Why Do Arsenal Keep Not Winning Games They Should ?

How often do we see Arsenal dominate a game, play the best football and not win? Too often, I hear you say.

Why does it happen, or appear to happen, more often to us than others? When it happens we hear the same old rhetoric and soundbites ” same old same old” or ” Tactical naivety ” or some other such crap.

So today I want to offer some ideas as to why this is, or at least why I think it might be.

What tends to happen is that we play the better football, dominate the play , don’t score (or don’t score enough) from the many chances we make, then the opposition either manage to get a fluky goal, we make a silly mistake or on the odd occasion they score a screamer.

Before this can come about something has to happen, we have to be the better team. And we are, on almost every occasion. We lost two games at home this year, MUFC and Swansea. We were all over both teams . Three or four nil at half time would not have been an unfair reflection of both of those games. But we weren’t. Somehow, through a combination of resolute defending and /or, poor finishing they managed to take it to the point where a late goal grabbed them the points. In the case of MUFC it took the referee missing a foul , where Marouane Fellaini pushed Gibbs (who was in mid-air at the time) into Szczesny , causing them both to hit the deck. Then a lucky deflection off Gibbs (while still on the floor following the assault) and that was that. Swansea ? I mean it was all one way trafffic and a catalogue of individual errors saw a weak header sneak over the line, just……. But make no mistake , we battered both teams.

But it keeps happening ! I hear you.

Well yes. And it will as long as we keep playing better football than the rest,  they will set up to frustrate, they will commit rotational fouls, they will hope to ride their luck, they will sometimes score goals against the run of play, they will occasionally get away with it and win. Because they have little choice, Arsenal play better football. They are maximising their chances of winning. Why would they not?

In the vast majority of occasions though, it won’t succeed and doesn’t work. We still win. Its nothing new or clever, most teams do it. Not only do they do it when we are at home, but most of them do it when they are at home. The sad reality is that sometimes it works for them.

It happens to us more that it happens to other teams because we have to play against it more often than other teams. Even Chelsea set up like that home and away against us.

Now I’m not talking about the times we play poorly, Stoke away first half, the big reverses at Chelsea, Everton and Liverpool last season. On those occasions they attacked us and we were found wanting for one reason or another. No, I’m talking about the vast majority of games where we face teams that have accepted we play better football and they don’t want a game. I don’t blame them either, what else can they do? But also, what else can we do?

We want to dominate?  Right !  We want to play better football than them ?   Right ! We want to create chances?  Right!!

Well sometimes we do all of these things and don’t score. Sometimes we can play the same way, to the same level and win easily. But once in a while we either won’t win, or even (very occasionally) lose. My contention is that it happens more to us because the circumstances are repeated more often.

I watched West Brom have 20% possession at United, ride their luck and win. I saw Barca, against Celtic, have 89% possession, about 45 attempts on goal and lose to a single goal, from a corner, Celtic’s only attempt on goal. It happens a lot. But it only hurts when it happens to us.

Monaco was the perfect example of this. Revisionist thinking has us playing awful and getting spanked. But it took a combination of the worst finishing we have seen in years, from normally efficient scorers, and Per flicking a speculative nothing of a shot, into the top corner before the madness at the end of the game. Yes we made some utterly daft plays, but the set up and tactics had created enough chances for us to be out of sight .

Now just imagine that Theo hit the defender in front of him rather that the little gap between that defender and the post, then Alexis hit the bar full on rather than the underside, despite playing one of the best games we have seen, we would have been one stroke of luck on Villa’s part away from a nightmare and cries of tactical incompetence and we never learn.

I am not ignoring that on occasions we seem to go into melt down. I’m not saying we have bad luck. I’m not saying that we can’t cut down on how often it happens. I’m just saying it happens to us more because we face teams accepting it must be a backs to the wall war of attrition before a ball is kicked.

So that is where we are, and the obstacles we face in converting quality and footballing dominance into three points every week. Is there a solution though – the magic bullet ?


Pedantic George ( AKA @Blackburngeorge )

46 comments on “Why Do Arsenal Keep Not Winning Games They Should ?

  1. Long time reader , first time commenter.
    I think you are being overly generous with your assessment of our chances v Swansea at home. We barely created anything in the first half , but just two half chances from Giroud. Aside from that your article is pretty accurate.

    The biggest problem as I see it, is that when we start pressing for a goal, we lose our concentration on defense. There’s not enough communication between the players and often times the defensive positioning is wrong.

    Case in point- Swansea game. Bellerin gets beat by Montero because he relies on his speed too much, Ospina is too close to the near post on the cross, then dives backwards and too square to the ball, and Koscielny is too close to his other CD Mertesacker , when he should be just inside of the far post.

