What if Arsenal hadn’t had that awful start to the season…



By Tony Attwood

Last season, It wasn’t just a bad start to last season: it was a start that allowed the howling dogs at the door to savage Arsenal.  Various claims about it being the worst start since the building of Stonehenge (or something like that) meandered across the newspapers,

And they did so knowing (as surely someone must have told them) what happened In 2011–12, Arsenal made their worst start to a season for 58 years, but recovered to not only to get a top-four finish but to overtake Tottenham.

But Arsenal’s worst start stories are what the media loves, irrespective of any reference to the truth. Here are some…

But here’s a thought.  Irrespective as to whether it was the worst start in 2 years, 39 years or 118 years, what happened after that?

Of course, we know what the whole season gave us – we finished fifth and got into the Europa.  Which must have meant we were quite good in the remaining 35 games, compared with other teams.

And it is an interesting question because supposing, just supposing, Arsenal continue to do just as well, as they did in the 35 games after that poor opening of the first three league games.  And in doing this let us not forget the controversy.  Finding covid sweeping through the ranks, Arsenal asked for the Brentford game to be postponed.  That was refused.

Later Liverpool did ask for a postponement and it was revealed that Trent Alexander-Arnold was the only Liverpool player to actually test positive for Covid.

And yet the game was called off – according to the media on the grounds that the club had under 14 first team players who were fit to play.

The Mirror sought to explain this discrepancy away on the grounds that the other players had false-positive results to their covid tests.  So what does this mean and what were Liverpool playing at?

A false positive in this case arises when someone who does not have coronavirus, tests positive for it.  All medical tests produce false positives simply because the measurements are quite difficult to make and no test is 100% accurate.  Of course, if you are measuring the number of legs people have, looking for people with three legs you tend to get very few false positives, but seeking a virus is more difficult.

So a false positive rate refers to the people who are not infected but get positive results.  Dr Paul Birrell, a statistician at the Medical Research Council’s Biostatistics Unit at the University of Cambridge, said on the BBC,  “The false positive rate is not well understood and could potentially vary according to where and why the test is being taken. A figure of 0.5% for the false positive rate is often assumed.”

Now let’s see what the Liverpool figure means

If you tested 1,000 people at random for Covid-19 in early September, for example, data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) infection study suggests you should have expected one of them actually to have the virus.

With a false positive rate of 0.8% – you would get one false positive among each 100 positive results.

So Liverpool had false positive rates unlike any other club and indeed unlike any other part of the population before or since.

It’s an interesting point because it shows that Arsenal were not dreadful at the start of the season – they were coping with the real effects of the pandemic, with no support from the League, and not using the Liverpool FP tactic of seeking a postponement.

 But let’s go on.  What happened in the remaining 35 games of the season?   This table cuts out every team’s first three games and counts all the rest.  Here is the table…

# club  P W D L F A GD Pts
35 27 6 2 89 25 64 87
35 26 7 2 88 25 63 85
35 22 3 10 61 39 22 69
35 19 10 6 70 32 38 67
35 19 5 11 66 40 26 62
35 15 6 14 38 40 -2 51
35 14 9 12 50 55 -5 51
35 14 7 14 50 46 4 49
35 13 9 13 40 54 -14 48
35 11 13 11 48 41 7 46
35 12 10 13 58 54 4 46
35 10 15 10 38 41 -3 45
35 12 5 18 47 50 -3 41
35 12 5 18 45 55 -10 41
35 9 11 15 39 61 -22 38
35 9 9 17 38 72 -33 36
35 7 13 15 32 48 -16 34
35 9 5 21 36 63 -27 32
35 5 7 23 22 74 -52 22
35 5 5 25 31 72 -41 20

Of course this is not the final table everyone quotes – but it is a table reflecting a real set of events.  The last 35 games of the season.

In this table Arsenal came third.   And this is why I think we will do rather well in the coming season.  It will be rather like the last 35 games of last season.

14 Replies to “What if Arsenal hadn’t had that awful start to the season…”

  1. I can’t accept your argument, Tony. Two of the three games were nor surprising defeats, to Chelski and ManCity and if they hadn’t been in our first three games of the season, would not be remarkable. What really spoilt things for us for the season was our finish to the season.

    I’ve got over last season and am looking forward to finishing no lower than third this season.

  2. Every team can cut off a portion of the season when they had a poor run of form. The point to note is that the league is 38games and every counts. We had a bad first 3 games because we weren’t well prepared. No excuses, if you need new players get them in early, integrate them into the team, hit the ground running

  3. Arome: “We had a bad first 3 games because we weren’t well prepared” – it is hard to see how you have any evidence for that.

