The summer of 2011 saw more significant departures than arrivals at Arsenal, namely in the transfers of Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona, and Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy to Manchester City. By the final day of the transfer window the club had only strengthened modestly, bringing in Gervinho early on followed by the inexperienced Carl Jenkinson on a free transfer, and the young talent Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain from Southampton at the beginning of August.
Cue the 8-2 collapse at Old Trafford on 28th August, when a stretched squad and inexperienced team crumbled on the pitch after a difficult midweek Champions League qualifier at Udinese. Arsenal had managed to regain entry to the Champions League, but their league form was disastrous, finishing in the top four an unlikely hope.
Wenger and the club had to take action as the team entered some of the darkest days of his 16 year reign. Fans were calling for change, and Arsenal, not known for excessive transfer activity, went into overdrive.
Five new signings arrived in less than 24 hours, and the mission to save the season commenced. Mikel Arteta, Yossi Benayoun, Per Mertesacker, Ju Young Park and Andre Santos were all brought in rapid succession, to the shock of Arsenal fans. However, successful were each of these last-minute signings? What was the impact of this last, frantic set of negotiations, and how has this shaped the club? I now aim to investigate their contribution to the club’s eventual recovery and third place finish and the meaning for Arsenal overall of this marked change in policy…
This is an excerpt from my latest article, continue reading the full piece here.
When Marouane Chamakh arrived at Arsenal on a free transfer in the summer of 2010 there were high hopes for his Arsenal career. However, since his apparently explosive start to the 2010/11 season the goals have dried up, and his performances have dropped to the point where he has not scored a goal in six months. In the latest article over on the FootballScores Superblog I analyse where things went wrong for Chamakh, and his future at Arsenal. Click here to read the full article.
This full article is published on the FootballScores.com Superblog.
Read more tactical analysis of Chamakh
A month and a half ago Arsenal were playing for two cup competitions, whilst languishing ten points behind Tottenham in the league, with what looked like a slim chance of finishing within the Champions League qualifying places.
Today, through an astonishing run of form, the club sit just a point behind Tottenham in the league but have been removed from both the Champions League and the FA Cup.
This blog speculated that the Arsenal would have a tough away game at Sunderland in the FA Cup following the first leg of the Champions League second round in the San Siro, and this was correct. Indeed, the previously mentioned European hangover came into effect, and Arsenal went out of both competitions.
In conjunction with this analysis, we also provided an analysis of Arsenal’s form over the last six years in the final 14 league games of each season.
This analysis revealed that, on average, Arsenal took 25 points over the final 14 games of each season since 2006. This equates to 1.78 points per game on average in the final 14 games. Arsenal have now played four games of those 14, and due to a stunning run of form have taken 3 points per game, equating to 12 points.
To continue, the previous article stated that to have a chance of achieving fourth place, a minimum target of 70 points was feasible.
After the results against Sunderland, Tottenham, Liverpool and most recently Newcastle, the club has continued an excellent run of form, which also included the near come-back against AC Milan 3-0 in the Champions League.
The run of results has meant that the gap between Tottenham and Arsenal has been reduced to one point, and the atmosphere around the club is one of hopeful recovery.
Arsenal now stand on 52 points, making a 70 point target much more feasible from the remaining 10 games. To achieve this, the club must average 1.8 points per game, so far this season they have averaged 1.85.
Maintaining a run of form can be a precarious business, and as always each game can prove a turning point. The club face Everton, recently rocked by a Steven Gerrard hattrick in defeat to Liverpool, and then subject to a 1-1 draw in the FA Cup against Sunderland. The performance by Arsenal could have greater bearing on the ‘business end of the season’.
Arsenal’s base aim for this season is clearly now to secure qualification for the Champions League, maintain credibility as a ‘big club’ in England in order to secure the services of Robin Van Persie in a new contract, and finally to finish above Spurs if possible as London’s top club.
The European Hangover appears to have been vindicated by the result at Sunderland in the FA Cup, will the 70 point target, and the 1.8 point average also hold true?
