Even though our last match of the season took place over a month ago, some Gooners still find it difficult to say whether Arsenal have improved over the last 12 months. Let’s see what the numbers say about it.
Credit: Stats via whoscored.com
Arsenal finished their 2013-14 campaign in fourth place. We collected 79 points, scored 68 goals and conceded 41. Our goalkeepers kept a clean sheet on 17 occasions (Wojciech Szczesny 16, Lukasz Fabianski 1) while our opponents kept our attack at bay in six matches. Our biggest winning margin was three goals (Norwich 4:1, Cardiff 3:0, Sunderland 4:1, Hull City 3:0, Newcastle 3:0). Our biggest defeat was at the hands of Chelsea (0:6) followed by the one against Liverpool (1:5).
Arsenal made an improvement in terms of the final standings as we moved from fourth to third despite collecting fewer points – 75. We scored 71 goals and conceded 35 which means both our attack and defence improved compared to the season before. Our goalkeepers, however, kept a clean sheet on just 13 occasions (David Ospina 8, Szczesny 3, Damian Martinez 2). It’s easy to notice the decline in this category and it’s mostly due to problems with injuries in the first half of the season when Szczesny and Martinez hadn’t had the established “French Connection” (Laurent Koscielny-Francis Coquelin) as part of our defensive spine in front of themselves. Our attack failed to score on five occasions – a slight improvement that would have been even better if there hadn’t been a streak of three games at home (Chelsea, Swansea and Sunderland) where our attackers failed to score. Our biggest winning margin was five goals (Aston Villa 5:0) while our biggest losing margin was just two goals (Chelsea 0:2, Southampton 0:2) – a drastic improvement.
In 2013-14 we collected five points in matches against the rest of the Top 4 (Manchester City 3:6, 1:1, Liverpool 2:0, 1:5, Chelsea 0:0, 0:6) with a horrific goal-difference of 7:18.
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This campaign we collected six points against the rest of the Top 4 (Chelsea 0:0, 0:2, Manchester City 2:2, 2:0, Manchester United 1:2, 1:1) with a much more respectable goal-difference of 6:7. We made a devent improvement in terms of points won but most importantly our goal-difference looked healthier thanks to a more resilient defence.
So, if we gained one more point against the rest of the Top 4, where did we spill five points? It’s best to start with our record against relegated teams.
In 2013-14 we were merciless against the relegated side (Norwich, Cardiff, Fulham) as we picked up a maximum of 18 points against them while conceding just twice.
In 2014-15 we tripped on Hull at home (2:2). We won both matches against QPR and Burnley respectively and won the reverse fixture against Hull which meant we collected 16 points against the relegated sides. So, that’s two points less, mostly thanks to the fact we conceded as many goals in the aforementioned draw against Hull at home as we had across six matches against relegated teams in the season before.
So, what happened against the rest of the top half of the table?
In 2013-14, Everton, Spuds, Manchester United, Southampton, Stoke and Newcastle completed the top half of the table. We collected 21 out of 36 available points which pretty much explains where we had lost the title despite spending over 120 days on top.
In 2014-15, Spuds, Liverpool, Southampton, Swansea, Stoke and Crystal Palace completed the top half of the table. We collected a miserable 17 out of 36 points – below 50 percent. You might have noticed that we collected four points less than 2013-14 and that’s where the whole difference in terms of points between two campaigns lies. With a deeper look, we reach the conclusion that it was all down to our poor record in the North London Derby – we picked just one point compared to all six in the season before.
That also means our record against the rest of the bottom half (excluding relegated teams) improved by a single point.
Conclusion: We made both attacking and defensive improvements even if the number of clean sheets had dropped. Our results against the top-half teams slightly deteriorated, but we more resilient against the top four. Given that our final standing also improved, I’d say we made a general improvement in the Premier League.
What to do next season? Burn the buses down. Make them burn on the Emirates turf. Our profligacy against Manchester United and Swansea at home led us to defeats and that’s six points that shouldn’t have escaped us. When it comes to away matches, our second half of the season was a good example how to do things right. We were hard nut to crack with only one team scoring more than twice against us in the league (Stoke).
In 2013-14 we had to beat an Istanbul side on our way to the Group Stage. We won both legs against Fenerbahče – 3:0 away and 2:0 at home.
In 2014-15 we had to beat an Istanbul side again but this time it didn’t go so smoothly. We drew at Bešiktaš in the first leg (0:0) and scrapped a 1:0 victory at the Emirates. It was a good warning how Slaven Bilić can make Arsene Wenger’s life complicated – remember our first league match next season is against Bilić’s West Ham.
