I have been trying to judge the performance of Arsenal in recent times in an objective way by looking at the data rather than go entirely with gut feel. My guts might be saying we are a bunch of overpaid, over rated no-hopers with a lack of leadership and a lack of passion….but my guts tend to over react, especially after losing! I think it makes sense to compare Arsenal to the best in the business, Manchester United (sorry but they are).
Firstly, premier league performance (see chart below).
Man Utd are incredible – surely they can’t keep on like this forever?! Anyway, as you can see Arsenal went from crap to very good in Wengers earlier years, but of late we have been slipping. A huge factor must be the transformation of Chelsea as a result of Abramovich, but that is something we can do nothing about so I would rather look at what we can control.
It has become harder to score goals in the last 5 years compared to the previous five. Both Arsenal and Man Utd have a great capacity to score goals. Man Utd is regularly the highest scoring team in the league, and Arsenal is keeping a top 3 position in the “goals scored” table. However, the most striking recent change has been that whereas Arsenal have improved their defence a little, Man Utd have really made massive improvements on their goals conceded. Man Utd have continued to have an awesome attack but have now added a defence as tight as Arsene’s grip on the Arsenal cheque book. They now have the best attack AND the best defence, which has led to the gap between the two sides widening.
The numbers say that the art of defending is getting stronger in the premier league, and that Arsenal are falling off the pace in this area. That’s what my guts tell me too. I think Wenger believes that the best way to defend is to keep the ball, but I disagree. How many times have we dominated possession and not won the game? It only takes 1 second to score a goal. What we need (please!!) is a rock solid back 4 and a top class holding midfielder in the mould of Vieira sitting in front of them. That, combined with our current attacking potential, would get us back in the top 2. Oh shit, I forgot about Man City……