Why is the media so certain Arsenal will fail in 2022/23?

By Tony Attwood

As we know Arsenal lost the first three games of last season, and the media made a huge fuss about that.  Then amazingly Arsenal made a significant recovery, and became the third-best club in the league over the remaining 35 games.  Only Untold Arsenal covered that.

Only one other team had a turnaround of such magnitude – we’ll deal with them at the end of this piece.

(Incidentally, some WHU fans wrote in and said that all clubs have good and bad runs, and you could make similar claims about any club, but actually it is quite hard to do over a long stretch of the season.  You can do it over six or ten games, and that is a handy guide to current form, but over longer periods – less so.  And of course the longer the period selected, the more informative the data becomes.).

What is interesting for Arsenal is that this is the second time in the Arteta reign that this has happened – and if you are a regular reader of Untold you’ll know what happened next.  If not, you’ll find the answer in our Key Data Tables for 2020/21

After the first third of that season, Arsenal were 15th in the league.  Then in the last two thirds Arsenal were second best.

P Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Manchester City 24 20 0 4 62 20 42 60
2 Arsenal 24 14 5 5 43 21 22 47
3 Manchester United 24 13 8 3 43 21 22 47
4 West Ham United 24 13 5 6 41 28 13 44
5 Chelsea 24 12 6 6 29 22 7 42
6 Leicester City 24 11 6 7 42 33 9 39
7 Liverpool 24 11 5 8 32 23 38
8 Tottenham Hots 24 11 4 9 43 31 12 37


Now at this point the manager confounded some of us by setting aside what was at that point the second most effective defence in the league and replacing it completely with younger players.  As a result, as we all know, Arsenal sank from the second position achieved in the last two thirds of 2020/21 down to 5th.

So was that a serious error on his part?  Yes if you refuse to accept the curious circumstances of the first three games with the outbreak of Covid and the refusal of the league to postpone the games.  Here’s that league table for the last 35 games of last season..

# 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


Two questions arise.  Is this real progress, and can we do it for a whole season rather than 24 games as in 2020/21 and 35 games as in 2021/22?

To get some insight we can try and compare these two periods a little more closely.

P Team PTS in last 24, 2020/1 Equivalent in season pts in last 35, 2021/22 equivalent in season change
1 Manchester City 60 95 87 95 0
2 Arsenal 47 74 69 75 +1
3 Manchester United 47 74 51 56 -18
4 West Ham United 44 70 49 53 -17
5 Chelsea 42 66 67 73 +7
6 Leicester City 39 62 46 50 -12
7 Liverpool 38 60 85 92 +32
8 Tottenham Hots 37 58 62 67 +9


What this table shows is that the much-improved form that Arsenal revealed in the last two thirds of 2020/21 was also shown at the same level in the last 92% of last season.

Now of course these two periods (the last 24 in 2020/21 and the last 35 in 2021/22) are not the whole season, but they show a really interesting trend and a really important point for Arsenal

In each of these past two seasons, Arsenal were in dispute with players at the start.  What we can hope is that there will not no such dispute this coming season, given that Arteta has had a much longer time to settle things down and get rid of players he doesn’t like.

Likewise, it seems very likely that the first third of 2020/21 went wrong for Arsenal because the club was not just having problems with certain players, but also the manager was introducing his new no-tackling system.  It was a change that took Arsenal from being the most yellow-carded team in the league to one of the teams with the smallest number of cards.

Now assuming that Arsenal are not going out to buy a whole new pack of defenders yet again, who will then have to learn the “don’t tackle” system all over again, we are going to enter the new season with the new system fully in place and fully understood.

As we have seen the club is now concentrating on forwards and although new recruits will have to learn to cope with bonkers VAR decisions this is a lot easier to do than being a defender and learning to avoid tackling.

So, overall we have had a team that through the latter part of the last two seasons been running at a level of 75 points.  If we keep that up we might expect a table to read…

Pos Club Points
1 Manchester City 95
2 Liverpool 92
3 Arsenal 75
4 Chelsea 73
5 Tottenham Hots 67
6 Manchester United 56
7 West Ham United 53


All except for one thing: Newcastle United.  Newcastle had an extraordinary turnaround last season, and indeed in a table drawn up just for the second half of the season they would be third.