After the humiliation of losing 4-0 to AC Milan on Wednesday night, Arsenal have had to say Au Revoir to a club legend, as Thierry Henry returns to the United States to rejoin the New York Red Bulls. Although the veteran forward didn’t recreate the heroics of yester-year this time round, winning goals against Leeds and Sunderland prove that Mr Va Va Voom still has what it takes to compete at the highest level. Given the fact that a lot of soul-searching and improvement is needed to salvage the club’s season, what does the rest of the campaign hold without the mercurial Frenchman?
Top Four Aspirations
Although all Arsenal fans would love to consider their club as a contender for the Premier League title, this season a top four finish must be looked at as a success, if it occurs. With the loss of Clichy, Fabregas and Nasri in the summer, the slow start to the campaign and increased competition for the top four, if The Gunners can qualify for next season’s Champions League it will be a real bonus. The battle for fourth place is seemingly now against Chelsea, with Liverpool and Newcastle outside contenders.
Henry’s ability to win a match would be a welcome bonus for the rest of the season, as he has he ability and past record of popping up with important goals to turn one point into three; take Sunderland for example. Without the French man for inspiration, pressure is now on the likes of senior statesmen Tomas Rosicky, Andrei Arshavin and Gervinho to help Robin van Persie to reach the required goalscoring tally to finish in the top four.
Champions League pride
Despite the dreadful performance in Italy in midweek, Arsenal Football Club must hold their heads up high and gain some respect and pride by winning the second leg. If the hosts score an early goal anything is possible, but realistically the club will be eliminated at the hands of Massimiliano Allegri’s men. However, despite a competition exit, a victory at home to salvage some honour, confidence and revenge is a must going forward.
The modern day footballer typically does not put his heart and soul on the line for his team, but one man who did and does is Thierry Henry. With a never-say-die attitude, Henry would urge his team-mates to get a result and play for pride in the second leg; in his absence senior figures at the club must stand up and be counted.
North London pride
Finally, with Tottenham currently ten points ahead of Arsenal in the Premier League standings, it is looking increasingly likely that Harry Redknapp’s men will finish above The Gunners in the table. This could also be critical due to the lack of available places in next year’s Champions League, however the north London derby on Sunday 26th February could play an important role in determining where each club winds up.
After losing 2-1 in the reverse fixture at White Hart Lane, Arsenal simply must beat Tottenham at the Emirates to save some face. If Spurs are going to finish ahead of Arsenal some pride must be regained by taking three points from them, and giving the home faithful bragging rights for the time being. Thierry Henry was a menace to Spurs backlines throughout his first spell at the club, and would have pumped the side up had he been present next Sunday; the club needs someone else to fulfil that role if three points are to be achieved.
Arsenal are recovering their form after a January blip which saw them drop nine points in the race for fourth place. A 7-1 win over Blackburn, and more recently a 2-1 win over Sunderland means that the club are maintaining their position at the fringes of the European places, in a race which may well define the medium term future of the club, when qualification is considered in terms of the potential for contract renewal of players like Robin Van Persie.
However, the focus now turns to the two remaining cup competitions, the Champions League and the FA Cup. The second round tie against AC Milan in the Champions League kicks off on Wednesday in the San Siro, whilst Arsenal return to the Stadium of Light following Henry’s late winner last weekend, for a cup tie in football’s oldest competition. You can buy Arsenal tickets here for both matches to show your support for the team. However, in the build-up to the two games the key question remains – what effect will these games have on the Arsenal, and is there a pattern in terms of a so-called ‘European hangover’?
AC Milan and the San Siro hold mixed memories for Arsenal, in recent years the club have seen two memorable victories in the sweltering cauldron of the Guiseppe Meazza. Henry scored two against Inter in 2003, as the side who became the Invincibles beat them 5-1 in a surprise away win. Three of the goals that night came in the final five minutes. Henry’s second was particularly notable as he ran the length of the pitch, tricked Javier Zanetti and finished neatly.
Arsenal’s most recent Champions League match up against AC in the San Siro was also a Second Round fixture and ended in a 2-0 victory in 2008, when ex-captain Cesc Fabregas led the scoring, with a wonderful goal from 30 yards out. Meanwhile, four months later Mathieu Flamini would relocate to the San Siro as he left Arsenal’s central midfield berth on a free transfer.
