How close to real success are Arsenal getting?

By Tony Attwood

The media are getting very excited about the idea of clubs pulling out of social media, not least because social media takes attention away from the lies that the media publish about clubs on a daily basis.

So they have introduced the notion that Arsenal need six new players.  Football Whispers has done the “6 Players Arsenal Could Sign To Perfect The 3-4-2-1” while last December the Express ran “Arsenal transfer news: Six players who need to be sold”.

Of course this is not new, as far back as 2011 the Bleacher Report was running “Most Arsenal supporters agree: the squad is in dire need of reinforcements.”  Not “need of reinforcements” but “dire need”.

In 2017 the Daily Cannon said, “Redknapp thinks Arsenal need “six or seven” new players” as if Redknapp’s views were of any consequence while in 2019, “442” ran the headline “6 players Arsenal could realistically sign to improve them.”  And these are just a sample of thousands of such headlines.

Various simple examples show us how dangerous this endless campaign by the media is.  First, there was a piece in the Daily Mirror recently which suggested that Arsenal’s defence need replacing almost in totality.  Yet we have the fifth best defence in the league, and we are only four goals worse off than Chelsea, the team with the second best defence in the league.

And then there was last night’s performance.  Excellent play and a great result surely in everyone’s opinion (unless you are a journalist since it undermines the key aspect of Arsenal reporting: Arsenal need to sign six players).  Arsenal won’t buy six of course, because to do so would destabilise the entire team and demotivate the entire squad.  

Although I’m as disappointed as anyone with our slip down the league, the reality is that as I mentioned above, the defence is in good nick compared with the rest of the Premier League and all that we need are a few more goals – and last night showed that we can get them.

Plus it really is only a case of a few more goals.   Ten points would have us in the top four, and although that seems a huge number, the simplest way we could have got these is through turning five draws this season into victories by scoring one more goal in each of them.

So have we had five such games?   Try these…

Date Game Res Score Competition
22 Nov 2020 Leeds United v Arsenal D 0-0 Premier League
16 Dec 2020 Arsenal v Southampton D 1-1 Premier League
14 Jan 2021 Arsenal v Crystal Palace D 0-0 Premier League
30 Jan 2021 Arsenal v Manchester United D 0-0 Premier League
06 Mar 2021 Burnley v Arsenal D 1-1 Premier League

Thus the differences have not been that great.  Yes the fact is we did not win, we drew, but that’s not the point – the point is improvement for the future.  That improvement means tucking away one extra goal in each of five games, and that absolutely does not need a total clearout and bringing in six new players.

Of course the media won’t accept this.  Football.London with its daily vigorous “Arsenal in chaos” stories recently told us that “the defence represents another key area that Arteta wants to bolster this summer.”  No, we have the fifth best defence (four goals off the second best club in the league) but the ninth best attack (18 goals off the second placed club).  It’s been the attack that is the issue.

Another point the media never get is that having a top goal scorer doesn’t guarantee a top four finish.  It can help, but not always,  Look at the list of league positions compared to league goals scored and the top scorer

Season Lge Goals scored Lge pos Top scorer Goals scored
2012–13 72 4 Theo Walcott 21
2013–14 68 4 Olivier Giroud 22
2014–15 71 3 Alexis Sánchez 25
2015–16 65 2 Olivier Giroud 24
2016–17 77 5 Alexis Sánchez 30
2017–18 74 6 Alexandre Lacazette 17
2018–19 73 5 Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang 31
2019–20 56 8 Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang 29

It is not having a player who knocks in 30 goals a season that lifts us up the league, nor how many goals we score!   I know that seems odd, but just look at the table.   Our top scoring season of late was 2016/17 when we got 77 goals and came 5th.   In 2018 we had our second top scoring season of this period and came sixth.   The number of goals scored is not key.

Nor is the number of goals scored by the top scorer.  In 2017 Alexis got 30 and we came 5th, in 2019 Aubameyang scored 31 and we came 5th.

This whole fantasy of the media is created either because the commentators are total idiots who know nothing of the game at all, or because they are deliberately seeking to undermine Arsenal with childish makebelieve.  There is no other explanation.

