The Goal Is 86 Points – Arsene Wenger

Goals Green Road Sign with Dramatic Clouds and Sky.

Something really important was stated by Arsene at last week’s AGM, which from my reading has hardly been picked up by the football commentariat and especially the Arsenal bloggers whom one would assume are supposed to support the club.  He said:

“…. the championship will be decided between 82 to 86 points and what we have learnt since the start of the season is every game is a fight and you need absolutely to be at your best to win. That means we have to be really focused on details, keeping the energy inside our club but even more inside our team as every single detail can get you points”

No one, so far, has picked up on the importance of the figure he quoted. Is the goal of 86 points reasonable? Is it achievable?

Reasonable? Given my focus on data, which is now my niche on PA, it was easy to locate the last 20 years of data on PL winners. I calculated the mean average in points to win the league is 85 and the median is 86. The comparable PPG is 2.24 and 2.28 respectively.  The fact that Leicester won with 81 points last year is an outlier and so is Man United’s 80 points in 2010-11. Since 2003-04, except for those two, the minimum for a club to win the league was 86 points. The mean absolute deviation is 4.4 leading the boss to put an absolute minimum points at 82 points. That low figure is chancing it. Clearly his goal to be on the safe side must be 86 points.

Achievable? Given the energy and effort of the squad for the first 10-games, there is no doubt in my mind that they are committed to the goal. But what of the fans? It will be a herculean effort as the club ended last season at 71 points, 15 less than the goal. The PPG last year was 1.87 vs a goal of 2.26 which is a 30% improvement. As I will discuss in further detail later,the PPG is currently 2.3, which is exceeding the goal.  Can the club sustain this PPG?

In my last blog I demonstrated that since 2003-04 Arsenal usually starts with a strong PPG in the first half of the season but has been generally unable to sustain this level of consistency in the second half. I put this down to lack of squad depth to overcome injuries to key players. In previous blogs I have demonstrated that quality signings at great cost were made last summer in key areas; Perez (forward), Xhaka (midfield) and Mustafi (defence). This is in addition to Elneny, Gabriel, Ozil and Sanchez in prior years, all of which has made Arsenal a greater force quantitatively and qualitatively compared to project youth and our last title challenge in 2007-08 which was terminated by the hacking of Eduardo.

But even with these signings by Arsenal, other often richer clubs have also made improvements. City, United Chelsea, United and Liverpool have signed quality reinforcements both in terms of players and management. The current trainwreck at Manchester United is not necessarily an indictment on the quality of the new players but on the character of the new manager whose rancid reputation preceded him.

But as Leicester proved it is not necessarily the amount spent on signings, it is the the energy and commitment of the team and of those who support the club with makes the qualitative difference. With this commitment Leicester achieved a 40 plus swing in points from one year to the next. Compare that to the required 15 points swing by Arsenal.

If the team is committed then it is the duty of blogs like PA to educate the fans, to get them fully behind the goal. As Leicester demonstrated. the united energy of the fans can help the club get over the line when the going gets rough. Every point will count until we get to 86!

(BTW: It is self-affirming that Arsene puts similar emphasis on data as we do at PA.)

The Significance of 23 points

I’ve got to be honest. Nothing major happened statistically for Arsenal this past week-end. The club was supposed to beat Sunderland and duly obliged by dispatching them 1-4 despite the valiant attempts by referee Martin Atkinson to tilt the playing field in their favor.  In yesterday’s match report on this blog, Arsenal Andrew did an excellent job of dissecting the strange decision-making of PGMOL’s top FIFA referee, which I won’t repeat. Safe to say, the Gooners demonstrated they had sufficient firepower in reserve to turn around what was looking like a masterful stitch-up job into an autumnal canter to the winner’s enclosure.

But data-wise, after 10 games, there is no statistical difference between the top-5 teams in the league listed below.

