How easy is it for Arsenal to reach the top three next season?

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.

7 Replies to “How easy is it for Arsenal to reach the top three next season?”

  1. Comparing next season to last season is as pointless as chopping any season into segments that reflect favorably on a club’s performance.

    Arsenal were the fifth-best Premier League side last season. Next season has nothing to do with last season. The squad will be different. The opposing teams will be different.

    The assumption that player ‘X’ will outperform player ‘Y’ is based not on logic, but hope. Lacazette’s scored 13, 10, and 13 league goals per year over the last three seasons; but last season he scored 4 goals and provided 7 assists. The popular narrative is that Gabriel Jesus will outperform not only Lacazette but Aubameyang as well, but his history does not suggest he will produce anything like those numbers.That does not mean he won’t, it just means he has not. Over the last three seasons Jesus, playing as a winger or center forward, has produced 14, 9, and 8 league goals. Aubameyang, in contrast, scored 22, 10, and 15 (PL & LL) league goals over the last three seasons. Thus, the idea that Jesus by himself will fill the void left by both Lacazette & Aubameyang is a long reach and a big prayer. Could it happen. Yes. Will it? Probably not. More likely, Jesus will contribute what he does; somewhere between 10 and 16 goals.

    As far as Nketiah goes, will he score more? It depends on how much he plays, where he plays, and how well he adapts to whatever role he is assigned. If Jesus plays 3,000 minutes at center forward, Nketiah, who really has no other position, will be hard-pressed to match what he did this season.

    Arsenal 22/23 needs to be compared to the other Premier League teams to assess relative quality or project performance, not last season’s team. That team and those performances are akin to sunk costs in economics. That money is gone. It cannot be recovered. The conditions under which Arsenal earned 5th place last season are gone as well. As an example, Arsenal defeated Tottenham 3-1 at home last season, but that Tottenham was in disarray over Harry Kane’s attempted exit and Nuno Espirito Santo’s disastrous reign. The reverse fixture in May was a very different affair, with Arsenal getting shattered 3-0. Arsenal cruised past Newcastle last November, 2-0 but lost by the same score in May. As teams change and evolve, their relative performances change and evolve. Arsenal are not evolving against a static set of statistics and opponents, but against teams who are dynamic and ever-changing as the Gunners.

    That is not to pick on the team, it is just to show that what happens in one season or even one game and one opponent is distinct and separate from what happens in the next. None of those conditions will exist next season. Nuno will not be coaching. Harry Kane will not be mourning his lost chance to play at Man City, Arsenal will not be dealing with the hangover over Aubameyang’s exit; COVID will, hopefully, be a non-factor. Newcastle will have a better team and a better manager from the outset.

    Forecasting next season’s results requires comparing the squads and from that perspective, there could be a big shake up. Man City have made or are making some significant changes to their title-winning side. Raheem Sterling looks like he’s leaving, Gabriel Jesus is at Arsenal and their midfield rock, Fernandinho is gone as well. Erling Haaland is in as is Kalvin Phillips. Will City be better or worse? Better is the consensus among pundits, but who really knows?

    Liverpool have allowed their Champions League good luck totem, Divock Oirigi to move on and Sadio Mane’s departure breaks up the front line that terrorized the league for the last four years. Darwin Nunez is in as a replacement, but Mane and Nunez are very different. Will Liverpool be better? Worse? The same? Salah signed a new deal, which stabilizes the team, which seems deep, except, perhaps, at attacking midfield.

    Chelsea are making massive changes. Lukaku is out, Pulisic may be going, Rudiger and Christensen are gone. Marcus Alonso could leave along with Cesar Azpilicueta. The Blues look in free-fall, with no first team signings as yet. Chelsea, even if they bring in huge reinforcements, could struggle early as the new lads settle. Would Nathan Ake and Kalidou Koulibaly offer the same quality as Rudiger and Christensen? Will Sterling thrive as a false 9? Will Chelsea snag Raphinha?

    Tottenham have reloaded, losing very little and adding Richarlison, Fraser Forster, Yves Bissouma, Ivan Perisic, and Clement Lenglet. Absent improved quality in midfield and full back, Arsenal look to have lost ground rather than gained it, against the Spurs.

    Manchester United look in complete disarray with no new signings, Ronaldo itching to leave, and the house seemingly bet on signing Frenkie de Jong, who seems more than happy to remain at Barcelona. How quickly it could all change if de jong signs, Eriksen comes in, Lissandro Martinez picks United over the Gunners, Ronaldo stays put, and Serge Gnabry leaves Munich for Manchester.

    Arsenal have replaced what was lost and added depth. How many more wins is that relative to what the other teams have added/lost?

