By Tony Attwood
I am sure you will be as impressed as I have been, by Arsenal’s recovery from the start of the season and the club’s ability to handle the mindless assault on all aspects of the club, to which the media subjected Arsenal. So you’ll probably know the current top of the league off by heart. But in case not…
But how does this compare with other seasons after 25 games? Time to take a little peek
(W) = Wenger as manager, (E) = Emery as manager, (A) = Arteta as manager
This table shows us that although we have an equal number of points as we had in 2015/16 when we came runners-up, in the following season (2016/17) we actually had two more points (50) after 25 games and were fourth, but ended the season in fifth.
So what went wrong in 2016/17 after the 25 game mark?
In essence, we went on a cup run and won the FA Cup in a superb display beating Chelsea 2-1. But from the end of January, our League and European form sank. Having lost on the last day of January to Watford, we were also humiliated in the Champions League by two 5-1 defeats to Bayern Munich. S
So here’s the first difference – we have only the League to focus on this season. In 2017 we had the Champions League in February and March and that clearly cost us some focus. Plus the FA Cup from this time on to the end of the season.
Now at this point we should also note the FA Cup was incredibly important to Mr Wenger, not least because he only needed one more FA Cup win in order to become the most successful manager in the FA Cup of all time. This included beating even those managers from the end of the 19th and early 20th century who only needed to play a handful of games to win the competition. So who can blame him for putting his thoughts into that competition? We clearly were not going to win the league, so surely better to win something and achieve immortality in football, rather than spread ourselves.
But what happened in the league was not good. Starting on 31 January Arsenal only won two of the next eight league games including among others defeats to Watford, West Bromwich and Crystal Palace.
By 18 March we had sunk down to fifth and by 30 April following a 2-0 defeat at Tottenham we were sixth.
We did however recover enough to win our final five league matches, although the only one of those games that was against significant opposition was a home match against Manchester United which we won 2-0.
Of course, 48 points after 25 games is not a trophy just as coming fourth is not a trophy as we used to be reminded every year by those who wanted Mr Wenger out, and who eventually got their way. The results of that can be seen above – it has taken the club four seasons to get back to where he used to be.
But 48 points after 25 games has only been achieved once in the last seven seasons and although it obviously doesn’t guarantee a top-four finish, it certainly is a step in a most welcome direction. Now without any distractions in terms of the FA Cup or any European competition, it is a chance to enhance our position.
The media are already talking up all the transfers they expect Arsenal to be making in the summer, and when they don’t happen there will probably be the use blame-games going on in terms of Edu not being up to the job and the club not offering the right sort of package for each player.
The Mirror of course was hyper-quick to find a negative among the positives claiming in relation to Watford’s second goal in the Sunday game, “the downfall of bringing players through the academy and signing young prospects is that those stars lack experience, they don’t have the know-how to change tactics and see a game out.”
Some things never change. But fortunately Mr Arteta seems to treat the Mirrovian viewpoint with all the contempt it deserves.
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