What Arsenal need to do to get to third next season.

by Tony Attwood

To get back to third position the first thing we have to do is not change our manager.  This might seem an odd thing to say, but after a poor start to last season we had ceaseless calls for the manager to be sacked, despite a vast amount of evidence that although occasionally replacing the management can work, most of the time it either has no effect or makes things worse.

Last season I don’t think any of us realised just how tough the opening would be until we start to get an idea of the line up for the Brentford game.  You’ll remember our team on that day….


Mari White Chambers Tierney

Xhaka Lokonga

Martinelli, Smith Rowe, Pepe


That looks less worrying now, but remember not only Balogun’s first start it was only Martinelli 10th game.  Besides, Saka, Odegaard and Gabriel, three of our five most regular players last were all missing.

Now matters for the first game, and the whole season, look far more hopeful, but clearly we need improvements on last season if we are going to close the gap for fourth or even third.  So, I’ll try and take a look at these issues.

First Arsenal must score more goals.   Back in 2018/19 we scored 73.  Last season, Chelsea in third scored 76 and Tottenham in fourth scored 69.  73 seems a good target.

That is 12 more than last season.   So how do we do that?

Last season, among the forward-moving players Saka got 11, Smith Rowe 10, Odegard 7, Martinelli 6, Nketiah 5, in the league.  Let’s say that Jesus gets 12, and Martinelli goes up to 10, plus Saka, Smith Rowe, Odegaard and Nketiah get one more each of the above get one more, which is reasonable since they are all young players who are  improving all the time.  That’s 20 goals more than this season.

But we have lost Aubameyang and Lacazette, who got four each in the league so taking that into account, the improvement above is reduced to 12 more and we are up to 73, which is the target:  These goals are from Premier League games only so I’m projecting…

  • Saka: 12
  • Smith Rowe: 12
  • Jesus: 12
  • Martinelli: 10
  • Odgaard: 8
  • Nketiah: 6

I’m not sure when a PL club previously had four players in double figures and maybe Jesus will get 15 and Smith Rowe 9, but the key thing is that takes us to 73.

Last season we conceded 48, which was eight more than Tottenham and 15 more than Chelsea.   We were only the eighth-best defence in the league, letting in more than each of Wolverhampton, Brighton and Palace.  And that after buying a completely new defence.

So we have to let in 15 fewer goals – around one fewer every other game.  Let’s find a few games where a stronger defence which has now had a year of experience playing together can achieve this…

Date Match Res Score projected 2022/3
13 Aug 2021 Brentford v Arsenal L 2-0 1 goal fewer conceded
22 Aug 2021 Arsenal v Chelsea L 0-2 1 goal fewer conceded
28 Aug 2021 Manchester City v Arsenal L 5-0 2 goals fewer conceded
18 Oct 2021 Arsenal v Crystal Palace D 2-2 2 goals fewer conceded
02 Dec 2021 Manchester United v Arsenal L 3-2 1 goal fewer conceded
06 Dec 2021 Everton v Arsenal L 2-1 1 goal fewer conceded
19 Feb 2022 Arsenal v Brentford W 2-1 1 goal fewer conceded
06 Mar 2022 Watford v Arsenal* W 2-3 1 goal fewer conceded
04 Apr 2022 Crystal Palace v Arsenal L 3-0 2 goals fewer conceded
08 May 2022 Arsenal v Leeds United W 2-1 1 goal fewer conceded
12 May 2022 Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal L 3-0 2 foals ewer conceded

This takes us up to 73 scored and 33 conceded – a goal difference of +40, which will compare with this season’s top four…

Pos Team Goals scored average per game goals conceded average per game GD Pts
1 Manchester City 99 2.61 26 0.68 73 93
2 Liverpool 94 2.47 26 0.68 68 92
3 Chelsea 76 2.00 33 0.87 43 74
4 Tottenham Hotspur 69 1.82 40 1.05 29 71
Arsenal projection 73 1.92 33 0.87 40 73


The advantage we will have is the approach of a multiplicity of goal scorers.

However, it is worth a moment to look at Tottenham last season.  They beat us to fourth as we will all recall, by two points and a GD of 16.  Clearly they can score goals (they got eight more than we did) and defend better (they also conceded eight fewer than we did).  But just consider that goal scoring…

  • Harry Kane: 17 goals
  • Son Heung min: 23 goals
  • Delan Kulusekyski: 5 goals
  • Steven Bergwijn: 3 goals

Of course it is superb to have two top scorers like that, but with it comes dangers – dangers that Tottenham avoided last season but which might bite them in the foot this coming campaign.   Take out Kane or Son through injury and a substantial part of the goal scoring goes.  Last season Kane played 47 matches, and presumably, therefore, got no serious injury.  The previous season he played 43.