Man City 7 2 1 24 9 15 23 2.3
Arsenal 7 2 1 23 10 13 23 2.3
Liverpool 7 2 1 24 13 11 23 2.3
Chelsea 7 1 2 21 9 12 22 2.2
Spurs 5 5 14 5 9 20 2.0

Being this early in the competition, none of the top-3 teams in particular have been able to demonstrate a sustained winning streak, which is a clear signal of their superiority over the rest of the league.  As I have demonstrated from historical data, in all previous title runs in the Premier League, Arsenal has had at minimum a 9-game winning run. Their most recent streak ended at 5 wins. Victory over Sunderland may signal the start of another winning series. Time will tell.

To demonstrate how misleading early season form can be it is useful to compare the 2016 data above with 2015’s  below.

Man City 7 1 2 24 8 16 22 2.2
Arsenal 7 1 2 18 8 10 22 2.2
West Ham 6 2 2 22 13 9 20 2.0
United 6 2 2 15 8 7 20 2.0
Leicester 5 4 1 20 17 3 19 1.9

As we all know by now, after barely missing relegation the previous season, Leicester City had a surprisingly bright start and kept improving as the season wore on and won the title by 10 points. West Ham and United could not sustain their early spark and failed to make the top-4.

More significant, in my opinion, is the fact that the top two teams at this point of the season are the same this and last year. Despite Leicester’s success, as I demonstrated in my pre-season predictions, based on 20-years of PL data, there are only four teams with a 95% probability of winning the league (United, City, Arsenal and Chelsea).  Any statistician (I am not) will tell you that anything less than 95% probability is useless as a predictive tool.

Because of the predictability of the data for the clubs named, it is easy for any rational football fan, especially denizens of this blog, to dismiss as a load of bollocks the nonsense spouted by the majority of ESPN and BBC pundits, who, at the beginning of this and prior years, “predicted” Arsenal will not make the top-four, much less win the title.  As is well known Arsenal has never failed to make the top-4 in any of the past 20-years, all under Arsene Wenger.

Furthermore, the historical data is very predictive about making title challenges; when Wenger has the resources to strengthen the team and not have to sell his best players, Arsenal usually wins the league or comes very close. Data from the recent AGM that the club is less reliant on player sales for income, £65m in 2011-12 compared to £2m in 2015-16, is a strong indicator of Arsenal’s increasing potential of winning the league.

As I frequently emphasize, the commercial media has a vested interest in preying on fear and despair (two instincts that reside in almost every human being) among Arsenal fans. They do this by sensationalizing any real or imagined setback the club may suffer. Thus at the start of this season when the club lost 3-4 at home to Liverpool the media and their echo-chamber among Arsenal blogs, went into total meltdown. James McNicholas, aka Gunnerblog, opined in his ESPN blog on August 14th:

“Although the Gunners fought back from 4-1 down to make the scoreline respectable, there weren’t too many encouraging signs in this performance.”

Surely there is something amiss when a “Gunner” ignores a fightback from 3 goals down to coming within one goal of an equalizer, and instead decries the performance. Two and a half  months later this doom-mongering is exposed for what it is, abject sensationalism:

2015 7 1 2 18 8 10 22 2.2
2016 7 2 1 23 10 13 23 2.3
% Chg Plus Minus Plus Minus Plus Plus Plus

Improvements year-on-year:

  • Less Draws
  • More Goals Scored
  • Better Goal Difference
  • More Points
  • Better PPG

A reliance on data allows us to ignore the McNicholases and their ilk. While the sample size is small, making it premature to draw any conclusions, it is clearly observable that, performance-wise, there have been far more positives than negatives in 2016 compared to 2015.

Only 63 more points to make 86.

29 comments on “The Goal Is 86 Points – Arsene Wenger

  1. just a little stat about our 3-4 loss on the opening day, when you compare the team/squad that day to the team/squad on Saturday, it shows that we had 5 different starters, and an amazing 9 changes to the match day 18 man squad
    so to sum up those stats, half the 10 outfield players changed, and half the entire match day squad changed. I do wonder why our performance changed too, can’t figure it out, can anyone help.

