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The simple solution to resolving Arsenal’s current difficulties.

By Tony Attwood

In my last piece Football is not a level playing field, and that should be Arsenal’s starting point I tried to raise the point that solving Arsenal’s problems is not one of simply bringing in a new manager, and maybe half a dozen new players.

No, I think that we are going to need to be a lot more subtle than that, given the forces currently ranged against the club and rather than just start with the sack-the-manager approach and the “six players Arsenal need to buy” ramblings of most newspaper hacks, I think we can look at this a totally different way…

Compare and contrast the difference between the home form of Leicester City and Arsenal this season

Team P W D L F A GD Pts
6 Leicester City home 17 9 1 7 30 22 8 28
9 Arsenal home 17 6 4 7 19 20 -1 22

Very similar sets of results over 17 games, with the simple difference that Leicester got three more wins and three fewer draws than Arsenal, and achieved that in a season of scoring just nine more goals at home.  As a result of three more home goals, six more points.

Let’s do the same again with away games

Team P W D L F A GD Pts
3 Leicester City away 17 10 5 2 31 17 14 35
7 Arsenal away 17 8 3 6 27 17 10 27

Let’s take two of our draws and turn them into wins.  Another four points.  A total of five more goals to give us 10 more points.

That would take us to fifth, and quite possibly a place in the Champions League, depending on the vagaries of who wins the Europa and this year’s Champions League.  (Countries can have five clubs in the Champions League, but no more).  That’s it five more goals.

And yet there is currently total doom, gloom and despair, demands to be on the board and for the manager to be sacked.  But then the media love this approach because transfer rumours is the cheapest form of journalism known to mankind.  The journalists just switch on the computer and make it up and then go down the pub.  Or the other way round.

But what else?

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Well one thing Arsenal did this season was recognise that every time they committed a tackle a foul would be given, and that Arsenal were as a result picking up yellow cards more readily than most clubs.   So they cut the tackling and changed the approach.

It has been a clever trick – not enough to get us into the top four, but enough to stop us sinking lower and lower at the behest of referees.    In case you are interested Leeds are top of the tackle table with 653 this season.  Arsenal are bottom with 409.

This sort of adjusting the game to counter the approach of the referees which we have highlighted is interesting – not least because the main statistic we need (how many fouls do each team commit) is not published by the Premier League.  They publish a lot of data, but nothing on fouls.  Isn’t that interesting?

This awareness of what the referees were playing at was a prime feature in Mr Wenger’s approach – largely I think because he experienced the attempt to get him banned from the touch line for 10 weeks for a crime he didn’t commit (see the previous article for details).

So we have the fourth best defence but only the 11th best attack, which makes it obvious what is needed.  Either another goal scoring centre forward, or a faster way of getting the ball through to the centre forward or a goalscoring winger who can play alongside a goalscoring centre forward.  One player, or at the most two.  (Actually I think Smith Rowe could feed the ball through, so maybe just one).

This table is in order of the number of goals scored in the PL.    It shows that goals are not everything – in 1998/9 we only got seven more goals than this season but came 2nd.  But having the lowest goal scoring in our Premier League history is not a good start.

For Ag Pts Pos Top scorer (all competitions) Goals
2020-21 52* 42* 55* 9th* Lacazette 19* 
2019–20 56 48 56 8th Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang 29
1998–99 59 17 78 2nd Nicolas Anelka 19
1996–97 62 32 68 3rd Ian Wright 30
2000–01 63 38 70 2nd Thierry Henry 22
2006–07 63 35 68 4th Robin van Persie 13
2015–16 65 36 71 2nd Olivier Giroud 24
1997–98 68 33 78 1st Dennis Bergkamp 22
2005–06 68 31 67 4th Thierry Henry 33
2008–09 68 37 72 4th Robin van Persie 20
2013–14 68 41 79 4th Olivier Giroud 22
2014–15 71 36 75 3rd Alexis Sánchez 25
2010–11 72 43 68 4th Robin van Persie 22
2012–13 72 37 73 4th Theo Walcott 21
1999–2000 73 43 73 2nd Thierry Henry 26
2003–04 73 26 90 1st Thierry Henry 39
2018–19 73 51 70 5th Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang 31
2007–08 74 31 83 3rd Emmanuel Adebayor 30
2011–12 74 49 70 3rd Robin van Persie 37
2017–18 74 51 63 6th Alexandre Lacazette 17
2016–17 77 44 75 5th Alexis Sánchez 30
2001–02 79 36 87 1st Thierry Henry 32
2009–10 83 41 75 3rd Cesc Fàbregas 19
2002–03 85 42 78 2nd Thierry Henry 32
2004–05 87 36 83 2nd Thierry Henry 30

*Estimated final number for this season based on form thus far.

