Arsenal: specialists in failure? Our results against Man U are not quite what some make out

By Tony Attwood

It’s the Guardian, and its the weekend, so it’s time to run an article knocking Arsenal.  Why they feel the need to go on and on and on and on doing this week after week after week, I don’t really know.  You might have thought they’d have had enough of it by now, and that everyone who wants to read articles knocking Arsenal might have had their prejudices confirmed.  But no, on it goes.   Arsenal are indeed rubbish and always have been.  So says the Guardian!

Thus today we have as the headline to the article by Steven Pye

Arsenal have specialised in failure at Old Trafford for decades

Now what exactly does “specialised in failure” mean?   Clearly not much since “specialised” comes from “specialist” meaning a person who has practised one particular area of work and become so good at it that others turn to that person for advice and guidance.  A bit like me and… oh, no, forget that.

OK, so their headline is sarcasm.  But what is the point of sarcasm about a football team in a newspaper that is supposed to be informative and liberal?  We are not told.  Instead the article charges straight in with “Arsenal’s poor record at Old Trafford is not just a recent phenomenon. There has been the odd success – they emerged victorious from the Battle of Old Trafford in October 1990 on their way to winning the league title – but a league visit to M16 has often been coupled with disappointment. Arsenal have won as many league titles in the last 40 years as they have won league games at Old Trafford – and all five of those victories ended 1-0 to the Arsenal.”

(Actually I misread that as MI6 and wondered why military intelligence were getting involved, but that was my fault.  It is presumably the postcode to which they refer.  A bit like calling the Guardian “N1” or instead of calling me Tony Attwood calling me “NN18”.  A bit odd really.

Now my first thought once I had got that sorted was that this was indeed a nifty way of covering up recent history in which Manchester United have failed to beat Arsenal in the last four Premier League matches between the two clubs.  I mean, that is really recent history so you might think that it warrants a mention ahead of a game between the two sides, but seemingly not.  So, since the Guardian don’t want to talk about the most recent times, we’d better do it for them…

Date Game Res Score Competition
05 Dec 2018 Manchester United v Arsenal D 2-2 Premier League
10 Mar 2019 Arsenal v Manchester United W 2-0 Premier League
30 Sep 2019 Manchester United v Arsenal D 1-1 Premier League
01 Jan 2020 Arsenal v Manchester United W 2-0 Premier League

But no, they’ve chosen their stomping ground as being the last 40 years, and yes during that time Manchester United have been more successful than Arsenal.  We know that.  But how much more successful?

In those 40 years there have been 104 games between the two clubs, mostly in the League of course but also some meetings in the cups – a figure aided by the fact that these are the two most successful FA Cup teams in the country, so unsurprisingly they do tend to meet each other as the competition narrows down.

It turns out that yes indeed Manchester United have dominated – but not by as much as the Guardian’s carefully selected stats suggest.  They have won 44% of the games in the last 40 years (that’s less than half I should point out to those who produced the piece).  31% (just under a third) were won by Arsenal and 25% were draws.   How about a new headline like “56% of the time Man U FAIL to beat useless Arsenal despite Man U being a superior club!”

I mean they really ought to be beating us more often given that we are specialists in failure!

But then, why have they selected a specific date October 1990 as the starting point for their stats?  Could it be that between 5 October 1968 and 25 August 1979 the two clubs played each other 23 times and Arsenal were only beaten by Man U four times?  Yep during that period Man U won just 17% of the games.  Talk about specialists in… well you get my drift.  It all depends exactly on the dates you choose to select.

Of course, one thing that interrupts these stats somewhat is the fact that after the second world war ended, for 22 years Manchester United failed to beat Arsenal at all in the League.  Not once.  Never.  Not ever.

And there’s a simple reason for that.   For the reason is that they were in the second division.  Oh but some Man U fans will say Arsenal fixed their way into the league.  Well, if you would like to read the detail, with evidence drawn from then and since…  100 years in the first division  It shows most certainly that we did not fix anything.

The Guardian article makes mention of League titles and of course they are ahead of us.  Here is the number of times each club has won the top division.  No one denies that.

Rank Club Winners
1 Manchester United 20
2 Liverpool 19
3 Arsenal 13
4 Everton 9
5 Aston Villa 7
6 Manchester City 6
Sunderland 6
Chelsea 6

Which suggests that if Arsenal are specialists in failure, presumably Chelsea and Manchester City are greater specialists in failure with only six titles each.  Fewer than Aston Villa and equal with Sunderland.