    as for gunnersblog not being able to see many encouraging signs in the opening day performance, well we did dominate the first half, missed a penalty and then scored, we should really have had a two or three goal lead at half time, but instead a wonder goal left it 1-1, us rocked, and lfc rocking, then when it went 1-4, we did not give up, and fought back to 3-4, its true that once we did get our third goal, we never created a good scoring chance in the last ten minutes. But I always felt that too much was made of the negatives and every positive was swept under the carpet

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Daniel Storey ‏@danielstorey85 17h17 hours ago
    Chelsea 11 points better off than after ten league games last season, Manchester United five points worse off. The Mourinho effect.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Don Shotta at his finest.
    Simple,balanced and eloquent .
    Not looking for positivity, just facts, demonstrated clearly and concisely.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Chris Wheatley ‏@ChrisWheatley_ 4m4 minutes ago East, England
    No Walcott (trained separately), Cazorla or Monreal in training this morning. Unlikely to be risked with the NLD this weekend.


  5. why isn’t Steve McManaman managing a top club, with insight like this he is a loss to all clubs

    McManaman does not believe Sanchez is suitable for a title-winning side however, and the former Liverpool winger believes the Gunners “need more” up front.

    “Theo Walcott can play as a centre-forward but you’re not going to win the Champions League and the Premier League with Walcott,” he told BT Sport.

    “Alexis Sanchez can play there because he’s a great player but I don’t think [Arsenal can win the league] with Sanchez playing up front. I think you need more.

    “I would have loved to have seen them have a better centre-forward than Sanchez and Giroud.”

    imagine he actually gets highly paid for spouting stuff like that. The world has gone mad

    Liked by 1 person

  6. our next two BPL games are Spurs at home and Utd away, so who will the PGMOL send at us for these games, I’m sure anthony taylor will get one of the games, my bet is the spurs game, and could we actually get Phil Dowd in the utd game.


  7. Thank you Shotta. Plenty to chew over there. One thing I take from this is should we lose another match then as long as it is a mathematical possibility for us to still achieve 86 points I shall not panic nor call it a disaster.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Great again Shotts, if we replicate the 23 points from the next ten games twice then we will be looking at 17points from our last eight. Difficult at a difficult time of the season but doable

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Nominal feedback so far. Hopefully, it’s because the data is so compelling.
    I must confess that Part 2 of this blog was going to be today’s piece until I located that quote by Arsene as part of my research. It blew my mind that something of such importance, the team goal for this season, would be totally ignored by the football media in general and the Arsenal blogsphere in particular. This simply reinforces what is self-evident; they give no importance to data. Instead they emphasize the sensational. Needless to say I changed course almost at the end of writing Part 2.
    Now you guys have 2 blogs for the price of one. Thank heavens I love this little niche. Thanks for reading and sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Excellent Shotta. Thanks.


  11. Good stuff. Fingers crossed our extra options can help us negotiate this period. Non-stop football for our international players since before the last international break and no let up for a long while yet. We can only guess,but it could be that in years past, at certain points, players in a similar condition to Walcott, Cazorla and Monreal may have had to play.

    Just watched our u23 highlights and Zelalem managed a nutmeg assist. Don’t think even Mesut has one of them in his assist bag.

    Nobody let Alan Smith watch those highlights. He’ll start crying at all that football with no evidence of anyone getting booted for it.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Arsenal FC ‏@Arsenal 29m29 minutes ago
    And finally some team news from the boss…

    🗣 “Nacho, Hector, Santi and Theo haven’t travelled. Some are close to returning.”


  13. The way the first ten games have developed in terms of 4/5 teams split by goals and a point I wonder whether a low points total for the eventual Champions might not be more likely ?

    With a scrum at the top, and the leading clubs taking points off one another, won’t that leave them all scrambling to get 80+?



    Arsène Wenger has revealed the latest team news ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League game against Ludogorets.
    And it centred on which players did not travel and who will start at right back:

    on team news…
    Who did not travel is Monreal, Cazorla and Bellerin, Walcott – both are more or less injuries. Some of them being very close, like Walcott, Bellerin had a little incident in the last minute of training so they are not here. For us it’s a big game because as you said, if we win we can qualify. But if we lose, you can as well be in a difficult situation. So we know the importance of the game is massive

    on whether Carl Jenkinson will play…
    He is in the squad. I have not named the team yet, I will decide that tomorrow. He is in the squad. I have plenty of right backs in the squad, three or four.