    That’s five mistakes by three defensive players on one play.
    You can find similar patterns in all games we lose while dominating the play, but others as well.

    Until we corect those mistakes, we will keep finding ourselves discussing these issues again.


  2. We do not score quite enough goals. It seems a while since we have racked up a real 5-6-7-0 hammering of a victim. There were recent instances of when our football and the multiple chances we created were not converted to either an opening goal, or that goal that would have brought in three rather than one point.

    The answer is in the striking department, make it more efficient.


  3. I get Andrew, But our conversion rates are not below par. Odd?


  4. Tom, there will always be mistakes otherwise no team would ever score against anyone.You see you just confirmed what I said. We look for reasons when the reason is it happens to all teams, just we are faced with a greater number of such games.


  5. Well, er…..yes, but it is in the regular beating of the big teams, home and abroad that the team builds an aura which in itself leaves lesser teams feeling they have little chance. Games already lost in the tunnel.
    It is not the games you mention but the lack of composure against Anderlecht, Newcastle 4-4.. is the inability to lock up a game that gives the opposition hope


  6. Interestingly in some of the games toward the end of the season, Chelsea sticks in my mind, although we were going all out for the win in the final minutes we had enough nous to engage in a bit of tactical fouling when the Blues got the ball over the half way line.

    That cynicism seemed to desert us with the Swans on that Monday night.


  7. PG makes a very good point but I am afraid it will never satisfy the skeptics and those brought up in an era of football distilled into 30-second highlight reels focussed only on goals scored, spectacular saves or horrible misses. Despite the best efforts of gamers to make football results predictable based on players past statistics, an actual game of 22 players, often of attack vs defense in the case of Arsenal, is. affected by so many random events to make the final score line unpredictable. This is unless you have highly efficient strikers like Messi and Ronaldo who are virtually certain to score at least one goal per game. What is predictable is the importance of the 1st goal which forces the opposing team to come out of its shell giving Arsenal more opportunities to attack and score. If that goal never comes early, due to our desperation to score, we are virtually certain be so stretched as to guarantee a series of mistakes by our defenders as Tom describes. Swansea defeated us twice late in the game in similar circumstances. It seems to me the solution is two-fold; improving our efficiency especially in getting the 1st goal and patiently sticking to our tactics. As Arsene said, there will come a point in the game when we must realize the goal is not to lose.


  8. Ferguson had his Auld Boyz network to help ease the workload. Any club mana aged by Brucie, Allerdici or owned by likes of those that own Stoke.

    If any took the trouble to watch some of these games they’d have noticed that ne’er a tackle would be made by the opposition, they would simply roll over with their paws up in the air.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Excellent. Particularly like the point about ‘it only hurts when it happens to us’.

    Salience. I think the same thing applies to players. We watch our own far more often and intently than others and there are pretty big consequences to this, more in the way we watch them than how often. Unless you get a grip of yourself, one piece of poor play can end up weighing more than half a dozen decent or good moments. Not when you’ve a comfortable lead, of course, but whenever the games in the balance or going badly.

    The alarm bell, or thing that should get people thinking, is what it feels like during the course of a game like the Swansea one, compared to what it feels like when watching Utd suffer a similar fate against West Brom : every time a move is shut down produces frustration or bad feeling; every misplaced pass or mistake is a bit painful (ok, agony), when it’s happening to us ; when it’s United, no pain, only enjoyment.

    If you’re not careful, prone to questioning things, or a supporter in the positive sense, you will probably end up taking the pain from things not working out as the exact reality of the situation, and negatively judge players and team for it- but only for us, of course.

    If emotions were all I had to go on I could have walked away feeling we were awful against Swansea- so much frustration, a growing anxiety, a sickening feeling when they scored, and not a single moment of joy. Awful. Endless failure to score (fulfil my wishes) But my emotions were an ass as a guide for judging the match.

    So, without correcting for the flaws in how you watch, you’d come to thinking about players who could improve the team- and fixate on their strengths, which have salience for you, while having a much worse idea about their weaknesses, which haven’t registered as well.

    In this way, you could end up thinking Michu is a superb idea for the club. The reality once he was in the shirt would be very different ,though- you’d see it all then, misses and mistakes start to really count,etc

    With the players people cry out for, even if someone has watched them a lot, which often isn’t the case, they haven’t watched them in the same way they do our own players. It’s an impossibility to do so, given the different emotional attachment and whatnot.

    But the experts can probably get very close (or get sacked).

