By Tony Attwood
There is a piece in the Daily Mail today by Ian Ladyman that says, “Mikel Arteta would finally appear to be moving Arsenal forwards. It has taken a while and his team are still short of where they need to be, but there are signs of progress.”
That sentence symbolises all that is wrong with football journalism. On the surface it might seem right given that after 15 games this season we are fifth, below the team in fourth just on goal difference. But that looks like a lot of progress because after 15 games last season we were 15th, three points below Newcastle United and five points off a relegation position.
|16||Brighton and Hove Albion||13||2||5||6||15||21||-6||11|
What the Mail statement implies, as all their football journalism implies, is that if only their journalists were running the club, it would be turned around in a trice – but these managers know nothing.
And what the Mail statement forgets is that in the last two-thirds of last season we were the second best team in the league. “Finally” makes no sense.
At present we are outside of the top four on goal difference. A fair amount of goal difference but not something that can’t be made up over the 25 remaining games.
However much more important, and this is the bit the media utterly refuse to contemplate, is that our most recent results have been very positive.
“Ah but we haven’t had any real tests yet,” say the disbelievers. “Wait until we play the top teams. Look what happened against Liverpool.”
This is the latest myth creeping in – that this season we have had a very easy run in the fixture lists and it will all change soon. So, let’s ask if that is true.
13 games is 34% of the season, and if we are going to measure ourselves against the rest of the traditional top six (Manchesters City and United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham Hots) then that would mean ten games home and away all season. By this stage of the season we should have played three of those ten games, and fact we have played four.
|22 Aug 2021||Arsenal v Chelsea||L||0-2||Premier League|
|28 Aug 2021||Manchester City v Arsenal||L||5-0||Premier League|
|26 Sep 2021||Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur||W||3-1||Premier League|
|20 Nov 2021||Liverpool v Arsenal||L||4-0||Premier League|
So we are not getting a soft ride at the moment – we are actually having a slightly rougher ride than might be expected with a completely balanced set of games against the top six.
Ah yes, argue that naysayers, but the top six isn’t what it was, since two of the old big six are no longer in the top six. So how have we done against the current “big boys”? That would mean Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, West Ham and Wolverhampton Wanderers.
In fact we’ve played three games against the top six – exactly what one would expect by this stage – and yes we lost all three. Not a good set of results, but not a soft set of fixtures.
But there is something else here and I have touched on it before – the way our results have improved. For the fact is that the only club aside of the Big Six to defeat us this season was Brentford, in the first game, when we had several players ill, and defenders who had only just joined the club and were trying to learn how to play the reduced tackling game.
It is because it does seem to me that the team has improved across the season and is continuing to improve, that I have taken to reporting the league table based on the last six and last ten games. Just as we did last season, as our form turned itself upside down with one third of the season gone.
This season we had a poor start – and the media were very keen to tell us about that – but they now utterly refuse to consider how good the last 77% of the season has been. Just look at the league table for the last ten games.
So where are we lacking? We have scored just two goals fewer than Manchester City in the last ten games and conceded two more goals than them in the last ten games. That surely is a fantastic achievement given the horrible start we had.
Which means, our attack is improving and our defence is improving, and our results across the last ten matches have given us exactly the same number of points as Chelsea and Manchester City.
And the Mail says, “Mikel Arteta would finally appear to be moving Arsenal forwards. It has taken a while and his team are still short of where they need to be, but there are signs of progress.”
Signs? What an utterly mindless piece of gibberish.
Ian Ladyman is Football Editor of the Daily Mail.
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