If Arsenal want to rise up 2021, it’s the away form that’s the key

by Tony Attwood

Before the pandemic it was simple   To win the league – or indeed to get into the top four – clubs needed a very solid positive away form.  In the simplest of terms, clubs which had a positive away goal difference were in with a fighting chance of a top four place.

Normally there were only about six such teams, although occasionally the number might creep up to eight, with the extra few consisting of teams whose away goal difference might be +1 or +2.  But four teams achieving that positive goal difference away from home was normal.

Why was that?  All sorts of explanations were given.  Crowd hostility, the journey, cramped changing rooms, unfamiliar grass (yes honestly that was put forward).  But really, away teams didn’t score many goals.   Indeed if you were to look back to the first Arsenal double season, you’d see only three teams that year got a positive goal difference away from home: Leeds +14, Arsenal +7 and Tottenham +7.  Every other team was negative away from home.

Of course teams that won the league would also win more away games than they lost, but the theme was to sneak a 0-1 lead and shut up shop.  Leave the flamboyant goal scoring for the home games.  So, for example, in 1997/8, Arsenal had a home goal difference of +33, away it was +2

It was in winning the league in 2002 that Arsenal changed the world.  Away from home we were unbeaten, and had a goal difference of away from home of +26.  And we were not alone in spotting an opportunity: six teams got a positive away goal difference that season, three in double figures.  It was unheard of.  Normally it was three, sometimes just one.

Skip forward to 2018/19 the revolution had petered out, although the best teams were doing better away from home.   In 2018/19 five teams had an away goal difference in double figures, two of these with away GDs of over 20 goals.  Five or six teams with a positive away goal difference was the new normal.

Except now it has changed.   Now half the league have a positive goal difference, and half a negative goal difference away from home.  And the same is true at home.  Only half the league have a positive goal difference at home.  Before, it was all usually around three quarters.

I’ve been through the reason so many times you may well be bored stiff so I won’t do the details again.  But in essence there is clear, fully researched evidence undertaken by academics and football club directors, showing referees respond more favourably to home teams when there is a noisy home crowd.

Arsenal, like the highly lauded Leicester are mid-table at home.  Three wins, one draw, four defeats on home soil with a goal difference of minus one for Leicester, and minus two for Arsenal.

But in the league table that measures away form, where we should be doing ok, we are falling down…

Club P W D L F A GD Pts
13 Wolverhampton Wanderers 7 3 0 4 6 12 -6 9
14 Brighton and Hove Albion 7 2 2 3 9 11 -2 8
15 Newcastle United 7 2 2 3 8 11 -3 8
16 Arsenal 7 2 1 4 6 8 -2 7
17 Burnley 7 1 3 3 4 12 -8 6
18 Fulham 7 1 2 4 7 11 -4 5
19 West Bromwich Albion 7 0 2 5 5 14 -9 2
20 Sheffield United 7 0 1 6 4 14 -10 1

Just two away wins – in a season when away wins are easier to get than home wins.  And quite obviously we need to be scoring away from home.  So what we have to do is keep the attacking approach of yesterday’s games and translate that into away games.

Of course is Aubameyang could come back into the team AND refind his form that would help – a combination of Martinelli and Aubameyang would be great, with Lacazette coming on for Martinelli as he tires.

Our next two games are away and then we have three in a row at home (including two home games against Newcastle).  This is the time we need to be winning – which of course will not only help our points total but also give our youngsters the chance to shine and develop.

It would also be nice if all those people who ceaselessly tell us that Arsenal’s recruitment policy is crap, and that we only buy rubbish, might remember that Manchester United had Martinelli or trial and didn’t make an offer for him.  He cost us £6m.  His current value is £22.5m.

However according to the Who Scored website his characteristics are

  • Aerial Duels: Very Weak
  • Crossing: Very Weak
  • Holding on to the ball: Very Weak
  • Passing: Very Weak

Fortunately he does have two positives:

One Reply to “If Arsenal want to rise up 2021, it’s the away form that’s the key”

  1. If only Who Scored had characteristics for putting the fear of God into opposition players as well as for inspiring your own team mates.

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