How Arteta revolutionised Arsenal: Part 3 – the summer of 2021

by Tony Attwood

This four part series of articles tracks the Arteta revolution at Arsenal, and does so in a way that I believe no other commentator has done.  Now in part three we have reached the summer of 2021.

“11 damning stats from Arsenal’s worst start to a top-flight season since 1974/75” proclaimed Squawka in December 2020 as they joined the charge to have Arteta sacked.  “Almost a year after he got the job, Mikel Arteta’s role as Arsenal manager is looking very insecure,” they announced.  Arsenal were 15th in the league.  

It wasn’t a very intelligent or helpful article, because it didn’t take into account that what Arteta had been doing was using 2020/21 to transform the club.  This table shows the difference between the first third of the season and the last two thirds.


Team P W D L F A GD Pts Win%
8 Arsenal all season 38 18 7 13 55 39 16 61 47%
15 Arsenal first third of the season 14 4 2 8 12 18 -6 14 29%
2 Arsenal last 2/3rds of the season 24 14 5 5 43 21 22 47 58%


Now what immediately leaps out in the comparison between (approximately) the first third of the season and last two-thirds is that it saw a huge improvement in the attack.

In the first 14 games Arsenal scored 0.86 goals a game.  In the remaining 24 games Arsenal scored 1.79 goals a game – around twice as many.

The defence improved too.  In the first third of the season it conceded 1.29 goals a game, in the latter two thirds of the season it conceded 1.14 goals a game.

Now as we have seen in previous articles, what Arteta did initially was to stop the team from conceding free kicks and getting yellow cards all the time.   This was highly successful, cutting the season’s yellow card figures down from 86 to 47.  And less it be thought that this was one of those changes where suddenly referees became less excitable, Leicester found their yellow cards total went up from 41 to 61.

So the attack had almost doubled its output raising the goals scored by 0.93 a game, while the defence had cut the goals conceded but only by 0.15 goals a game.  So the manager quitre logically now looked at the defence.

In that summer Arsenal bought Nuno Tavares from Benfica, Ben Wright from Brighton, Aaron Ramsdale from Sheffield United, and Takehiro Tomiyasu from Bologna.

In terms of defenders out went David Luiz, Mark McGuinness, Zech Medley, Konstantinos Mavropanos, and Hector Bellerin (on loan).  Perhaps surprisingly also out went William Saliba, and looking at the situation now we might think that maybe he should have come back a season earlier, but of course there could have been other factors involved, and certainly when he did come back he was clearly ready to make his mark.

So for 2021/22 we had a new-look defence.  And we all know what happened.  It was all over every newspaper and broadcasters.  Arsenal’s worst start to the season since the Black Death (or something like that – the media were never quite clear on the date).


Pos Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Tottenham Hotspur 3 3 0 0 3 0 3 9
18 Wolverhampton Wanderers 3 0 0 3 0 3 -3 0
19 Norwich City 3 0 0 3 1 10 -9 0
20 Arsenal 3 0 0 3 0 9 -9 0


The new defence had let in nine, while the established attack hadn’t got a single goal.  The media went mad.   Squwaka’s 11 damning facts now looked irrelevant, and everyone piled into Arsenal.

“Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal make worst start in their 118 year HISTORY” said the Sun after two games.  Only Untold attempted to maintain some balance and reason.  We wrote, “The Worst Start to a Season: why is that so important?”

In fact, that was a prelude to match three which actually was a 0-6 away win against West Bromwich in the league cup, which of course didn’t fit the story so no one mentioned it (except us).  But then we lost match three in the league and “Arsenal slumped to their worst start to a season in 67 years after their thumping defeat at Manchester City,” inevitably proclaimed the Sun.

And this really raises a point.   The first three games were seen as a way of defining Arsenal.  But the last two-thirds of the previous season was never mentioned anywhere except on Untold Arsenal.  Why might ask “why?”

Indeed so it went on through the rest of the 2021/22 season even though the figures for the rest of the season saw Arsenal perform as a top-three club.


club  P W D L F A GD Pts
35 27 6 2 89 25 64 87
35 26 7 2 88 25 63 85
35 22 3 10 61 39 22 69
35 19 10 6 70 32 38 67


The pundits didn’t want to know about the 35 games after the first three – and that was a shame because had they done so they might have avoided looking like absolute chumps.   But no, they couldn’t be bothered with statistics, at least not if they went beyond three games.

So not one of the main newspapers in England had Arsenal down to finish in the top four in 2022/3.

We’ll bring the story up to date tomorrow.



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