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
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…
|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|
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.
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