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What do the first five games tell us about the rest of the season?

By Tony Attwood

One of the constant themes of football journalism and blogging is that the fans know more than the manager.  It is a theme encapsulated within phrases like “Odegaard has operated as a no.10 this season with Emile Smith Rowe dropping to the bench, but Arteta started both against Burnley to show their intent to go out and get a positive result.   Arsenal fans have been crying out for the two to be given a chance to coexist in the same team and they didn’t disappoint.”  That comes from the Mirror.

“Crying out” of course symbolises a desperate desire for the manager to see the obvious – which the fans can see without ever once being on the training ground or talking to the players.  No article is complete without a “crying out for” or some such equivalent.

Part of the problem is not just the belief that all opinions are of equal merit (experience and knowledge surely counts for something too) but also that one should not generalise outward from one incident, as where Football London states that

“Tavares did well to snuff out a Burnley attack and carried the ball up the pitch where a pass to either Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang or Nicolas Pepe could have seen the Gunners double their lead.

“But the 21-year-old opted to ignore his teammates and elected to shoot well wide of the target.   Of course, the decision didn’t comeback to haunt Tavares, but it’s safe to say that many supporters weren’t too impressed with his decision-making.”

Another single incident, another condemnation, because everyone is entitled to an opinion, except by and large the manager.

Fortunately after two wins, although only each by one goal and both  against lower level clubs, Arsenal’s situation has improved before the game against Tottenham next weekend, while the tiny totts activities against Chelsea has knocked them down a peg or two.

But here’s a thought.   How well does the position of a team after a handful of games, reflect where the club ends up on the final day?

I am sure everyone knows where we are after five games, but just in case there’s any doubt, here’s the table…

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Pos Team P W D L F A GD Pts
7 Tottenham Hots 5 3 0 2 3 6 -3 9
8 West Ham United 5 2 2 1 11 7 4 8
9 Brentford 5 2 2 1 5 2 3 8
10 Aston Villa 5 2 1 2 8 7 1 7
11 Watford 5 2 0 3 6 8 -2 6
12 Leicester City 5 2 0 3 5 8 -3 6
13 Arsenal 5 2 0 3 2 9 -7 6

That doesn’t look too exciting, being three points behind the Tinies after just five games, but let’s go back 10 years to the day and consider the league table on 20 September 2011.  And this time I’ll run the whole table because there are some interesting names near the top, with Newcastle United, Stoke City, Aston Villa, Queens Park Rangers, Sunderland, Norwich City, Swansea City, Wigan Athletic and Blackburn Rovers all being above us.

We were 11 points off the top of the league, as opposed to seven at the moment.

Pos Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Manchester United 5 5 0 0 21 4 17 15
2 Manchester City 5 4 1 0 17 5 12 13
3 Chelsea 5 3 1 1 8 6 2 10
4 Newcastle United 5 2 3 0 4 2 2 9
5 Stoke City 5 2 2 1 3 5 -2 8
6 Aston Villa 5 1 4 0 6 4 2 7
7 Everton 4 2 1 1 6 4 2 7
8 Liverpool 5 2 1 2 6 7 -1 7
9 Queens Park Rangers 5 2 1 2 4 6 -2 7
10 Wolverhampton Wanderers 5 2 1 2 4 6 -2 7
11 Tottenham Hotspur 4 2 0 2 7 8 -1 6
12 Sunderland 5 1 2 2 6 4 2 5
13 Norwich City 5 1 2 2 5 7 -2 5
14 Swansea City 5 1 2 2 3 5 -2 5
15 Wigan Athletic 5 1 2 2 4 7 -3 5
16 Blackburn Rovers 5 1 1 3 7 10 -3 4
17 Arsenal 5 1 1 3 6 14 -8 4
18 Fulham 5 0 3 2 4 7 -3 3
19 Bolton Wanderers 5 1 0 4 8 13 -5 3
20 West Bromwich Albion 5 1 0 4 3 8 -5 3

Of course you may have an encyclopedic knowledge of each season and how it concluded but in case not here is the table at the end of the season.

Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Manchester City 38 28 5 5 93 29 64 89
2 Manchester United 38 28 5 5 89 33 56 89
3 Arsenal 38 21 7 10 74 49 25 70
4 Tottenham Hotspur 38 20 9 9 66 41 25 69
5 Newcastle United 38 19 8 11 56 51 5 65

Third might not be a trophy, and being one place below the media’s favourites – Leicester City – doesn’t mean that Arsenal will this season rise up to third, but it does show that we need to be cautious about reading too much into the league table at this stage.   Especially as we have six new players being integrated into the team, and all of them having to get used to a radical style of playing – not to mention a radical style of refereeing that they will not have encountered before.

Incidentally it is also interesting to note that 40% of the clubs in the Premier League ten years ago are not in the league this season, including the likes of Wigan, Bolton and Sunderland now in the third tier.

Wigan are top of League One where they are followed by Sunderland.  Bolton are 8th.  

So maybe as we contemplate Arsenal sitting in 13th at the moment we should also remember those 100+ years in the top division, unmatched by anyone else.  Or the fact that in Herbert Chapman’s second season Arsenal finished 11th in the league.

Oh, and if you are contemplating writing in to say that Arsenal fixed their promotion in 1919, you might care to read some of the articles in that 100+ link, because you really can’t believe all you read in the papers.

Understanding Arsenal’s start to the 2021/22 season

8 comments to What do the first five games tell us about the rest of the season?

  • A Banks

    Would be nice if once, just once, you were able to write an article without mentioning / criticising the press.

  • Or indeed Andrew if you could write without changing your email address. Anyway, since you ask how about, “Fan problems break out against Burnley”. But apart from your propensity either to keep getting your email address wrong, or to keep changing it, you haven’t quite got the essence of the title “Untold Arsenal”. This site focuses on (not exclusively of course but quite often) things that other site don’t mention or mention in a way that seems to us wrong.
    Thus your comment is rather like someone writing in to Medicine Tony and saying “would be nice if once, just once, you were able to write an article without mentioning illness”.
    Meanwhile for your new email address for next time, how about – you haven’t tried that one yet.

  • Havyn

    I always enjoy reading you. Well researched and articulated. Yes is 38 games and we have played 5. We had some key players unwell with COVID and injured. The season has just started.

  • mick shelley

    A Banks
    Would be nice if once, just once, you were able to write a comment without mentioning / criticising Tony and his articles.

  • Nitram

    A Banks

    You’re a bit like an opera fan who keeps turning up at a rock concert, then constantly moans about the endless guitar solos.

    One has to seriously question the sanity of somebody that does that don’t you think ?

    Of course it’s your prerogative to go to as many rock concerts as you want, but a word of warning. There’s going to be guitar solos. Lots of them.

  • Nitram

    A Banks

    And just to be clear here, I’m not saying you are not entitled to your point of view. Of course you are. It’s just I haven’t got a clue what that is, because as mick points our all you ever seem to is moan about Tony.

    Do you actually have a point of view or are you just obsessed with Tony ?

    Why don’t you try and explain WHY the media shouldn’t be called out everyday for their lies, misdirection, and complicity, after all they engage in that every single day.

    Maybe you think the media don’t lie ?

    Maybe you think it doesn’t matter if they do ?

    If you do think that try explaining WHY you think that.

    I’m sure behind vacuous facade you currently present there’s an intelligent, thoughtful, human being trying to get out.

  • Goodness I really do hope he’s not obsessed about me. That would be really spooky!

  • mike in atlanta

    sounds like he works for the media.

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