Conceding 42 goals in the PL as we will probably end up doing this season is normally top four territory.  Not always of course, any more than having the top scorer in the league guarantees us a top four place, but it is what we should aim for.

No, what is wrong is that this season we are probably going to end up with the lowest number of goals in our Premier League history, and we’ll be finishing in our lowest position.

So to be clear, goals alone doesn’t make us title contenders, but there is nothing too much wrong with the defence in terms of their prime duty of stopping goals – we are the fourth best in the league.

As shown above, five more goals could get us into Europe.  20 more goals while keeping our current defence together would see us back in the top four.

So why do the media want us to replace half the defence?  Two possible answers.  Either because they are so utterly thick they have not go the slightest idea of what is going on, or because they like Arsenal being mid-table because it makes copywriting so very much easier.  They are deliberately misleading, because they think Arsenal supporters are thick.

So what do we need?  More goals and keep the existing defence while ensuring that we adjust to the latest vagaries of refereeing.

Football: the great reform bill and the breakaway

6 comments to The simple solution to resolving Arsenal’s current difficulties.

  • Fabien

    When you score these few goals, you look at everything else. First of all, the confidence given by our GK which was of course higher with Martinez than it is with Leno (even Mustafi never made mistakes with Martinez behind him because he felt more confident).
    But then you look at the many many many referee/VAR mistakes that costed us results: Man City away, Liverpool away, Wolves, Aston Villa, Everton… even vs Fulham! In the old days, we used to think that the referees’ mistakes eventually balanced themselves at the end of the season, some for some against.
    Not with Arsenal and definitely not this year.
    Of course, we should have played better and score goals to avoid having to look at this data. But in a fair and level playing field we would be looking at a very different outcome now

  • Samuel Akinsola Adebosin

    Yes. “Adjust to the latest vagaries of refereeing” I think that should be a Arsenal antidote for neutralising PGMO anti-Arsenal match refereeing in the PL in the area of tackling as they progressed in their PL matches this season.

    But nevertheless, I think Arsenal should try to develop other antidotes that will take care of all the vagaries of refereeing in all aspect of bookable offences and VAR cheating in the game. Which the PGMO match referees in the PL could employ against Arsenal in their anti-Arsenal match refereeing in the PL to stop Arsenal from winning all their remaining 4 PL matches left this season. So that Arsenal won’t attain a PL top-six or top-seven place finish this season to play European football next season.

    I think us Gooners should apply wisdom to ourselves to be calm and remain calmed to avoid taking hasty decisions to tell the Kroenkes to sack Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta. After Arsenal painfully failed to qualify for the Europa League Cup final yesterday at the Ems when they played to a goaless draw in the 2nd leg semifinal match against Villarreal CF.

    I can understand the anger, sadness, disappointments, frustrations and depressions that us Gooners felt after Arsenal failure to make the ELC final this season. This is normal reaction from us. But let us take the failure on our chins and move on.

    And notwithstanding our disappointments to not see Arsenal reached the final, our disappointments could turn to a blessing for us in disguise. For, Arsenal could still qualify through the PL this season to play in the Europa League next season.

    And the Arsenal first team squad could be resuffle for the better during this next summer transfer window to offload the Gunners who are looking to be mediocres for Arsenal in matches this season, lacking important games winning mentality that leads to winning titles.

    And bring in some new players as replacements (4 at most) of a top league 30 goals plus per season centreforward who ticks all the boxes. But if they get one and can afford his cost. 2 new topnotch left back and right back for options and cover who also ticked all the boxes are desirous for Arsenal to sing them in my opinion next summer. A new gatekeeper who ticks all the boxes too? But is Leno leaving Arsenal at the end of this season? If he did, Arsenal could sign Mat Ryan as replacement to him and keep Mat Macey as his backup.

