The two mountains Arsenal have to climb

By Tony Attwood

Since the Premier League was reduced to its current size of 20 clubs playing 38 games, in 1995/6, there have been 26 seasons.  In ten of those seasons (so that is just over one third) the top club has got 90 points or more. 

But, five of those ten seasons have been the last five seasons of the Premier League.   90 points plus to win the league has become the new normal.

Only five clubs have managed 90 points in a season in the 38 game era and those are Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, and Manchester United.

So it seems if Arsenal seriously are aiming for the top, 90 points or more is what they have to be aiming for.

In the table below in the final line I’ve added what Arsenal achieved last season to compare with teams that have won with 90 plus points…

Season Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1999-00 Manchester United 38 28 7 3 97 45 52 91
2003-04 Arsenal 38 26 12 0 73 26 47 90
2004-05 Chelsea 38 29 8 1 72 15 57 95
2005-06 Chelsea 38 29 4 5 72 22 50 91
2008-09 Manchester United 38 28 6 4 68 24 44 90
2016-17 Chelsea 38 30 3 5 85 33 52 93
2017-18 Manchester City 38 32 4 2 106 27 79 100
2018-19 Manchester City 38 32 2 4 95 23 72 98
2019-20 Liverpool 38 32 3 3 85 33 52 99
2021-22 Manchester City 38 29 6 3 99 26 73 93
2021-22 Arsenal (5th) 38 22 3 13 61 48 13 69

And of course it is not only points that are needed, it is goals too.  The average number of goals by a team scoring 90+ points to win the league is 85.2.  The average number of goals against was 27.4.

Now I am not sure anyone is actually saying that Arsenal is going to jump from fifth last season to title contenders this coming season, but it is nonetheless interesting to see just how far behind Arsenal have slipped since the end of the era when Arsenal always ended up in the top four.

Last season, Arsenal were 24 points behind Manchester City, 38 goals behind that club and conceded 22 goals more than Manchester City.

In the simplest of terms 24 points means turning eight of the league defeats of last season into victories – and in looking at this I am not suggesting that the club is going to achieve this in one go, but rather just note it as the target.  

Now in the article “What are Arsenal’s chances of the top 4 next season” we ran the big six table for last season, and rather depressing reading it made.  But depressing or not, if we are going to look at the level of improvement needed that table needs to be contemplated

Club P W D L F A Pts
Manchester City 10 6 2 2 22 9 20
Liverpool 10 4 6 0 25 10 18
Chelsea 10 3 4 3 14 11 13
Tottenham Hotspur 10 3 2 5 13 19 11
Manchester United 10 3 2 5 13 23 11
Arsenal 10 3 0 7 13 25 9

Getting a win over Manchester City is what is needed as one step to picking up those 24 points.  And this shows the depth of Arsenal’s problem.  For the last time we beat them in the League was 21 December 2015.  Since then there have been 13 league games without a victory, including ten consecutive defeats.

If we are looking for a hint of sunlight in such a gloomy list it must be that three of the last four have only been lost by one goal (although the other match was a 5-0 drubbing).

That shows how far we have to travel.   But what about other members of the top four from last season?   For if we are not going to aim for the top but seriously aim for the top four we have to be beating some of them.

With Liverpool, the record is not quite so horrific.  It is just four defeats in a row since we last beat Liverpool – on 5 July 2020.   But in those four subsequent games we have conceded 12 and scored just one.   The League Cup matches last season were closer but even so, we lost.

Chelsea have proven to be much easier pickings for us of late, for in the last four games we have won three and lost one.  The goal scoring has been better too, eight in our favour, five against.

And so to the games against Tottenham.  In the last eight league matches, we have won three, they have one three and there have been two draws.  We have scored 14 and they have scored… 14.

So across the recent years, we have been very much on a par or above Tottenham and Chelsea, but a million miles behind Manchester City and Liverpool.   The target must surely be cementing that position concerning Tottenham and Chelsea and trying to pick up draws rather than defeats against the top two.

But finally what about Manchester United who were sinking without much trace last season, and yet who the pundits all seem to think will have a miraculous revival this coming year.  Across the last ten league games between the two Arsenal have won four, Manchester United have won three and there have been three draws.  In fact, just take the last eight and it has been four wins to us, three draws and just one to them.

In every regard, the big gap is between Arsenal and the top two.  Our target really is moving up to third, and leaving the assault on the top for later.  Third or fourth may still not be a trophy, but they are better than fifth.

4 Replies to “The two mountains Arsenal have to climb”

  1. IMHO all these various ways to analyse what happenned last season, or the last 20 seasons shows one thing :

    the PL is ultra-competitive, many results are on a knife’s edge and small details add up. Sure some teams have unlimited budgets or apparently unlimited help from PIGMOB, yet details regularly make a difference.

    Arsenal need to start getting the details right and they will go up the table. I believe that the backoffice is now getting it’s details right, has a clear strategy and are on the same page as the owners. No infighting makes things easier. And the Arsenal fans at large are more behind the team now, so this helps as well. As for the so-called press, there are more at pains to write anything credible.

    So I believe this coming season, we’ll continue climbing up.

  2. Its all a bit meaningless. Arsenal may have a terrible record against City, Spurs have a very good one and beat them twice last season. They are not unbeatable, its about tactics and how the styles of the two teams mesh. Conte simply had his team defend on the edge of their own area, pull City forward then hit them on the counter attack from one end of the field to the other. There’s no reason Arsenal couldn’t do the same if they have the speed and defensive discipline. Of course the other thing your numbers don’t show was the wins effectively accomplished nothing as Spurs lost at home to both Brighton and Wolves. Its not who you beat, its just how many you win.

  3. There is always hyperbole around beating the top six but in truth, a team’s record against like opposition or top opposition is only indicative of a team being good. What determines the title is points.

    The most consistent correlation with table position is goal difference as opposed to goals scored or goals allowed;. A strong defensive team will score fewer goals but allow fewer goals. An offensive team will often score more goals but also allow more goals. The top five position in the table followed goal difference exactly. At the top end of the table, Manchester United outperformed the team’s goal difference, ending 6th despite a worse goal difference than West Ham and Leicester.

    At the bottom of the table, Burnley grossly under performed their goal difference, with Everton and Leeds having worse goal differee stats, but finishing above poor Burnley. Newcastle, by virtue of their Jekyll-Hyde first and second halves of the season; thanks to massive January investment, also massively over performed their goal difference.

    Who teams gets points from does not matter at all, what matters is getting them. Arsenal were often criticized for being flat-track bullies; beating the weaklings and losing to the top teams, ‘proving’ the Gunners were in decline. Except Arsenal were routinely top 4 in those years.

    Arsenal’s challenge is the same that all teams have; score more points than everyone else. Do that, you’re champions, do not, and you’re not. If Arsenal won 34 games they would have 102 points and they would likely win the league even if they lost all home and away against both Man City and Liverpool. Even if they lost against this season’s top 3 and won their other 32 games they would score 96 points and likely win the league.

    Of course, scoring 61% as many goals as Man City while allowing 184% as many goals is not a recipe for success.

  4. It’s not that complicated, if we had managed to win against Brighton, Crystal Palace, and Southampton we would have had 78 points last season. A win away against Newcastle 81, and a win away against Everton 84. Last season we lost 13 league games it’s fare to many. We lost too many games we should expect results from. Next season we should decrease our lost games to 8, which will secure a top four spot. Decreasing lost games to six should also be possible, but less than six are complicated and makes you title contender.

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