By Bulldog Drummond
Football commentators love themes – when a new one emerges almost all the journalists jump in and accept it as the central point of their commentary for a few days. This gives readers, watchers and listeners a feeling that the approach must be true because everyone is talking about it.
Take for example the notion that Arsenal have the easiest of times when it comes to their remaining fixtures. I haven’t actually seen the phrase “Lucky Arsenal” but the notion that the Arsenal run-in is the envy of all the clubs around them which are hoping for a top six finish, is now being regularly stressed.
But there is a second side to the point which is not mentioned.
For the fact that Arsenal have played a disproportionately high number of their fixtures against teams at or near the top of the league, although not an excuse for being in their current position, does give a little extra hope for the rest of the season. Yet no one says, we have had tough fixtures – only that we have got easy ones coming up.
Although I must admit, a second boost ahead of today’s game must be that Liverpool know they play again on Tuesday (while Arsenal don’t have another match until Thursday). Oh yes and Liverpool’s game is against Real Madrid. And they still have their injury list.
Even so the pundits are generally expecting a Liverpool win – although historically the clubs have been fairly evenly matched – Arsenal beating Liverpool 81 times and losing 90. 61 of the games have been drawn.
But those figures hide a dreadful run between August 2015 and October 2019 in which we played Liverpool ten times and didn’t win once, getting four draws and losing six times. Worse, in eight of those ten games, Liverpool scored at least three goals.
However since then, Arsenal have won three and lost just one – although to be fair two of those three wins were in penalty shoot outs to win the Community Shield and the League Cup tie last October.
|15 Jul 2020||Arsenal v Liverpool||W||2-1||Premier League|
|29 Aug 2020||Arsenal v Liverpool||W||1-1||Community Shield|
|28 Sep 2020||Liverpool v Arsenal||L||3-1||Premier League|
|1 Oct 2020||Liverpool v Arsenal||W||0-0||League Cup|
But if we just focus on Arsenal at home to Liverpool we find something else a bit strange. In the past nine games between the two clubs with Arsenal at home, Liverpool have only won a single match – that being in August 2016. Four wins for Arsenal and four draws. Go back further and Liverpool have just two away wins at Arsenal in 20 games.
According to the BBC it is also the game that has produced more goals in the Premier League years than any other – they have counted 166. Although as you will see below, I am starting to doubt some of the BBC’s data.
But the negative records do keep being bandied around, as with the fact that one more game this season in the league in which we don’t score will equal our all time record of 11. On the other hand Alexandre Lacazette has notched up a goal in the last three Premier League games he has started against Liverpool, whereas Aubameyang hasn’t had a single shot on target against Liverpool in five attempts (according to the Corporation).
As for Liverpool, apparently way back in 1955 they won six games away from home in a row. If they beat us today they will equal that achievement. But… I thought that was quite a remarkable run even for a second division club, as Liverpool were at the time. And yet I have checked and checked and can’t see it. Indeed in 1954/5 Liverpool only won five away games in the league all season although in 1955/6 they won seven. Even including their FA Cup games I can’t find the run.
I did however find them being beaten 6-1 by Rotherham and 9-1 by Birmingham in 1954/5. I am sure it is me just not seeing things properly for the BBC can’t be making up records just to suit its own narrative can it?
Anyway, we have let in the same number of goals as Man U and Leicester and just two more than Tottenham, so our defence is doing ok through the whole season, and now with a new power in attacking midfield it looks like the goals are coming. Indeed Chelsea have only scored four more than we have and everyone is raving over them. So I suspect it only needs a little more tweaking of the team and we will be a top four side again.
In fact it may not even need that. A whole season of Smith Rowe and Saka firing on all cylinders ought to give us the extra in attack we need, and a settled defence could enhance our position at the back a touch more, and there we are. People could start their “fourth is not a trophy” whinging all over again.
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