By Tony Attwood
Does being bottom of the league after three games really mean anything? Presumably the people who write newspapers and blogs want their readers to believe that it does. They don’t spell it out, but the implication is always that how the table looks after three games is an indicator of how things will pan out.
And we know this because they use the position after three games to determine whether a manager should be sacked or not.
And sadly, because some football directors are swayed by such things, their wishes of having a manager removed after just a few games are then fulfilled by the clubs.
But really, do the first three games matter?
What has struck me as interesting is that no one seems to be asking the question at all. It is all an assumption. In fact the notion that how the first three games pan out is important contains within itself several assumptions.
a) If the team is doing badly after three games it will end the season in a very low position.
b) If the team is doing badly after three games the manager should go because that will make things better.
c) There are no extraneous circumstances that are in play in the first three games that will soon become irrelevant over time.
Personally I think this is a typical piece of media hogwash, invented to make life easy for journalists who hate doing anything like hard work, and who treat their readership as a bunch of mindless twerks who don’t know a piece of valid statistical research from a fall into a village pond.
Indeed although I have not searched the whole internet, and I may well have missed something obvious, I couldn’t find any site that had compared the first three games of Arsenal seasons with where the club finished up. So I’ve had to do it myself. Here it is:
|Season||Pos after 3 games||Pos at end of season||Place difference between 3rd game and finish|
When I started I didn’t recall 2011/12 in particular and so haven’t gone down to that year, ten seasons ago, deliberately, but it does show that a huge rise in positions from three games from the third game of the season to the end of the season can happen.
So twice in the last ten seasons we have been in the bottom four after three games, once in 16th and once in 17th. On one occasion we rose 10 places by the end of the season and one we rose 14 places.
What this little piece of research taking all of five minutes shows us, is that in seven of the last ten seasons we have risen by three or more positions between the placing after three games and the position at the end. Only in one season we were fourth both after three games and at the end, and as we all have learned from our esteemed Wenger Out colleagues, fourth is not a trophy.
Twice we have gone down three places. At least we know that can’t happen this year!
So, why? Why during the Wenger era did we normally start poorly but then rise?
Sadly I don’t have Mr Wenger’s mobile number to ask him, but from my observations I would say that not only did Mr Wenger buy new players each season, he also changed the tactics in many seasons to accommodate new purchases and to get one over on the opposition who would plan to play the old Arsenal.
We know that he would, over and over, rework the way the team played, and we know that he regularly railed against the behaviour of international managers who interrupted this work. Indeed his most famous comment was one comparing them to car thieves who not only take your car but return it broken and tell you have to it ready for the next time they want it. (He got heavily censured for that as I recall, and warned about his future comments).
Now the connection with the present day is that last season Mr Arteta radically changed our style of playing. He is now further transforming the side with new players coming in, and he has had players returning from international breaks where they have been asked to play in different ways.
Add to that the repeated outbreaks of the virus at Arsenal, and you have what seems to me to be a better summary of the current situation than the one line statements about a terrible start which is all the media give us.
None of this is a guarantee that we will rise up 14 places in the league. But it is a factor that if noted would lead to slightly more balanced commentaries – although come to think of it, that is probably too much to ask.
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