The European Hangover: Can Arsenal progress against AC Milan and Sunderland? The Past Speaks

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?

Parallels and divergence in time: The Arsenal of 2006 and the Arsenal of 2012 – What the points say

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
2011 Arsenal 68
2010 Tottenham 70
2009 Arsenal 72
2008 Liverpool 76
2007 Arsenal 68
2006 Arsenal 67

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
2010 19
2009 29
2008 26
2007 23
2006 27

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.

Arsenal Season Betting Review: The Odds

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.

The Gambling Footballers XI

A starting XI of gambling footballers is a rather odd thing to compile. The list of players runs long, and whilst not always a problem for some players with vast amounts of money in their hands there is the temptation to blow it all.

We’ve chosen to go for a classic 3-5-2 formation given the bias towards Premier League players from the 1990s and 2000s.

In attack Kevin Kyle of Hearts partners Wayne Rooney, who ran up £700,000 of gambling debt in 2006. This was mainly on dogs, horses and football, which brought to light renewed concerns over gambling culture within modern top flight football as a form of relaxation.

The midfield is a mix of skill and grit, with an obvious choice in Paul Merson on the right, a player whose name immediately comes to mind when casinos are mentioned. He was one of the first players jettisoned in the Wenger reign and claims to have lost £7 million to gambling and cocaine addiction. Meanwhile on the other flank Matthew Etherington provides some width as a decent left winger. The Stoke City midfielder gambled regularly as a West Ham player until events became too much for him, and the club had to help bail him out. In the centre is ex-Chelsea and Barcelona player Eidur Gudjohnsen who lost £400,000 in casinos.

Didi Hamann and Michael Johnson form a midfield duo, which is surprisingly solid, if lacking a little in pace. Didi Hamann formerly of Newcastle, Liverpool and Manchester City built up a £600,000 debt and was under threat of legal action to repay the cash. Meanwhile fellow Man City player Michael Johnson was an exciting young talent who struggled with alcohol and gambling, and lost his way.

In defence John Terry, lines up with old pal Wayne Bridge, both of whom used to spend vast sums on dogs and horses in their days together at Chelsea. This pairing is slightly awkward in more ways than one, as Bridge is more accustomed to a role out wide. Finally Jonathon Woodgate makes up the third defender, a man who was reported to have lost £1.8 million in casinos. Meanwhile the ‘keeper Roy Carroll was also reported to have suffered problems at West Ham.

The topic of gambling amongst footballers is one of public interest and debate, with worthwhile research being conducted into the causes and consequences for the modern game. The habit has been widely commented on in the media, and with more revelations in recent years, looks set to continue.

Is winning trophies important? A comparison of titles and success in English football: Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal – The Trophy Data

On Sunday age old questions over the definition of footballing success resurfaced as Arsène Wenger’s current generation of Arsenal players failed in their bid to win a trophy of their own in the Carling Cup final against Birmingham, who prevailed to win their first silverware in forty eight years, against the side who have been waiting a mere six.

Is winning trophies the definition of a good side? Most football fans would agree that it proves something, but there are always those who judge sides on other merits. Indeed the cult of the glorious loser is one that only increases with age.

The pain of defeat: Carsten Jancker in tears after losing 2-1 to United in the Champions League Final 1999, and Jack Wilshere confiding in Eboue after the latest Arsenal defeat.

Say what you like about the Carling Cup, but it represents something tangible, a measure of mental strength, which Wenger’s current side, led by Cesc Fábregas have been accused of lacking time and again. There are those who claim arrogance on the part of Wenger’s charges in their adherence to a certain style of play, but it has to be said that in terms of basic quality the side does have the potential to win something.

Continue reading “Is winning trophies important? A comparison of titles and success in English football: Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal – The Trophy Data”

Can Wenger win the Champions League at Arsenal? Understanding Arsène and Europe through the lens of AS Monaco vs. Werder Bremen Cup Winners’ Cup Final 1992

In the final installment of Wenger: The Beginnings we bring you a tale of heartbreak and mystery. The 1992 Cup Winners’ Cup Final.

European continental competition is club football’s greatest stage, the final frontier, a pinnacle of achievement. Millions of people around the globe watched Arsenal’s 2-1 Champions League triumph over Barcelona last Wednesday night. This was Arsenal’s first against the ‘best team in history’, and most of all this was a moment to savour for Arsène Wenger. Success in Europe has consistently evaded Wenger, arguably the greatest manager never to win a European trophy.

There is no doubting Wenger’s depth of experience in Europe. Even in his modest playing career he managed to appear at centre back in a UEFA Cup tie for RC Strasbourg in 1979. His selection there was out of desperation, the youth team coach called into the side against Duisberg, only to see his side lose 4-0. As a manager though, he is a veteran, playing teams in Europe since 1988, and leading Arsenal into the Champions League every year since 1998. However, the pain of those campaigns which never quite lived up to expectation still lingers.

