggled as they ran out of money – something that will continue.

If we put that improvement of six places down to Mr Arteta, then there is every reason to think that with his own choice of players coming through we might be able to transform one of those defeats and two of those draws into wins, across the whole season.  That would make us serious top four contenders.

That is not much of a change.

Yet of course that depends on one of the clubs above us slipping backwards rather than them all improving on the performance in the second half of last season.   Chelsea and Man U look to me to be the most likely; Chelsea because they are making a lot of changes to the squad at once, and Man U because I am not sure that they can sustain the huge improvement we saw in the second half of last season.

But of course that might be wishful thinking.

So I’ll predict Arsenal coming in fourth.  And the only difference between my predictions and those of the pundits is that I don’t just base it on transfers, but on tactical changes, and a hope that at last the anti-Arsenal Arsenal of “supporters” groups and journalists, will quieten down a bit.  I don’t expect them to support the club, but a little less negativity could do the world of good.

Oh yes, and there is the fact that we’ve won more trophies than other clubs in the last seven years.

9 Replies to “Arsenal: the underdogs; exactly when we shine”

  1. When one considers the host of matters which affect the outcome of football matches, it is brave indeed for anyone to forecast the final places of the EPL (or any other league!) before the season actually starts.
    Injuries, good or bad luck, mistakes by match officials new signings not yet bonded in,
    personal problems of players affecting their play etc, etc. The reasons are endless.
    Better by far to await at least the middle of the season before forecasting (and even then it’s risky!).

  2. Very irritated by the below article by Stan Collymore where he’s flogging a straw man by claiming that the good run by Arsenal over the past few months means that Arsenal fans think that we will now win the league.

    I don’t know of a single Arsenal fans who realistically believes that we will compete for the league this year, barring a miracle. We’ve just been hoping to win the much maligned Wenger Trophy (ie finish in top four).

    Tony can you please write an article to call out a the below click bait journalism?

    Also can we rename finishing in top four as the “Wenger Trophy” as a tribute to the visionary which correctly called it as a trophy but was cruelly ridiculed by the silly biased media?

  3. @Sammy,

    the so called article is just so caricatural of what these idiots all do : rehash the same theme over and over again.

    Arsenal would wn the Cl they’d find ways to explain that the other finalist did not want to win it.

    Whenever Arsenal win someting (FA cup, CS or even get to 4th place), in their view it is not a trophy. Just a tea kettle.

    Now that some fans are positive (so why would they not be anyway ?!?!), he just tells them they are idiots. That way, if so happens that Arsenal does not win the PL, he can then tell them : told you so, you really are idiots. As if being a fan has anything to do with just analysis and nothing with hope and belief. This arrogance is just beyond me.

    But I’d like him and others to do the same thing to all the fans of all clubs who won’t win the PL.

    And reading his arrogant prose, one wonders why the PL has 38 gamedays anyway. Just ask him to say who wins, he know (f..k)all

  4. @ Sammy

    In terms of credibility, ethics and honesty, I think Collymore set out his stall many years ago during his relationship with Ulrika Johnson. He’s quite simply a despicable man with an attitude that stinks.

  5. Technical director Edu said: “We are delighted to have signed Gabriel. He is a player we have been studying for a while and he was in demand from many clubs, so we are proud to have agreed and completed this transfer with Lille and the player. Gabriel is a player of high quality and Mikel and his coaches are looking forward to integrating him into the club.”

    Mikel Arteta said: “We welcome Gabriel to Arsenal. He has many qualities which will make us stronger as a defensive unit and as a team. He has proved with Lille that he is a defender with many outstanding attributes and we are looking forward to watching him grow as an Arsenal player.”

    The deal is subject to the completion of regulatory processes.


  6. ron

    I know what you mean but Gabriel and Saliba could be the key to us making, not just a forward step, but possibly a giant stride forward.

    Van Dyke was the making of Liverpool. In their pomp Manchester United always had immense centre halves. Despite how Wenger always focused on the attacking aspects of our play we were always at our best when WE had immense centre halves ourselves.

    Getting the back line sorted, ie for one thing reducing the way too many attempts at goal we habitually concede, gives a base on which to get the offensive game sorted.

    The next thing to sort will be more goals from midfield. A more solid back line may in itself give enough latitude to the players we already have to achieve that, we will see soon enough. If not that may be the next position, a creative goal scoring midfielder, that Arteta looks to address. The only problem is they are like gold dust and usually have a price tag to reflect that.

    But lets not get ahead of ourselves. Little steps.

  7. I’m pleased to see AFC addressing the centre back position, particularly with young athletic players like Gabriel and Saliba.
    I’d like to note that the defense has been better since Arteta took over because he stresses defense in training and has all 10 outfield players contributing. Great defenses are team defenses, it’s not 9 running around and 1 holding down the fort. When the attackers take care when they don’t have the ball there are fewer chances for the defenders to deal with and hence fewer opportunities for mistakes or misplays.
    Arteta has instilled responsibility and accountability as well. Don’t do it in training you don’t play. Let down on the pitch you’re replaced. It’s refreshing to say the least and will lead to success on the pitch and the table.
    Like Tony Attwood, I don’t see why this group can’t make 4th. Seems like a big ask from 8th, but if they play the way they finished last season, and started this one with the Shield, it’s a reasonable expectation. They were hard to break down without the new additions, FFS! COYG!

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