- The simple statistic that shows that Arsenal are on course to win the league
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By Sir Hardly Anyone
The range of goals scored by the top team after 14 games in the Premier League in the past 10 years is between 30 and 44 goals. Arsenal have 33 goals in their favour this season, and indeed it is noticeable that this year and the three previous seasons, the number scored by the top team is very much in this area (33 twice, once 32 and once 36).
The range of goals against the top team after 14 games in the PL in the past 10 years is between 6 and 19. And indeed in this season and the three before we have seen the goals conceded include six, 19, 11 and 12 in between.
Finally the goal difference over this same period of time for the clubs at the top is between +37 and +16, and as we might expect given the goals for and against, this season is midtable with 22. Last year it was 27, but the season before (2020/1) the top club had just +17.
These numbers are of course much more variable than the points differences between clubs at the top over the years because with points a club can only get three per game, whereas with goals, as we have seen this season with Liverpool with their 9-0 win against Bournemouth, all sorts of scores are possible.
But what they do show is that in having the third-highest goal difference across these years after 14 games, Arsenal are not taking their place at the top of the league by sneaking in the odd goal here and there.
The Manchester City teams of 2018/19 and 2017/18 were exceptional scoring 43 and 44 goals in the first 14 games – none of the other clubs that have been top of the league are near that. Here’s the top of the table for the first 14 games in recent years.
Overall these figures, and those shown in our previous article which compared Arsenal’s position this season with those of previous years, in a little more detail, show that while Arsenal are by no means the best team across the first 14 games in a season in the last 10 years, neither are we poor qualifiers for that position. Occasionally, as in 2017 and 2018 a team flies away from the rest at the start, but much of the time the club at the top of the table after 14 games has not done as well as Arsenal have this season.
If we extrapolate the goals for and against from these 14 games to the end of the season we can compare the figures Arsenal will get if they keep performing as now, with the winning teams of the past, and see if Arsenal are on track to be a league-winning team or need to improve attack and/or defence.
What this table shows is that Arsenal are up near the top with expected goals across the season, while being fourth best in terms of defence. As a result, they are near the top for goal difference.
Now this table shows what happens if Arsenal keep on winning as now, and of course that might not happen. But then equally it might happen that Arsenal’s defence improves, or other clubs fail to capitalise on any slip by Arsenal. Of course we don’t know.
But what this table does say is that so far this season Arsenal are playing at a level which is consistent with league winners of recent years. Put another way, we are not top because other teams are playing erratically. We are top of the league because we are playing like other top-of-the-league clubs, in the past ten years.
And that is rather encouraging.
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