  4. Bernard, i agree with you slighty but outside of man city i think chelsea and brentford would have resulted an extra 4 points, enough for top 4, perhaps even more, we could have afforded more time for the likes of tomiyasu to settle in rather than go on to have an injury hit season since we rushed him in. It can be seen in so many different subjective ways, but for sure the start crippled us much more than anyone else, this is also why i cant blame liverpool for their tactics because the premier league indirectly promote clubs to do under handed things because they are incapable of running the show in a fair manner

  5. Perhaps the poor start to the season was required; we required those losses to understand the amount of work needed to win.

  6. @Tony neither do you have any evidence for saying “Arsenal were not dreadful at the start of the season, they were coping with the real effects of the pandemic with no support from the league”. It’s your opinion, just like saying Arsenal entered the season not sufficiently prepared. You like to talk about Liverpool forgetting that we got our match with tottenham postponed when we had only one case of covid in the squad. And when we eventually played the said match we zero covid case, we still got beat. So make up your excuses I don’t mind but please don’t come and give me that “evidence” spin, nobody’s buying it

  7. If you are right and “nobody’s buying it” that raises quite a few questions about the comments that are on this site. It also raises questions about why you keep on reading something that not only you, but also apparently other readers of the site. Indeed in your case why you not only continue to reading something that no one believes, but also you continue to write in – that was your 72nd post.
    I don’t mind you doing it; I just find it interesting.

  8. @Tony, another false conclusion. Because we are not buying your excuses doesn’t stop anybody from reading your blog. Just like you read the dailies a lot yet come on here to attack them.

  9. Arome, nothing stops anyone reading this blog, just as nothing stops me reading sites I think pedal false information. The issue I have tried to raise is that of why one does it. I read the media which I feel pedal false stories so that I can highlight them on this blog, and I do that in the hope that some people who previously accepted the media’s view of Arsenal and football as true, then begin to question it by looking at evidence.
    However many of the people who write into Untold expressing their disagreement, just do that. They don’t give evidence to show where the analysis or conclusions are wrong, but they write in to say that what is said on Untold is wrong.
    The equivalent of that is not me reading the Mirror, but rather would be me writing to the Mirror to tell them they are wrong. Which I don’t do.

  10. @Tony, you don’t give any more evidence than the people who write in to your blog, your opinion is what it is, opinion. Also maybe those that write in to the blog aim to provide alternative opinion from yours to your readers, the same way you aim to provide them alternative opinion from the media. As for me, I read everything arsenal. When I have a contrary opinion to that of the writer, I express it if allowed. It’s a big world and as far as the subject matter is a subjective one, there’ll always be room for varied opinions (like you say our 1st 3 games happened due to bad luck and I say they happened due to poor preparation- especially the Brentford match since the other 2 results were expected irrespective of our state of preparedness.

  11. “Tony, you don’t give any more evidence than the people who write in”
    What a bizarre statement. I don’t know what you think all the statistics that cover this site are, but if they are not evidence then when are just using the word is an utterly different manner and with an utterly different meaning.

  12. @Tony I’ll give you just one example of your statistics that isn’t evidence of what you conclude. Fouls to card ratio is statistics that isn’t evidence of uneven refereeing. There’s plenty of numbers with faulty deduction, but there’s even more issues with not statistical subjects like your regular “media hate arsenal/Wenger/foreigner/bla bla more than everyone else”. Where statistical evidence is never provided. I have absolutely no problems with it, it’s your opinion. But I’m only pointing out that it is what it is, OPINION!!

  13. And that is where we utterly differ Arome. You say “Fouls to card ratio is statistics that isn’t evidence of uneven refereeing.” I would say it is part of the evidence. Another part is the difference imbalance between home and away results between different referees.
    It appears to me that somehow you expect this blog to gather all the evidence together and then present it as complete.
    But that is not how it works in any exploration of reality. One gathers evidence and shows the direction of explanation it suggests. Then you gather more and see if that supports the previous thesis. If it does, you gather more and keep testing.
    That’s the standard scientific method, and it is what happens here, with refereeing issues and everything else.
    We found something very odd in Leicester’s tackle / foul / yellow figures so we looked at other teams’ figures. Then we found something very odd about Leicester’s penalty figures and did the same. Then we found something very strange about the variance in refereeing home and away statistics and explored these. Together a picture is built. That is how the scientific method works.
    Of course our approach is not perfect because we are such a tiny team, but that doesn’t make it unscientific.

  14. OK Arome you have your opinion, and your opinion is that I don’t give evidence. My opinion is that articles such as https://untold-arsenal.com/archives/94138 “Do referees give yellow cards because of the quality or quantity of the fouls committed” goes through the statistics and gives a reasoned answer. I don’t believe that your assertions stack up in the light of the articles on this site.

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