By Tony Attwood
In the summer of 2021 Arsenal spent £156.8m on a new defence, more than any other Premier League club spent overall. And given the general point of view that spending money on new players is the only way to progress in the league, one might expect two things. First, that Arsenal would, as a result of this record spending, rise up the league, and second we would have a better defence this season than last, in terms of goals conceded.
In fact, that has happened in only one of the two predictions. Yes we are better off in the league after 21 games than we were a year ago. We’re five points better off after 21 games and we’ve scored seven more goals.
Unfortunately despite buying a new defence we’ve let in five more goals this season after 21 games than we did last season after 21 games.
So did we waste all that money?
One reason to think we did is that in the last two-thirds of last season we had the second-best defence in the league. Arteta had clearly worked hard in the first third of the season to get them to play as he wanted, but then surprisingly having had such success in the last two-thirds of the season, changed the entire defensive line up. And so our defence is not as good as it was.
|2||Arsenal last two thirds 20/21||24||14||5||5||43||21||22||47||1.96|
So that superb run in the last two-thirds of last season has been lost, although to be fair if we win the next three games by good margins we could be close to the figure we achieved in the last 24 games of last season.
The goal-scoring is interesting too. This season in the league our top scorers are Smith Rowe with eight goals in 14 starts and Saka with six goals in 19 starts
|Starts||Goals||Goals per start|
|Emile Smith Rowe||14||8||0.57|
Last season our top scorers were
|Player||Starts||Goals||Goals per start|
What we haven’t done is got anyone scoring at the level that Nicolas Pépé achieved last season, although to his great credit Smith Rowe is scoring very close to Lacazette’s level of last season.
Spats between manager and players
Of course what has really been a key factor is Arsenal’s situation are the spats between the manager and our two most expensive players: Ozil and Aubameyang. Although we’ll probably never know the ins and outs of the situation, we didn’t normally see such things under Mr Wenger, who had the great ability of selling our players to Barcelona for a profit just as they were starting to lose their form.
Did we get it right in buying that defence?
As we showed the other day, although we have only got two points more out of our spending that is still more than other clubs.
|Club||Last summer spending||Last season final position||Position today||Change|
|West Ham United||£48.5m||6||5||+1|
Indeed spare a thought (or at least a laugh) for fans of Manchester United who spent £107m in order to be two places worse off than a year ago.
But what is really not right is that our attack is running at around half the level of goals that it got last season.
So, in conclusion, we’ve spent £125m net last summer in order to go up two places in the league to date, but we are still lagging behind on the form that we showed in the last two-thirds of last season.
So are there any benefits?
We have bought in a new young defence, who with a bit of luck will be even better in the remains of this season and for the next few years. The trouble is they are only the seventh-best defence in the league this season, and in the last two-thirds of last season only Manchester City had a better defence in the league than Arsenal. So clearly not yet up to the standard of the last two thirds of the last campaign.
Also, we can say that we got more out of our money in terms of a rise up the league than anyone else and we can argue that the club bought young players, and their value is improving. But I would have expected that form of the last two-thirds of last season to have been a base we built upon, and that hasn’t happened.
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