    Copyright 2016 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to http://www.arsenal.com as the source

    Read more at http://www.arsenal.com/news/news-archive/20161031/team-news-bellerin-walcott-monreal?#lhD4OWBsoTChzorS.99


  15. We’ve had a few one horse races, the occasional two horse race to the final games – but never a three or four way contest going into the final fixtures.


  16. Hi Shotta,

    An utterly absorbing Post which provides compelling data and an analysis of what it means. Thank you very much, sir.

    I have boringly banged the drum about the imbalance of external monies creating almost golem like players who congregate in the oil money and state controlled clubs and have a totally unfair advantage over properly run clubs (Arsenal) who are financially self supporting.

    But yoicks — there is another route that might interest a scholar like you, because it is Red Bull corporately influenced and hence questionable – but not so – more clubs should adopt the model I am showing below.

    — “It is hard to talk about the newly promoted club who are two points behind Bayern Munich at the top of the Bundesliga without polarising opinion. It starts with the name: RB Leipzig are sponsored by Red Bull, the energy drink manufacturer, and play at the Red Bull Arena.

    They are affiliated to New York Red Bulls, Thierry Henry’s old club, and Red Bull Salzburg, the Austrian champions — both of whom play at grounds called Red Bull Arena.

    Red Bull owns 100 per cent of the RB Leipzig’s non-voting shares, representing 99 per cent of the total. So you would be forgiven for thinking that the “RB” in “RB Leipzig” stands for Red Bull. Except it doesn’t. That would violate German rules. Nope, the RB stands for “Rasen Ballsports”, which is a made-up word meaning “lawn ball sports” and a way to sneak the initials in.

    It is inevitable that many view it as little more than a slick marketing vehicle
    But that is the least of the objections. The real problem is twofold.

    One is the way the club got around the German game’s famous “50+1” rule, which stipulates that a majority of voting shares must be owned by club members to safeguard against external investors taking control. (There are exceptions that were originally introduced for historical reasons, like Bayer Leverkusen and Wolfsburg, who are owned by pharmaceutical and automotive concerns respectively.) By ensuring that voting members are either present or former Red Bull employees or associates, Red Bull can call the shots. It’s a pretty obvious sham and workaround, much like the club’s name.

    Couple that with the obvious corporate message that is ubiquitous at the club — and, perhaps, the fact that unlike Bayer in Leverkusen or Volkswagen in Wolfsburg, we are not talking about a former works team rooted in the community that employs tens of thousands of local blue-collar types — and it is inevitable that many view it as little more than a slick marketing vehicle.

    The other is the age-old complaint that arises whenever billionaire owners turn to football, as Sheikh Mansour and Roman Abramovich will confirm: the accusation that they are trying to buy success with their nouveaux riches clubs.

    And this is where the RB Leipzig story takes a distinctly different turn. Because, after initially exploring the idea of acquiring control of a club in the top two divisions of the German game but being put off by local resistance and the threat of the 50+1 rule, Red Bull went in an entirely different direction. They built RB Leipzig almost entirely from the ground up. (“Almost” is the key word here — they acquired a struggling fifth-division outfit, Markranstädt — and eventually moved the operation eight miles away to the east German city of Leipzig.)

    Still, while they did comfortably outspend other clubs at every level, much of the investment went into facilities, scouting and youth development — what most would consider “virtuous” spending — rather than simply buying success. As a result, the rise has been so gradual that it has been almost organic: four promotions in seven seasons, despite often outspending the rest of the division every year. And now they sit undefeated, breathing down mighty Bayern’s necks.

    This is not, therefore, a romantic tale. This past summer, their net spend of about £45 million was more than the rest of the Bundesliga combined and more than two and a half times that of Bayern. The two previous seasons, in the Bundesliga, they had a net spend of £20 million, roughly 20 times that of the next biggest net spenders.

