Yesterday on PA Shottagunner posted a great thought provoking piece looking at some of the numbers behind Arsenal’s current achievements and also the tepid, if not a little wayward, response by the media to it.
Although a tad ‘stat-lite’ compared to his recent other excellent pieces, upon reading it I felt 98.8% of readers would, like me, be giving it the mid-week nod of approval, even if not everyone has the time to comment, being a school day and all that.
It is a sound article which, when taken in context with the earlier Shotta contributions, can be seen to have been almost predictive in nature, but is in danger now of appearing to state the obvious, as his earlier predictions have lined themselves up with our current realities.
That’s the nature of great predictions!
Not to intentionally do down anything Shotta has been writing in recent weeks, I’m not personally a huge fan of stats.
Whilst Shotta’s enumerations are not in any way invalid I prefer to look in addition at actual changes rather than the statistical runs. Why? Well, a side can put in a great 10 game unbeaten run but if most of the sides played are sitting in the lower half of the league, the stats become skewed by the absence of results against the top half. By a similar token, a side can have 60% possession in a game and still lose. I’m not saying Shotta has done this, merely pointing out the need for an element of caution when perusing the numbers (a caution I’m sure Shotta would echo, in any case).
So what would I have us look at?
Well, for a start, we evidently ‘won’ the transfer window, much to the mortification of United, at least. We spent record sums on some, we spent tiny numbers on others and we went for players with mid-range price tags on their boots. Significantly, the impact of so many of our buys from the last 18 months who have hit the ground running is hard to exaggerate, but in particular the integration of Xhaka, Mustafi and Elneny alone are of huge significance in adding to the grit already provided by the likes of Kos, Coq and Giroud. Ordinarily, in the past, we’d be worried about Stoke at the weekend but I think they will be more worried about us, because of this. So that’s a break from the past.
Next up – November. It saw us play a range of football against varying levels of competitors but, aside from the League Cup, it saw us undefeated and, for me of greater significance, little was added to the injury stats. We are as well placed, fitness-wise (even with the loss of Santi and Welbeck) as any other early December of recent years, and considerably better than most. So we survived November.
Apart from sitting very pretty in second place in the Premiership, we also topped the group in the Champions League, something we’ve not done for a number of years and have done so in some style, with few trips or stumbles. Yes, it’s a statement of where we are but it’s a symptom also, of our confidence, our expectations and our belief. None of us are surprised we did it although it took PSG to throw away an undeserved statistical advantage to allow it. A favourable home draw awaits us in the new year. Nice.
There is additionally, the small matter of the outstanding form of stalwarts such as Sanchez and Ozil. But also the no-less important contributions of relative ‘bit-part’ players – Gibbs, Giroud, Holding, to mention just 3 – who, with others, have brought true meaning to the phrase ‘strength in depth’ when applied to our ‘exceptionally exceptional’ squad. The return of Bellerin, Welbeck and Santi in addition to our existing personnel suggests that we have less to fear from the Injury Gods going forward. So form AND fitness are in welcome alignment for once.
And that’s also something that’s not been the case in recent years.
I mention all of this to back up Shotta’s analysis; these are the facts that led to the stats that got us to here.
It’s true, we’ve won nothing yet but we are winning against (or at least are not being beaten by) what has been put in front of us so far. As the above hopefully makes clear – and Shotta’s stats confirm – nothing about where we are today is down to one ‘lucky’ factor. It’s not just about Alexis turning it on as a ‘one man team’. Or, as happened for Leicester last term, an abnormal run of penalties ‘won’ under dubious circumstances. [*coughsspudscoughcough* – ed]
Arsenal are evidently reaping the rewards of a perfect storm. A storm that is, for once, so far working all in our favour. And 9 out of 10 fans capable of independent thought would probably thank the Wenger for that.
Even if the media or the WOB really aren’t up for it, just yet.