By Tony Attwood
That is a headline from the Daily Mirror today.
But is that a reasonable summary? When Liverpool have just lost to Brentford, Tottenham have lost to Villa, Chelsea drew with relegation favourites Nottingham Forest, Man City drew at home with 16th placed Everton… The only team on the up is Manchester United, and they are still nine points behind us.
So to try and get a grip on reality, let’s consider how Arsenal are doing in the Premier League in comparison with how other league leaders have done in the Premier League at this stage of the season. Are Arsenal just holding on at the top? Does history suggest that being top after 17 means nothing, and Arsenal are likely to slip? Indeed does having 44 points from 17 games suggest where that club will finish in the league?
Rather than just talk about one game, we can understand such matters easily by comparing the top four after 17 games across the last ten seasons. That will show us how Arsenal are doing not just this year but in comparison with other seasons.
Across the last ten years, only three times have the league leaders had more points than Arsenal have after 17 games, and each time that team has won the league. Which itself shows the strength of Arsenal’s position.
But there’s more. In the past ten seasons, the team that was top after 17 games has won the league six teams. On three of the other occasions that team has come second. The only exception was Manchester City who were third after 17 games, and this was because in 2020/1 they had a number of games postponed and by the time they got to 17 games, other teams around them had played 18 or 19. If we look at points per game however rather than actual number of points, they were actually top.
So from the past ten years we can conclude that it is very likely indeed that Arsenal will come first or second this season, based on the season so far, and indeed winning the league is the most likely outcome, although not guaranteed.
And yet the media is full of Arsenal dropping two points and allegedly being out manoeuvred by Newcastle. In fact in terms of positive play in that game Arsenal totally out-played Newcastle. Newcastle however out-fouled Arsenal and out-carded Arsenal. And yet the media are lauding them.
But more than this, Arsenal’s improvement this season has been remarkable and rather than pointing to Arsenal’s “failure” in dropping two points, the media could note how Arsenal were doing at this stage in recent seasons. But they don’t.
So here is the season-by-season league position after 17 games played by Arsenal and played by the ultimate winner of the league.
2021/2: League leaders 3 points behind Arsenal today. Arsenal 15 points behind Arsenal today
2020/1: League leaders 11 points behind Arsenal today, Arsenal 21 points below Arsenal today
2019/20. League leaders five points above Arsenal today. Arsenal 22 points below Arsenal today
2018/19. League leaders 1 point above Arsenal today. Arsenal 10 points behind Arsenal today
2017/18. League leaders 8 points above Arsenal today. Arsenal 11 points behind Arsenal today
2016/17. League leaders one point behind Arsenal today. Arsenal 10 points behind Arsenal today
2015/16. League leaders six points behind Arsenal today. Arsenal eight points behind Arsenal today
2014/15. League leaders two points behind Arsenal today. Arsenal 17 points behind Arsenal today
2013/14. League leaders two points behind Arsenal today. Arsenal eight points behind Arsenal today.
2012/13. League leaders 2 points behind Arsenal today. Arsenal 17 points behind Arsenal today.
The most obvious conclusion for anyone looking at this is that this is the best Arsenal team across the last ten years, and given the way the league has panned out over this time, are more than likely to win the league.
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