This is another factor the Super Computer (poor chap) seems to have missed, and we’ll have a look at them in the next episode of this little series.

As for that opening question: it is because they don’t do statistics.

8 Replies to “Why is the media so certain Arsenal will fail in 2022/23?”

  1. Wasn’t it the PM Harold Wilson who made the comment about statistcs and lies.

    All you say is true and correct but you do not take into account the inconsistencies of the team, failing at key moments, and the strange decision making by a very obstinate manager.

    Playing the no. 1 goalscorer Aubamayang on the wing with no one in the middle to put the ball in the net, falling out with him, constantly choosing Lacazette who did not know how to score plus other strange selections that left us with the lowest goals for in many years.

    If we had scored another 10 to 15 goals we would not have ended in 5th place. Add to the bad decisions playing non defenders as replacement full backs and you have the reason for the final placings.

    The issue now is that we have bought another clever footballer who is not a regular goal scorer and are reliant on Nketiah who is not a Campion’s League centre forward. Man. City and L’pool needed centre forwards a lot less than us and look at their committment.

    We are, I am afraid, managed by a bunch of amateurs across the board.

  2. Fans love to highlight how their team was good and ignore how they were bad. The season is played over 38 games and it is those 38 games that determine how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ a team is. In truth, there are no ‘bad’ Premier League teams. Every team has two-dozen or so top professional footballers. Quality, however, is relative. Arsenal were the fifth best team in the league last season. Period. The gunners were not third-best or fourth-best or eighth-best. They were fifth. Relative to the other 20 teams playing Premier League football, the Gunners were fifth.

    It is not clear that the media are so sure Arsenal will fail, but contrary to the fans’ delight over the four (to date) new signings and other team developments; Arsenal have not really strengthened the side. Gabriel Jesus should replace most of what Arsenal lost when Aubameyang and Lacazette left the team. Marquinos is a replacement for Nicolas Pepe, or so it seems. Matt Turner is unlikely to be as good as Bernd Leno, but he replaces the German as second choice ‘keeper, and Fabio Vieira provides depth at #10, but does he really add a lot more in that role relative to Emile Smith Rowe?

    Except for Vieira, the players added do not actually amount to additions to the team, but replacement for players leaving or expected to leave. Arsenal’s weaknesses, at the start of the 2021/22 season were at central midfield and fullback and those weaknesses remain. Nuno Tavares was shown to be ‘not ready’ at best, while Cedric Soares is a player that Southampton let go for free, which says all that needs to be said about his quality. Granit Xhaka is a fine player, but is not a player that brings goals or assists and Arsenal need both from their central midfielder.

    The question of why the media are sure Arsenal will ‘fail’ may be more about defining ‘fail’ than anything. What does it mean to ‘fail.?’ If failure is defined as not winning the league, Arsenal, like every team not Man City, or Liverpool, seem destined to fail. Like last season, the third and fourth spot in the table will be fought over by Arsenal, Man U, Tottenham, and Chelsea. West Ham might get into the mix, while a surging Newcastle and ambitious Aston Villa might also crash that European football wanna’ be party.

    Another reason is, when the off-season activity of the ‘second four’ sides are compared; Arsenal have replaced what they lost, but not really added, while Tottenham have added four first-team players, all of whom are either better than the players they replace, or actually add something the Spurs did not have before. Fraser Forster is a terrific back up keeper, so improves his side. IVan Perisic is one of the best wing backs in Europe. Yves Bissouma adds athleticism and quality to Tottenham’s midfield, while Richarlison adds depth at #9 behind Harry Kane, and goals to the wide positions. Ass in Clement Lengelet as depth in the middle of defense and you have quality added to a team that edged Arsenal for fourth last year.

    Chelsea are struggling in the transfer market, no doubt due to the post-take-over sorting out at Stamford Bridge, Man United are in disarray, but West Ham have added desperately needed depth, while Newcastle have added a quality ‘keeper and central defender to a team that was superb in the second half last season.

