Do Arsenal need to get better or different or both?

by Sir Hardly Anyone

Well obviously yes, and as we pointed out before they have indeed been getting better.  The only problem is that the story keeps going around that they have been getting worse.

The three most successful managers ever, in terms of win percentages who have managed Arsenal for more than one season, are in descending order, Wenger, Arteta and Emery.

Arteta, like Wenger, has been incredibly adventurous in terms of tactics, taking on the PGMO who made Arsenal the most carded team in the league, and reducing that to a club much nearer the foot of that table.

But journalists love jumping to conclusions even when they say they have not the slightest amount of data to support their argument.  For example, Karen Carney in the Guardian today says, “We are only two games into the new Premier League season so no one should get too carried away,” which is fair enough, except that is what all the journalists did last year when Arsenal got no points in the first three games.  They were carried away with tales of doom and disaster.  And as Arsenal moved to become the third most successful team across the last 37 league games played, no one has apologised for the substantial errors of judgement in their tales of doom and their calls for Arteta to go.

Now suddenly Edu is also flavour of the month as the media forgets that for example on  19 May 2022 — they were writing things likeArsenal’s failure to react to success leaves Mikel Arteta facing ‘big problem‘.”  And on 1 February this year “Edu has failed to address main Arsenal transfer problem – and Mikel Arteta is paying price”   While in April we got “Arsenal’s biggest problem is plain to see for everyone.”

At least there is a moment of truth in today’s Guardian piece where it says “A lot of the time – as pundits, fans and ex-players – we don’t know exactly what happens inside the club” – but sadly that has never stopped the media expressing its opinions and calling for change, the need for which and direction of which they can see, but apparently the club can’t.

But we are getting a lot of the bleedin’ obvious from the media, as with, “To get to that next level, after finishing fifth last season, they will need to do better against the teams that finished above them.”    Err yes, I think we have got that.  And indeed it was Untold who showed how hard that is with an analysis of where teams that have finished fifth end up next season.

Of course, English clubs, in general, have always got a few tricks up their sleeve, as with West Ham, whose opponents in the Europa League playoff had a couple of their players denied entry into the UK to play the game because their visa applications were not put in early enough.  In fact those applications were put in the day the draw was made, but that’s still not early enough apparently.  Denying players entry because UK immigration is short of staff and so running way behind with temporary visa applications is just one of the benefits of Brexit we were never told about.

And here is something else that has changed.  In fact, several things that have changed: Arsenal’s statistics for this season compared with last season.

Team Shots pg Tackles pg Interceptions pg Fouls pg Offsides pg
Arsenal 2021/2 11.2 14.2 7.8 9.6 1.7
Arsenal 2022/23 8 18.5 8.5 13 2
2022/3 as % of 2021/2 71% 130% 109% 135% 118%


So we now need 29% fewer shots to score a goal, but everything else is up: tackles and fouls particularly so.  But such changes pass the poor little journalist by, even though this is actually quite an interesting story.  Maybe the Mirror and others could get their infamous supercomputer to work on finding out why we are having so few shots per goal.  And why having spent a couple of years getting rid of tackles they are back on the agenda.

But no… that might involve writing something about the PGMO and the way it works, and that is strictly off the agenda.   Especially that 35% increase in fouls per game.

11 Replies to “Do Arsenal need to get better or different or both?”

  1. I keep reading that the PGMOL has advised their ref’s to go easier on tackles/fouls to ‘let the game flow more’…
    Can’t help but wonder if that’s in response to teams (like the Arsenal) cutting down on their tackling so as to not let ref’s affect games so much?
    Lends itself to thinking the PGMOL’s Modus Operandi is controlling games, not simply adjudicating them.

  2. Why should anyone apologize – they are entitled to their opinions and to publish them. Glad I don’t live in your world where the only thing you are allowed to criticize is…journalists.

  3. You sometimes have interesting things to say. Why do you spoil it with your fetish about journalists? It makes everything you have to say risible.

  4. Andrew let me get this clear. In my world, according you to you, the only thing that can be criticised is journalists. And yet you have jusst posted in two comments to this site which criticise me. And I am not a journalist.
    Have you never thought there is a contradiction within your world view?

  5. Andrew I have tried to explain many times, but I will try once again. My view is that the way in which many people perceive Arsenal is influenced by the way in which journalists write about Arsenal. And the way they write about Arsenal is biased. Some readers are fully aware of this bias, but many are not, and there are very few people making this point, so I try to do it.
    As it happens we are publishing quite a few journalist stories at the moment because there are a number of examples around of their perfidious nature just at the moment. The fact for example that they covered Arsenal’s position after 3 games last season, but did not emphasise the extraordinary turn around thereafter.

