By Tony Attwood
One of the things I enjoy about going to Arsenal is the chat with the guys who sit either side of me in the stadium. And I’ve really missed that, which is why this weekend I reached out to Steve who sits on my right and we had a 90 minute chat on the phone on the topic of why he thought Arteta was the right man to be Arsenal’s manager.
In essence he put the point that since Boxing Day Arsenal have been very much a team on the up.
Certainly, the Premier League table last Christmas Day did not make for good reading
|10||West Ham United||14||6||3||5||21||19||2||21|
|17||Brighton and Hove Albion||14||2||6||6||16||22||-6||12|
|19||West Bromwich Albion||14||1||4||9||10||29||-19||7|
A win for Burnley in their match in hand would have left us 16th, four points above Fulham in 18th – the first relegation spot.
And indeed leading up to that league table, our results apart from in the Europa League had been pretty awful.
|29 Nov 2020||Arsenal v Wolverhampton Wanderers||L||1-2||Premier League|
|3 Dec 2020||Arsenal v Rapid Wien||W||4-1||Europa League|
|6 Dec 2020||Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal||L||2-0||Premier League|
|10 Dec 2020||Dundalk v Arsenal||W||2-4||Europa League|
|13 Dec 2020||Arsenal v Burnley||L||0-1||Premier League|
|16 Dec 2020||Arsenal v Southampton||D||1-1||Premier League|
|19 Dec 2020||Everton v Arsenal||L||2-1||Premier League|
|22 Dec 2020||Arsenal v Manchester City||L||1-4||League Cup|
Two wins (both in the Europa), one draw, five defeats in eight matches
Two things were on the cards. Arteta could have decided he couldn’t take this or didn’t want to take this any more, and he could have left. Or the board could have sacked him. Just as they sacked Mr Emery.
So I wondered, was Mikel Arteta doing as badly as Unai Emery at that stage. Unai Emery’s last nine games before he was sacked were:
|24 Oct 2019||Arsenal v Vitória Guimarães||W||3-2||Europa League|
|27 Oct 2019||Arsenal v Crystal Palace||D||2-2||Premier League|
|30 Oct 2019||Liverpool v Arsenal||L||5-5 (5-4)||League Cup|
|2 Nov 2019||Arsenal v Wolverhampton Wanderers||D||1-1||Premier League|
|6 Nov 2019||Vitória Guimarães v Arsenal||D||1-1||Europa League|
|9 Nov 2019||Leicester City v Arsenal||L||2-0||Premier League|
|23 Nov 2019||Arsenal v Southampton||D||2-2||Premier League|
|28 Nov 2019||Arsenal v Eintracht Frankfurt||L||1-2||Europa League|
So to summarise,
Emery: One win, four draws, three defeats. He was removed
Arteta: Two wins, one draw, five defeats. Remained in office.
So the next question is, was keeping Mr Arteta in post worth the risk? The way to find out is to compare Mr Arteta’s results up to Christmas Day 2020 when he was settling in, and then after that day.
Here are the figures:
|Games up to Xmas Day||14||4||2||8||12||18||-6||14|
|Games since Xmas Day||15||8||4||3||28||14||+14||28|
Thus we can see Christmas Day was the turning point for Mr Arteta. Since then we have been doing just about twice as well as were doing up to Christmas Day. Double the number of points, more than double the number of goals, double the number of wins. And we have been playing tougher matches in the Europa League, but still continuing to get through those as well (unlike some we could mention).
So Christmas Day was our turn around day. Since then, we have gained the equivalent of 18.67 points a game. We now have nine league games left in the League. At 1.87 points a game that will take us to 59 points. Better than last year but otherwise we have to go back to 1994-5 to find a lower number of points. So not get good enough.
However it is reasonable to ask, what would happen if we maintained this level of around 1.87 points per game all season. Over the course of a season that would give us 71 points. Is that good enough?
In Mr Wenger’s first season we got 68 points and came third, so yes I would say that is good enough. Indeed although fourth is not a trophy, qualification for the Champions League was achieved a number of times with around 68 points….
In 2006 we came fourth with 67 points, and the following season fourth again with 68 points.. Same again in 2011. In short, if we can keep up the post-Christmas results then we would be back in “fourth is not a trophy” territory. Not a guaranteed fourth, but close.
However there is no reason why we should stop there. With the sort of progress Mr Arteta has made in the two halves of his tenure so far, we should continue to improve and get ourselves into the position where we can have seasons with points totals in the 70s and 80s, as Mr Wenger achieved.
On the basis of this analysis, we are on the right track, and should be back to what many of us would consider an acceptable level, given that we don’t have the endless wealth of Chelsea and Manchester City.
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