Have Arsenal truly recovered from those opening three defeats?

By Tony Attwood

There was a huge amount of publicity concerning the opening three league games of the season, with the media particularly enjoying ranting at Arteta and demanding his removal from the club,  Some alleged Arsenal supporters went along with this, and comparisons were made between those three games and Arsenal throughout their history.

But since then there has been little interest in what has happened to Arsenal – so why is that?

You will recall that after three games the table looked like this…

Team P W D L F A GD Pts
18 Wolverhampton Wanderers 3 0 0 3 0 3 -3 0
19 Norwich City 3 0 0 3 1 10 -9 0
20 Arsenal 3 0 0 3 0 9 -9 0

So, to see if the league table after three games (which got wall to wall coverage on the media at the time) has any value in predicting the future we ask, what has happened to those clubs after three games and what has happened to the clubs in the top six after three games.   Have they stayed there?

Or was quoting that table over and over simply another weapon in the hands of the anti-Arsenal muckrakers as a way of avoiding doing any serious research.  Here’s the top after the first three, with the position this morning in the final column.

Team P W D L F A GD Pts Pos now
1 Tottenham Hotspur 3 3 0 0 3 0 3 9 7
2 West Ham United 3 2 1 0 10 5 5 7 4
3 Manchester United 3 2 1 0 7 2 5 7 9
4 Chelsea 3 2 1 0 6 1 5 7 1
5 Liverpool 3 2 1 0 6 1 5 7 2
6 Everton 3 2 1 0 7 3 4 7 12

Of the top six after three games only two (ie one third) are in the top six now, which suggests that as a measure of what will happen, measuring the top six after three games is as dumb as showing the bottom three.  For of those bottom three Arsenal are now 5th, Wolverhampton are 6th and Norwich are 19th.

Which is not to say that there is anything wrong with looking at a league table after three games, but plenty wrong with drawing conclusions from it, about what will happen next.  Only one-third of the clubs in the top six after three games were there after 13, while two-thirds of the bottom three after three games were in the top six in terms of the next ten games.

So in effect, this season at least, the table after three games was utterly misleading as a guide to the future, and any decisions about sacking managers based on the season’s opening were also likely to be incredibly stupid.

The most obvious reason for this comes from transfers.  The season starts before the transfer window ends, which means some clubs have not finished their transfer dealings, and even those players who have arrived will still be learning what their new coach wants them to do.  And in summers where we have an international competition, some players won’t be available.

In short, pretending there is anything that can be learned from the first three matches is so obviously stupid, that only a person deliberately wishing to mislead would indulge in that sport.

And who wishes to mislead?  Why football journalists of course.

There are many reasonable ways of looking at league tables in order to get further insights.  In particular the last six game table and last ten game table do give us greater insights into what might happen next.

Here is the current last ten games table…

Last 10 games
Pos Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Chelsea 10 7 2 1 25 4 21 23
2 Manchester City 10 7 2 1 20 5 15 23
3 Arsenal 10 7 2 1 15 8 7 23
4 Liverpool 10 6 3 1 33 10 23 21
5 Wolverhampton Wands 10 6 2 2 12 9 3 20
6 West Ham United 10 5 2 3 15 11 4 17

As we have suggested above, two of the bottom three after three games are in the top six for the last 10 games.  So rather than the opening three games being a portent of the end of the season, the reverse is true.  Do badly in the first three and in the next ten you have a chance to shine.

In fact, only goal difference separates Arsenal from Chelsea and Manchester City in the table of the last ten games.

And let’s consider how well or badly the two key elements of our game are going: goals scored and goals conceded, again in the last ten games.  In terms of goals scored we could do better, but it is not too disastrous.  We are fifth.

Pos Team P W D L F A GD Pts
4 Liverpool 10 6 3 1 33 10 23 21
1 Chelsea 10 7 2 1 25 4 21 23
2 Manchester City 10 7 2 1 20 5 15 23
7 Crystal Palace 10 3 5 2 17 14 3 14
3 Arsenal 10 7 2 1 15 8 7 23

As for the defence in the last ten games, that is easy – in the last ten games we have the third-best defence in the league…

Last 10 games
Pos Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Chelsea 10 7 2 1 25 4 21 23
2 Manchester City 10 7 2 1 20 5 15 23
3 Arsenal 10 7 2 1 15 8 7 23

In short, we really aren’t doing nearly as badly as the pundits make out.  And in fact, we never were.  Despite headlines such as “Arsenal paying for bad recruitment and spending on overpriced, overrated and underperforming stars”.  But then that’s the Sun.  What do you expect?

