After Arsenal lost Robin Van Persie and Alexandre Song on the dawn of the new season, a lot of Gooners were scared that – despite Wenger signed three international players for the attacking department in the likes of Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla – Arsenal would be a much weaker side and finish outside the Top Four for the first time during Wenger’s helm.
It wasn’t completely without sense – Van Persie scored 30 goals in the Premiership adding 14 assists (which means he was directly involved in 44 out of the 74 goals we scored in 2011-12 or 59 %) while Alexandre Song assisted 11 times. On the other hand, some Gooners claimed that the reinforcements signed would bring versatility to our attack that relied on Van Persie too much in the previous season.
After all, it’s not like we signed completely anonymous players – Olivier Giroud was the top goal-scorer in Ligue 1 and the main reason why Montpellier won Le Championnat in front of the oil-rich PSG, Lukas Podolski had more than 100 international caps despite being only 26-years-old and Santi Cazorla was the top-scorer from outside the box if only top European leagues were taken into account.
So, let’s make a statistical comparison of 2011-12 and 2012-13 in all competitions.
Arsenal ended in third with 70 points. We were 19 points behind champions Manchester City and runners-up Manchester United (both teams collected 89 points with City winning the title thanks to a better goal-difference). Our goal-difference was 74:49 (+25). We started the season without scoring a goal in the first two matches of the season but still managed to score 74 goals with 17 different players scoring plus an own goal of Scott Dann in the home match against Blackburn. However, despite our goals were widespread all over the squad, only Van Persie reached double digits (30 goals) while second best was Theo Walcott with 8.
The highest scoring game was the home-match against Blackburn when we fired seven past Robinson with a 5-goal-haul against Chelsea away coming second. We failed to score on 5 occasions (Newcastle away, Liverpool home, Manchester City away, Bolton away and Chelsea home). Our goals came in at almost the same number at home and away – 39 goals were scored at Emirates with 35 away.
At the other end of the pitch, our defense conceded 49 goals which was unacceptable for a team of Arsenal’s ambitions and stature. However, it should be said that a large chunk of those goals came in just 5 games – we conceded 8 goals against United at Old Trafford, 4 against Blackburn at Ewood Park while in games against Chelsea (away), Swansea (away) and Norwich (home) we conceded three goals which means we conceded 21 goals out of 49 in the aforementioned games with Wojciech Szczesny keeping a clean sheet 13 times. Unlike our attack, our defense felt a bit shaky in away games conceding almost double on the road (32 out of 49).
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We won 21 games – 12 at home, 9 away, drew 7 timed – four at home, three away and lost ten games – three at home and seven away.
In the matches against sides that ended in the Top 4 – Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham Spuds – we won 6 points out of a possible 18 thanks to two brilliant home victories against the Spuds and City. There was a lot of frustration however against relegated sides Wolves, Bolton and Blackburn. Despite reaching one comfortable victory against each of these teams we lost to Blackburn away, drew against Wolves at home and at the Reebok Stadium which means we won just 11 points out of 18 against the worst sides in the league.
Arsenal ended in fourth spot which means we dropped one place despite receiving three points more. Thanks to those three points, the gap between the 1st-placed team and us was smaller as we ended 16 points behind champions Manchester United. Our goal-difference was 72:37 (+35) While our goal-scoring record suffered a little bit of a decline given that we scored 72 goals (two goals less than in 2011-12).
Those 72 goals were scored by 12 different players plus three own goals (incredibly, all three own goals came in fixtures against Southampton). Thomas Vermaelen’s overall deterioration of form was mostly noticed in this category as he failed to score throughout whole Premiership campaign while he scored 6 during the season before. Our top-scorer Theo Walcott didn’t come anywhere near Van Persie’s tally from 2011-12 as the Englishman scored 14 goals. However, this time our attack didn’t rely exclusively on one player as four players reached double digits – Santi Cazorla netted 12 times while Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud scored 11 goals each.
If we compare statistics of players who signed for Arsenal with the ones of those who left from 2011-12, we will notice that Cazorla (12), Podolski (11), Giroud (11) and Monreal (1) out-scored Van Persie (30) and Song (1). The highest scoring game was the home match against Newcastle as Gunners put seven past Tim Krul while other impressive goal-scoring matches were against Southampton at home (6:1), West Ham at home (5:1), Spuds at home and Reading away (5:2). Those five games brought us 28 out of 72 goals we scored. If we add the four-goal-matches against relegated sides Wigan and Reading, we will realize that half of our goals came in just seven matches which says a lot about our consistency. We failed to find the net on seven occasions (Sunderland home, Stoke away, Norwich away, Manchester City home, Aston Villa away, Swansea home, Everton home). We enjoyed a much better goal-scoring spell at the Emirates (47 goals) where we scored almost two times more goals than in away games.
Our defensive record improved however, and it’s something that had to do with signing Steve Bould and switch to a deeper 4-2-3-1 formation in the later stage of the season. We conceded 12 goals less than in 2011-12. None of our opponents managed to score more than three goals against us and it happened on only two occasions. Strangely, both times it happened at Emirates and neither of our opponents won three points despite three goals scored (Fulham 3:3 and Newcastle 7:3). Given that the two worst defensive displays were at home, it’s no surprise that we conceded nine goals more at Emirates than in away games.
Our defensive record away from home improved a lot – in 2012-13 we conceded 14 goals on the road which is less than we conceded in just three games – Manchester United, Blackburn, Swansea – in 2011-12. Szczesny, Mannone and Fabianski kept our net intact on 14 occasions.
