by Tony Attwood
Looking at Arsenal’s progress after a set number of games allows us to see how this season compares with others, and how teams that were fourth after 28 games normally finished the season. It also allows us to see how much impact the removal of Aubameyang has had by comparing goals scored so far this season, with goals scored by this point, with Auba in the side.
Now the media, in general, were very interested in this sort of analysis, comparing Arsenal this season with Arsenal in previous seasons.
But curiously they were only interested in this for a while. For while the media en masse compared Arsenal after the first three games of the season with our position after three games in previous years, as soon as Arsenal started winning and rising up the league, the media lost all interest in this form of comparison.
Isn’t that odd?
I suppose one has to put it down to the lack of ability by football journalists to focus on one subject for anything more than a couple of minutes.
Yet there have been some pretty gruesome starts for Arsenal across the centuries. Take 1909/10…
1909/10 first nine games
|1 September 1909||Aston Villa||A||1–5|
|4 September 1909||Sheffield United||H||0–0|
|11 September 1909||Middlesbrough||A||2–5|
|18 September 1909||Bolton Wanderers||A||0–3|
|25 September 1909||Chelsea||H||3–2|
|2 October 1909||Blackburn Rovers||A||0–7|
|7 October 1909||Notts County||A||1–5|
|9 October 1909||Nottingham Forest||H||0–1|
|16 October 1909||Sunderland||A||2–6|
After that Sunderland defeat the foot of the table showed we had conceded 34 goals in nine games and we were well and truly bottom.
1909/10 table after nine Arsenal games.
|19||Preston North End||8||1||2||5||9||14||0.643||4|
That season we finished 18th and so avoided relegation as at that time only the bottom two went down.
But despite the worst start for any football team in any division ever since the dinosaurs stopped eating plants and moved into journalism, this season after nine games the table showed us 1oth with more wins than defeats.
But let’s move on and ask, how do we compare now with other teams which have been fourth after 28 games? What does fourth place normally look like after 28 games? Are we doing better than most teams who were fourth at this stage, or is this a very feeble fourth place we occupy?
Fourth after 28 games table
So here I’ve looked at what the record of the club that was fourth after 28 games looked like, and then seen where that club ended up.
|4||Tottenham Hot 2018||28||16||7||5||53||24||29||55||3rd|
|4||Manchester C 2016||28||15||5||8||52||31||21||50||4th|
|4||Manchester U 2015||28||15||8||5||47||26||21||53||4th|
So what do we learn? The range of points needed to achieve fourth place over the last eight years is 45 to 56. Thus at 54 points we are in the upper reaches of the number of points for this stage in the season for the fourth-placed club. Any thoughts journalists might have of suggesting that, “Arsenal have had it easy this year” can be dismissed.
In three of the last eight seasons, the fourth-placed team has had either 55 or 56 points – a tiny increase on what Arsenal have this season. Tiny indeed compared with Chelsea who achieved fourth place after 28 games with just 45 points in 2020.
Second, in every one of those seasons except one, the club in fourth after 28 games was fourth or better at the end of the season.
Thus our situation looks rather good, but still, the media is going on, day after day, about how it will be tough for us to stay in fourth.
But there is no consideration of how Arsenal have improved under Mr Arteta – presumably because after three games most of the media was demanding that Arteta had to go.
So let’s compare Arsenal this season after 28 games with Arsenal in previous seasons, in order to see if we really are making progress.
Arsenal after 28 games year by year
|Pos after 28||Year||W||D||L||F||A||GD||Pts||Pos after 38|
Of course, none of this proves that we will make fourth, but what we can say for sure is that only once after 28 games in the past seven years have we had more points than now. And only once in those years have we gone down a place between 28 games and the end of the season. That was 2019 when we sank from fourth to fifth. We missed fourth by one point and a poorer goal difference.
The Aubameyang influence.
And we might also note that despite all the fuss about not having a centre forward we have actually scored more goals this season after 28 games than we did last season or the season before after 28, when we had Aubameyang playing at centre forward. Removing Aubameyang has increased our goalscoring capacity.
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