5 Replies to “Have Arsenal truly recovered from those opening three defeats?”

  1. A very good bit of analysis. Our form is obviously good and we are progressing In the right direction.

    I see there being two leagues at the moment , Chelsea, Man City and Liverpool in one , and then a significant gap to everyone else in the second league.

    In this league I think we will finish in the top three and maybe first, so Europa league or CL should be very possible.

    We will need more recruits mid field and attack and another right back to compete with Tommy plus at least another year as a group to get to the first league level.

    But I am very optimistic that we are doing so well with such a young team.The new signings are all proving very good.

  2. Very good (and honest)synopsis of our road so far.
    It leads us to believe that the manager we already have, is the manager we need! And perhaps with one or two additions, the team we have is the team we need too. We are not quite anywhere near the league No 1 spot, but we are approaching a top 4 CH League spot

  3. Tony
    I enjoy your analysis and appreciate the work that goes into it. If other ‘journalists’ worked this way we wouldn’t have the false narratives and nonsense we see every day. But we won’t. Most of the media, especially reporting on Sport is lazy, jaded and seemingly incapable of putting effort into the process. We all know this. They just take the easy way – negativism. They must have influence because they continue this farce but here’s my question; WHO BELIEVES THEM? I talk to and communicate with fans of all stripes, including supporters of a range of teams across football. I don’t know any who believe the drivel in the press. Most, if they read it at all, read it for a laugh.

    Perhaps you could write on that, an informal, UA poll of fans from all backgrounds to see just who believes the media’s regurgitated lies, half truths, and general misinformation. We’d all be interested in the results.

  4. goonersince72


    Unfortunately too many my friend.

    Your experience of talking to other fans is different to mine. I constantly face the same old cliched insults of our team, one of which is how we are ‘soft’ and always whinging, neither of which are any more true of us than any other team.

    Yet the follow comment can be found in the Newcastle match day article posted by a rather miffed Newcastle supporter.

    “Give over… the only reason for the additional fouls is that your team is (and has been for the last 10-12 years) made up of a bunch of pussies who don’t like a tackle……… Arsenal are one of the reasons I’ve gone off football a bit over the last few years…. Lovely to watch at times but for gods sake grow a pair between the 11 of you!”

    “But yet again you don’t like being tackled…”

    What’s all that about? More to the point, where did that come from? I’ll tell you where. The media.

    But I don’t remember Arteta or Emery ever complaining about either how we are tackled, or fouled for that matter.

    On the other hand I do remember this from someone else fairly recently:

    Jurgen Klopp: Liverpool boss unhappy with Burnley tackling.

    Okay if you go back far enough you may find Wenger expressing dismay about how we were treated at some grounds, which was hardly surprising given the amount of horrific injuries we suffered at the hands of some of those neanderthals, and often with intent as outlined by ex Stoke player Dave Kitson.

    “Kitson recalled that Pulis made sure his troops were pumped up before the clash, and even told players – defender Ryan Shawcross in particular, who would end up breaking Ramsey’s leg – in training that if they were unable to win the ball, make sure they took out an Arsenal player.

    “Ryan (Shawcross) go across the f****** front – if you miss the ball you f****** well make sure you take someone out,”

    Another result of the media is the “Same old Arsenal, always cheating” chant we face almost every week.

    Every time the issue of diving comes up the first player mentioned is Pires thanks to an ongoing media campaign headed by the bitter and twisted Danny Mills

    Okay just in case you haven’t seen it:


    who claims we introduced diving to the premier League.

    Francis Lee? Klinsmen ?

    Honestly I’ve had every media put down, no matter how ridiculous, repeated to me at some time or other, often by our own fans.

    It’s why myself and others sometimes call it ‘propaganda’ because that’s how it works.

  5. A simple concise analysis of our position and performance thus far. Thank you Tony.

    I still remember a friend who supports Man U lecturing me on what is needed at Arsenal to overcome the three losses at the start of the season. My response then and is still my position is ‘Arteta is a smart man and his selection may not be mine but his is what I follow’.

    The squad that we have is truly wonderful in that most are young and gel together well. The recruitment has been superb as has the progress of home grown players. The luck has not always been with us but it has not deserted us.

    The greatest truth is that the achievement has been despite the PGMOL.

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