Morning folks and happy Monday and all that jazz. You doing alright?
I woke up at about 5am this morning and it took me about 30 minutes to drift back off to sleep. Why? The Top Four. Yep, that’s right, I couldn’t get back to sleep because I was thinking about the chances of Arsenal actually finishing in the top four. I suspect the reason this was in my mind was after Liverpool picked up an away win at Leeds and whilst it was marred by that horrible injury to Harvey Elliott (which we as Arsenal fans know full well of the pains when player suffer horrible injuries like that after Ramsey and Eduardo), they were two up before that and would likely have comfortably won the game either way.
Then you look at United beating Newcastle who despite equalising in the game, still never really looked like getting close to picking up any kind of point at the least, followed by a routine Chelski win against Aston Villa, then Man City doing enough to get three points against Leicester, and suddenly you realise that these four teams are probably fighting and competing at a different level to us.
I honestly am not trying to be a Debbie Downer on a Monday morning, because I was happy and relieved that won the game and that we also dominated in all but actual goals scored on Saturday, but it just hit home to me in the early hours of this morning just how much of an outside chance it probably is that we have of really competing for that spot. When you look at the squads that those four teams have, then you look at ours, it just doesn’t seem feasible that we can get close to them and after suffering three defeats already this season it feels like that is already an uphill battle.
I had a little look at the last four season’s and how each team that finished fourth got on, to satisfy my ‘historically, what would it take?’ thinking. In the last four season’s it has been Chelski, Chelski, The Scum and Liverpool who have all finished fourth. The points total (in chronological order working backwards) was 67, 66, 71 and 75 points. That’s an average of 70 points across the four years. In that same time our points have been 61, 56, 70 and 63, which is an average of 63 points over the four seasons. So, just to hit the statistical average where we stand a chance of getting fourth, it looks like we have to hit at least 70 points and the only time we’ve done that is during Emery’s first season in which we had that ill-fated 22-game unbeaten run in which we knew the football wasn’t great but we just kept getting those wins.
People have been saying – me included many times – that Arteta is an unlucky manager. Well I remember us talking during that 22-game winning run about how we had rode our luck on a number of occasions (a home game against Everton stands out for some reason) in that run and so it is becoming clear to me that unless Arteta goes on some kind of similarly impressive run, like, now, then top four isn’t even the tiniest of considerations. In Emery’s first season that run included wins over West Ham, Cardiff, Newcastle, Everton, Watford, Fulham, Leicester, Bournemouth, Tottenham, with a few draws against Liverpool, United and Wolves. In the upcoming games Arteta has Burnley, the Scum, Brighton, Crystal Palace, Aston Villa, Leicester, Watford, Liverpool and Newcastle. Some familiar names in there, eh? My gut says that if Arteta beats Burnley, the Scum, Brighton, Palace, Villa, Watford and Newcastle, then can maybe pick up a point against Leicester or Newcastle, then maybe we can think again. That would leave us having played 13 games and on 25 points and maybe four defeats.
In the last four season’s the team finishing fourth has lost nine, 12, 13 and five (Liverpool – who had a lot of draws) which suggests you can probably afford to lose about nine or ten games in a season and finish fourth on average. But these teams have also won 19, 20, 21 and 21 matches, which means you probably need to win 21 games on average over the season, that means at least 10 wins by the halfway stage. Unless Arteta does pick up all of those wins in those games I’ve mentioned, it’s hard to see us hitting that halfway marker of at least 10 wins. If what I hope happens and the above comes true he’s on eight games won having played 13 and is well on track.
But I guess what I’m trying to focus on more than anything here today is just how wafer thin that margin for error is. A sending off here, a dodgy VAR there, it could all impact. Why?
Because we don’t score enough goals.
If we did, small marginal decisions like a dodgy VAR call might not have as much of an impact. But when you are winning games or drawing them by the odd goal margin, then they have a huge bearing on the season. That is why Arteta needs to do something that so far he has not really come close to sorting: his attacking line out.
Arsenal need goals. A LOT more goals. And that is where I think this all boils down to today. The fact we don’t score that many goals and then I start to think about the fact we had 30 attempts at goal on Saturday and only seven on target (fair few blocked shots as well as efforts wide, it must be noted). Something needs to click. And it needs to click fast. Like, in less than a week, because not all teams will be as toothless as Norwich, but most will defend as resolutely as they did.
It is one heck of a challenge the manager has to sort out and he needs to do it fast. I hope he does. The good news is that he has time on the training ground and we have players returning that look like they will be his ‘main men’. But we need to see those attempts turning in to ‘attempts on target’ because if we’re getting 30 attempts on target in a game then we’re probably winning more games by wider margins.
That’s the challenge in front of Arteta and his team. I hope they are up to it.
Catch you all tomorrow.