The game in Milan this year will be a challenge for the Arsenal side. In between two away trips to Sunderland this is a rather gruelling week for the players. Though AC have played two games more than Juve, they top Serie A, and this is based on impressive home form, where they have lost just one match and conceded just five goals. Like Arsenal, they came from behind at the weekend, beating Udinese 2-1.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the main threat in terms of goals, and members of this Arsenal side will have experienced his scoring ability, having played against him at Barcelona in the Champions League. The game is bound to be a fascinating encounter, and you still have time to buy your tickets online courtesy of TicketBis.
The European Hangover?
Following the match in the San Siro, the Sunderland match may see Arsenal suffering from a common aliment. The European hangover is a famous phenomenon, and an affliction which is at it’s worst when the game in question is in an away match against a northern team. This is the stuff of nightmares for the Arsenal, which is why the tie at Sunderland becomes even more important.
This season alone, when playing away after a Champions League tie Arsenal have lost 8-2 to Manchester Utd, 4-3 to Blackburn and 2-1 to Tottenham. An aggregate score of 14-6 combined from three of the worst defeats in Arsenal’s recent history.
Even last season during away games after playing in Europe, Arsenal drew 1-1 with Sunderland, lost 2-0 to Chelsea away, though they managed to beat Villa away, they were beaten at home by Newcastle.
However, as a cup game it is likely that Wenger will make some changes to the line-up which should make this interesting. The closest parallel in this case comes last season, where after playing Barcelona, Arsenal drew 1-1 with Leyton Orient away in the FA Cup. The team then faced Manchester United in the FA Cup after the second leg in Barcelona, and lost at Old Trafford 2-0.
How Wenger will cope remains to be seen, what is clear is that Arsenal’s two most likely chances of a trophy are waiting to be taken over the next week, but only if this side can buck the trend. It took a last minute Henry winner to take the points at the Stadium of Light on Saturday, can they do it next week without him? Even more importantly, will they gain the crucial away goal at the San Siro in midweek?
Arsenal travel to Italy to face AC Milan in the San Siro on February 15th, to play one of the first Champions League matches of 2012, as the second round and knockout phase gets underway. Of course, the second round is a great equaller, if the first is something of an easy ride (exceptions include Manchester this year). Arsenal, for instance, beat Real Madrid in the Bernabeu in 2006, a result for which the Champions League betting odds were slim.
The Bernabeu win in 2006 is remembered for the wonderful Henry strike, the resilient defending of the Arsenal side, and as one of the famous nights in the club’s history, not least because this game paved the way to the final of the Champions League for the first time for both club and Arsène Wenger.
However, what are the parallels in terms of the performances of 2006 and this year?
Though the club has somewhat changed in complexion since that year there are similarities, which may shed some light on the possible end scenarios for this season based on statistics for points and games played.
Firstly, and rather oddly, Thierry Henry is an Arsenal forward, scoring to the delight of the home fans, as against Leeds Utd in the FA Cup and Blackburn in the Premier League most recently.
Meanwhile, in the Premier League Arsenal have played 24 games this season and taken 40 points, lying in seventh position, below local rivals Tottenham. In 2006 at this stage Arsenal had also taken 40 points from 24 games, and were indeed below Tottenham (albeit by a margin of one point).
That season Arsenal played in the Champions League final against Barcelona, after just managing to scrape into fourth place, and the Champions League qualifying round. They finished on 67 points, whilst Tottenham finished on 65 – the latter taking 25 points from their last 14 games, whilst the Arsenal of 2006 took 27.
If Arsenal were to recreate this type of form it would be unlikely that they would finish above Tottenham this year, considering the 10 point gap, and they might struggle to finish in the Champions League qualifying places.