Or maybe we should be comparing the FA Cup.

Club Wins First final won Last final won Runners-up
Arsenal 14 1930 2020 7
Manchester United 12 1909 2016 8
Chelsea 8 1970 2018 6
Tottenham Hotspur 8 1901 1991 1
Aston Villa 7 1887 1957 4
Liverpool 7 1965 2006 7
Blackburn Rovers 6 1884 1928 2
Manchester City 6 1904 2019 5

I suppose here the experts in failure are Manchester City and Liverpool whose combined number of wins is exceeded by Arsenal on their own.  Oh yes and Manchester United has to be the experts in failure in terms of FA Cup finals having lost the FA Cup in the final a record eight times.  I’m beginning to welcome that little article – turning up all sorts of facts I’d forgotten.

Man U, specialists in FA Cup failure.  That certainly could be written and might be taken seriously by some poor saps who don’t bother to note that Manchester United have won the Cup more than any other club… oh, yes, except Arsenal

Or is it all an attempt to cover up the current League table

Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Everton 6 4 1 1 14 9 5 13
2 Liverpool 6 4 1 1 15 14 1 13
3 Wolverhampton Wanderers 7 4 1 2 8 8 0 13
4 Aston Villa 5 4 0 1 12 5 7 12
5 Leicester City 6 4 0 2 13 8 5 12
6 Tottenham Hotspur 6 3 2 1 16 8 8 11
7 Leeds United 6 3 1 2 12 9 3 10
8 Southampton 6 3 1 2 10 9 1 10
9 Crystal Palace 7 3 1 3 8 11 -3 10
10 Chelsea 6 2 3 1 13 9 4 9
11 Arsenal 6 3 0 3 8 7 1 9
12 West Ham United 6 2 2 2 12 8 4 8
13 Manchester City 5 2 2 1 8 8 0 8
14 Newcastle United 6 2 2 2 8 10 -2 8
15 Manchester United 5 2 1 2 9 12 -3 7
16 Brighton and Hove Albion 6 1 2 3 10 12 -2 5
17 West Bromwich Albion 6 0 3 3 6 14 -8 3
18 Burnley 5 0 1 4 3 9 -6 1
19 Sheffield United 6 0 1 5 3 9 -6 1
20 Fulham 6 0 1 5 5 14 -9 1

The point is that statistics can be manipulated in all sorts of way, and so if one is going to use them one should try not just to take one stat but get an overall picture.  That can help.  Sort of day one rule one in statistics classes.

5 Replies to “Arsenal: specialists in failure? Our results against Man U are not quite what some make out”

  1. Tony

    The Guardian must know all these statistics you so articulately reproduce. I have no doubt the Guardian read your articles as I believe they, amongst others, have plagiarised your work. In other words they know they are lying, at best being misleading, yet they continue to do it, as you say week in week out.

    The question is why?

    Because they have an agenda against Arsenal, as do the media in general, that is an absolute certainty and anyone who claims otherwise is simply deluded.

    Again though, the question is why?

    Now this is more tricky to Answer, and untold has had many stabs at it harking back to the thirties, or to Wenger the day he arrived and made them look like the dullards they are.

    From Lucky Arsenal in the 70’s to Boring Boring Arsenal in the 80’s to the Cheating diving cheats in the 90’s to the gutless losers from the late noughties on and on it goes.

    But despite all that we can still take a peak up the Seven Sisters road and basically piss ourselves laughing. You’ve got to love Spursey. No matter how bad the media want to paint it for us we all know it’s worse for them despite the medias desperate attempt to claim otherwise.

  2. We know that we are facing a tough opponent on Sunday. The odds are against us, as Man Utd will have their star man available.

    I refer, of course, to Mike Dean.

  3. These idiot media outlets and bloggers ridiculed Wenger for the 8-2 loss at OT but were deaf and dumb when Fergie lost to city 6-1.
    They even remained mum when Villa humiliated pool by putting past 7 goals recently
    They only see Arsenal as the easiest drum to beat.

  4. indeed quiet when when arsenal player like Ramsey severely injured by showcross but loud on van Dirgik injury.

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