So what can we do about Arsenal next season?

By Tony Attwood

Arsenal are probably going to finish about half way down the league, quite possibly the worst finish since 1982/3 – the worst for 38 years…

Pos Team P W D L F A GD Pts
5 West Ham United 34 17 7 10 55 44 11 58
6 Tottenham Hotspur 34 16 8 10 60 38 22 56
7 Liverpool 33 15 9 9 55 39 16 54
8 Everton 33 15 7 11 45 42 3 52
9 Arsenal 34 14 7 13 46 37 9 49
10 Aston Villa 33 14 6 13 48 38 10 48

If worse than that it is going to be worse than 1975/76 making it the worst for 45 years when we ended up 17th, and we were rather close to relegation for part of the season.

So the question is, what can be done about this?   Having a new owner looks rather impractical since the value of all football clubs is rising.  As our owners don’t need the money that would come from a sale, why should they sell now, if the club is going to be worth more next year and possibly double in ten years time?  

Indeed as the Glazers have shown at Manchester United, even committing the most heinous crimes against a club and thus really ramping up the hatred against the owners, doesn’t actually affect the owners.

A quick look at the Manchester United accounts shows what owners can get away with.  In 2020 Manchester United’s debt rose by £127.4m to a grand total of £429.1m – and that rise was in just one year.  

The rules of Manchester United mean that the the Glazer family, who exclusively own the B shares, get a payout of around £18m a year – despite these losses.

Now some Manchester United supporters have been denouncing the Glazers constantly without success – despite the modest triumphs on the pitch….

League FA Cup League Cup
2013–14 7th R3 SF

Champions League – QF

2014–15 4th R6 R2 Non participant
2015–16 5th Winners R4

Champions League – Group; Europa League – Round of 16

2016–17 6th R6 Winners

Europa League – Winners

2017–18 2nd Runners-up R5

Champions League – Round of 16

2018–19 6th R6 R3

Champions League – QF

2019–20 3rd SF SF Europa League – SF

Seven season, three cups, and league positions varying from runners up to 7th and one season out of Europe.   Which would be fine for many teams but is clearly not acceptable for the Manchester United supporters.

Yet despite their protests, a game disruption and their range of managers (five in the last eight years) they are not at a level that they feel is acceptable. 

Arsenal has actually done slightly better for trophies, winning the FA Cup four times across this period.  But this season our point average per game is likely to end up at around 1.44 points per game.  Adjusting all seasons to three points for a win and one for draw we can see this is not as bad as 1975/6 or 1982/3 but still not very good.

  • 1975/6: 45 points under contemporary points or 1.07 points per game
  • 1982/3: 58 points or 1.38 points per game
  • 2020/21: 49 points from 34 games or 1.44 points per game.

So no, we have not sunk to the level of 1976 or 1982, but we are a long way away from the level of success (even in the “fourth is not a trophy” seasons, that Mr Wenger managed.

But what needs to be done to make Arsenal more successful? 

A new owner?  Well, that didn’t work when the Hill-Woods and others sold out to Kroenke.

A new manager?  Let’s compare Arsenal with the fourth place finish that Mr Wenger was so fiercely criticised for achieving.   And the “fourth is not a trophy” seasons are important because we need to get back into those before we can launch an assault on the top position.

Season P W D L F A Pts Pos Top scorer
2010–11 38 19 11 8 72 43 68 4 22
2011–12 38 21 7 10 74 49 70 3 37
2012–13 38 21 10 7 72 37 73 4 21
2013–14 38 24 7 7 68 41 79 4 22
2014–15 38 22 9 7 71 36 75 3 25
2015–16 38 20 11 7 65 36 71 2 24
2016–17 38 23 6 9 77 44 75 5 30
2017–18 38 19 6 13 74 51 63 6 17
2018–19 38 21 7 10 73 51 70 5 31
2019–20 38 14 14 10 56 48 56 8 29
2020-21* 38 16 8 8 51 41 56 10 16

*For this season I have estimated what the remaining matches will yield, based on the average across the season.   

