What went wrong for Arsenal last season?



By Bulldog Drummond

A summary in the Telegraph of Arsenal’s position last season sets the prognosis for the coming campaign out in typical doom-laden tones…

“Arsenal scored fewer goals than eighth-placed Leicester City last season, and were eight goals behind fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur at the end of the campaign. Evidently, they need more threat in the final third.”

And sadly by and large that is true, although perhaps a better summary would be to say that Arsenal were…

a) Fifth in the league overall, two points off the Champions League positions.  We were also fifth in the league in terms of goal difference.

b) Sixth in the league in terms of goals scored, despite losing our main scorer after 13 starts (and seven goals).   

c) Seventh in the league in terms of defence which was disappointing given that last summer seemingly all the money was put into building a new defence.  Particularly as the previous season we had the third-best defence in the league.  But maybe it will all come good now these new defenders have had a chance to bed themselves in, and are used to the no-tackles approach to avoiding insane numbers of yellow cards.

Looked at without any reference to the previous campaign, last season could lead one to think that it is still the defence that needs improving but I suspect not, and the purchase of Vieira and Marquinhos are each setting the scene for this summer’s windows.  Attacking midfielders and forwards to complement the defence bought one year ago is the order of the day.

And maybe we seriously are planning to turn Gabriel Martinelli into a centre forward, even though he is only 5 feet 10 inches tall.

Another way of looking at the team and its progress (or otherwise) across the season is to compare the first half of the season with the second half.  .

On the face of it that makes Arsenal look rather comfortable in fourth, except that Tottenham had three games in hand, which with two wins and a draw would take them up to fourth and knock Arsenal to fifth – which is of course how things stood at the end of the season.

But now let’s compare Arsenal’s first half of the season, with the club’s second half.

 

Pos Arsenal Pld W D L F A GD Pts
4 First half 19 11 2 6 32 23 9 35
5 Second half 19 11 1 7 31 25 6 34

 

The interesting thing is that the second half of the season, instead of being better, because the defence was no longer getting to know each other, was fractionally worse.   (Of course one can always blame injuries, but all clubs get injuries, and the job of the manager in part is to have suitable cover available.)

What is particularly interesting is that Aubameyang played 13 games for Arsenal last season, but his departure made no difference to Arsenal’s goal scoring prowess.  First and second halves of the season were much the same in every part of Arsenal’s games – which was not the case at all in 2020/21.

So the defence did not get better after spending all that money, but instead let in slightly more goals in the second half of the campaign.  Of course, we had the injuries then, but even so, it would have been good if we had had cover by then.  In the end Crystal Palace, Brighton and Hove, and Wolverhampton Wanderers all had better defences than we did.

Overall Arsenal’s biggest problem were the four periods in which suffered multiple defeats…

 

Date Match Result Score Competition
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
 
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
16 Mar 2022 Arsenal v Liverpool L 0-2 Premier League
19 Mar 2022 Aston Villa v Arsenal W 0-1 Premier League
04 Apr 2022 Crystal Palace v Arsenal L 3-0 Premier League
09 Apr 2022 Arsenal v Brighton and Hove Albion L 1-2 Premier League
16 Apr 2022 Southampton v Arsenal L 1-0 Premier League
12 May 2022 Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal L 3-0 Premier League
16 May 2022 Newcastle United v Arsenal L 2-0 Premier League

 

One of those defeats converted into a win would have taken us into the top four.  And hopefully with an expanded squad in the coming season that could be achieved by changing the team after a defeat – something that was quite hard to do last season.

If you read Untold on a regular basis you will also know that for a while we were musing over the possibility of our not just coming fourth, but actually third, and indeed converting those defeats to Brighton and Southampton into wins would have done that.

No one really knows how much money the club has available for transfers this summer, although the hope of a bonus from the sale of Guendouzi who had looked as if he was going to be a superstar at one stage, did not happen.

So far our income from sales is £9m from Mattéo Guendouzi going to Marseille (and playing in the Champions League) and £3m from Dinos Mavropanos signing permanently for Stuttgart after two years there on loan.

We await the next move.

 

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