By Tony Attwood
According to the Daily Mirror today, last night’s game was “the same old story for Arsenal as they struggled to create goal-scoring opportunities.”
The clear statement is that without more goals Arsenal will be in serious trouble. And yet that is not always the case.
For example, we are currently on track to score 46 goals this season, but in 1980/81, playing four more games than we will this season, we scored just 45 goals, and finished the season in 3rd.
The same old story? It is one of those phrases they drop in, and then with no one challenging them, they treat it as a fact. Arsenal haven’t been able to score goals for years – that’s the media’s take.
Moving somewhat into more contemporary times of the 21st century, the lowest number of goals we have managed to get have come in the last couple of seasons with 56 goals in 2019/20 and 55 last season. (All figures relate to league matches only).
Other than those seasons, the worst season this century was 2000/1 when we scored 63 and came runners up. We also scored 63 in 2006/7 when we came fourth. Which means we are only running at one goal in every four games fewer than we needed that year to get the “not a trophy” place and a spot in the Champions League.
But even though the current rate of scoring might just get us into the top four, these last couple of years have indeed seen something of a collapse and the inevitable calls for a 20 goals a season centre forward.
However in reality there is not a direct link between having a top scorer and achieving a particularly high number of goals. More goals for the top scorer do not always mean more goals for the team.
In 2003/4 Henry was top scorer with 39 league goals – a sensational total, and a figure only exceeded by Jimmy Brain in 1925/6 with 43, and Ted Drake in the 1934/5 title winning season when he got 44.
But Henry’s record in modern times for the club didn’t mean the club scored lots more goals. Henry may have got 39 but the club only got 73. The year before, Henry got seven fewer while the club got 12 more in the league.
Last season our top scorer in the league was Lacazette with 17. He was also our top scorer in 2017/18 with the same number. In between those two years we had the two seasons of Aubameyang’s glory in which he got 31 (2018/19) and 29 (2019/20).
So like many “obvious” notions in football, perpetrated by journalists whose prime anxiety is to get to the pub before they run out of beer, the twin notions of always having a 20 goal a year man and having to score very highly in order to win the league, are not quite as “obvious” as they might appear.
In 2019/20, for example, Manchester City scored 17 goals more than Liverpool but ended up 18 points behind them. Manchester United scored 36 goals fewer than Manchester City and finished the season one place below them, in third.
In 2018/19 Arsenal were the third highest-scoring team in the League and finished the season in fifth thus missing out on the Champions League.
In the unbeaten season we scored 73 and won the league by 11 points. The following season we scored 87 (14 goals more in case you are missing more point) and ended up 12 points behind the winners of the league.
So goals alone don’t mean everything. But on the other hand the last two seasons have been the lowest since 1995/6 when we came in fifth and thus got into the Uefa Cup. Wright got 23 goals and Bergkamp got 16.
Mr Wenger didn’t seemed bothered with Europe very much and focussed on the league. The following year Wright went up to 30, Bergkamp scored a couple less, but also Merson turned up with nine.
What Mr Wenger also did was bring in players who might take a year to find their scoring boots, but then delivered. Anelka got nine in his first full season, 19 the second.
This shows that sometimes it can take a year or two for newcomers to fully deliver – but that can be a problem with the media getting frantic. The current frenzy could well lead to a demand for a player who can deliver 20+ at once – and such a player might be hard to find.
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