Finishing 4th: How does this season compare with past seasons after 25 games?

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…

Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Manchester City 28 22 3 3 68 18 50 69
2 Liverpool 27 19 6 2 71 20 51 63
3 Chelsea 26 15 8 3 53 18 35 53
4 Arsenal 25 15 3 7 41 29 12 48

But how does this compare with other seasons after 25 games?  Time to take a little peek

Pos Season W D L F A GD Pts End
4 2021/2 (A) 15 3 7 41 29 12 48 ?
11 2020/1 (A) 10 4 11 31 26 5 34 8th
10 2019/20 (E/A) 6 13 6 32 34 -2 31 8th
6 2018/9 (E) 14 5 6 51 36 15 47 5th
6 2017/8 (W) 12 6 7 46 34 12 42 6th
4 2016/7 (W) 15 5 5 54 28 26 50 5th
3 2015/6 (W) 14 6 5 39 22 17 48 2nd
5 2014/5 (W) 13 6 6 47 28 19 45 3rd

(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.   

Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Chelsea 34 26 3 5 72 29 43 81
2 Tottenham Hotspur 34 23 8 3 71 22 49 77
3 Liverpool 34 19 9 6 70 42 28 66
4 Manchester City 34 19 9 6 65 37 28 66
5 Manchester United 34 17 14 3 51 25 26 65
6 Arsenal 33 18 6 9 64 42 22 60

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.



16 Replies to “Finishing 4th: How does this season compare with past seasons after 25 games?”

  1. The next 3 fixtures will be an important test because it occurs over a span of 9 days with little recovery time and it contains 2 very winnable fixtures.
    If the club gets at least 6 out of 9 pts to extend their pt margin at 4th, then unless there is a collapse in form, they will probably get into CL next season.

  2. It may also be interesting to look at how many points we had accumulated after 22 games. You’ve always be keen to show things like last 6, last 10, first half of year, 2nd half of year etc.
    The first 3 matches of our 25 games this season resulted in 0 goals and 0 points- the reasons for which were obvious. So the 48 points tally this season to date, have been garnered over the last 22 matches only.
    Conversely Spurs started with 9 points in those first three games. So their last 23 have gathered only 36 points. (If my maths is correct.)

    As you often say, it’s all about direction and momentum,

  3. Good point Philip. I’ve avoided just starting after the first three, because that seems to be a bit artificial, and there are lot of people who do like to criticise the whole notion of not taking the full season. But I can tell you that across the last 22 games for all clubs, the table shows Manchester city top on 56 points, Liverpool 2nd on 50, Arsenal third on 48 and Chelsea fourth on 43.

    Interestingly Tottenham are sixth on 36 points – 12 points behind us. Man U are 8th and Everton are one from bottom, ready for the drop.

    I’ll see if I can get to publish this in full shortly – a very interesting point. Thanks.

  4. I realised that the only way to look on like-for-like basis at a table with teams having played different games, is to consider points dropped (PD):

    Posn Team GP Pts PD
    1 Man City 28 69 15
    2 Liverpool 27 63 18
    3 Chelsea 26 53 25
    4 Arsenal 25 48 27
    7 Spurs 26 45 33
    5 Man Utd 28 47 37
    6 West Ham 28 45 39
    8 Wolves 27 40 41
    12 Leicester 25 33 42
    11 Aston Villa 26 33 45
    9 Southampton 27 35 46
    13 Brighton 27 33 48
    14 Newcastle 26 28 50
    10 C Palace 28 33 51
    17 Everton 25 22 53
    15 Brentford 28 27 57
    18 Burnley 26 21 57
    16 Leeds 27 23 58
    19 Watford 27 19 62
    20 Norwich 27 17 64

    Looks pretty rosy to me so far!!
    Cheers (and apologies for formatting which I’m sure will be a mess!)

  5. I like Philip’s pov, looking it from that angle clearly shows the massive improvement we’ve made after the first 3 games. Kudos to Arteta and the team but the job isn’t finished yet. And pls Tony, we’ll like to see it.

  6. Tony, Philip and Stephen

    “I like Philip’s pov, looking it from that angle clearly shows the massive improvement we’ve made after the first 3 games”

    Which is true, but really I think you are missing the bigger picture, because in reality those first 3 matches were only a ‘blip’ in what has been a remarkable run of form since we beat Chelsea 3 – 1 at home on the 26th of December 2020. That is the point from which our form took a remarkable turn resulting in us finishing the last two thirds of the 20/21 season as the second best team, as demonstrated by Tony on many occasions.

    So the truth is, if you take out those first 3 games, or the ‘blip’ if you prefer, our points per match of 2.18 for the remaining 22 matches this year, is actually slightly less than our points per match for the final 24 matches of last season, where we achieved 2.2 points per match.