    Arsenal have come proven top quality young forwards and midfielders of: Martinelli, Balogun(not yet tested in the PL), Saka, ESR and Willock(on loan) in their first team. Who I believe Arteta should retain them all next summer to see. But he must find one Santi Carzola or Aaron Ramsey to throw to their mist. Who were regular goal scorers for Arsenal when they were at the club playing to sign the like of them next summer and sign him. Can Odegaard possibly fits this bill? Well, I don’t know.

    Arteta and his coaching staff must from the Arsenal in training sessions for Arsenal home match in PL against WBA and for 3 next ones improved drastically on the Gunners profligancy in front of the opponent team’s goalmouth to make them start scoring regularly for Arsenal with some easy added to it in their remaining 4 PL matches left this season. So that Arsenal won’t miss out on playing in the Europa League Cup next season.

  • 23 minutes gone at king power stadium
    joe willock 1 leicester city 0
    his fifth … (and beautifully taken, too: cool-headed 1v1 against schmeichel (no less), a gentle left-footed pass – slightly chipped – to the side-netting – my dear old youth coach would have loved it)
    speaking of simple solutions … (just sayin’)
    P.S. (sorry, but I just can’t help it): not in a million years will partey ever, ever, score such a goal

  • AKH

    Collecting and investigating available data is not an easy task! It can be very difficult to undertake and extremely hard to understand and interpolate when trying to convert such data into actual useful information. Thus it appears to me that many media people, commentators and associated bloggers will rely upon so-called experts to undertake the data collection and subsequent interpolation whilst then utilising such apparent findings, associated correlations and the like to further their own conclusions. As examples, we end up with analyses from so-called ‘famed journalists” such as Mr Ornstein and Ms Lawrence from the Athletic; Mr Cross et al from the Daily Mirror and from ex-players who have become recent’ pundits’ for Sky;BT;BBC;ITV, Talksport etc. Such persons are seen as ‘famed for being the experts’ Such persons are then referred to and quoted as being further experts through Social media sites which allow for an exchange/interaction of views of such persons and their ideas/conclusions, no matter how tenuous! Facts and accumulated evidence become distorted and used to justify opinion. For me this has become a continuous cycle of fabrication and invention on behalf of many. Why? Who knows? Indeed, I recently suggested that the Arsenal coaching staff were naive in the way that the tactics of the team was set up against Villareal last Thursday. I made this statement from observation of the match on tv. But what do I know? Professionally I know nothing about football tactics and any observations were made by an Arsenal fan (me) through tv observation. Having made this observation I linked it to similar types of performance that I felt that I had experienced whilst watching Arsenal matches throughout this season. However, I am not calling for managerial, coaching or player sackings! I have no sound evidence to make such judgement as I have not fully accumulated or understood the reasons for such conclusions. I am however disappointed and frustrated at the outcome of the match and still feel that the observed Arsenal tactics were not appropriate for this game against Villareal. So, what should the tactics have been? Well, I have not got a simple solution to resolve this or to Arsenal’s current problems! But, at least I write this as I believe that here Untold Arsenal is continually trying to highlight the current notion about Arsenal’s defence being awful, by using simple evidence that suggests the opposite, relative to other premier teams. UA is trying to highlight major discrepancies in evidence produced by the PGMO when publishing its own dat and information; UA is highlighting research findings from academic institutions that are versed in making useful conclusions from data and information. UA has been continuously highlighting the plight of international workers and their need for basic human rights in Middle Eastern oligarchies, especially through the building of football stadia; UA has highlighted the evidence accumulated from agencies concerning apparent corruption within FIFA; UEFA; the FA and the Premier League. Evidence which has been ignored by the media within the UK until very recently. (Thank you Norway football for supporting UA on this). I shall continue to watch, follow and support Arsenal continuously despite current problems, knowing that I do not have simple solutions to problems because simple solutions really do not exist unless one is ready to explore the evidence other than the use of ones own eyes.

  • Matt Macey left Arsenal on 8 January 2021

  • According to HITC:- “Guendouzi joined the London Colney side for £8 million in the summer of 2018 during Unai Emery’s reign.”

    According to Jake Humphrey:- “The self-appointed Big 6 thought they were too good for the Champions League?”

    And they have the nerve to publish it.