There is a school of thought out there that says Arsenal haven’t improved compared to the last season and the main arguments are these:
1) We have exactly the same number of points as we had after the 31st league match last term;
2) We are out of the Champions’ League…just like last season;
3) We are still in the FA Cup…just like last season.
Now, all these facts are true but the conclusion that has been drawn out of them isn’t and here are the reasons why:
1) We do have the same number of points but our goal-difference carries a point of its own
At this point last season we did have 63 points – just like we have right now. However, our goal-difference was much worse – we had +19 before our home match against Manchester City and now we have +30 before our trip to Burnley. The difference is huge as the goal-difference is a tie-breaker if teams are even on points. For example, Manchester City have won two league titles in the last three seasons and on both those occasions their superior goal-difference gave them the edge over Manchester United and Liverpool respectively. They did win two points more than Liverpool last term but even if Liverpool hadn’t dropped those two points against Crystal Palace, City would have won the league because of the goal-difference.
Right now, there is a nine point gap between us and Liverpool outside the Champions’ League zone as our superior goal-difference gives us the edge over them in case they (somehow) close the gap.
2) Our form had been going down last term – now the momentum is on our side
We have won the last seven league games and ten out of the last eleven. Now, compare it with the last season – in seven games before the one against Manchester City we had had a record of W2D2L3 with a goal-difference 8:15 including two heavy defeats against Liverpool (5:1) and Chelsea (6:0). If the last eleven games before the game against City are taken into account, we had W5D3L3 with a goal-difference 16:18. We’ll enter the game against Burnley with W10L1 in the last eleven games with a goal-difference 30:7.
3) Our away form in big matches has improved
Last season we had suffered three big away defeats by this time – Manchester City (6:3), Liverpool (5:1) and Chelsea (6:0). That was the worst part of the season and something due to which Wenger and the players were heavily criticized. Now, this season we have beaten City (2:0), dropped two points at Anfield (2:2) and lost to Chelsea (2:0). That means we have won four points (compared to zero from the last term) with a neutral goal-difference (compared to very negative one last term) against the remaining teams in the Top Five.
(Speaking of Top Five, we have also visited the place of our fourth nasty defeat – Everton (3:0) – and grabbed a point thanks to the late equalizer of Olivier Giroud but I didn’t take the defeat against Everton into account because that match hadn’t been played at this stage.)
Of course, we could add our victories over Manchester United in FA Cup and Monaco in Champions’ League respectively to the whole picture. Whilst we hadn’t had a single away match on our road to Wembley last term we had to play against Manchester United at the Old Trafford this term. We dominated the game and ran out as deserved winners.
4) News-flash: second place is better than fourth
At this stage last season we were fourth and could only think about how to keep our fourth place as Everton were breathing down our neck. Now we sit on second, nine-and-a-half points ahead of fifth-placed Liverpool, and hope for a few slips from Chelsea before the end of the season.
5) We are sharper, faster, stronger, smarter…simply better than we were last year
Hector Bellerin, Alexis Sánchez, Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcott are all at Arsene Wenger’s disposal – and that’s a lot of pace. They also give Mesut Özil a lot of options to pick with his magnificent passes.
Francis Coquelin has been a revelation as our defensive midfielder – something that we didn’t have last year.
Olivier Giroud of 2015 is one of the best strikers in the league and one who scores in the big matches on a regular basis. He has played four league games against the rest of the Top 5 teams and scored in each one of them.
6) We know how to win trophies
Since the match against Swansea in March 2014 Arsenal have won two trophies.
Conclusion: Arsenal have improved since April 2014…a lot!
So, Gooners, do you think Arsenal have improved since the last season? Share your thoughts.