- Day by Day the videos – An Arsenal video for (almost) every day of the year in order.
by Tony Attwood
Over a quarter of the season has now gone, and from what I can see in the history books this is the first time ever Arsenal have won nine of the first ten league games.
And it was while I was looking back at the records that I started to wonder once again how our performance this season has compared with that across recent years. So I went back to a couple of tables we’ve produced a few times so far this season…
The first shows who was top of the league after ten games and what their record was like. The second shows where Arsenal were after 10 games.
So how often have Arsenal been top of the league after 10 games in recent seasons?
Arsenal have been top twice after 10 games, in the last 10 seasons – this current season and 2013/14. But how does the points table this season compare with what the top team got in recent seasons?
In fact in two seasons in the last 10, the top team after ten games had scored 28 points – as compared with our 27 points. To get the 27 points, the results of course were nine wins and one draw, compared with our nine wins and one defeat.
Four times a team has been top after ten and scored more goals than Arsenal this season. The highest record was 28 goals. Arsenal have so far scored 24. The lowest for a top team after ten games was Tottenham with 21 in 2020.
The best defence was Chelsea and Manchester City with just three conceded. Our ten conceded compares with just one club: Chelsea again, in 2014.
Tottenham were top of the league in 2020/1 with a goal difference of 12, the worst in the last ten years for the team that was top after 10 league games. So if we want to sharpen up, the key area of “concern” is the defence.
But there is a second pointer here, before we start getting worked up about our rubbish defence. The best defence in the league this season is Newcastle’s and they have conceded nine. Four teams (ourselves, Manchester C, Tottenham and Chelsea) have conceded ten. So yes, compared with the past we are letting in the goals, but compared with our rivals this season, the situation is not a disaster.
Here is a list of the record of the top team, season by season across the last ten years.
As for the comparison with Arsenal’s position after 10 games in other seasons, that is quite revealing also… The improvement over the past three seasons is astonishing…
So looking back at Arsenal in the last ten years this is the best opening performance. Looking at all Premier League clubs in the last ten years only two teams have achieved more – and that was one point more in each case.
But what has caused this change, apart from the obvious answer “we’ve won more matches.”
In 2019/20 Arsenal got an astonishing 86 yellow cards (more than any other team) and five red cards (again more than any other team).
This compared with, for example, 38 yellow and one red card for Liverpool, and 41 yellow and three red cards at Leicester. To believe this to be a fair representation of reality means that one has to accept that Arsenal were committing fouls each week at over double the rate of Liverpool and Leicester, or with well over double the nastiness.
In 202/21 Arsenal changed their tactics totally and this caused the defence a lot of problems – we were 14th after ten games as you can see above. The aim was dramatically to cut the yellow cards from referees by cutting the level of tackling.
As a direct result, Arsenal’s tackling level declined this season, but it took until one-third of the way through the campaign for the system to work, in part because the players had to unlearn the old ways, and (as we have argued before) referees give cards in part through habit. Currently, Leeds are seen as a dirty team, so a tackle that might be just a foul for another side, is a yellow card tackle for Leeds. In 2019/20 Arsenal were afflicted by the same refereeing attitude.
We’ll continue exploring these factors (not least because no one else will) but for now, let’s finish with the start unbeaten season of 2003/4 and how that looked after ten games…
So, we have 27 points this season after ten games. In the unbeaten season we “only” had 24.
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