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.
|4||West Ham United||24||13||5||6||41||28||13||44|
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..
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|
|4||West Ham United||44||70||49||53||-17|
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…
|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.
- What if Arsenal hadn’t had that awful start to the season…
- Arsenal’s opposition in the coming season: West Ham
- Arsenal’s opposition in the coming season: Manchester United
- Arsenal’s opposition in the coming season: Chelsea and the notion of progress.
- Arsenal’s opposition in the coming season: Tottenham
- Arsenal’s opposition in the coming season: Leicester City
- Arsenal v Leicester: comparing the form, and the goalscorers
- Arsenal v Leicester: how will the ref handle Leicester’s mulitple tackling?
- What sort of referee is Darren England? The statistics reveal some odd facts.
- Premier League 2022/23 – Matchweek 2 Refereeing matters
- Are we all really sure that no other club behaves like Barcelona?