Arsenal’s ‘easy run in’ may not be so easy – The real facts


The consensus in football at the moment is that Arsenal’s final eight games are going to be much softer than Man Utd or Chelsea’s. I do agree that on paper they are easier fixtures, and Man Utd and Chelsea have to play each other and Liverpool – all games where points can be won.

On the other hand the so called smaller teams are where we have struggled to pick up the points in the past. This season so far has seen Arsenal improve their consistency in results against these sort of teams – the wins against Stoke and Hull away showed the team’s ability to dig deep. Here we look at the historical data and see whether Arsenal’s run in really is as easy as it seems.

First up is the form data for the corresponding fixture from each of the past four seasons, where the game wasn’t played it is left blank. I have also included the dates of the Champions League Quarter Finals and, if we get there, the Semi Finals, as that will have an impact on League performance.

Game 08/09 07/08 06/07 05/06
West Ham H 0-0 2-0 0-1 2-3
Birmingham A 2-2 2-0
QF Leg 1
Wolves H
QF Leg 2
Spurs A 0-0 3-1 2-2 1-1
Wigan A 4-1 0-0 1-0 3-2
Semi 1
Man City H 2-0 1-0 3-1 1-0
Semi 2
Blackburn A 4-0 1-1 2-0 0-1
Fulham H 0-0 2-1 3-1 4-3

So the results are mixed, I know that the teams have changed in relative strength, but this is still a long-term indicator of the performances.

Now look at the points available from those matches, how many we actually took, and the percentage that was each season:

08/09 07/08 06/07 05/06
Potential Pts 18.00 21.00 18.00 21.00
Actual 12.00 13.00 13.00 13.00
Percent Taken 66.67 61.90 72.22 61.90

The average from these percentages is  approximately 65.7% – So that means that on average we have taken 65.7% of the points from these fixtures since 05/06.

This season 24 points are available in the remaining 8 games. 65.7% of 24 points is 15.8 points (1 d.p.). So according to the stats, and I stress – only the past stats – we are looking at something like 16 points out of these games, the data is pretty consistent.

I then factored in one more type of data; this time looking at the percentage of points taken from the final 8 games of the last 4 seasons.

This is where the data shows an amazing and weird correlation.

08/09 07/08 06/07 05/06
Pts – Last 8 games 17 16 13 17

The mean average from the last 8 games of all these years is also 15.8 points.

Now call it what you will but that is a crazy correlation, bearing in mind that last season we played Man Utd, and Chelsea, and in previous years we have faced run-ins of various difficulties.

Obviously the first set of results show scores which come from different times of the year and the teams have changed in strength, as have we. Not to mention the fact that Wolves weren’t in the League for any of those seasons. So in this way the data is only partial.

You can add to this the fact that we are on a good run now, and the team is more mature than ever, so not quite the same as in years gone by.

Nevertheless, the points taken from the last 8 games by Arsenal is pretty consistent, and shows that we usually take what the first set tells us – 15.8 – no matter what.

That would leave the club on 80 points (if you round 15.8 to 16 ) at the end of the season. I don’t think that would win us the title.

Now I’m not saying that these data show that the title is lost, and I’m not saying we will take 16 points.

What I am saying is that historical precedent shows that these games will not be easy, and the run-in, including tough midweek European matches, may not provide as many points as pundits claim.

The difference this season is that we have a much stronger team spirit, and we can go on a good run now, we have shown that. This group of players is as good as any of the last 4 years, and I think they are the ones to buck the trend.

Arsenal can win the title, but they have to maintain the run, and pull out results as we have done at Stoke and Hull recently.

With that determination this team can go all the way, even if history is against them.

Update:

In the reverse fixtures this season we  scored 24, conceded 11 and took 79.2% of the points – that is 19 points out of 24; form DWWWWLWW. Brings a new angle to the debate.

Read more articles from our excellent Stats & Data Blog here.

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29 thoughts on “Arsenal’s ‘easy run in’ may not be so easy – The real facts

  1. Bear in mind it’s only stats – and past form doesn’t always count for much. Over several years the numbers can even out into quite a good picture though.

    1. You’re right to point out that things are different this year – that’s why I’m hopeful that we can go beyond historical precedent.

      It’s one of the things I pointed out in the article.

  2. jjjjj

    you should have put Man U and Chelsea’s last 8 game average stats in the article as well so we can get a picture of how its going to go if things stay true to statistics.

  3. William

    Well, there is some difference. The past performance shows why arsenal are not champions in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008. That is why if they can score 20 pt out of 24 in this year, they have a strong chance to be one. Just my thought

  4. Gooner77

    Interesting data and nice to see it put together by someone with a brain. Out of the seasons you have detailed I think there is only one in which we challenged for the title and that was 07/08. To me it became obvious that we weren’t going to win the title after the Birmingham game where Eduardo broke his leg, we conceded a last minute penalty and Gallas lost his mind. Which means (even though it wasn’t obvious at the time) that our title challenge finished on that day, I think we had a succession of draws after that.