We won 21 games again but this time our improved defending and a much better finish to the season than in 2011-12 meant we suffered three defeats less. There wasn’t much difference between our home and away form as we won only three points more as hosts than as visitors. Our home record in terms of points deteriorated when you compare it with last season (40:38) but our away record improved as we won five points more.
If there was a case where the absence of a world-class player in our team was felt, it’s our record against other Top Four teams. We won just two points out of a possible 18 which is 11.11 % – totally unacceptable for Arsenal. However, our record against relegated teams improved significantly as we won all 18 points against Wigan, Reading and QPR.
Conclusion: we improved significantly in terms of defending and deteriorated slightly in terms of goals scored. Our record in big matches was appalling and that is a negative trend that seems to continue. Also, we had problems with consistency when it came to scoring as half of our goals came in just seven matches. The fact our league position deteriorated as well suggests that our team needs reinforcements in order to eliminate flaws and stop the negative trend. There was however a positive as four players, three of whom were new, managed to break double digits rather relying on Van Persie.
FA Cup 2011-12
We won our home fixtures against Leeds and Aston Villa in the Third and Fourth Round of the FA Cup respectively and both of them were nervy victories. The first one came after Thierry Henry scored a winner in one of the most touching moments in Arsenal history while the other was a result of an impressive come-back after we were two goals down against the Villains after the first half. Van Persie scored twice, Walcott added another one in the second and we went through. We played against Sunderland away in the Fifth Round and suffered 2:0 defeat.
We scored four goals in three matches and conceded the same number.
FA Cup 2012-13
We needed a replay against Swansea to go through the Third Round. After we were one goal down following Michu’s proverbial goal against us, Podolski and Gibbs got us very close to the victory which was denied by a late Graham equalizer. In the replay, Jack Wilshere gave his best performance of the season and rounded it with a beautiful late goal that gave us a chance to play Brighton in the Fourth Round. We were far from convincing in that match but two strikes from Giroud and one from Walcott handed us a victory and another opponent from the lower division in the Fifth Round. However, this time Lady Luck decided that she won’t be on our side as we lost to Blackburn at home.
We scored six goals and conceded five in four matches.
Conclusion: we lost again in the Fifth Round, only this time it was a home defeat against a lower division side. Our goals per game ratio slightly improved but we also conceded a bit more per game.
Capital One Cup 2011-12
We won the home tie against Shrewsbury after we were one goal down and Chu-Young Park gave a rare proof of his existence to Arsenal fans by scoring a lovely goal in the next round against Bolton to complete another come-back in the competition. The third match – just like the other two fixtures in this competition – was played at Emirates as well. We lost to Manchester City after Aguero scored a late winner for the visitors from a counter-attack.
We scored five goals and conceded three in three matches.
Capital One Cup 2012-13
In the first match we won against Coventry 6:1 at home including a stunner from Oxlade-Chamberlain.
In the most ludicrous match of the season, we managed to pull off a come-back after being four goals down to Reading away. In extra-time Marouane Chamakh added more of the word “unbelievable” to the match by scoring a brace while Theo Walcott completed a hat-trick as we won 7:5.
The quarterfinal match against fourth-tier side Bradford was the last match for us. Despite Wenger fielding the best possible eleven at that moment, we lost on penalties and lost the only realistic chance of a trophy.
We scored 14 goals and conceded six in three matches.
Conclusion: we lost to a fourth-tier side in 2012-13 which is a huge downgrade given that we lost to the best English team in 2011-12. We scored significantly more goals than in previous season but our defensive record deteriorated. Much of that was due to the extraordinary tie against Reading.
Champions’ League 2011-12
We had to go through the qualifiers and managed to pull off two victories against a strong Udinese side. In the Group Stage, we won three matches, drew two and lost one – to Olympiacos in Athens – so we ended as champions of our group that consisted of a French, Greek and a German side. That didn’t help us in the draw as we got the strongest possible opponent – AC Milan. We lost 4:0 in the first leg and nearly completed a come-back in the second but we fell one goal short.
We scored 13 goals in eight matches while conceding 11.
Champions’ League 2012-13
We qualified automatically and started our campaign with two victories but in the remaining four matches we secured just four points and ended second behind Schalke 04. Our group consisted again of a Greek, French and German side. It’s interesting to compare results against Olympiacos – in 2011-12, we won the home match 2:1 and lost our away fixture 3:1 while in 2012-13 it was vice versa – we won the home match 3:1 and lost in Greece 2:1.
Again, we got the strongest opponents in the First Knockout Stage as we were paired with Bayern (who went on to win the competition in an impressive way, with the defeat to Arsenal being the only match the Bavarian side failed to win in the Knockout Stage). We suffered a nasty defeat in the first leg again only to come very close to completing come-back in the second as we fell short only on aggregate goals (1:3, 2:0).
We scored 13 goals in six matches while conceding nine.
Conclusion: we lost in the First Knockout Stage again. We improved in terms of goals scored but our defense slightly deteriorated in terms of conceded goals per game like in all other cup competitions. Also, we failed to claim a top-spot in our group.
Overall conclusion: we didn’t improve in any cup competitions – we reached the same stages we did in 2011-12 – while our league position deteriorated. The lack of a world-class finisher affected us on too many occasions, especially in big matches in the league. The signing of Higuain (or a striker of the same calibre) is a “must buy” for Wenger in summer transfer window. The bones of a strong team is there just needs some excellent signings to push them towards the next level.