By Tony Attwood
- Arsenal’s new tactics explored in detail and what it means for the season ahead
- Arsenal flying, and everyone else makes the headlines!
- Media completely misses Arsenal’s astounding tactical change
- Why is the media so certain Arsenal will fail in 2022/23?
- How the media created the myth of the gap between Arsenal and the top four
Getting three wins in a row has been rather a pleasing experience, but of course, no one wants a run like this to end. So what are the chances of four in a row when we play Fulham on Saturday evening?
In fact in 2020 two clubs that we might not associate with lots of success in recent years both won four games in a row at the start of the season…
|Aston Villa 2020||4||4||0||0||12||2||10||12||11th|
What was particularly curious about that season was not just the opening with two unlikely teams getting the long winning run, but also the fact that by the end of the season they had slipped down to 10th (Everton) and 11th (Aston Villa). Thus once more showing that winning the games at the start doesn’t really tell us much about what will happen later.
Aston Villa actually won their first six league games that season including a 7-2 victory in the league over Liverpool. But then they only won two of the next seven matches, suppering any thoughts they had a league success.
Everton actually won seven straight games at the start of that season, but three were in the league cup, and one league win in eight later in the year scuppered any thoughts they had of success.
So the lesson there seems to be, to prepare not just for a defeat but for the match after the defeat, possibly by swapping the team around a bit. And in this regard Arsenal look well placed this season with a range of players who can step up into the first XI with experience and certainty.
But going back further 2018/19, as we saw before, was the season when no less than three teams were unbeaten after four games…
…but Liverpool were the only one of the four who kept the run going, winning six straight league games at the start of the season, and a Champions League game. But then, once again, when it went wrong once, it went wrong again. A home league cup defeat and an away draw in the league both against Chelsea, followed by a defeat to Napoli in the Champions League and a draw with Manchester City at home in the league knocked them back a bit.
They did recover and in the last 24 games in the Champions League and the Premier League they had but one defeat – 3-0 to Barcelona which they overturned in the return leg.
In a different season Manchester City started 2015/16 with five straight victories in the league but then lost three out of four in league and cup matches and ended up fourth in the league five points behind Arsenal who came in second.
And so it goes on back through history. Winning three, four, or five games in a row at the start of the season is not exactly common, but not as rare as the pundits who go wild celebrating each run (unless it is an Arsenal run) would like us to imagine. They stress the rarity because it is easy copy to write – no research just look at this week’s league table.
And most of the time (Arsenal excepted) the run comes to an end. But that’s not the real point. It is the ability to recover once the run has come to an end that is the key factor. After all as Everton and Aston Villa will attest from 2020, only their own supporters really remember the start to the season. What most of us know, if we know anything about those clubs at all from that era just a couple of years ago, was that they sank to mid-table obscurity.
So what helps make a great start lead to a title?
My guess would be, first, a manager who is able to change the team around a bit to counter the opposition, is the first requirement. Second, luck with injuries. Interesting to note that while Arsenal has one injury listed this week (Reiss Nelson), Liverpool have no less than ten!
Third, luck on the pitch (the shot that was going wide hits a defender and fools the keeper etc) and of course having home-biased referees for the home games, and away-biased referees for the away games. That can be very helpful.
We’ll try and do a list of home and away biased refs before some of the games this season.
- Arsenal v Tottenham update, team news and appalling, flagrant media bias
- Arsenal have benefitted by the world cup break: allegedly.
- Arsenal and Tottenham: which has had the easier ride so far this season?
- Arsenal v Tottenham: not exactly a battle of equals.
- Death by 300,000 passes: how the Arsenal transformation started 2 seasons ago.