    The reason I bring this point up is to illustrate that the motivation of the team is not going to be as high when they know that the title is beyond their reach. Once they know they are not going to win the title and they have their Champions League place there is bound to be a subconciously lower effort on the pitch especially when you consider that we were still competing in the latter stages of the CL in most of these seasons.

    I don’t think it is possible to call our run-in easy but I’m relieved we dont have to play Chelsea or Man Utd. Spurs away and City at home are the two that jump out as difficult fixtures but Birmingham away will be hard as will West Ham this week.

  5. Would be interesting to see how we fared against these teams in the first games this season.

    EDIT: Have updated the article with the reverse fixtures this season – we took 19 points out of 24 then.

    That is 3 more than this model predicts.

    If we took that at face value – forgetting home and away advantages – then that would put us on 83 come the end of the season.

  6. Ole Gunner

    As I was saying on Twitter…..

    Comparing our form from title run-ins is more representative. In the least few years we were not in the title race except 07/08.

    Not being in the title race meant we often had nothing to play for, and so the comparisons are not ideal.

    1. However, we did have to play for fourth place in all of those seasons – and it was often tight – i.e. last season.

      So I would say we did have something to play for.

      Also 07/08 we actually dropped off at the end as our confidence collapsed, so if anything that season could be just as unrepresentative.

      After 30 games:
      Last year we were in 4th place on 55 points – just 3 ahead of Villa – plenty to play for.

      07/08 – 2nd place, 67 points, 3 off the top, and 2 ahead of 3rd place – agree with you – plenty to play for.

      06/07 – 4th place, 55 points – but 2 behind Liverpool with a game in hand – 3rd place was achievable.

      05/06 – 5th place, 50 points – only 1 point ahead of 6th, 2 behind Tottenham in 4th – definitely a lot to play for then!

      1. TrAnE

        I, in particular, haven’t ever felt concerned about our fourth place finish. So, I feel that playing for the title and fourth spot are completely different.

        It’s not the same case this season though. I would pull my hair out after every match if we are in the position where Liverpool are.

  7. mike

    haha

    i think you and every gooner has been going over and over the fixtures!

    it was never going to be ‘easy’

    but let’s do it!!

  8. Interesting stats however one stat that one can’t forsee is if we get further injuries.In theory we could have 13 possible games yet to play.
    However there is a new resolve within the team as shown at Stoke and Hull and a little bit of luck thrown in always helps.

  9. Tommo

    It’s interesting to note that when we started this run we all thought “yes! Easy run in just win ’em all and it’s ours”. but as the run has gone on the pressure gets bigger and we are starting to wonder if we can actually pick up all the points

    I hope AW can keep the pressure off of our lads with them not dropping their focus. Because I can’t bear it!!!!! COME ON ARSENAL!!!

  10. pires is king

    Thanks for the hard work on the stats! Football is too fluid and unpredictable for this to mean too much, but your main point I think is really well taken: we can take no game- in fact no shot, no pass!- for granted. This is going to be one long final match these next few weeks! Very exciting.

  11. BillikenGooner

    As cliche as it is, this is a ‘one game at a time’ thing for me.

    Even if we win every match, it is still out of our hands.
    No matter the competition, looking down a road of 8 matches (no matter the opponents) and wanting for all wins is daunting.

    I just want a win v. West Ham.

    (…and Liverpool to pull a shocker this weekend… heh)

  12. Faisal Ali

    There are lies, damned lies, and statistics!
    if you go even further in history you’d see a better ratio! in the years you pointed out we didnt win the league which is why we need to improve in those games which i believe we have! the trick is to keep our players fit!!
    if we have fabregas diaby arshavin song bendtner nasri verm/gallas clich/sagna almunia fit for the whole season, plus bringin van persie back then i believe we would win those games with ease! its just the fact that injuries are screwing and scaring us!

  13. Santi

    The media are saying we have an easy run to lessen our acheivement if we do indeed claim the title. I think our run is really tough full of teams that aren’t just gonna bend over and will be determined to dent our title hopes. Sol got it right he’s the leader/veteran we needed and no team in the epl will just hand u the 3 points…maybe derby but that’s bout it! Come on u Gunners!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  15. TrAnE

    How many of those past few years were we contending the for the title like we are now. That makes a huge difference. I think this team is highly motivated and determined to win something for the fans, manager and themselves. That mental attribute might be the difference between winning and losing points.

    I guess we could take a minimum of 20 points from these last 8 games. That will not win us the title but, it will be dependent on how our other challengers have performed.

    Hope to get the 24 and seal it there!
    Go Gunners!

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