  6. Arsenal need to improve in ball control. They need t bring in three Quality players in central midfield , a playmaker, and centre forward/winger. Liverpool, an City have brought in quality players. Now he Arsenal time to leapfrog Chelsea and Spurs, and get Champion league place. If they sell four more players they have a chance to develop the squad.

  7. Gabby by name, Gabby by nature. Agbonlahor speaks, and plants across the entire country wither and die.

    Why can’t he confine his inane drivel to his own club – Aston Villa?

  8. Home articles are always lame. There are nothing but excuses when the team loses, and they act like their home club is the second coming of the Invincibles when they win.

    Have Arsenal gotten better?

    For two straight seasons, they were eighth. So, They did not get b etter. Last season, they were fifth. So they did get better. Cherry-picking statistics for a handful of games against mid-table opposition does not tell the story of Arsenal’s current state any more than three straight losses did at the start of last season.

    Arsenal have played Crystal Palace (12th last season) and Meicester (8th last season) and won both games. A team cannot perform better than winning the games they play. The next four games are against Bournemouth (Championship) and Fulham (Championship), Aston Villa (14th), and Manchester United (6th) before they play Tottenham (4th)

    After the Tottenham game, fans can start to see what kind of team they have. Until then, Arsenal are playing teams they should (an have) beat. That’s not criticism, it’s just true. United are in dissarray, but there is a lot of talent on that team and by the Arsenal game, Ten Haag will either have his team playing better or be on his way out. Tottenham, last year’s 4th place side, made a lot of good signings and look ready to challenge. If Arsenal can be competitive in both of those matches, win or lose, it will be time to start drawing conclusions. Until then, it’s guesswork and partisan bloviating.

    As far as the transfer “success” Arsenal have managed; the club signed two players, Zinchenko and Jesus who were key players on a title winning team last season. That can only be a good thing. Fabio Vieira is a younf player with star potential, and Marquinos is, at best, a speculative signing. Matt Turner is a career journeyman; neither star nor dross.

    The problem with claims of Arsenal getting better are that Jesus replaced Aubameyang and Lacazette. He has started well, but his best-ever league goal haul is 14. Can he do better? Maybe. Probably, even, but will he? Arteta thinks so, but replacing two top strikers with one player is very much a case of all the eggs in one Brazilian basket. Zinchenko is a better reserve left back than Nuno Tavared, but does he bring goals and assists to central midfield? That was Arsenal’s biggest need going in to last season and it has not been addressed. Neither Xhaka nor Partey have good goal scoring or assist records. Zinchenko doesn’t either. Claims the midfield is deeper, true. Claims it is better, not so much.

    Vieira should provide quality in depth, but when he plays, it will likely be in place of Odegaard, so does Arsenal get better or worse than if Odegaard was bakced up by Smith Rowe? That is anyone’s guess. 10 Premier League goals is tough to match for a reserve left wing/reserve #10, which was Smith Rowe’s role last season.

    Turner will, if Arsenal are lucky, never play. His record is hardly the thing to inspire dreams of European trophies. Marquinos could be anything, from Gervinho to Salah. If Arsenal sell Pepe and replace him with Marquinos, are they better? Not by any reliable metric.

    Based on player sales, player acquisitions, and what other teams have done, Arsenal look very much like next a fifth place team unles s Chelsea’s summer of confusion drags them down and Arsenal came pip them to fourth. Assuming of course that West Ham or Aston Villa have not done enough to catch the Gunners.

    Regardless, all the talk will mean nothing until next may when the results of the 38 game season are in and we know for sure who was right and who was not.

  9. Andrew Davey

    I don’t think you actually have seen an Arsenal match. Their problem is “ball control”? Have you seen Martinelli, Odegaard, Saka Jesus (and Smith Rowe) ping pong the ball about the pitch at speed or weave their way through defenders? Even the TV commentators, not Arsenal admirerers as a rule, have remarked on how WELL they control the ball.
    Watch an Arsenal match before making inane remarks. Or would you rather form an opinion by reading the tabloids?

  10. For what it’s worth, I’ve seen probably as much “ManU in crisis” coverage after two games (or, frankly, after one game) as I did “Arsenal in crisis” last year — the commercial sports media is about getting clicks, and a car crash is going to perform better than a mea culpa.

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