Now I genuinely don’t wish an injury on any player, not even a Tottenham player, but the reality, is that this level of performance is unsustainable.   And the problem is that if one brings in another top scorer he will want to play.  But so will Kane and Son, and three of them together would lead to all sorts of other problems in the team further back.  I suspect something will give this year.

Interestingly Chelsea had something of goal scoring problem even though they scored 15 more than Arsenal in the league.  I’ve no idea what Amy Lawrence with her infamous “Arsenal had only two players scoring in double figures” comment (infamous because only one club had more than two, yet it made Arsenal sound like total losers) would make of Chelsea, but last season they had only one player scoring in double figures: Mason Mount on 11.  Yet they were the third highest scorers in the league with 76.   Sharing the goals around can work!

  • Mason Mount played 27 league matches scored 11
  • Kai Havertz played 22 league matches scored 8
  • Romelu Lukaku played 16 league matches scored 8

So how do we get to third?  Simple – score more, concede fewer.  I’m hoping for both because of Jesus, and because Martinelli, Smith Rowe and Saka are all a year older.  As for the defence, we bought a new defence last season for over £100m and they have now had their chance to settle.  Now they need to deliver.

5 Replies to “What Arsenal need to do to get to third next season.”

  1. Tony,

    the ‘fewer goals’ conceded table is, IMHO, not very practical nore in it’s choice of games useful.
    I believe all games whre we lost by more then one goal need not be there. And if the one less goal applies to the other results, technically, even without more goals, we would have made it into top 4 as we’d have had 4 more points according to the table if I am not wrong….

    But from a larger perspective, I believe winning or at least not losing against ‘non top-6’ teams is the critical part. And winning at least once against top 6 teams is very important. Apart from City and Pool!, this ought to be achievable.

  2. The teams that finished above us last season have strengthened their squads and are looking much better than they were
    Even those that finished below, particularly ManU, Newcastle and West Ham are also looking much better
    So it’s not going to be as straight forward as you make it look
    But let’s see how our squad looks at the end of the transfer period. We’d have a better idea of what progress we can expect

  3. I like your approach, Tony.

    Here is my breakdown, how to score 110 goals in the season. Since I don’t know who will play in PL games and who will be reserved to cup fixtures this 110 should not be confused with the 73 you were looking for, as it it the total expected from the 54-56 games, not exclusive for the 38 PL matches.
    – Jesus: 25 goals
    – Nketiah: 15 goals
    (strikers: 40 in total)
    – Martinelli: 10 goals
    – Saka: 10 goals
    – ESR: 10 goals
    – RWs (Pepe, Nelson, Marquinhos combined): 10 goals
    (wingers and attacking midfielders: 40 in total)
    – long shots (Elneny, Xhaka): 5 goals
    – Vieira: 5 goals
    – all other midfielders: 5 goals
    (central midfield: further 15 goals)
    – Gabriel: 5 goals
    – other CBs (White, Saliba, Holding): 5 goals
    – full backs (Tomi, Tierney, Tavares, Cedric, Zinch): 5 goals
    (defenders total: 15 goals)
    – 5 own goals (scored by the opponent)

    Maybe I was overestimating some, so I reduced 5 for being too optimistic.
    That 110 goals in 55 games. 38 PL, 10-12 EL, 5-7 from the cups.
    And while the 38 (PL) games is 70% of the 54-55 total I expect to see more goals scored in the cup and the EL group stage than in the EPL on average. So kind of expect only 2/3 of the goals in the league – arriving to the 73 which Tony also expects from our next season.

    However the above numbers assume 4 attacking-minded players in 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-2. If we change to 3-5-1-1 or 5-2-3 we will likely concede less, but also expect to score less.

  4. Love it that Zinch already has a nickname!!
    Hopefully he’ll soon be joined by Tiels.
    Roll on August 🤪

  5. To counter the pessimism about our prospects against Man City and Liverpool, let’s remember our home performances against them last season, in which we were unlucky to lose. In particular, the City win at the Emirates was entirely the result of blatantly incompetent (or biased) refereeing.

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