Wenger and Jean Petit on the bench during Monaco’s 1992 Cup Winners’ Cup final in Lisbon.

Continue reading “Can Wenger win the Champions League at Arsenal? Understanding Arsène and Europe through the lens of AS Monaco vs. Werder Bremen Cup Winners’ Cup Final 1992”

What’s the difference between Arshavin and Samir Nasri? The Creator and the Assassin – Data Analysis

Statistics cannot inform every conclusion when it comes to football. They are merely descriptors for physical, tangible actions which take place on the pitch over ninety minute periods. However, data can tell the tale of the role of an individual within a team, and assess their contribution in basic form.

This season has seen the rising form of Samir Nasri capture the imagination of the footballing world, and his importance to Arsenal even prompted the placing of the Frenchman on a par with Cesc Fabregas where team selection is concerned.

By contrast another key player, who often inhabits the opposite flank, Andrey Arshavin, has been the subject of criticism over his performances in 2010/11. This season a perception has prevailed in sections of the public, which sees Arshavin as playing very poorly this season. There are valid points to this, his passing has at times been inaccurate, and there is the old criticism that he just doesn’t run enough. There is still room for debate on the topic though.

Continue reading “What’s the difference between Arshavin and Samir Nasri? The Creator and the Assassin – Data Analysis”

Arsène Wenger: The Nancy Years

You’ve heard the story of Wenger’s time at Monaco and some of his transfer tales. Now prepare for the latest in Wenger: The Beginnings, on his days at AS Nancy from Andrew Gibney.

Today Arsène Wenger stands as one of the most respected managers in football. When he moved into the Arsenal hot seat in 1996 no-one could have predicted the influence he would have on not just the Gunners, but the whole of English football.

His managerial career hasn’t always been full of praise and plaudits though. Pundits will always quote his time and France as the seven years he spent at Monaco from 1987, winning the league and cup and the appearance in the UEFA Cup Winners Cup final, but the story starts years earlier.

Arsène Wenger as a young coach, interviewed in 1984 on taking the job with AS Nancy. Interview and translation.

Before being handed the reins at the principality club Wenger had gone through a tough initiation. Starting as RC Strasbourg’s youth team coach in 1981, he spent two years there before joining AS Cannes as an assistant manager to Jean-Marc Guillou in 1983 (later of KSK Beveren). After just a year in Cannes it was time for Arsène to take his first senior job, at AS Nancy-Lorraine, after being offered the job by a certain Aldo Platini.

Continue reading “Arsène Wenger: The Nancy Years”

Is winning trophies important? Arsenal trophies since 1925: Graphic Data and Herbert Chapman

With Arsenal’s triumph over Huddersfield Town in the FA Cup on Sunday, passed a fixture of significance few failed to note. The name of Herbert Chapman dominates both clubs, a revolutionary manager who engineered periods of success for each in turn, and pioneered the counter-attacking W-M formation at Arsenal which culminated in back to back title wins in the 1930s, a feat never achieved since.

The great Herbert Chapman. Image courtesy of Adam Bowie under Creative Commons licence.

Not only did Chapman win an FA Cup and two titles for Huddersfield Town, but won Arsenal’s first trophy within five years, the FA Cup in 1930, oddly enough against his previous employers, Huddersfield. Although he suffered a premature death in 1934, Chapman set the side up to continue in winning ways until 1938, after which wartime interruption broke the momentum of the Arsenal.

Only one manager has exceeded Chapman’s reputation at Arsenal, and that is the current incumbent, Arsène Wenger. The first decade of Wenger’s reign was one of success, doubles and Invincibles. Since 2005 however, pundits are quick to remind Arsène that the trophy tally is zero.

In light of this I’ve developed a graphic timeline combining the competitive trophies won by Arsenal since Herbert Chapman joined the club in 1925. The achievements of the first great Arsenal manager are clear, including the first in 1930; Arsenal won five league titles and two FA Cups in eight years.

Continue reading “Is winning trophies important? Arsenal trophies since 1925: Graphic Data and Herbert Chapman”

The curious case of Alberto Méndez: An ‘Arsenal transfer’s story’

The name of Alberto Méndez is one familiar to aficionados of Premier League stars who never were, that of a Wenger signing who never quite made the grade at Arsenal. In 1997 he was ‘the craziest football story of the summer’, but joined the small list of players including the likes of Stefan Malz and Tomas Danilevicus who came from nowhere but never fulfilled the potential Wenger saw in them. For every Patrick Vieira or Thierry Henry there are hundreds of these, young men plucked from obscurity, very much a hallmark of Wenger’s successful transfer policies.

However, Alberto has a story of his own to tell. Andrey Arshavin may not know it, but this previous incumbent of the number 23 shirt also went on to become a skillful midfielder. Like Arshavin, this season has been a tumultuous one for the German of Spanish descent.

Continue reading “The curious case of Alberto Méndez: An ‘Arsenal transfer’s story’”