    So in reality, that 3 match ‘blip’ accepted, our form has not changed since December 2020. We have pretty much achieved 2.2 points per match continuously since that victory against Chelsea.

    I also think it’s the point at which Tony has shown our tackling decreased significantly.

    A few days ago I did the statistics for those past 52 games, including the ‘blip’, but they are more relevant to this particular discussion.

    As you will see I used the points gained from the 24 match run of games starting from the Chelsea victory in Dec 20, to the end of last season, and added them to the points gained from all this seasons results, including the infamous opening 3 fixtures.

    I have done 4 columns. Team. Games played. Points total for actual games played. Points total rounded up to 52 matches played. For this I’ve added an average 2 points per match in hand. I added 2 points because that is just about the average points per game all the teams in the table are achieving, more or less. It doesn’t make much difference to the conclusions in any case.

    So basically this is how the table would look had we all played 52 matches:

    Team: Played – Pts – Pts Plus (52 matches played).

    Man City: 52 – 129 – 129

    Liverpool: 51 – 101 – 103 (52 Played)

    Arsenal: 49 – 95 – 101 (52 played)

    Chelsea: 50 – 95 – 99 (52 Played)

    Man Utd: 52 – 94 – 94

    West Ham: 52 – 89 – 89

    Tottenham: 49 – 79 – 85 (52 played)

    So as you can see over 52 matches, even without taking into account games in hand, Arsenal are equal with Chelsea in 3rd. With just 1 point from our game in hand over them we are clear 3rd best team in the Premier League over the last 52 matches.

    If both ourselves and Liverpool achieve our average points from our games in hand we will have a return of just 2 points less than Liverpool over those last 52 matches.

    So as I say, we haven’t really improved since those first 3 matches, because in reality all we have done is just resume playing at the level we had been for the last two thirds of last season, which as you can all see is at a pretty high level, equal to Chelsea and almost equal to Liverpool, so certainly good enough to finish in the top 4, if we maintain it.

  7. To me, there are 3 important factors which have a big impact ahd are harbringers for more lasting change :

    – youth and quite incredible quaity of the squad
    – grit and steelyness : Aresnal are able to tough it out and reverse outcomes in a way I cannot remember seeing for almost 2 decades
    – winning games against lower table teams on a regular basis

    For the quality of the squad, I remember Tony mentionning how Arsenal have modernised their scouting. Just look at the last additions. In the past, maybe 50 % of new players made a real impac, but it took time. Look at the new players from last summer…and look at the impact. Is there a new player who has not earned his spot and made an impact ?

    As Tony points out, the fact we are not running after several hares means the team can regroup after each game, has time for learning an coaching, and are fitter. On young players, this ‘intense’ learning has a visible impact.

    Arteta and Edu have propulsed Arsenal into a new era – with the owners believing and participating in their project. They have started what I expect to be a generational shift and the Arsenal that will start next season will be ready to compete for the title. It will most probably still be one of the youngest team and the players will be convinced they can beat any Klopp of Guadiola coached team. This season’s run-in is their warm-up.

    And if last sommer is a model, I’d expect a few exciting players to join the team – hopefully with Laca and Nketiah staying – adding extra manpower and talent – and they will not have to carry the full burden on their shoulders in the first few games.

    As for our coach, he’ll have one more season under his belt and will become harder to beat on a strategic and tactical level.

    Yep, I think we are looking at good times ahead. Let’s rock and roll !

  8. I forgot a 4th factor : gols are spread accross the forward line. We are not dependent on one striker anymore. Several players can sink’em.

  9. The Sun’s “supercomputer” has changed its mind. Again. Why don’t these idiots just admit that they have no idea about football.

  10. Chris

    “grit and steelyness : Aresnal are able to tough it out and reverse outcomes in a way I cannot remember seeing for almost 2 decades”

    20 years ? Really ?

    I normally agree with a lot of what you say, in fact nearly all, but I think you’re allowing yourself to get a little carried away here, and in the process seriously under-appreciating quite how ‘steely’ our teams have been over the years.

    In the early part of the last 20 years we won the premier league twice, finished runners up 3 times and won the FA Cup 3 times. You do not do that without ‘steeliness’ or being able to ‘tough it out’.

    Even after austerity kicked in and we operated on a zero net spend, with a run of top 4 finishes we still managed to keep qualifying for the Champions League a consecutive amount of times that was second only to Real Madrid. You do not do that without ‘steeliness’ or being able to ‘tough it out’.

    Over the last 8 years we’ve won 4 more FA Cups, making it 7 FA Cups, 2 league titles and 15 top 4 finishes during the 2 decades of which you speak. You do not do that without ‘steeliness’ or being able to ‘tough it out’.

