By Tony Attwood
Looking at Arsenal’s development last season, we have focussed on two particular sets of statistics, generally not used by other commentators. One is what happened to Arsenal after the disastrous first three matches, and the other what happened in the second half of the season (an interesting table because it takes account of the reborn Newcastle United.)
In short, across the last 35 games of the season, Arsenal came in third. But across the last 19 games (the second half of the season) Arsenal came in fifth.
Pulling all the data together what we can see is that to come fourth in the league and hence get into the Champions League, a club normally needs about 1.87 points per game or more.
Encouragingly Arsenal got above that in the last 35 games of the season, which suggests that if we can avoid another disaster at the start of the season we could be ok for fourth.
The problem however is that as the Newcastle results for the second half of the season show, (they were the third-best team with a points-per-game average of 2.0) they are now a serious force to be reckoned with.
In short, this coming season we will have a Special Seven, rather than a Super Six or Fab Four, (or whatever other garbage the media likes to make up) fighting for European places. And yes, while there are seven places up for grabs, I am not sure any of the Special Seven will take kindly to a place in the Europa Conference in 2023/4, except for seeing it as a Reserve Team league.
(And there is always West Ham, whose supporters got quite agitated when we suggested they wouldn’t make Europe next season.)
So yes we can take some real encouragement from the fact that over the last 35 games of the season we had a points-per-game average of 1.97. We need to keep that up – or even improve on it. This means no disastrous repeat of the opening three games.
But how is this to be done?
Across the last 35 games Arsenal were the fifth top-scoring side in the league – an improvement on the season as a whole, where we were the sixth top-scoring team.
This was not bad when we consider that Aubameyang only played in 12 Premier League games and scored four goals. Jesus will surely do much better and achieve more than our top two scorers last season in the league of Smith Rowe (10) and Saka (11).
What’s more both of those two are still very young and inexperienced, so we might expect them to keep scoring (or maybe allow Martinelli to get more than the six he got in the league last season). Gabriel Jesus scored eight goals in 28 games last season, and with a greater usage by the club, and a more central role in the team, we can expect that to increase. We could even see the unheard-of four players in double figures!
It is of course hard to measure the number of extra goals Jesus will bring, but we might imagine ten, without detracting from the goalscoring of others. That would take us up to the fourth highest-scoring team in the league.
Of course we have also lost Lacazette who scored four league goals, but gained Eddie as a regular team player. He surely will score more than the five league goals he got last season.
What we also know is that last season, Arsenal did very poorly against the teams that finished above us in the league. We got an away victory over Chelsea, and a home win over Tottenham, but against Manchester City and Liverpool it was defeats all the way in the league.
Getting a win against Liverpool or Manchester City might still be a tough nut to crack next season, but getting more points against Tottenham, Chelsea, Newcastle and Manchester United will not only strengthen our position but also hinder theirs.
Also, our defence now has had a year playing together and hopefully will do better than last season.
Arsenal let in 23 goals in the first half of last season, and 25 in the second half of the season. This was with a completely new defence, but also with the worrying factor is that the number of goals being conceded did not reduce dramatically in the second half of the season. In fact, if we were to build a league table based on goals conceded we would have been eighth, behind the top four in the league, and also behind Wolverhampton, Brighton and Palace.
We really need to be down to 40 goals conceded in the season, rather than the 48 last season – if not fewer. Chelsea let in 33 last time, and that surely is a more appropriate target.
So here are the targets:
One goal fewer conceded every other game, one more goal scored every other game.
This is of course all hypothesis, but it is all we have to go on, other than the wild ramblings of the transfer rumours, so let’s see what we get.
|Date||Match||Res||Score||goals change||Pts change|
|02 Oct 2021||Brighton and Hove v Arsenal||D||0-0||+1 scored||+2|
|18 Oct 2021||Arsenal v Crystal Palace||D||2-2||-1 conceded||+2|
|06 Dec 2021||Everton v Arsenal||L||2-1||+1 scored||+1|
|23 Jan 2022||Arsenal v Burnley||D||0-0||+1 scored||+2|
|09 Apr 2022||Arsenal v Brighton and Hove||L||1-2||-1 conceded||+1|
|16 Apr 2022||Southampton v Arsenal||L||1-0||-1 conceded||+1|
Taking all this together that is nine points more which gives us 78 points, taking us above the 76 estimated for Newcastle based on their performance in the latter part of last season, and thus giving us third position. And all that from scoring three goals more and conceding three goals fewer.
Yes of course it is all fantasy, but it is a fantasy based on a certain level of logic. And as any honest and genuine supporter would surely acknowledge, what else can we use?
And the good point is that three more goals scored and three fewer conceded should give us third.