By Tony Attwood
I have been suggesting of late that for Arsenal in the coming season the issue is not just to get better, but rather to get better enough to overtake at least one of the four clubs that ended last season above Arsenal.
But of course, last season’s top four also have the ambition to get better. So the question becomes, how much better do we have to get to overtake whatever our rivals do?
Last season Tottenham came in fourth with 71 points. This was the highest fourth-placed total for several years – the last time it was exceeded was in 2018 when Liverpool got 75 points.
One year before that the same club got fourth with 76 points. But in 2013/14 Arsenal came in fourth with 79 points – the highest for the fourth-placed team this century. And since there have been cases of the fourth-placed team coming in with around 60 points this shows just how varied fourth place is. But we might as well take it that Arsenal’s target needs to be 79 points next season to secure a place in Europe. That means ten points more than 2021/22,
One might take that as meaning turning four defeats into draws (four more points) and three draws into wins (six more points). That is improving on the results in seven games.
Contemplating what that means in terms of games where the result needs to be improved next season we might consider the away game to Brentford (which opened the season), away defeats to Manchester United and Everton in December where both games lost by a single goal, the home defeat to Manchester City in January (again a single goal), and the run of three defeats to Palace, Southampton and Brighton in April. Those are the sorts of games that need better results.
And we might also note the tendency of bad results to turn into bad runs. The problem we had last season was that in such circumstances we had few changes that could be made to the team – it would appear that this season, with the new purchases being made, we will have a bigger squad, which could allow for more changes at such moments.
But we might also have a look at games against the rest of the big six, because any improvement against them will not only give Arsenal more points, but reduce our rival’s total.
Here is last season’s big six table showing matches between each other in the league.
Since Tottenham edged fourth place from Arsenal, obviously the games against Tottenham were crucial – the traditional “six pointers” and each side won their home game. But we might also note that Arsenal lost the home game with Chelsea in the opening matches of the season when we lost three in a row. A reversal there would have given Arsenal three more points and Chelsea three fewer.
That one simple change of one result would have left the table looking…
Now of course I am not saying I can predict the results of matches, but what we do know is that this summer Chelsea appears to be in a certain amount of turmoil, while Arsenal seem to be getting the job done with a stable ownership and management, no internal disputes and a clear vision for the future. The same cannot be said about Chelsea.
My point is that a very small change could take Arsenal into the top four by this time next year and certainly, if Arteta has shown himself to be anything it is that he is a clear analyst and deep thinker.
Meanwhile although I am certain the media will once again start talking up the prowess of the clubs outside the big six (because that is what they do every season) I can’t see any of them making a big breakthrough.
West Ham were only two points behind Manchester United at the end, but the club with the rent free stadium is up for sale, and I am sure many overseas investors will be excited by the prospect of a stadium that is effectively “paid for” (by mugs such as myself who pay our taxes to the engineer of the WHU deal – a certain Mr Johnson).
Meanwhile Leicester, always the journalists’ favourites, ended up 19 points off fourth place.
|7||West Ham United||38||16||8||14||60||51||9||56|
The Guardian a year ago said of Leicester
“Rodgers has improved Leicester significantly since joining two and half years ago and also benefited from the club’s solidity and shrewdness. Manager and club are an ideal match, their attributes complementing each other and both driven by fierce ambition. Some clubs that are currently bigger than Leicester would love to have Rodgers in charge but know they will never lure him so long as he and the Foxes continue to upset the status quo.”
Leicester however did not even make the Europa Conference. Meanwhile, I really do think in a year’s time we’ll be looking forward to the Champions League once again.