By Bulldog Drummond
One reason that is given in the media for Chelsea not doing so well in the match against Arsenal is that Chelsea were slow off the mark in the transfer window, while Arsenal got going on their business quickly and effectively.
The implication is clear: Arsenal done good by moving quickly, and the players they have bought have a mark of quality, especially in Jesus and Zinchenko.
That might well be true, and we have often seen what it can be like for players to be coming into a club toward the end of the window, and trying to settle into an already established team – with of course the tensions that can arise from the disgruntlement of the players who are displaced from the team, but who are still at the club.
But there is another reason, and it is one that while we have discussed it extensively during last season, is something that the media assiduously avoid. It is the issue of looking not at the whole season in a league table, but sections of the season.
For example, if we look at the result of the last six games of last season we find the top 11 reads...
|6||Brighton and Hove||6||3||2||1||13||7||6||11|
I am not sure I have seen any of the media highlight the last six games of the season as an indicator of how clubs are functioning, but it does tell us something about Chelsea, who of course we recently beat.
Chelsea ended the season very much adrift in mid-table, and nothing has happened during the summer recess to give any clue as to how they are going to recover from this downturn.
If you find such tables interesting you might particularly like to look at the bottom three through the last six games of last season…
Manchester United really were functioning poorly at this time as were the previously highly regarded (in the media at least) Wolverhampton.
However, it might be argued that we are looking at just one little bit of the season and it’s the whole season that matters. And there is something in that. But it is highly noticeable that a similar argument was not used for the first three games of the season. Few commentators were saying, the league table after three games was irrelevant as it was only three games. Rather they were full of
- Arsenal slip to WORST start to a league season in 67 years
- Arsenal make worst start to a season in 67 years
- Arsenal’s six worst starts to a Premier League season
- Ranked! Arsenal’s worst-ever starts to a season
- Arsenal humiliated 5-0 by City in worst start in its history
and on and on and on and on and on and on.
Perhaps there is some magical reason why it is important to focus on the first three games and not the last six. Or come to that as we did at the end of the season, the last 35 games which also provide an interesting take…
For me, the simple fact is that the end-of-season table, after 38 games, is self-evidently the definitive table. But if we want to know if Arsenal were improving or declining as the season went on, then tables across a set number of games can be informative.
We can see from this that for 92% of last season, Arsenal were operating as the third best club in the league, and thus conclude that it is not too much of a leap to consider that for the whole of the coming season Arsenal might operate as the third best club. Still a big way behind the top two, but moving in the right direction.
And we can see that through this period, we had the fourth best defence in the league – a considerable improvement on the season as a whole where we had the eighth best defence in the league.
That is an important stat since it was the defence that was of particular concern last season. Arsenal replaced the entire defence last summer, and obviously, it took them a while to get used to each other, which to some degree explains the problems. But was it just that? Are the defenders good enough?
That table above suggests that yes they are – especially with the additions made this season.
However over the last 35 games we were still 27 and 28 goals behind the top two in attack – which given what happened you might well expect. Now it is looking as if that problem has been resolved as well.
So, in my view, these figures from part of a season can be indicative of how the club is progressing. I know of course some readers will always be critical and see alternative analyses as merely an excuse, but I retain the view that they are informative – and so we’ll be using them again in the match previews, this season coming.
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