By Tony Attwood
There is a football quiz in the Guardian newspaper today which begins “It’s been nearly six weeks since the top flight shut down for the World Cup. How much do you remember?”
Which seems fair enough – a light-hearted way back into the football. And given that “the top flight” is mentioned one might expect a certain amount of engagement with Arsenal in the questions and answers what with Arsenal being top of the pile by five points at the moment having played one game fewer than the clubs in third and fourth.
Manchester City come up four times in the questions and answers. Even Tottenham whose last trophy was the league cup some fifteen years ago come up a couple times Liverpool turn up three times and they are just sixth in the league at the moment.
But no. Arsenal, five points clear, get mentioned just the once in the quiz via the question “Which three teams have picked up more than one red card so far this season?”
To help the Guardian reader along, three possible answers are given, one of which is “Chelsea, Leeds and Wolves. Wolverhampton are in fact the worst offenders in the league with three; Chelsea and Leeds have had two players each sent off.”
Arsenal have had one. And while we are at it, Aston Villa and Manchester United have each had 37 yellow cards this season. If we draw up a yellow card table Arsenal are 14th with 23.
But not including Arsenal in the quiz except as a false answer in terms of the ill discipline is the sort of low-level negativity against Arsenal which is a media constant.
Here’s another from Guardian, also on their website today: “Arteta urges club to be “active” and strengthen in transfer window”
The story runs, “Mikel Arteta believes Arsenal cannot afford to waste the January transfer window that follows the Premier League’s restart.”
Note the phrase “cannot afford to waste” – suggesting that is what they might do – that the board, or perhaps Arteta’s fellow director Edu will do just that. And yet there is nothing in the article to suggest that Arteta has said that or anything like that. What he is actually quoted as saying is, “We are going to be active and active means we are looking to strengthen the team.” So “active” does not necessarily mean buying in new players” but “looking”. And this is confirmed with a subsequent statement, “We’ll be extremely cautious about what we want to do in the window.”
Which all things considered is rather different.
Of course there are the occasional positives around, as with the story in the Express that tells us that in Martinelli Arsenal have the new Marc Overmars. Overmars played 100 times for Arsenal and scored 25 goals. Martinelli has played 17 times and scored five – which is actually a 29% scoring rate, so a little above Overmars’ rate of 25%.
But to come back to our opening point, top of the tree this season is Odegaard who has scored in 40% of his appearances on average. Gabriel Jesus’ rate is 31.25%, so in point of fact Arsenal have not actually lost their top striker to injury. Of course Jesus is an incredibly important player in the team but the media’s fixation with Arsenal needing to buy a new goalscorer is misplaced.
Manchester City are of course a special case, and no one has suggested that in one season Arsenal are going to move up from fifth last season to overtaking Manchester City on every front. But let’s look at the club in third position in the league, Newcastle, in comparison with Arsenal.
Now Arsenal… (figures from 11v11)
Newcastle have six players who have scored two or more in the Premier League this season – Arsenal have 11. If we count from three goals up we have six players in that group, they have three.
The point is Arsenal are scoring more goals from a wide range of players, but the media has conspired to tell the story that Arsenal are losing their top scorer and so everything is over unless the club spends a fortune on a new centre forward. We’re not – Odegaard is still in the team.
True we don’t have a player in the top ten goal scorers in the league this season (Odegaard is 11th) but having one man who gets most of the goals is dangerous if he gets injured. Kane has scored 39% of all Tottenham’s league goals this season. What happens to them if he gets injured?
- Arsenal v Wolverhampton: their problems with fouls and cards, and the team
- Arsenal v Wolverhampton: the club that gets cards at over twice the rate of Arsenal
- Arsenal v Wolverhampton Wanderers: where will each team finish?
- Arsenal v Lens: what we found, what we felt, what they did
- Arsenal v Lens: the team, the home/away form and the strange coincidences