    The rise has been so gradual that it has been almost organic
    Yet ingenuity has been as big a part of their rise as cold, hard cash. They persuaded Germany’s football guru, Ralf Rangnick, to come on board as sporting director and he instilled his trademark high-energy pressing game — a great way to win games, a tremendous marketing tool — at all levels. Rangnick did double-duty as a manager too, before moving upstairs and leaving the bench to Ralph Hasenhüttl in the summer.

    They’ve aggressively courted young talent — Timo Werner, Davie Selke, Naby Keïta, Yussuf Poulsen — and been on the cutting edge in terms of fitness and tactics. A casual fan watching RB Leipzig is likely to be won over.

    They will continue to divide opinion and many will still see them as a Frankenstein club propped up Red Bull’s coffers. Maybe so. But if that is the case, they’re a darn attractive Frankenstein club.”

    Well, OK, they have played fast and loose with the German FA ‘rules’ but it was to enable them to catch up with financial giants of German football, and seems to be accepted as legal – so good luck to them.

    Liked by 6 people

  17. Evening all.
    Any hopes of leftovers from myself from the sweeting box beside the hall door are rapidly diminishing. Good going for us that Shotta and the PA gang are delivering the treats.

    Totally agree – 23 points from 10 games is very good business, pity about ‘boro – that would have helped with a back up plan for spare points, and OG would have mullered their defence if he was available.

    I hope for wins in our upcoming matches – because it’s THEM, then it’s because it’s HIM.

    Nevertheless, I hope AW pick’s his strongest available team for tomorrow night and let’s get the win in Bulgaria – Round of 16 will be done. wityh a probable head-to-head decided at the Ems vs. PSG to see who gets top spot.

    Liked by 3 people

  18. The next 9 league games.
    The path to 43 points (hey let’s not be too greedy eh?)
    Spurs H
    Man Utd. A
    Bournemouth H
    West Ham A
    Stoke H
    Everton A
    Man City A
    West Brom H


  19. Not to be counting chickens, but the winner of the League Cup QF goes in to a two legged semi final.
    Newcastle, Liverpool and possibly Man Utd. could also be in that SF draw.
    SF will take place on two mid-week days in January.


  20. Eddy
    you are right
    it has to be Anthony Taylor for Arsenal vs Spurs.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Tomorrow’s team options:


    Jenks – Gabriel – Mustafi/Holding – Gibbs

    Ramsey – Xhaka/Elneney

    Ox – Ozil – Alexis/Iwobi

    Na Na Na Na Na Ha


  22. Interesting stuff Henry – I have watched Leipzig and listened to the abuse they attract. I thought the German model was first outflanked by Hoffenheim and their owner (the bloke who set up SAP in his stair cupboard)

    They were also a 5th division outfit in a 40,000 population town at the turn of the century and have built a very solid Bundesliga club since.

    You need the money, but you need the will too- very German

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Always an interesting read Shotta but not one I attempt at first light anymore, hence the lateness of this comment. Nicely put together and well worth the wait.

    Anecdotally at least, the PL appears to be getting ever more competitive. This observation is based on the idea that on any day, any result is possible, regardless of the league placings of either competing side.

    By this logic – that all teams can and will drop points – it stands to reason that at some point a side will win the whole thing with a record low tally. So yes, 86 points would almost certainly guarantee victory but actually, a considerably fewer total may also achieve the same.

    And why might this be important?

    Because the tiresome meltdown by some supporters at the first hint of a dropped point or three can in effect double the impact of those dropped points.

    Who could possibly have imagined we would overhaul Spuds with one month to go last season? That we did so was with little thanks to the ‘protesting types’, for whom the season was already a write off. But had all Gooners stayed the course throughout the whole season, who knows what might have been possible.

    This season we really do need to get right behind the team regardless of individual results. And stay behind them whilst all around us other teams are losing their heads and their points.

    Liked by 3 people

  24. I assumed Stoke Swansea would be appalling.

    One of the best end to end battles I’ve seen all season.

    Football eh !


  25. Shotts,

    I don’t know about points but if they can end the xmas crunch with only a total of two or three in the L column I’ll be a little bit excited!

    Liked by 1 person

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