Does being bottom after 3 games actually tell us how the season will end?

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
2020/21 5 8 -3
2019/20 3 8 -3
2018/19 9 5 +4
2017/18 16 6 +10
2016/17 8 5 +3
2015/16 9 2 +7
2014/15 7 3 +4
2013/14 4 4 0
2012/13 8 4 +4
2011/12 17 3 +14

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.

How the media got it wrong last season and will do again in 2021/2







13 Replies to “Does being bottom after 3 games actually tell us how the season will end?”

  1. True up to a point. The thing is its not just that they are bottom, you can lose games while showing fight. But they haven’t scored a goal yet and let in nine. Yes you can sign players but how many of Arsenal’s recent signings have been really successful ? Contrast it with Spurs. A poor season last time, a difficult summer with the speculation over Kane. They haven’t yet integrated their new signings, Son and Kane aren’t really firing yet. But the same players who struggled last time have shown real discipline and fighting spirit under a new manager who has them organised much better. I can’t see that organisation, spirit and discipline at Arsenal. It doesn’t mean they will finish bottom but a few places up from where they are now isn’t exactly a success.

  2. Kman

    I do so love it when someone has something meaningful to say..


    I hear this every single year about Spurs, and still they win nothing. NOTHING.

    And this is their last five PL finishes.


    Getting worse and worse, and as I say, still not a trophy in sight.

    We on the other hand have been going through dire season after dire season. The worst run club in the universe. Selling the wrong players .Buying the wrong players. A club in turmoil.

    Over the last five season


    Not good enough I know, but actually no worse than Spurs because as we all know the top 4 trophy that’s not a trophy is just that, not a trophy.

    But unlike Spurs who have won absolutely nothing we have some how tripped over, fluked, been given, 2 FA Cups and 2 Community shields.

    I assume you’re an Arsenal fan. Perhaps you should be a Spurs fan as you seem to appreciate how they are getting worse and worse season by season and winning absolutely nothing, than you do the team you should actually be supporting, who have won 2 FA Cups

    I remember when Spurs won the title last November. It seems they’ve done it in August this year. It remains to be seen if they’ll ever actually win it, or indeed ANYTHING come May, when it actually counts.

    By the way, this is not a pop at Spurs, rather a pop at these over entitled ingrates that somehow allow themselves to be lured into this ‘wonderful Spurs’ ‘Crappy Arsenal’ media agenda we get year after year after year.

  3. Simple answer is the level of competition since 10 years ago has become much better. Previously, it was largely only the top 4, now you have teams such as Leicester, Spurs, Wolves, West Ham, Burnley all fighting for Europa and Champions League spots towards the end of season. Thats is not to mention traditional strong teams like Man Utd, Liverpool and teams bought by billionaires like Chelsea and Man City.
    Thus, it is not enough for Arsenal to be better in a vacuum each season, the falling league positions show that their progress has not less than other teams.

  4. Read all about it – ‘10 man Gunners loose to Champions!’ – Disappointing, but not a huge shock really and certainly not the biggest story of the week.

    Read all about it – ‘Injury hit Gunners loose away to European champions!’ – Disappointing but not a huge shock really and certainly not the biggest story of the week.

    Read all about it – ‘COVID depleted Gunners loose to newly promoted Bees!’ – A story for sure but context is all. COVID played a part and Brentford are a decent team with a brilliant manager, they’ll beat a few more big clubs.

    Summary: Not a lot to get too worried about just yet. Keep calm and carry on. Norwich will tell a tale.

  5. Dec
    Re ‘COVID depleted Gunners loose to newly promoted Bees!’ Covid did indeed play a big part, almost as big a part as the referee.

  6. Yeah, but we’re used to that. This one goes down to Brentford being well prepared and doing their bit. AND Boris’s dumb ‘Freedom day’ AND the numbnuts whoever it was that contracted COVID and brought it to Arsenal.

  7. Jurgen Klopp’s carefully chosen words after the foul on Leno for Brentford’s second goal – Carragher cackling like a drunk at the of the bar – separates ‘football people’ from what can only be the theatre of football, as Peter Schmeical defined it for the Danes in the 1990s.

    A theatrical event generated by the fans. To be experienced. The rules of the game subordinate to the theatre experience, Klopp careful with his words precisely because each club straddles the realm of football as a game with laws of football, and the realm of theatre, football as experience, the rules of football subordinate to the experience.

    Season 2020 -2021, Covid determining all realms, no fans present, the referees had to adjudicate football as a game, with rules. We have to consider that. With the fans back the spectacle explodes. Arsenal to be thrown to the sky. We have to consider that.

    Brentford. Chelsea. Man City. Three big cannons wheeled into the arena designed to demoralize and devastate.

  8. How can someone try by all possible means to justify failure, exactly what the above article is trying to do!! Only by an arsenal trust the deluded process fan!! The game started the same time as arsenal and they are left far behind already after just 3 games, for me, it’s big sign of teams that will be struggling to remain in the PL and one that will be fighting to win major trophies, if the rookie manager had any skills, he would have, with hindsight envisaged issues ahead (knowing fully well the first 3 games) and then coach the team well to deal with any mitigating issues, I thought loosing those pre season games to Chelsea and Tottenham was sign of poor coaching but others thought it’s only pre season, remember, other teams have problems too, the dumb 🤪🤪🤪failure presently at arsenal is down to bad ownership and clueless and poor decisions makers at the club irrespective of all the resources available like data, scouts, coaching support, facilities, information to do well, so sad!!

  9. I don’t think there is a justification in the articles here. More an explanation of what has happened, and indeed a prediction as to the future. Just because the media and blogs unite in their opinion, without giving any other than the sort of generalisations you give, that doesn’t make them right.

  10. Yes it does. The reason we are at the bottom is primarily because of the tilted pitches that Arsenal have played on since the formation of the PGMOL. Our season has been put on a course by the corrupt officiating and we have to rise above all this controlled shit to our real level. Until our club gets a real case in court or in some place where the FA can be investigated, nothing will change.

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