By Tony Attwood
Last season Arsenal had no less than five bad runs during the course of the campaign.
The first I am sure you will remember because it was national headlines – losing the first three league games against Brentford, Chelse and Manchester City without scoring a goal. Ahead of that run Jonathan Liew was at his sarcastic worst suggesting “Arsenal fans need Mikel Arteta to work out what he is trying to do.” Readers of Untold knew exactly what he was doing, because we had seen the sensational turnaround in the last two thirds of the previous campaign, but that extraordinary run was unmentionable in the media and so the pundits could make no use of that data.
So the opening three league games (the league cup match in the midst of these being ignored by the media because Arsenal won 6-0) were talked about until November when Arsenal had a run of three defeats in four games and a new story was used.
But it was the same old Arsenal, as it was again in January with three defeats and two draws in five matches, seeing the club be knocked out of both cups in the space of two weeks.
The third such run was in March which saw four defeats and one win in the Premier League between 16 March and 16 April. And to round it all off consecutive defeats without scoring in either, against Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United to ensure that we didn’t get into the Champions League.
In between those runs the club did rather well, but of course it was the negative runs which needed to be removed from the itinerary. The runs in which Arsenal went 10 undefeated (September – November), the five consecutive wins in which Arsenal scored 19 goals in December, the five consecutive league wins in February/March, and the four consecutive wins in April / May were not seen as signs of where the club was going, because they were hardly mentioned.
But they did show that Arsenal could make things work well. All that was needed was to remove the blips, and that of course is exactly what has been done for most of this season. And now that we have had that first blip – a run of three defeats and a draw in which Arsenal scored just two goals – the club seems to have come through it again.
Indeed, once again the blip was four matches long, but the difference is that this season, it has been the only four-match blip so far. If we can carry on the rest of the campaign without having any more of these, we will be ok.
The near-universal media prediction for this season, before the campaign began, was for a top four of Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsa and Tottenham with Arsenal lurking in fifth to make it seven consecutive years without Champions League football.
That was interesting, because the last two long runs without top four finishes were six seasons between 1973/4 and 1978/9 – and that run included consecutive seasons in which the club came 16th and 17th.
The last time we had a run worse than six seasons without a top four finish was 1959/60 for 11 seasons. We ended that run in 1970/71 with the club’s first league and cup double. During that era Arsenal finished seasons in 10th, 11th, 12th (twice – one of those being the season prior to the first double), 13th (twice) and 14th.
So for this dip Arsenal have not sunk anywhere near as far – the two eighth place finishes obviously being the low point.
But what of the four teams that the media near-universally predicted would finish above Arsenal this season?
Here is the current table as of this morning. The final column shows how many points the predicted clubs have achieved above (+) or below (-) the predicted level. No predictions were made across the mainstream for Newcastle, Fulham, Brighton and Brentford, although there was some talk of Brentford going down.
|Team||P||W||D||L||Pts||Predicted Pos||Points Difference|
|8||Brighton and Hove Albion||22||10||5||7||35|
When one thinks about it, this table shows some pretty awful predictions. As things stand only one club was predicted successfully – Tottenham. The national media universally thought that Chelsea and Liverpool would have 18 or 19 points more than they have got, and that Arsenal would have at least 16 points fewer than they currently have.
And the fact is, that if in any other business, a whole range of people who are considered experts, (or who indeed were using supercomputers to get their predictions) these people would be sacked, and quite possibly the organisation would be so discredited they would go out of business.
But not in football. In football it seems that these ludicrous failures mean one should keep doing the same, and keep alleging the use of supercomputers!
If these pundits had any moral fibre at all they would resign. But they don’t, so they don’t.
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