We knew what it would be like from the very start: Burnley were certain to play 11 behind the ball from the off. With 16 goals scored this season they are bottom of the league in every sense. They came for a draw and got it.
OK it was up to Arsenal to beat them down, and had we got a goal they might have tried to come forward a bit, but season after season we experience teams that come to Arsenal and play the total defensive game.
So how can it be stopped?
There is in fact one very simple way: change the points system. Get rid of one point for a draw, and just have one point for a win, and nothing else. A draw in fact is a bad as a defeat and so would encourage teams to go forward more. Goal difference could remain as the way of separating teams on the same number of wins.
If we were doing that this season the table would look like this…
|Current position||Position under new system||Team||Pld||W||GD|
|5||4||West Ham United||23||11||10|
|9||11||Brighton and Hove Albion||22||6||0|
Now the changes in position would not be that great. Indeed eight clubs (marked in bold in the position columns) would be the same and no club would move by more than two places.
So one might think there is really not much point messing about with the system. But in fact I think the change in approach would make teams attack more. As it was, Burnley got a minor reward (one point) by defending the entire game. Under the new system they would have got no reward.
Thus the approach does not make a huge difference in terms of who might win the league but it makes a difference to individual games. It makes a difference in terms of whether clubs would think it worthwhile to come out and defend all the time, instead of venturing forward.
And there is another statistic that can be introduced here: the number of shots.
Games in which teams shoot tend to be more exciting; the sort of games supporters like to see.
|6.||West Ham United||301||5|
|8.||Brighton and Hove Albion||279||9|
But at the moment as we can see there is a huge difference between the club that shoot and those which don’t. However the willingness to shoot on sight is not rewarded. Leeds who shoot a lot and who are 7th in the shooting table are 15th in the league. Wolverhampton Wanderers who don’t seem to like shooting at all and are 19th in the shooting table are actually 8th in the league.
Indeed Wolverhampton are 8th in the League but 19th in terms of shots.
So if we wanted to go beyond the simplicity of one point for a win, we could do something like three points for a win and one point for a shot rather than one point for a draw.
In essence the current system encourages some teams to play as Burnley played against Arsenal and allows Wolverhampton to climb up the league with no thought about attacking football at all. Indeed think of what fun the league would be if all we cared about were goals.
If goal difference determined everything the league today would look like this…
|Pos now||Team||P||W||D||L||F||A||GD||GD pos|
|5||West Ham United||23||11||4||8||41||31||10||4|
|9||Brighton and Hove Albion||22||6||12||4||23||23||0||9|
There would not be much movement, but the incentive to attack would surely be enhanced.