    An optimist would say Arsenal are a long shot to finish 3rd, a reasonable chance to finish 4th, a very good chance of being fifth, a near certainty of being at least 6th, and a lock to be top 7. Within that framework, what constitutes failure? If top 4 is the goal and anything less is failure, than Arsenal are probably more likely to fail than succeed. That does not mean they will, it means they could and probably will. On the other hand, if the goal is to fiinish in the European places, it is almsot certain to happen, so that would mean success.

  3. @Philip Lyons,

    thank you for sharing your enlightened, expert, technically sound and professionnal opinion with us idiots.

    Truth is Arsenal got Gabriel Jesus because this way at least God may help them as he’ll have a motivation to watch the games. It was a declaration of faith, because as you’ve expressed it, they are so lost and incompetent that only prayers may help them. And with all the Gabriels they’ve got now, they at least supplied him with Gabriel archangels to help with the wings.

  4. hi @paul35mm,
    I read your balanced comment with great interest, but (I suspect you expected at least one of the untold “regulars” to do exactly that) I have to disagree with your arsenal-spurs comparison.
    As much as I think their winter mercato (kulusevski, and most of all bentancur, a player I like a lot) was cleverly dealt with, I’m not sure at all their current one will prove as successful. Forster is indeed a tremendous keeper, but … a backup he wiil be, which might be mind-comforting, but nothing more. Perisic is one of these brilliant, naturally-gifted players only south american and some “eastern” countries can produce now, but he’ll be 34 soon, has never played in the PL; I think he’s bound to have some eye-catching cameos against “lesser” teams, but … nothing more. Lenglet is a good player, but as so many French players before him (including Petit and TH14), his Barça spell has shattered his confidence, and I’m not sure the PL is the right place to get it back. As for Richarlison, it actually makes me very happy if the Totts think that in him they got the Kane-Son backup they need – to me, he’s just a fraud … and a cheat as well.
    As for us … I’m not going to write anything about Vieira, since I’ve never seen the lad play. Actually, I don’t completely disagree with your “not actually amount to additions to the team, but replacement for players leaving or expected to leave”, but the thing is you seem to forget, first how good GJ9 really is, then how young our team is, and how much most of the lads’ (ramsdale/tomi/white/gabriel/tierney/odegaard/saka/martinelli/smithrowe) are bound to have matured, thanks to last season. Lastly, your “additions” don’t take into account the boys returning from loans (bellerin/saliba/maitlandniles/torreira/nelson …), nor the amazing prospects we have in “store” (hutchinson, patino, flores, nortoncuffy, salah-eddine, cozier-duberry, walters …) which means we’ll have a considerably “deeper” squad, a mastercard in a 4-competition, 5-change-rule season …
    Thanks for your post, enjoy your season

  5. Were it not for injuries to Partey and Tierney, i’m sure we would have been third last season. If we find two good understudies why would third this season not be in the works? Some people just revel in doom and gloom i guess.

  6. We are not replacing Aubemayang because he wasn’t part of our squad after Christmas. We are replacing Lacazette and but not a like for like. Gabriel Jesus does not play like him. I don’t know if we can replace Laca’s work ethic and mentor capabilities but Jesus brings a spring in the step of the number 9. As for the others…I can’t say…too soon.

    But, I am optimistic and hope to see continued improvement from all our young guns.

  7. @Mike,

    I fully agree. You forget Tomy, which means we lost our 2 ‘wingers’ for quite a long stretch. In midfield, Elneny did, IMHO, do a good job taking charge and he is getting better with time.

    I do hope they find a couple of players to get some squad depth at right and left back. Wonder if Bellerin could be one solution. At least with the EL and the 5 substitutions rule there will be games aplenty to get many players involved.

    I find it real interesting to see that when Arsenal do not get players during the winter window they are a bunch of incompetents, and now they have spent millions and they are still incompetent idiots. This is just bashing for bashing’s sake by people who’d not be able to have a discussion in a pub as no one would want to talk with them.

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