    Including FA Cup finals and semi finals, league Cup Finals and Community Shields, we have been to Wembley 25 times over the 2 decades of which you speak, winning on 20 occasions, in the process beating Chelsea 5 times, Man city 3 times, Man Utd and Liverpool twice apiece. You do not do that without ‘steeliness’ or being able to ‘tough it out’.

    I understand you being excited about our current manager and squad, so am I, but please don’t use it as a stick with which to beat our past teams, that for the most part, gave their all every time they walked on the pitch, and as a result, despite reports to the contrary, bought us significant success, success that most other clubs would die for.

  11. Nitram,

    Please aknowledge I did write ‘almost’ so as to keep the Invincibles and the coule of years behind out of it.
    On the oher hand, I do remember how Arsenal would get clobered and not know how to respond (4-4 Newcastle anyone), would regularly lose some games under Mr Wenger that looked eminently winnable – yes with PIGMOB assistance.
    This season we’e lost 7 games so far, of which I’d consider 5 as ‘against big clubs’ – and 2 of them were at the beginning of the season, we know the story. That leaves just 2 games we should not have lost.
    I think that the team has developped a resolve, a capacity to revolt, that I cannot remember seeing. And, just to mention that, I’m far less nervous as far as our defence is concerned. It’s like ‘bring it on, bring it on’, we’ll take care of it. It is much more battleproof then it used to be.

    Now my comment was in no way a stick to beat our previous teams who I enjoyed so much I’d watch every game. Just to point out that this team is going a different avenue, is developping differently, that the actual manager is bringing them something else. They are younger then any side I can remember under Mr Wenger, and he regularly had youngsters coming in. So they bring some inherent qualities because of this and Mr Arteta looks to have found a way to get them using their mojo.

    Then, let me add to my defense, that memory is what it is. The imprint of now is bigger.

  12. If you’d said ‘recent years’ I may of agreed, even then it’s debatable.

    I have, and do contest that Wenger only really had half a season, his final half, where the team fell a long way bellow the standards he would expect.

    Yes over the years we took some beatings but I don’t believe that had anything to do with ‘steeliness’ or ‘Grit’ , but more to do with a Wengers approach, which was to impose our game on the opposition, and if we do that the rest will look after itself. This is what gave us Wengerball. The idea that we could impose our game on even the elitist of opponents.

    Now as I see it the problem was that we just wasn’t good enough to do this at times, especially when up against those elite teams, but Wenger, as we all know, was intent on sticking to ‘his’ style no matter what. I think I read somewhere he wanted to turn football into an ‘art’ or something like that. Cant think for a minute where I read that.

    So yes, on occasions, we got turned over. But that wasn’t a lack of steel, or a lack of grit, it was a lack of quality, and that lack of quality was on the back of operating on a zero net spend for 10 years. We was still a great team, capable on our day of beating anyone, but we was, throughout the austerity years, just that little bit bellow the top top level, and on occasion we were found out.

    And this notion we had no steel or grit, or couldn’t take it when it got ‘tough up North’ just doesn’t hold water either.

    Despite what it might feel like, largely on the back of how this media mantra of ‘they don’t like it up em’ that was endlessly repeated, our record against teams under the guidance of Pulis, Fat Sam, Hughes and the like, was very good, and that’s even with the tendency for referees to give their players free reign to foul us with impunity.

    And don’t even mention that Newcastle game. That was at least 80% to do with the referee. Diabolical.

    So sorry Chris I don’t agree. You said 20 years. Maybe you meant 15, but I’m not even having that. I’ll give you Wengers last half a season, at a push.

    As I said, when we did get turned over by the big teams I never felt it was a lack of ‘steeliness’ or ‘grit’, I always felt it was that sometimes our players were just not quite up to the level required for them to do what Wenger wanted them to do. the problem was it just wasn’t in Wengers DNA to say, “This is Bayern Munich. we better sit back a bit here”, he would go for it, and when it worked we all loved it. When it didn’t we could get turned over.

    As everyone who’s ever read me will know, I love Wenger, but I never said he was perfect, and two of his greatest assets, his single minded determination to impose his game on the opposition, and his unshakable belief in, and loyalty to his players, could both also be his biggest flaws.

    Sometimes alas his game plan wasn’t good enough. Sometimes the players were not good enough or at least not good enough to carry it out.

    But ‘steeliness’ ? ‘Grit’ ? Nope, never saw a problem on that score, not even in that last half a season really, where I believe belief and confidence had been sucked out of them, for many reasons that I wont go into here.

    Sorry mate, doesn’t happen often but we’re going to have to agree to disagree on this one.

