Are Arsenal on track for the top four at the end of the season?



By Tony Attwood (and a calculator)

Is it possible to judge, after 18 games (which is to say 47% of the season) whether it is likely that Arsenal will end up back in the top four?  I’ve played with this little exercise before, and quite enjoyed it.  So here we go again…

The league table at the moment shows that we are of course fourth, but that Manchester United and Tottenham could overtake us with the games in hand.

Manchester United would need to win both their games to lead us by one point and Tottenham Hots would need to win two of their three games, and get a positive goal difference of +6 across these games to go above us.  In the “last six” league table (at the end of this article) both are currently some way below us on current form – which is encouraging.   Here’s the league table today.

Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Manchester City 18 14 2 2 44 9 35 44
2 Liverpool 18 12 5 1 50 15 35 41
3 Chelsea 18 11 5 2 39 12 27 38
4 Arsenal 18 10 2 6 27 23 4 32
5 West Ham United 17 8 4 5 28 21 7 28
6 Manchester United 16 8 3 5 26 24 2 27
7 Tottenham Hotspur 15 8 2 5 18 19 -1 26

Looking at this table, it is no longer completely clear that we need a totally new attack.  True we are a long way behind the clubs above us in terms of goals scored, but the situation is now improving week by week.  And most interestingly, we are not way behind the rest of the league – leaving aside the top three.  In short, we have time to develop our new forward line out of what we have – a goalscoring midfield.

We are now the fifth highest scoring team in the league, and although (again) a long way behind the top three in terms of goals, having adjusted our team we are now moving up the table in terms of goals scored.  And now across the last six games, we are the third highest scoring team in the league.  Here’s the current table organised by goals scored…

Lge pos Team P W D L F A GD Pts
2 Liverpool 18 12 5 1 50 15 35 41
1 Manchester City 18 14 2 2 44 9 35 44
3 Chelsea 18 11 5 2 39 12 27 38
5 West Ham United 17 8 4 5 28 21 7 28
4 Arsenal 18 10 2 6 27 23 4 32

In terms of defensive capabilities we are tenth in the league, which is disappointing, except when one notes that the five teams above us in terms of solid defence, all have games in hand.  Games in which of course they could let in any number of goals. I wouldn’t be surprised to see us sixth in the defensive league simply by the other teams playing their games in hand.

Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Manchester City 18 14 2 2 44 9 35 44
3 Chelsea 18 11 5 2 39 12 27 38
8 Wolverhampton Wanderers 18 7 4 7 13 14 -1 25
2 Liverpool 18 12 5 1 50 15 35 41
13 Brighton and Hove Albion 16 4 8 4 14 17 -3 20
7 Tottenham Hotspur 15 8 2 5 18 19 -1 26
5 West Ham United 17 8 4 5 28 21 7 28
18 Burnley 15 1 8 6 14 21 -7 11
12 Brentford 16 5 5 6 21 22 -1 20
4 Arsenal 18 10 2 6 27 23 4 32

So of course we have not yet reached the dizzying heights of being certain of retaining the “fourth is not a trophy” position, to gain admittance to the big boys club in Europe, but we are getting there.

The following table (unique to Untold, which means I worked it out by myself and so there might be a mistake somewhere) shows where we were after 18 games in earlier seasons.

Pos Season P W D L F A GD Pts End pos 4th club
4 2021/22 18 10 2 6 27 23 4 32 32
11 2020/21 18 7 3 8 20 19 1 24 8 32
11 2019/20 18 5 8 5 24 27 -3 23 8 32
5 2018/19 18 11 4 3 40 24 16 37 5 32
4 2017/18 18 10 3 5 31 20 11 33 6 33
4 2016/17 18 11 4 3 39 19 20 37 5 37
4 2015/16 18 11 4 3 39 19 20 37 2 37

The penultimate column shows where we ended up in the league each season.  But the last column, headed “4th” shows the number of points the club that ended the season in fourth had gained by the 18th game.

And as you can see for the past three years the team that came in fourth at the end of the season had got 32 points after 18 games – exactly where we are now.

Of course that does not mean that 32 points after 18 games guarantees us a place in the Champions League, but it does show we are running on track for fourth.  Once we are in fourth and in the Champions League, the big money returns, the excitement rises, and from there I think we can further develop a team that not only looks secure in the top four, but starts to challenge at the top once again.

As for the reason why the club that ends in fourth is regularly on 32 points after 18 games, whereas in the past 37 points got one to fourth at this stage, I think it is the growth of the competition to the top four and the bunching of clubs, both those tearing away at the top and those slinking down at the bottom.

The gap between 14th and 18th is eight points.  The gap between first and fourth is 12 points.  These gaps were rarely seen in the middle of the last decade.  They happened but not often.

And there is one other point, and that relates to the last six and last 10 games tables we have been running.  In predicting what happens these are the best guides we have is form. 

Of course the full season table takes into account our opening three league defeats this season, but we are not playing like that now.  It could be argued that we would still be defeated by Chelsea and Manchester City if playing them in the coming days, but it is likely we would beat Brentford away now, and could well get at least a point off Chelsea at home based on their current form.

Actually as I was doing my usual checking of figures (and yes that does happen on Untold) – I found a website that was showing the last six games table with Arsenal in 7th position.  If you see that – believe me it is wrong.  We are third – which suggests that staying in the top four is not impossible

Last six games league table
Pos Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Manchester City 6 6 0 0 19 3 16 18
2 Liverpool 6 5 1 0 15 4 11 16
3 Arsenal 6 4 0 2 14 6 8 12
4 Aston Villa 6 4 0 2 9 5 4 12
5 Tottenham hots 6 3 2 1 9 6 3 11
6 Manchester Utd 6 3 1 2 7 9 -2 10
7 Chelsea 6 2 3 1 9 8 1 9
8 Leicester City 6 2 2 2 12 10 2 8