Morning fellow Gooners, from a warm basement in the Algarve. Getting myself away with the Management for the weekend to soak up a little bit of sun whilst seeing the parental units. Well, it is the international weekend after all, right?
Yesterday I was looking at the fixtures and the next ‘block’ of games we have to play and pondering as to how we’d get on and where we would be come the next international break after this one. But this morning as I went for a quick run along the river, I was listening to the always excellent Arsenal Opinion Podcast and as I was listening to John and Matt talking through the City result last weekend, there was something one of them touched on that got me to thinking:
“What’s the next milestone after the international break in November?”
The gents were talking about the fact we’ve played eight games and we’ve picked up 20 points, then talking about if we can get to the halfway stage this season on 45 points, we’re in pretty good shape. Can’t really argue with that; the 45 point mark after 19 Premier League games puts you on a 90-point pace to finish the season. Last season we started like a house on fire and at the halfway stage we were at something crazy like a 100-point mark. I remember listening to a few different podcasts about it and although at the time we were all saying “that isn’t sustainable, there will be some drop off”, I think many of us had secretly in the back of our minds the ol’ “yeah, but what IF it IS possible?”. Of course we know that we didn’t maintain it in the second half of the season and injuries and fatigue crept in and we couldn’t keep up with the juggernaut that was Financially Doped FC. But it was nice to dream then and for a more realistic set of expectations this season I think that marker of 45 points at the halfway stage would be amazing.
It’s a tough target to set though. In 2021/22 City had 47 points and won the title with 93. In 2020/21 City had 41 points and won the league on 86. in 2019/20 – the COVID season – Liverpool had a crazy 55 points and won the league on 99. Then in 2018/19 Liverpool had 51 points and City won it on 98. There are some mad numbers posted up there but I guess the point I’m trying to make is that on average if you look back over the last four seasons you’re basically talking about being around 48 points to be in with a good chance of competing for the title. 48 points is 16 wins and three defeats. Or it’s 15 wins and three draws. If you pick up 14 wins and get five draws that is 47 points. And if you even lose one match then you are probably looking at having to win nearly all of your games to give yourself that kind of target to achieve. Even if you take what City are on now having lost two games but having won six on 18 points, they need to win 10 of their next 11 games if they want to get to that 48 point mark.
Why am I going all numberwang in today’s blog? Mainly to highlight just how bloody difficult it is to win the league these days. There is literally NO margin for error. If you are looking to hit 45 points at the halfway stage, losing three matches means you can only afford to draw one and you have to win the rest. People talk about how it is so early in the season and nothing is decided, but even at this early stage, too many defeats can feel like a mountain to climb.
Now, I’m not for a second suggesting that City are in trouble, because we all know they can easily put together 10 – 12 game winning runs and if they do that in their next dozen matches then they’ll most likely be cruising at the top of the league. But this does serve to highlight just how important those goals in big games and those three points can be. We lost out to City last season by five points. Six of their points came over us. You take one of those away and give it to us and that is our league title we are talking about. It seems a little obvious to say, but you literally cannot drop points at any stage of the season any more. Which is why games like next weekend away to Chelsea, or when we then visit Newcastle a couple of weekend’s later, are crucial if we want to be competing at the top of the league. Even two draws in those games would mean we’d have to win 14 of 15 other games by the time we get to the halfway mark. That’s a massive ask given how tough this league is.
Is this Arsenal team capable of doing what City did and going on a long winning run? We were last season, but fell away at the end, but this season we also have the challenge of Champions League to contend with too. That is going to bring its own fatigue problems when we get in to the new year, but here’s the good news: this squad looks much better than last season. Havertz may not have ‘banged’ yet, but he showed how useful he can be in that City game with the assist for Martinelli. Declan Rice is already paying back a big chunk of his big transfer fee, whilst in David Raya we have a ‘keeper with whom whilst I’m still not fully convinced he is that much better than Ramsdale, the risk mitigation we have with him in the squad as opposed to Turner is plain for all to see.
We have also already faced our own injury problems and we’ve missed a chunk of players already this season. So far already we have had 25 matches missed across our entire squad (Partey, Zinchenko, Tomiyasu – suspension, Timber, Mo Elneny, Gabriel Jesus, Gabriel Martinelli, Leandro Trossard and Bukayo Saka). That’s a fair old chunk of injuries so far and we’ve still managed to cope with it and pick up results. Which can be viewed as a positive thing. So we do have grounds for optimism in this Arsenal team. But they need to show the levels of consistency we saw from the start of last season, rather than the end.
It will be tough, there will be plenty of twists and turns, but we’re in good shape and we go in to the next chunk of games with plenty of hope.
Catch you all tomorrow.
Quick PS. I don’t normally do this kind of stuff, but one of my oldest and closest friends is, weirdly, on UK Big Brother right now. And she’s up for eviction tonight!
If you have time, can you vote to keep her in by kicking out the person she is up against? Kerry is my friend and so I need your help in voting Farida off the show. Also – if it helps – she is a MASSIVE Gooner – so support the family and all that jazz.
Have a good one people!