In 2013-14 we were consequently sent into the group of death with Napoli, Borussia Dortmund and Olympique Marseille. We went through with 12 points as the second-placed side.
In 2014-15 our group was more straight-forward but we gave two really disappointing performances. We did collect 13 points – one more than in our previous campaign – but it wasn’t enough for the top spot in the group as Borussia Dortmund edged us on goal-difference again.
In 2013-14 we went out in the Last 16 against Bayern München – we lost the first leg 0:2 at home and the tie was effectively over. Szczesny’s red card and Özil’s missed penalty didn’t help us either. In the second leg we managed to stay undefeated at the Allianz Arena for the second season in a row thanks to Lukas Podolski’s equalizer (1:1).
Last season we were shockingly knocked out by AS Monaco and again it was the first leg that was fatal for us (1:3). Our defence was doing everything to lose the game while our attackers – particularly the otherwise brilliant Olivier Giroud – were busy making up unique ways to miss clear-cut chances. Our Pyrrhic 2:0 victory in the second leg was no more than a consolation.
In 2013-14 we won six matches, drew once and lost three times. Our goal-difference was 14:8. In 2014-15 we won the same amount, drew twice but lost twice. Our goal-difference improved to 19:11. While our domestic league campaign was a good example of our new-found defensive solidity, our Champions’ League campaign saw us conceding three goals on two deeper are occasions (Anderlecht 3:3, Monaco 1:3) and both times it happened at the Emirates against weaker opposition.
Conclusion: we haven’t made a drastic improvement aside from netting more goals and we turned one defeat into a draw. Our biggest concern and something to improve for next season was certainly our defending at home that cost us dearly.
What to do next season? Let’s try to win the group even if our table topping effort from 2011-12 didn’t guarantee an easy passage. If we fail to win the group, let’s try not to screw up in the first leg at home by wasting great chances. Let’s focus on not conceding at home and then do over our opponents in the second leg when away goals matter.
In 2013-14 we won the cup without leaving London. We scored 16 goals and conceded five. We needed penalties against Wigan in the semifinals and extra-time against Hull in the big final but it didn’t stop us from ending our nine year trophy drought.
In 2014-15 we had to make two trips outside of London. Whilst Brighton Hove & Albion hardly represented the most difficult opponents, our poor record against Manchester United adds extra-value to our battling victory at Old Trafford. We needed extra-time to beat Reading in the semifinals but Aston Villa were no match for us in the cup final. We retained the trophy and became the most successful team in the competition’s history. On our way to victory we scored 15 goals and conceded four which means our goal-difference remained the same (+11).
Conclusion: we replicated our high level of performance from the season before. We did have an easier path with one big opponent (Manchester United) though compared to the Spuds, Liverpool and Everton. However, this season we had to play two away games including the aforementioned blockbuster tie against United.
What to do next season? Keep it up, lads! FA Cup specialists.
Capital One Cup
In 2013-14 we knocked West Brom out of the competition after penalties on their soil. Our home game against Chelsea was the last one in the competition as Azpilicueta and Mata dealt the damage.
This season Alexis’ phenomenal free-kick wasn’t enough against Southampton as Tadić’s penalty and a fantastic goal from Clyne completed The Saints’ come-back.
Conclusion: we certainly took a step back as we failed to progress past the first stage.
What to do next season? It’s a good competition for fringe and young players to gain match fitness and valuable experience, with a few additions this summer we should have the squad to really push forward in the competition.
We only participated in the competition last season thanks to our FA Cup triumph in 2013/14. We thrashed Manchester City 3:0.
Conclusion: an obvious improvement was just our presence in the opening match of the season at Wembley and the fact we won it makes it even sweeter.
What to do next season? Can you imagine a better start to the season than beating Mourinho in the very first match? Yeah, me neither!
There were some obvious improvements when we compare our previous two campaigns. Our attack was far more potent – mostly because we have a world-class attacker now in Alexis Sánchez among our ranks- and our defence was much more resilient in 2015 after Koscielny recovered from his injury woes and Coquelin emerged as a world-class defensive midfielder.
We still have problems against well-organized defences, especially when we forget to stretch the pitch and start too many central midfielders in the starting eleven.
Injuries were all over us last season which is something we should address next season and prevent in every possible way. Hopefully Shad’s magic is starting to pay off.
We need to get a few players, not so much to strengthen our starting eleven as much as we need cover for our best players. Coquelin doesn’t have a proper alternative at present and he can’t go through, say, a 56-game-long season on his own. Reinforcements are necessary.