  13. @Nitram,

    I agree with yourtake as at no moment am I thinking Mr Wenger was not doing what should have been done nor was not up to it. With the cards he was dealt, he did magic.

    However, I specifically wrote : “almost 2 decades”, and not 20 years.

    And I do believe that our youngsters show more resolve, or maybe it is just body language, or the fact they are young and much more restless. The game has changed. The pace as well. The fact that the game now sees forwards defending our box all game. Which, when you have a young team, works well.

    So, maybe I’m influenced by that and the fading of memory. But we are arguing about our personal perception not on the value and merits of Arsenal teams and coaches from today or yore.

    Cheers !

  14. The game has certainly changed.

    Wengers game was based on speed and counter attack.The Red Arrows was a Monica often used to describe our style of play. We were far more dangerous when defending a corner than when taking one.

    But as you know, many teams, especially the ‘lesser’ teams, just sat back in order to negate the ‘counter attack’ which brought in to play Wengerball. That ability to pull defenses left right left right until someone saw, and often as not produced the killer ball.

    It took patience and often involved a lot of recycling the ball or dropping back and starting again.

    Also, as you will know, the Neanderthal types especially, couldn’t stand this style of play, often deriding it as tiki taki or foreign Fancy Dan nonsense, but we loved it. It was an absolute joy to watch, for me and you obviously, as well of millions of others, but some, Pullis for example, just got wound up by it.

    But football has, I was going to say ‘moved on’, but that would imply got better, which I’m not sure it has, certainly has changed, and it’s changed on the back of 2 fantastic coaches by the names of Guardiola and Klopp, and it’s all about The Press. Press press press.

    It’s no longer about counter attacking from your own half, it’s all about pinning the opposition back, not only in their own half but in their own penalty box. The theory being the higher up the pitch you can get the ‘turn over’ the more dangerous it is. Obvious really, but there is one problem. It’s absolutely exhausting.

    It took Klopp almost 3 years to get his Liverpool team capable of carrying out ‘The Press’ for an entire match.

    For a long time if you held Liverpool until half time you were much more likely to get a result. That has not been the case for a while now.

    I believe the days of Wengerball are gone. The days of the ‘counter attack’, at least as a strategy from kick-off are gone. Yes if you turn the ball over at a corner or by breaking down an attack in your own half, you want to counter at pace, but that, as a means of attack, is now secondary to The Press.

    As such I believe Wengers day has/had gone. The press, the fitness involved, as a tactic and team strategy, seems to be more successful than the traditional ‘counter attack’ or ‘tiki taki’ style of play, hence the most successful managers all seem to employ it.

    I miss those days, that beautiful way of playing, immensely, but times change. I’m enjoying the progress we are making.

    As far as I can see Arteta has spent nearly all his tenure laying the foundations. He seemed to put very little stock in our attacking prowess preferring to focus on team shape, work ethic and attitude. Only now are we seeing the next stage in developing our offensive game.

    Still a work in progress, but progress there most certainly is.

  15. I think that one part of the press is the effect on bodies and players.
    Unless you’ve got a gib squad, you cannot play several competitions
    Bodies just can’t take that kind of exhaustion twice a week for weeks on.
    So only teams with a larger squad can win.
    I expect Arsenal to hire new players complementing existing ones, not replacing them. Make the team larger so more games are playable.
    And I’d expect them to be young.

    However, I must say that we see glimpses of Wengerball pretty much each game. It is still here.

  16. Chris

    “I expect Arsenal to hire new players complementing existing ones, not replacing them. Make the team larger so more games are playable. And I’d expect them to be young”.

    Exactly, it is extremely demanding on the body hence as you say the need for a big squad. If we are to get back into top flight of European football we are certainly going to need that.

    I may well be seeing too much into this and trying to be too clever by half, but I did say to Mrs N that I thought it was odd how we managed to turn in some pretty poor performances in the cups, especially when compared to how we were performing in the League games. It was like chalk and cheese.

    Did Arteta actually want to get knocked out so he could focus on the league and getting back into the top 4, which is without doubt our priority ?

    He knows full well the demands that being in multiple competitions can put on a squad and he had three issues to bare in mind.

    -Young inexperienced players. Yes with youth comes energy, but also inconsistency and easily lost confidence.

    -A lot of new players still learning about the premier league, it’s incredible strength in depth, and of course the nuances of the men in black.

    -And of course a lean squad.

    So maybe it was a plan ? If not a plan then at least something he wasn’t really bothered about ? I don’t know, maybe I’m seeing too much in it.

    As for Wengerball ? Well I’m not sure I’ve seen too much of the ‘Tiki Taka’ Side, but we are certainly transitioning much faster and glimpses of those old Red arrows are most definitely starting to be seen.

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