The fourth place finishers since 2006 are more likely to exceed 70 points, and where this has not been the case the total is within two or three points of this. As an average the points total needed for a safe qualification place is 70.2 based on the totals for clubs in that position since 2006.
|Season End||Club in Fourth Place||Points|
Considering the two tiered appearance at the top of the League, with Man Utd, City and Tottenham, and then Chelsea, Newcastle, Liverpool and Arsenal, it seems likely that the points total will be at the lower end of this spectrum, but less than 67 would be less feasible.
In this case Arsenal have a challenge on their hands to maintain strong enough form to requalify for the Champions League, but this is not impossible. Assuming the club require 70 points, they must take 30 from their final 14 games, an average just over 2 points per game.
Currently this season Arsenal have just under 1.7 points per game on average, and by way of comparison last year’s abysmal form saw them take just 19 points from the last 14 games. However, the years from 2006 are detailed below.
|Season End||Arsenal Pts from last 14|
From this small sample it is clear that last season was an anomaly, and in fact, on average Arsenal have taken almost 25 points on average from the final 14 games. We should consider here, that the current Arsenal side is a very different animal from that of seasons past, and it will be interesting to see how the race at the top of the table develops.
The win against Blackburn has shown promise, and the impressive form of Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain in particular provides some comfort, as well as the incredible performances this season by Van Persie. Arsenal need to continue this with a stern test at Sunderland over the weekend before the journey to Milan.
Without the basis of the league performance to qualify for the Champions League, the situation of top players like Van Persie in terms of contract extensions becomes increasingly untenable, especially after the problematic exits of both Fabregas and Nasri last summer.
However, all of this also places some emphasis on the tie against Milan. The club are not the force they once were, and a Fabregas inspired performance in 2008 led to a 2-0 win at the San Siro. If Arsenal can repeat that sort of win, it might provide the foundations for a sequence of wins which can take them at least past the probable 70 point baseline in the league.
A guest post by Aidan Ward
With the new season of Football just round the corner now is the time to have a look at some season bets to see where Arsenal might gain punters a few pounds whilst hopefully collecting some trophies and honours. There are many betting options this season involving Arsenal, and this article will review all the best bets including which bookmakers are offering the best betting odds.
Arsenal’s perennial target is the Premier League, and this season will probably be no different. After coming closer than many outsiders bargained on last season, a bet on Arsenal to take the title cannot be ignored. There is little doubt that if Arsenal remain injury-free and show consistent form, they can put up a serious challenge. However, the bookmakers rate Arsenal’s chances as slim with some online bookies giving, in our eyes, excellent betting value in underestimating Arsenal’s chances of being crowned champions. The odds on Arsenal winning the league vary slightly but a whole host of bookies, including William Hill and Stan James offer odds of 9/1, a very generous price especially as you can go each way which will payout 1/3 of the odds for a top two finish.
If Arsenal are going to win the league then goals are required, two bets that can compliment the Premier League champions stake. Robin Van Persie shoulders the greatest responsibility in goalscoring, and 10/1 is offered at Coral bookies and Sky Bet on Van Persie finishing the Premier League top scorer. Coral are also offering 50/1 on Gervinho for top scorer, superb value and worth £5 of anyone’s money for a small outside bet.
Arsenal have the potential to beat any football team given the rules of chance, and this is one reason they should never be written off in any competition. Provided they make it through the qualifying stages, Arsenal can still pose a strong threat in the Champions League and the 24/1 that Unibet bookmakers are currently offering is great value. Another that stands out at the same bookies are betting odds of 9/2 for Arsenal to make the semi-final stage of the Champions League.
The most widespread opinion on Arsenal often cites the fact that the club has been without a trophy for several seasons and there is a good chance that Arsene Wenger may try and relieve the pressure in knockout competitions, by targeting the FA Cup. Most of the leading bookmakers have Arsenal fourth or fifth favourites to lift the famous trophy, with the best price found again at Coral who are the only bookmakers to offer odds of 10/1 for Arsenal to win the FA Cup.
Arsenal may well play younger players from the squad in the Carling Cup but this shouldn’t put people off having a bet on them. After reaching last year’s final they well could have the hunger and desire to go one step further and win it. Odds of 10/1 can be found from Bet365 and Bodog . You could even double up on a Cup double to win some huge money.