Arsenal v Nottingham Forest and the choice of the Championship




By Bulldog Drummond

This summer Arsenal brought in Gabriel Jesus, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Fábio Vieira, Matt Turner, and Marquinhos which, all things considered, makes a total of five players.

Nottingham Forest on the other hand brought in 14 players for a fee, plus another nine who were either free, or on loan, or (in two cases) where it is unclear if there was a fee, and if so what it was.  That makes 25 players – although generally the number is only quoted as 21, which suggests that my maths is wrong.

The total cost of the 21 players (if it was just 21) is quoted in the Mail as £165m, as opposed to Arsenal’s summer spending spree which cost £112m.

Steve Cooper said, ‘It’s been a fairly unique summer, in terms of the turnaround. It was always going to be a unique challenge with the numbers, then added to getting promotion and a different level of player that you have to look at. We’ve embraced that.’

The Mail also noted that, “Forest’s huge outlay is more than that of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain.”

So how has it gone?

Forest as we know are bottom of the league, one of three clubs on nine points and two points from 17th position.  Last season Leeds escaped relegation by getting 38 points, which is of course an average of one point a game.  At the moment, Nottingham Forest are picking up 0.75 points a game.  A win at Arsenal wouldn’t quite get them to one point a game average but they’d be closer.

But their goal-scoring is poor – the second-worst in the league with eight goals.  Only the dreadful Wolverhampton Wanderers are worse off with just five.  And indeed Wolverhampton are a perfect example of a team using a single tricksy approach to football (we saw it in the home game against them last season) and then finding either the referees have had enough of it after one season, or the rest of the league have worked out how to play them after the first game.

Last season Wolverhampton notched up one goal a game, with only the three relegated teams doing worse in terms of the goal-scoring.  The trouble is however only Leicester and Bournemouth have got a worse defence.  Pull it all together and this is the bottom of the league.


Team P W D L F A GD Pts
15 Aston Villa 12 3 3 6 11 16 -5 12
16 Southampton 12 3 3 6 11 19 -8 12
17 Leicester City 12 3 2 7 21 24 -3 11
18 Leeds United 11 2 3 6 13 18 -5 9
19 Wolverhampton Wanderers 12 2 3 7 5 18 -13 9
20 Nottingham Forest 12 2 3 7 8 23 -15 9


The fact is, in recent years several clubs have been trying different ways to stay in the Premier League.   The most successful long term approach seems to be bounce up and down, picking up solidarity payments on the way, until such time as the club has a squad that allows them to stay up.  Fulham appear to have done that now and with a fair degree of success, while at the same time expanding their stadium.

This approach recognises that trying to stay up after the first promotion is difficult, and so one might as well accept that the club will go back down, but then work on coming up once more.

Promoted and (relegated) in the last five seasons

  • Wolverhampton prompted: 1
  • Cardiff promoted: 1 (relegated once)
  • Sheffield United promoted: 1 (relegated once)
  • Aston Villa promoted: 1
  • WBA promoted: 1 (relegated twice)
  • Watford promoted: 1 (relegated twice)
  • Brentford promoted: 1
  • Norwich promoted: 2 (relegated twice)
  • Fulham promoted 3 (relegated twice)

So just three clubs in the last five seasons have come up and so far stayed up.  But what Norwich and Fulham have done is bounced up and down without gambling a huge level of finance on staying up – finance that is wasted if the club then drops back down.

Nottingham Forest are in the other camp – rising up and then spending a fortune to stay up.  Aston Villa is another example of this approach.

Nottingham Forest said farewell to the Premier League in 1999, and have since mostly been in the second tier but have also popped into the third level, just to see what it was like.

Their gamble with risking more or less everything might pay off, but for most clubs that try it, it doesn’t.  At the moment, relegation with a lot of very expensive players now looks likely.

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