    West Ham have added depth, but is there a game changer in the players added? How many extra wins does a reserve defender, a back up for Declan Rice, and a reserve goal keeper buy? Newcastle have added quality and stability, signing Matt Target permanently, bringing in Sven Botman, and upgrading their goal keeping with Nick Pope; but offensively Newcastle 22/23 looks very dependent on Callum Wilson’s health.

    The club that looks like it added the most after Tottenham is Aston Villa. The Villains have added Couinho permanently, brought in a top-qualityy defensive midfielder in Boubacar Kamara, Added quality in defense with Diego Carlos, and brought in depth in Augustinsson and Olsen.

    The critical point is that every side starts with 0 points and earns their results with performances against the other teams playing in the current season. There is no cumulative effect, no points for doing well last year, no bonus pints for big signings or keeping last year’s stars from moving on. Arsenal are not starting the season at fifth hoping to climb higher, which is how the pundits discuss things, they start at 0, like everyone else, and have to claw their way to each result until May delivers the verdict that is beyond doubt or appeal. Which is why the Premier League and the dictatorship of the table make the league so compelling. One lucky result does not a season make; it is only by grinding out the results, clawing at every point, ekeing out draws and 1-0 wins away in a downpour in January, that any teams gets to state, in May, with absolute certainty, that they are champion, or top four, or top half.

  2. But the best will only be when we strengthen the DM and then add some one like Gnabry who will give us moer fire power that will add more goal tally then we are good to go.

  3. Very good assessment by paul35mm, maybe a couple of things to add. Most importantly the World Cup splits the season, for the first and hopefully the last time, no one has a clue what the impact of that will be on individual squads. On West Ham I do feel that without their European campaign they might have had enough for fourth last time around given the struggles everyone else seemed to be having. It does seem to me they’ve got more than people think.

  4. Tony why in so many of your articles have you said that Arsenal had a completely new defence last season ? You know that this is not the case. Gabriel joined in September 2020 and played more than any other player in the league last season. Tierney joined in 2019 and played more league matches than Tomiyasu. Cedric played the same number of league games as Tavares.

  5. Hi again @paul35mm, very thorough analysis again
    There are players you mention (Villa recruits in particular) I don’t know well, so I won’t make a fool of myself contradicting you … for the sake of contradiction
    But the thing about this season is I’m definitely more Timbuk 3 (“the future’s so bright i gotta wear shades”) than Rolling Stones (“ – and this is a lifelong Stones fan speaking, of the “Mick Taylor” period in particular
    One of the reasons is we may be back to the best of Wenger years, when the Big Man made one-two very clever buys in summer, and relied on stability, greater cohesion to improve the performances of his very young squads. If that’s what Edu-MA were thinking when they bought GJ9, and brought back our loanees, then I’m all for it
    I’ve also kept in mind the 5-change-rule period during the COVID outbreak, which ended up with our 14th FA cup win – I was particularly impressed with he way Arteta made the best of the rule all along; if he can confirm that, it’ll become a tremendous asset for us
    During that very same run to yet another Wembley triumph, Arteta used a 3-4-3 setup. For some reason a back-3 seems to have always been a perfect fit for this club (Graham 89, Wenger 2017, and Arteta 2020). The interesting thing is that he reversed to that setup in the second half of the Nurnberg game (the “5-1” one – of course I KNOW it’s only a pre-season friendly agaist a second-tier side!!), interesting because obviously MA wanted to test the Eddie-GJ9 partnership from the getgo – I’m pretty sure what he saw was beyond his most optimistic expectations. Sticking to that setup and to such a partnership would solve the “Eddie” problem you mention, and could give playing time to Balogun too (I, for one, havethe greatest expectations for that lad).
    At the back, Saliba is used to playing in a back-3, and Rob has proved, time and again how comfortable he felt in it too …
    Anyway, you’re right when you suggest that all of this is just a guessing game, but that’s part of the “being- a- fan” fun, isn’t it?

  6. @Paul35mm

    I don’t know if you watched Man-U game against Liverpool. It’s easy to dismiss it as a meaningless friendly but they played with an intensity that was lacking the whole of last season. I can bet they’ll be a different team despite limited transfer activities. It promises to be an interesting season ahead.

    Sometimes it’s not about signings but the organization behind the team. Just look at Milan. And that’s where Arteta comes in. The team was good enough last season. Most of the losses coincided with when key players were missing. Xhaka, Partey, Tomiyasu, Tierney. Upfront Arsenal is teaming with options. If Arsenal can sort issues with depth in defence and midfield then we’ll be good enough.

  7. @Jack
    I used to watch Ten Hag’s Ajax a lot, whenever I could actually
    Which is why Ten Hag’s Man Utd scares the s..t out of me, even though I didn’t watch the Bangkok game

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