By Tony Attwood
It has always struck me that starting the league season while the transfer window is still open is a pretty dumb thing to do. Surely the logical approach is to close the window, have a week for players to move to new clubs and then get going.
As it was Arsenal last August was a fairly messy time. Here’s the timetable in case you have forgotten:
- 13 August Brentford v Arsenal
- 20 August Martin Odegaard completes move from Real Madrid
- 20 August Aaron Ramsdale signs from Sheffield United
- 22 August Arsenal v Chelsea
- 28 August Manchester City v Arsenal
- 31 August Takehiro Tomiyasu signs from Bologna
To add to the defensive confusion Ben White had only signed on 30 July and was presumably still commuting from Sussex each day while waiting to find a suitable house.
And it is not just the new players who are affected. Imagine being a player with a regular place in the squad, watching during those opening games to see who is signed – and thus wondering whether you still have a place.
Of course matters were not made easier by the fact that Arsenal were at the same time bringing through the youngsters. In an ideal world they should have come into a stable and strong team, not a team that was being totally revamped in defence. But no, the season starts with the window still open, and not enough time to get everyone attuned to the new Arsenal way of defending with only a minimal amount of tackling.
All of which makes it worth, this season, not looking at the league table as it stands, but the league table after those opening three league games. Of course, the games happened and of course, the results count, but if we want to know about Arsenal’s form as we go into the last round of games, it is not a bad idea occasionally to see what the table looks like after those three openers.
In short the last 25 games…
|West Ham United
The point of this is that as we come into the remaining ten fixtures, we are told daily by the media that this is going to be very tough for Arsenal and I don’t deny that.
But there is a second factor which is form, and if you look at Arsenal’s form over the season, minus that start affected by illness and a lack of a full squad, we see a different picture.
And of course all the other clubs were subject to a lack of a full squad if they were dealing in the market at the same time – but then that again is taken into account by looking only at the last 25 games.
What really stands out here is not just that Arsenal are two points ahead of Chelsea, but the way the top four have moved apart from the wannabes lurking behind. We are not in the top four on goal difference or the odd point here or there. Arsenal are in the top four by 11 points.
Now OK, I know Untold Arsenal is not richly blessed with proofreaders and you might well be thinking that is another of our twerping eross, but no, over the last 25 games the gap between the top four (remembering as ever “fourth is not a trophy” – which I only mention because the anti-Arsenal Arsenal seem to have forgotten their own slogans) and the fifth-placed team, is nine points.
And to go further, take a look, if you will, at the goal difference. Arsenal have the poorest goal difference of the top four of +22. None of the “Next Four” as we might call them, can even get into double figures!!!
So while the media ramble on and on and on and on and… etc about Arsenal not scoring enough goals, the media might consider this. Only four teams in the last 25 games have got a goal difference in double figures.
Now I don’t want you to take any of this to mean that I am saying the team is perfect and we don’t need anyone else. Not at all. No, I am saying phase 2 of the great rebuild is now complete. Phase 1 ended the insane situation in which Arsenal’s performance was run by referees who were handing out yellow cards against Arsenal players in a way rarely seen before. We got 86 yellows in 2019/20, reduced to 47 the following season.
Phase 2 takes us back to being a top four team.
And here’s one final thing: if it had been Liverpool who had had a decimated squad as we had for the Brentford game, the chances are Liverpool would have had their game postponed, just as they did when they had that outbreak of covid… that never was.
But that is how it goes. Arsenal not only play other teams each week, they also play PGMO and the Premier League establishment and the media, and Liverpool’s ability to manipulate reality in a way that Arsenal have never learned.
And despite that across the last 25 games, we are third. That is what I call brilliant.
- Arsenal v Newcastle: the team and league positons AFTER the game.
- Arsenal v Newcastle: injuries, yellow cards and recent form
- Arsenal v Newcastle: the referee who just doesn’t oversee home wins
- Newcastle United’s weakness revealed and what they could do. Arsenal v Newcastle United.
- Arsenal v Newcastle: the tackles, fouls and yellow cards compared