Have Arsenal always been a team of two halves?

By Tony Attwood

We’ve been making the point as strongly as we can, that the ceaseless attacks on Arsenal by the Daily Mirror, the Mail and other “outlets” (or drainpipes as I prefer to call them), deliberately misuses data.

And in response to that the point has been made – maybe Arsenal are often a team of two halves in terms of the season.   So I thought I would try and find out.

In the following table I have taken the past the figures for Arsenal on Christmas Day and then the figures for the second part of the season – up to 36 games, which is where we are now.

Basically in 2016/17, 2017/18 and 2018/19 Arsenal accumulated fewer points per game in the period after Christmas Day, seeing a decline of between 0.12 points per game and 0.23 points per game.  So no, we are not following a pattern.

In the last two seasons however Arsenal have done better after Christmas Day than before.  In 2019/20 the gain was 0.18 points per game between Christmas Day and 36 games.  This season it is a whopping 0.52 points per game.

So prior to Arteta we were having a tendency to do better in the first half of the season.  Under the current management this is reversed, and I am sure it is something the boss will be considering with his colleagues.  If we could get off to a flyer and then maintain our current form, we’d do alright.

We have played 22 games this season between Christmas Day and today, because of the delayed start to the season due to the delayed finish of last season, and this improvement has helped us considerably.

Season Played by 25 Dec Points by 25 Dec Points per game by 25 Dec Points by 36 games PPG by 36 games Gain / loss per game
2016/17 17 34 2.0 67 1.86 -0.14 pts
2017/18 19 34 1.79 60 1.67 -0.12 pts
2018/19 18 37 2.06 66 1.83 -0.23 pts
2019/20 18 23 1.28 53 1.46 +0.18 pts
2020/21 14 14 1.00 55 1.52 +0.52 pts

So the conclusion is that this was a really poor start to the season, and we are obviously still doing worse after 36 games than we have been in most other recent seasons.

There’s no real pattern here –  even when we balance the first and second half of the season out.

Pos Season P W D L F A GD Pts
3 2016/17 halfway 19 12 4 3 41 19 22 40
2016/17 2nd half 19 11 2 6 36 25 11 35
5 2016/17 final 38 23 6 9 77 44 33 75
6 2017/18 halfway 19 10 4 5 34 23 11 34
2017/18 2nd half 19 9 2 8 40 28 12 29
6 2017/18 final 38 19 6 13 74 51 23 63
5 2018/19 halfway 19 11 5 3 41 25 16 38
2018/19 2nd half 19 10 2 7 32 26 6 32
5 2018/19 final 38 21 7 10 73 51 22 70
11 2019/20 halfway 19 5 9 5 25 28 -3 24
2019/20 2nd half 19 9 5 5 31 20 11 32
8 2019/20 final 38 14 14 10 56 48 8 56

As to what has gone wrong this season here it is in a nutshell…

Date Match Result Score Competition
08 Nov 2020 Arsenal v Aston Villa L 0-3 Premier League
22 Nov 2020 Leeds United v Arsenal D 0-0 Premier League
29 Nov 2020 Arsenal v Wolverhampton Wanderers L 1-2 Premier League
06 Dec 2020 Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal L 2-0 Premier 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

We were four points off the relegation spots.  We had scored three goals in seven.

And as to what went right

Date Match Result Score Competition
26 Dec 2020 Arsenal v Chelsea W 3-1 Premier League
29 Dec 2020 Brighton and Hove Albion v Arsenal W 0-1 Premier League
02 Jan 2021 West Bromwich Albion v Arsenal W 0-4 Premier League
14 Jan 2021 Arsenal v Crystal Palace D 0-0 Premier League
18 Jan 2021 Arsenal v Newcastle United W 3-0 Premier League
26 Jan 2021 Southampton v Arsenal W 1-3 Premier League
30 Jan 2021 Arsenal v Manchester United D 0-0 Premier League

The point is of course that we can do it – as we have shown in that run.  That is what we have to aim for, and when that can happen we are going to be a match for most teams.

So Mr Arteta found a way to turn us around after that run up to 19 December.  To round this off let’s look at the teams.

Everton v Arsenal – the end of the losing streak


Holding, David Luiz, Saka, Tierney

Ceballos, Elneny Willian

Maitland-Niles Pepe


5 Replies to “Have Arsenal always been a team of two halves?”

  1. The question is, is this imbalance between the 1st and 2nd halves of seasons unusual, or do all clubs by and large experience similar imbalances ?

    Without that perspective it doesn’t really tell us much.

    Are we unique ?

  2. I enjoyed the read, but I think Nitram has a point, it would be easier to gain a perspective if we could compare Arsenal’s situation with (say) the top 4 clubs in the Premier League, please.

  3. OK Nitram, you want more figures. Give me a few hours to work that one out. But one thing I can say at once – look at Manchester City’s record this season – they won the league on an astonishing second half to the season.

  4. Tony

    You know I’m a stats person, but that doesn’t mean I don’t, like everyone I suppose, just get a feeling for something.

    But a ‘feeling’ can be just that, a feeling. Until you look in to the stats ‘feelings’ actually mean very little.

    It’s what happened to me way back in the day. I had a ‘feeling’ we were being screwed with the amount of yellow and red cards we were getting. It just ‘seemed’ to me we only had to breathe on an opponent to get a card and yet we were being kicked of the park and our opponents ‘seemed’ to be getting away with it.

    But without statistics it remains that, just a ‘feeling’.

    So I checked the statistics and my ‘feelings’ were confirmed. We were being screwed.

    Regarding this particular topic, my ‘feeling’ is that most teams have good and bad, or at least better and worse halves to seasons.

    That to me seems perfectly natural as maintaining a continuous level of results throughout an entire season is extremely difficult. Form, injuries, luck, these will all feed into inconsistency over a season.

    It will be interesting to see if we are indeed, unique. Personally I doubt it.

  5. Nitram mate, buddy, friend, do not underestimate feelings. If Mrs Nitram heard that yours is a relationship of stats, your dinner will be in the hound.

    Feelings are what people share to get emotional responses. Stats are indicators that are extracted to allow some form of diagnosis.

    Feelings lead to positioning guided by stats that make choice seem correct. Allison’s goal for Liverpool is nothing more than feelings …………

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