The prerogative of every campaign is to improve upon the previous year and in the case of Arsenal, the emphasis on ‘progression’ is more prominent than any other club.
Much of that is down to the perception that we tend to settle for a Champions League place every year rather than trying to win the Premier League.
Honestly speaking, we can’t really complain with that negative stereotype of our football club given that Arsene Wenger constantly referred to the Champions League place as a trophy.
“The first trophy is to finish in the top four,” Wenger was quoted as saying in 2012 (via The Guardian)
Those targets remained respectable as long as our finances matched our league position. Many believe that a squad’s league position should resemble their yearly spend on wages.
Therefore, the fact that we accounted for the fourth highest wage bill (via The Telegraph) in the Premier League made it seem logical that we would finish fourth.
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However, this metric doesn’t seem to be applied to every club and if there was a direct and reliable coloration between league positions and wages spent, then surely Chelsea should’ve finished 3rd this season and not run away with the Premier League.
Last season, we finished fourth on 79 points, seven points off the eventual champions while also ending our trophy drought.
This year, our highest possible points total is 77 points, we’re currently 13 points off champions Chelsea with third place practically secured.
Another FA Cup final looms and there seems to be a number of similarities between the two campaigns.
The simple conclusion of taking a quick glance at our league position to determine what constitutes as progress is slightly flawed. A team’s positioning is in relation to the performances of their rivals which explains why we’re set to finish higher than last season with fewer points.
Our record against the big teams has had a more positive look to it this campaign, 6-0 and 5-0 defeats have not been repeated; rather we won big games against Manchester City and Liverpool while knocking Manchester United out of the cup.
Despite that, our form against the group of teams below the top four has been disastrous this year, which could be put down to the fact that we met them during bad spells of our campaign.
Top 9 head to head Chelsea 31 Man City 27* Liverpool 26* Man Utd 25 Stoke 19* Spurs 18 Swansea 18 Arsenal 17 Southampton 15* *1 game to play
— Orbinho (@Orbinho) May 18, 2015
Should we end the season with another FA Cup and a third place finish on 77 points, it is hard to look at the whole season and conclude that we’ve progressed.
However, our form in 2015 and a visible shift in the performances and application of our side cannot be debated. We won eight consecutive games in the league for the first time since the Invincible season in 2004.
With the absence of an international tournaments which robs us of most of our stars this summer, despite Alexis Sanchez and David Ospina competing in the Copa America, a solid pre-season should result in a sharper start to the league campaign than what we experienced in September.
Our form in the run-in has been impeccable over the past few years which would mean that we’d possess all the tools to finally clinch the Premier League title once again.