What is needed is a solid defence (which we have and which is improving all the time – as I said, only just a few goals away from being the second best defence in the league) and an attack that knocks in 70 goals a season – which we have not got.

This season we are on track to score 53 goals in the League – the lowest since 1995.   That does NOT mean we need a 30 goal a season man, it means we need goals coming in from all quarters.  It means having a number of consistent scorers across the team and a solid defence which enables us to sneak the 2-1 win from a game that is drifting to a 1-1 draw.

Attempts by the media to create a demand for wholesale change in the team need to be resisted.  The defence as I have argued over and over again does not need massive change, and the media demand.  All we need is goals coming from a wider range of players.  And that is what last night revealed.  And that is why we should celebrate last night twice – once for getting through, and once for showing we are solving the real problem, not the media’s fantasy problem.

The picture top left is Dial Square, the factory from whose workforce the first Arsenal team was selected.

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2 Replies to “How close to real success are Arsenal getting?”

  1. In answer to your question it depends on what you mean by ‘Real Success’ ?

    As I said in a recent article, to me perspective is everything. So as with every team, how well, or how ‘successful’ you are, depends on what you should realistically expect your team/club to achieve, and that will differ enormously from fan to fan.

    For confirmation of that you only have to look at how we were judged under Wenger.

    Many people saw a top for finish as abject failure, which when compared to the previous glory years is at first sight understandable.

    But when you put it in the perspective of the financial situation we were in compared to that of our direct opponents, then perhaps a top 4 finish was not quite so bad after all. That’s certainly what I believed.

    So there’s the dilemma.

    Is challenging for the title and Champions League crown the only way we can be called ‘successful’ simply because ‘We Are Arsenal’ and that’s what we should, or at least many people think, we should be doing, or should our ‘success’ or otherwise, always be judged with perspective ?

    In other words is it realistic, given our chosen financial model, to expect us to compete long term with the 2 Manchester giants and Chelsea, all of which generate vastly superior amounts of money than us (through whatever means) to spend on transfers?

    Yes we have spent incredible amounts of money recently but this cannot go on. Our model simply will not allow it.

    Now, despite the fact this incredible spending hasn’t reaped the rewards it perhaps should of, that doesn’t, despite arguments to the contrary, mean it is not the right thing to do. Premier League history shows that big spending IS what wins you the Premier League. With the exception of Leicester City every other title has gone to a mega spender. I know Liverpool have kept their Net spend down (mainly on the back of the sale of 1 player) but they have an enormous Gross spend.

    Now this isn’t to say I WANT us to spend another £50 M in the summer I don’t. I think, and have said so on many occasions, that the potential of this squad is enormous. I may be mad but I put my money where my mouth is and actually had money on us EW for the title this year. So I believe in this group of players.

    But that being said, is it realistic to expect them to out perform Man city, Man Utd and Chelsea, 3 clubs that WHATEVER happens this season will look to strengthen their squads again this summer, and that means spending money, and lots of it ?

    So realistically, even if this current crop of youngsters develops as well as we all hope, is it fair to expect them to win the PL or the CL next season ?

    I don’t think so.

    So in answer to Tony’s headline what would be ‘Real Success’ for us next season ?

    Personally I think a top 4 finish would be a good achievement. Top 3 excellent. A push for the title incredible. Winning it miraculous.

    But in reality it’s not just about next season but the future in general, and that’s the acid test. Given our financial model, what would be ‘Real Success’ for us in the long term ?

    Back to the halcyon days of Wenger? Well given the financial might of others I don’t think that will happen.

    Back to the top 4 is not a trophy trophy and the occasional domestic cup as in Wengers later years ? Personally I think that is more realistic.

    Back to the top 4 is not a trophy trophy and nothing else as when Wenger operated on a zero net spend ? Personally I think that would be failure given we are at least able to spend decent amounts, as we have shown.

    The truth is Tony it is not a simple question, because as we have seen over the years peoples idea of what constitutes success varies enormously depending on your point of view.

  2. Good article! I’d say we would have this ten points more woth better and not corrupted refs in England this season. We lost about 10 points due to absolute ridiculous and false decisions already. 😒

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