    A different story with absolutely great players- you cannot mistake how good they are- but they are a rare commodity. And for some reason clubs who own them aren’t too keen to let them leave.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Tom on average there are six mistakes in lead up to a goal, even that super goal by Alexis in the cup final had many mistakes from villa players, if there are no mistakes there will be no goals


  11. When you say ‘lack of composure ‘ about Anderlecht I presume you mean the draw at the Ems rather than the stealing of the game from 0-1 down to 2-1 up in Brussels in the final five minutes ?


  12. Will be glad if abou stays.. i think like rosicky, he has much to offer and you cannot buy that level of loyalty to the arsenal course…. as far as he is fit, he should be signed up first as pay as you play

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I’m making expertschmeckspert my No1 summer signing target. Posting of the highest caliber.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. George: this is brilliant and you are also right to draw attention to expertschmeckspert. I look forward to more from that source. Just in case anyone didn’t see it first time round, what you said reminded me of a post I wrote at the beginning of July last year about the way people actually watch football.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I’m still in a funk over the prospect of losing Diaby forever.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Michu!!!!!!!!!! Where in the blazing saddles has he gone?



    Williams. I don’t want to be rude.


    Pull yer finger out. Buddy.


  17. He did. Did VenGrrrrrrr.

    And he bought Mesut funking Ozil
    And Alexis Electric Sanchez

    Proceeded by a couple of spicy Andalucian teaser trailers for the show to come in Cazorla and Monreal. Not forgetting Chamberlain etc.v


  18. Fook me a hack dwarf actually converted that gibberish into an article for which they might have even got a few bits of meagre cash! Easy money?



  19. Ha, thanks a lot George

    Plenty of the credit to you for what I wrote earlier,though.

    I obviously had that those thoughts somewhere in my head, but it was only set off by what you wrote.

    No doubt about it, blogs like your own and a few others have helped me organise my thinking, question things, consider new angles and, hopefully, become a little wiser about the game in the process.

    Doesn’t help that much when watching the game- rationality and reason are, at best, in the passenger seat then – lots of help after it.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. To be honest George, I feel that Arsenal’s attacking sequences have not yet hit resonance. It feels – at least to a layman like myself – that the attacking powers of Arsenal are still somehwat disjointed.

    I do look forward to next season. Arsene’s masterpiece is unfolding. The Force is strong in those ones.


  21. When you dominate and should easily win, the poor result is down to the team. Some players will have off days, off spells.

    The big defeats away last year was down to consistent error from both sides, now fixed. (The desire to play expansive with players making simple passing errors to gift early leads.)

    Stoke away I didn’t catch, but one could easily assume that this was down to injuries and off form players.

    Next season expect a couple results like this but far fewer. The solutions are a d will be found internally.


  22. I agree with Sav, so did Zimpaul last year when he wrote about the classical measure of Goal Difference (alongside points scored IBSF) of how well a team is doing.

    They’ve only just begun.


  23. It’s why I belive that having bought in a player closer in age to Özil and Ramsey etc. then to Cazrola (yes I’m talking about Alexis as opposed to the alternative who went elsewhere) is interesting. Very interesting.


  24. I’m listening to Eagles-I can’t tell you why…

    Its basically how I feel about Arsenal’s attack…there…but not yet all powerful…but I am not clever enough to understand why…i can’t tell you why…


  25. Btw, credit to Fins…I believe he has created a new term…”hack dwarf”….ROFL LMAO
    I love it.

    Gonna steal it. My mates will be impressed hehe


  26. To be fair, most of my ‘original’ thoughts about Arsenal are taken from bloggers here past and present. You people are enlightening. Scary even. Like Bob.


  27. Sav @ 7.26
    I’m only doing what you describe @ 7.29

    All credit for such an accurate, reasonable and considerate description of these odious souls goes to Frank.


  28. Apoligies, maybe I was unclear but I meant this Bob – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F69PBQ4ZyNw

    The one and only…


  29. Fins, I hear ‘Get up stand up’ is a protest song once once again.

    Goodness knows the struggle takes many form, be they football or otherwise. But the music of the 70s/80s was amazing.

    Bloody brilliant.
    All of it.
    Even the pop songs, they are catchy.

    But Bob knows…Bob knows like nobody knows…


  30. Fins – Frank is a beast.
    God bless his soul.
    I dunno where he is but I hope he is happy.

    Liked by 2 people

  31. There are obviously games where you need to score early, it relaxes our players and panics the opposition.
    It is when the opposition survive the first twenty, calm down and dictate a slow pace. On these occasions we have to increase the pace in the final third, move the ball rather than carry it and most importantly make the right decisions. As it has been pointed out before cohesion is best created by continuity and so injuries have to be avoided (where possible).
    These games happen to all sides from time to time the trick is to make them a very rare occurrence.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Much mirth and quite reasonably so over the Liverpool valuation of Sterling at 50m. However, in my limited experience I do think he is a fine player and suspect there will be no shortage of clubs who will pay nearly that. My worry about him (and forgive me if I am wrong here) is that he is yet to have the major knee or ankle injury that seems to happen to most talented and quick players who have been playing seriously since they were ten.