The four figures in red (goals scored, points, position and goals by top scorer) are those that are the worst across this whole period.  In essence we need to score more goals, which will probably bring more points that will take us up the league table.  Nice and simple.  As I have said so often, “it’s not the defence” that is the problem despite the media’s insistence that it is. 

Indeed only three of the last 10 years have been better than this season in terms of defence.  If we get suckered into the wild ravings of the blogs and the media we could waste millions on improving a situation that doesn’t need improving while doing nothing about the situation that needs resolving.

But what of new attackers?   We have been sitting on this low level of around 56 goals for two seasons.  Which needs we must change any or all of these three…

  • The attacking line up – bringing in one or two new attackers
  • The better use of players that we have – using Martinelli instead of refusing to play him, while having Saka playing in a forward position, not at full back.
  • The style of play

It is simple: goal scoring is what has to be fixed.

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5 Replies to “So what can we do about Arsenal next season?”

  1. Securing honest and impartial refereeing would be a major contribution, if only it were possible.

  2. When AW left , I was hoping that things would somehow improve with a fresh new man in. I did not want AW to go through another season of ungrateful fans who had some notion that Arsenal truly was a big club and that fans had some divine right to success , and that their lives would have meaning .

    Well , we all know how that dream ended !

    I will continue to support the club as before , hoping that we win something of note and that the club continue to take upward strides.

    That we will be able to find the funds to get the players that the manager thinks he needs , without crippling the club.

    That the players play their hearts out for the club and for those who support them.

    That manager does his utmost best to improve the club and that the players enjoy playing under him.

  3. I do believe the defence has been a problem for a number of years – often masked by our ability to play free-flowing football and score great goals from a number of quality attacking players. It’s what made us great to watch, but not good enough to rely on winning trophies or top 4 league positions. It’s one of the key reasons we lost out in Champions League knock out games…we were defensively unreliable

    So, that needed addressing…for years. I think Arteta has seen this and has addressed this to a large extent, we’re still capable of individual errors, but as a defensive unit we look much better

    We’ve long had quality strikers and attacking players – how we’ve played the game has changed. Our midfield and front players are (rightfully) required to work much harder in tracking back and covering our defenders – how often do we see us defend a corner with no one outside our penalty box?

    Agree with point made by @Ukesox – we have lost the creativity and attacking spark in midfield. Supply is the issue, I don’t have the stats but I would guess conversion of chances has not dipped as much as creation of chances

    Our current midfield is asked to focus on defensive cover but we cannot consistently burst from defence into attack and strike on the break. We have the speed in our front players, but not the plan/system/players to enable that.

    And when we have possession, we struggle to unlock tight defences

    Although I’ve had to hold my hands up and admit Xhaka has done well for us recently, we are not going to challenge at the top until we have real quality in midfield that can reliably create many more chances, Our build up is too slow and deliberate – and Xhaka is the perfect example of that,,,he has good passes in him, but he’s not quick enough in thought to catch out opposition defences. BTW – this is not all about Xhake, Arteta has compromised attacking flair to bolster the defence. Now we have better defenders that do need to play and train together more – roll on the summer break for that!

    We need 2 new midfielders, one defensive (athletic and game reader – sorry Granit/Dani) and one attacking (vision and execution) to re-gain the midfield balance. Odegaard could fill the attacking role, Willock is a decent back up to him

    Xhaka? – ok for cover, bring on as a sub to shore up a game/play in domestic cup games – no more than that

    Clearly we need to buy a keeper and 2 full backs as well – then we have a strong squad that could compete for the Premiership top places

  4. @PJ
    a bit hard on Xhaka, arguably our player of the season. And someone who gives 100%.
    Despite a couple of (so far) disappointing signings, and what the league position suggests, the squad looks stronger than 12 months ago, with Party and Tierney promising much. Defence is much improved and we’re spoilt for choice in central defence, we just need to find the best back 4. A left back, a creative midfielder and a striker that is an upgrade on who we have, and it might be a great season. And who knows, Willian might come good in midfield and Pepe might give us 15 goals…
    Or it might all go pear shaped Thursday night and we’re all back to doom and gloom.

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