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By Tony Attwood
We have in the past looked at how Arsenal are doing this season compared with the same point (in terms of games played) in past seasons.
I thought in the light of the criticism of the team over the last two games played it might be worth looking once again at the comparison table, this time showing where we were in recent seasons after 30 games. And then see if we can draw any further conclusions.
Thus I thought I might add something extra, and so not just compare Arsenal’s performance after the first 30 games, but also add a few extra lines, comparing where we were after 30 games in Arsene Wenger’s first season, and then with Bruce Rioch’s first season.
Here’s the chart – in all cases after 30 games. The year given is the second half of the season – so 2022 is the season 2021/22. The initials after that are those of the manager at the time, that is.
- MA – Mikel Arteta
- UE – Unai Emery
- AW – Arsene Wenger
- BR – Bruce Rioch
After 30 games…
The two lines marked in red are the two seasons where we have had more points at this stage of the season than we have now.
What is interesting is that despite all the mega doom and gloom circulating following the last couple of defeats (which is very understandable, given the way VAR reached a conclusion that was seemingly completely incomprehensible for the last match) only twice in the nine years noted have we had more than 54 points after 30 games. Once (in 2016) by just one point, and once, in Unai Emery’s first season where we were on 60 points at this time. (He was of course sacked part way through the next season).
We can also perhaps note the irony that when Bruce Rioch was sacked to be replaced by Arsene Wenger he had achieved three more points by this stage of the season than Mr Wenger did in his final season.
What is also noticeable is that in Unai Emery’s first season we had the top number of goals after 30 games of any of the seasons highlighted here, and the best goal difference!
Looking at the results overall by this stage of the season in the years highlighted we can see where we have been making progress.
Wins – Mr Emery’s one full season was the best in terms of victories by this stage. And despite all the doom and gloom mongering that is going on we are still only one short of the best total of recent years for the number of wins this far.
Defeats – here the results are not so good. Only one season in the list above has been worse than this season for defeats after 30 games.
Goalscoring – this is where there has been, and continues to be endless moaning and whinging by commentators in the newspapers and on TV and radio. Arsenal need a new centre forward we are told daily.
But just consider who the goalscoring centre forwards were then: Ian Wright who got 23 and Dennis Bergkamp who got 16. So presumably those who demand changes to the team would consider Wright and Bergkamp not good enough.
Defence. Here Mikel Arteta has indeed improved things and in the last two seasons, we have had the best defence since 2016, despite all the complaints in the last couple of games.
So what can we conclude overall? Mikel Arteta is not yet up to the standard of Unai Emery in his first season, but is now running at the same level as Arsene Wenger in his first season.
And from here the logical question is, what did Mr Wenger do to take matters on, after his first season?
Basically he bought Patrick Vieira (age 20) and Nicolas Anelka (age 17). In comparison at the conclusion of his first season in charge Mr Arteta purchased Ben White (age 23), Martin Odegaard (age 22), Aaron Ramsdale (age 22) Takehiro Tomiyasu (age 22), Sambi Lokonga (age 21), Nuno Tavares (age 21).
So both men went for youth and we know that Vieira and Anelka were terrific players indeed. True, we never got the best out of Anelka but the profit made on his sale then helped Arsenal make the subsequent purchases that created the Unbeaten team.
Thus I would say that the current manager is following the pattern of Mr Wenger… but it is not quite working out yet.