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…
|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.
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|
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
|12||West Ham United||6||2||2||2||12||8||4||8|
|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|
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.
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- 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