  33. Kick Arse ‏@kickarseHD 59m59 minutes ago
    Liverpool value Sterling @ £50m and offered him a contract that is less than what Jordan Henderson is earning. Smoking weed, getting drunk


  34. Eddy @ 12:03 am – The disrespect the Liverpool management has shown towards Sterling in terms of his wages relative to a donkey like Henderson is only matched by the hypocrisy of the mob of pundits and journos who parrot the anti-Sterling propaganda in the media.

    Liked by 2 people

  35. City should offer £50m and one pound.

    Vastly over priced for him anyway, but at least it will stop the nonsense of swapping him for Theo.

    Liked by 1 person

  36. I read a good one this morning

    McClaren might last 3 seasons at Newcastle.
    Autumn, Winter and Spring.

    Boom boom!

    Liked by 2 people

  37. Given the number of apparently promising football careers that have disappeared without trace once the Citeh contract was signed you might think Sterling and his agent would not be too keen. At Arsenal however we know the greed and/or stupidity of footballers and particularly their agents rarely surprises.
    As for Liverpool, while they might not like the situation, with a player like Sterling whose stock seems on the downward slope they’d do well to cash in early. A year from now £30 million may seem like a fortune.

    Liked by 2 people

  38. Isn’t it amazing how many idiots we have following our club, how stupid are those to have fallen for this load of lies

    Parker Goldman
    From Pat Rice’s book ” Gervinho was bullied the most,3 players Frimpong, Wilshire and Jenkinson all had warnings for calling him retardinho”


  39. Special Agent Wars

    Played out through the Funny Papers and Snotrags. How many will fall for the older established agencies propaganda (most ex-Liverpool players & plundits will be on commission from the former larger Agency), how many will fall for the propaganda churned out by Raheem’s agent?

    People will have already fallen hard for this gibberish. Hours spent arguing. And not one hack dwarf will have written the words “Webster Ruling”, which you have to admit is slightly intriguing state of affairs.

    It’s certainly nice to be outside the Looking Glass, instead of being trapped at the focal point.

    The question for Arsenal fans is considering the club are already friendly with Raheem’s new agent via Chamberlain, is Gazidas blowing smiling smoke signals up Liverpool’s Arse? Never mind any tapping up, but for fun?

    No. It is unlikely. More probable that a petro-club have given the Special Agent to take on his more established rivals. I don’t think I care!


  40. A Petro Club would have given the Special Agent the reassurance….


  41. Most of these big agencies have more influence on the media narrative, on the game itself, then most clubs except the big uns. As seen at Tottenham (remember the AAA crying an groaning hard about Paulinho even though he’d been schooled by the Ox in the preceding friendly that summer? Bizarre! Evidence that the experts have talen their eyes off the football).
    Liverpool and even City and Utd, it’s the agents dictating and setting transfer policies for these clubs. Not an opinion but very easy to make observations! And still the AAA stick to their incredulous posture.


  42. So we are up on a FA charge related to Chambers transfer, Messi is in the dock about his taxes, or lack of them, and everyone at FIFA is in dead trouble and trying to plea bargain on the basis of dropping everyone else in the soup.

    This legal stuff is really spoiling the transfer window


  43. I managed to get a hold of the Sweet FA’s charge sheet:

    “…bringing the game into disrepute, endangering the livelihood of multiple Special Agents, Specialists in signing players signed to Special Agents and Hack Dwarf parasites by consistently paying approximately half the market rate for players that the Petro Clubs and associated Bunglers (owners of Liverpool and Utd and even Tiny Tottenham, when compare with AFC, Swansea Southampton etc ) have been happy to pay over the years.

    E.g.: Shaw compared tonChambers

    It must be consistently embarrassing for them. Shaw was only selected ahead of Gibbs or the WC in order to inflate his transfer fee. There is not even a smidgen of a doubt as to what was going on there. Let’s not be kiddin ourselves.


  44. can someone please find out what exactly Arsenal are meant to have done wrong in the Chambers transfer and then let all the AAA know, as many of them are up in arms, but are not sure why – nothing new there then – it always amazes how people who claim to support the club, seek out ways to demonstrate how they don’t support the club.


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