By Tony Attwood
Nitram’s comments after the game yesterday told us a lot of what has gone wrong. He quoted the average statistics from our last 3 matches:
- Arsenal Possession = 70%
Opponent Possession = 30%
- Arsenal Shots = 55
Opponent Shots = 23
- Arsenal Shots On Target = 13
Opponent Shots On Target = 11
Thereafter Nitram made two telling comments I felt:
“So under 1 in 4 of our shots hit the target. Our opponents hit the target with almost 1 in 2. Pretty much twice as accurate.
“Scoring ONE goal from 55 efforts whilst letting in half the shots on target is not going to get us anywhere near where we want to be.
“The truth of the matter is, as I have shown a few times, as good as our young guns are they are a long way from where they need to be with regards to assists, and more crucially goals scored.”
These seem to me to be valid points, which in turn raise the question: how did it come to this? My answer is that to try and understand what has been going on we need to bring further statistics into the equation…
Everyone knows (not least because the media is still reminding us of it) that Arsenal lost the first three league games of the season. Then in November / December we lost three games in four. In January we lost three and drew two, in five consecutive games, and now in March / April we have lost four and won just one.
|The first run|
|13 Aug 2021||Brentford v Arsenal||L||2-0||Premier League|
|22 Aug 2021||Arsenal v Chelsea||L||0-2||Premier League|
|28 Aug 2021||Manchester City v Arsenal||L||5-0||Premier League|
|The second run|
|20 Nov 2021||Liverpool v Arsenal||L||4-0||Premier League|
|27 Nov 2021||Arsenal v Newcastle United||W||2-0||Premier League|
|02 Dec 2021||Manchester United v Arsenal||L||3-2||Premier League|
|06 Dec 2021||Everton v Arsenal||L||2-1||Premier League|
|The third run|
|1 Jan 2022||Arsenal v Manchester City||L||1-2||Premier League|
|9 Jan 2022||Nottingham Forest v Arsenal||L||1-0||FA Cup|
|13 Jan 2022||Liverpool v Arsenal||D||0-0||League Cup|
|20 Jan 2022||Arsenal v Liverpool||L||0-2||League Cup|
|23 Jan 2022||Arsenal v Burnley||D||0-0||Premier League|
|The fourth run|
|16 Mar 2022||Arsenal v Liverpool||L||0-2||Premier League|
|19 Mar 2022||Aston Villa v Arsenal||W||0-1||Premier League|
|4 Apr 2022||Crystal Palace v Arsenal||L||3-0||Premier League|
|9 Apr 2022||Arsenal v Brighton and Hove||L||1-2||Premier League|
|16 Apr 2022||Southampton v Arsenal||L||1-0||Premier League|
So the issue is not just talking about defeats, but runs of defeats. And of course we can do this the other way around and talk about runs of victories.
- Eight wins in two draws in September / October
- Five consecutive wins in December
- Five consecutive league wins in January / February
This is, to say the least, erratic and suggests a lack of leadership on the pitch. And although there can be explanations of injuries in part, there is still something very odd in the way that we can veer from success to failure in such extremes.
I would suggest the explanation can be found in the fact that this is also the time in which Mr Arteta has laid down his disciplinary approach in a way that is the opposite of the Wengerian style through which everything was dealt with quietly and internally.
Mesut Ozil, Matteo Guendouzi, Emi Martinez, William Saliba, Willian, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Pierre Emerick Aubameyang… there may have been good reason to move some of them on, but to move on so many players, in some cases at a huge loss to Arsenal, seems not so much like good discipline but on occasional petulance.
In 1996/7 Arsene Wenger moved on six players of note, the most well-known being John Hartson, Paul Dikov and Steve Morrow. And he brought in two youngsters: Patrick Vieira and Nicolas Anelka. Not a bad exchange.
But it was not until the second season that the major changes – including some raising a few eyebrows – happened. Out when Paul Merson and in came the likes of Overmars and Petit.
In 1998/99 it was Kanu and Freddie who joined us, while Ian Wright left.
Now the difference between this approach and that of the current manager is that the changes were in both defence and attack – not all in one section, there were far fewer signs of falling out. In 1996/7, signing Vieira to sort out the defence and Anelka for the attack. Same again the following season: Overmars and Petit. Only in 1998/99 was it two strikers in – but then also one striker left. We need did a total reconstruction of the club in one go.
It is this removal of players because of a public falling out and attempts at a wholesale change in defence while just moving out attack-minded players but not replacing them that has given us a potential weakness, it seems to me.
Plus the fact that in 2020/1 during the last two-thirds of the season Arsenal were the second-best performing team in the league. Indeed you might remember me boring you stupid by running that league table from Christmas to the end of the season, over and over. The last 24 games of last season…
|4||West Ham United||24||13||5||6||41||28||13||44|
That table showed us having the second-best defence in the league in the last 24 games of last season and the second-best attack in the league.
This season we have the seventh-best attack in the league and the fifth-best defence in the league. Yet we were the top spenders in the last transfer window. Part of that must be down to players leaving for what seems to me to be managerial petulance.
But then what do I know about football management?
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