By Tony Attwood
If you are a person who shares Untold’s vision of reality, you are likely to be nodding with the satisfaction of knowing that our upward movement across the last nine games was anticipated. If not, you might be thinking, “It won’t last,” or even “Arteta out” (as in ‘Mikel Arteta out’ – Piers Morgan demands Arsenal sack manager” or JOURNALIST DELIVERS ARSENAL MANAGERIAL UPDATE THAT THE ARTETA OUT BRIGADE WILL LOVE or… well you know, there were thousands of them.
And just in case you missed how it all turned itself around (or indeed like us, you enjoy a spot of “I told you so,” while noting that the media have got it so wrong), here is the very briefest of summaries.
Arsenal had got themselves into the position in 2019/20 of being wrecked by fouls and yellow cards given against them – indeed we had the worst yellow card record of any club in the league. Other statistics (the most outrageous involving Leicester, by coincidence) revealed that some teams could tackle just as much as we did, and yet get only a fraction of the number of fouls and yellows.
So in the first third of last season Arsenal transformed themselves into a team that got only half the number of yellows of the season before, thus cutting the number of suspensions. It was tough, and by Christmas we were 15th in the league.
Then the benefits began to show and in the last two-thirds of last season, we were the second most effective team in the league.
Last summer however Arteta decided to transform our defence, and this season the newcomers struggled at first to implement the no-tackle policy which was such a success in the last two thirds of last season. This was much to the glee of the media and the anti-Arsenal Arsenal who refused to acknowledge any of the stats showing how our yellow cards had been cut in half.
But these new signings turned out to be excellent players (and yes I fully admit that Untold stated that the transfer of Ramsdale was very unlikely) and thus who have been brought in and they have been growing in their ability to handle the approach which can be summarised by the notion that in each game we are playing 12 men, and we need to handle the referee as much as the 11 opposition players.
However, the media could not restrain their glee when after three games the league table showed Tottenham Hots at the top, and Arsenal at the bottom. Here’s the whole table, just to remind you…
|2||West Ham United||3||2||1||0||10||5||5||7|
|8||Brighton and Hove Albion||3||2||0||1||4||3||1||6|
The notion that Arsenal were en route to great success, as we predicted during the latter part of 2020/21 seemed laughable and the only Arsenal headlines on view were those arguing that this was the club’s worse start since the beginning of time.
Yet the defence did settle down and the last nine games have given us seven victories and two draws and as we have risen so Tottenham have sunk. Today the top half of the table is…
|4||West Ham United||9||5||2||2||16||10||6||17|
|7||Brighton and Hove Albion||10||4||4||2||11||11||0||16|
Those who were first are now last and those who were last are now sixth, and while sixth is not a trophy any more than fourth was, it’s not a bad climb.
We will of course continue to be running our tackles, fouls and yellow card analysis but meanwhile, we can also enjoy the league table based on the last six games – the traditional “big six” are highlighted. And as you can see, once again, across the last six games, once more we have the second-best defence in the Premier League (and the third-best attack).
|6||West Ham United||6||3||1||2||6||5||1||10|
|12||Brighton and Hove||6||1||4||1||6||8||-2||7|
Of course, this is not going to be all plain sailing from here on, for other clubs and the PGMO are all looking at what Arsenal has done by reducing their tackles, fouls and yellow cards.
Yet there can be more troubles ahead, for as we saw last season, PGMO clearly responded by giving Arsenal matches to those referees who had in previous games, most often dished out the award of fouls and yellow cards (details of that league table can be found in our statistical review of last season).
But for now, we can be rather happy to note that our next game is against Watford (who lost at home to Southampton) and Liverpool (who drew at home with Brighton).
It’s a funny ol game.
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