By Bulldog Drummond
- Aston Villa v Arsenal: ranting, and the form of the two clubs.
- Aston Villa v Arsenal: Villa tackle, foul and get carded more and Smith Rowe’s amazing figures.
- Aston Villa v Arsenal: Villa’s longest winning run, Arsenal’s 5 consecutive away wins
The Evening Standard tells the team for this afternoon’s game like this
Cedric, White, Gabriel, Tierney;
Odegaard, Partey, Xhaka;
Saka, Lacazette, Smith Rowe.
In this case “like this” meaning that Smith Rowe starts and Martinelli gets a bit of a rest – which I can certainly understand since Martinelli ran for the whole match midweek. Tomiyasu is still doubtful and given that he has had the same injury twice one can understand why the club is being ultra-cautious.
Interestingly Sports Mole goes for exactly the same line up.
The Hard Tackle on the other hand stays with the tried and tested
Cedric, White, Gabriel, Tierney:
Odegaard, Partey, Xhaka;
Saka, Lacazette, Martinelli
Elsewhere the Telegraph is doing a prediction of the results of Manchester City and Liverpool through the rest of the season and suggests Manchester City will get 95 points and Liverpool 91 points by the end of the season.
Taking the current table…
… that would put the winners 44 points away from where we are now. We have 11 games left to go and even if we won all 11 (which is extremely doubtful) that would mean we would still be 11 points away from the top of the table team.
Of course this prediction of 95 points might be hopelessly wrong but it is worth comparing that sort of target with what Arsenal got when we won the league under Mr Wenger
All of which confirms that we are not just trying to get back to our previous level as achieved under Mr Wenger but we now have to go further because of what Liverpool and Manchester City have done.
But there is another factor at play here. The difference between the top teams and the bottom team has not only grown becuase the top teams have got better but because the bottom teams have got worse. Here is the bottom of the league last season and in 1998.
last season bottom
|19||West Bromwich Albion||38||5||11||22||35||76||-41||26|
What Arsenal therefore need to be doing is more than just climb up to the top four, and then emulate the teams of Mr Wenger; Arsenal needs to go further than this by really making sure we punish middle and lower ranking clubs. Which is why from time to time I’ve had a little look at how our league position compares with where we were after a similar number of games in the past.
So here we are one more time…
The point is that in 2015/16 we came second having achieved 51 points by this stage of the season – exactly where we are now, but I doubt anyone will believe we are going to come second this season, having exactly the same number of points now as we did in 2015/16. Liverpool at the moment, sitting in second have 69 points – 15 more than Tottenham in second in 2015/16 had at the same number of games.
Again the bar has risen greatly. The bottom teams struggle more and the top two for the moment are flying away.
Which in turn means that once we achieve our top four target, we then have to go on another major journey to get up to the current levels of the top two. We have returned to the level we were at when we achieved runners’ up only to find the bar has risen a long, long way.
I do think that Mr Arteta is quite capable of taking us up again to that level. He has shown a type of tactical innovation we have not seen since the Wengerian days and a willingness to be ruthless with the team to get the line up and results he wants.
What I hope is that having taken us back to the top four level he will be able to take us on, in a step by step progression, rather than with another wholesale overthrow of a whole section of the team as he did last summer. I’m not sure how many more of those my old heart will stand.
- Are Arsenal really making progress, or are we starting to slip back?
- Luton 3 Arsenal 4: maybe it is time to say positive things
- Luton v Arsenal – the referee, the team, Saka and Cliff Bastin
- Luton Town – how do they play the game. The tackles, fouls and cards.
- Luton Town v Arsenal: Grim football, fewest goals, lowest possession rate