This has been a crazy season for the premier league. Who could ever have predicted Leicester would be champions? Certainly not the bookmakers, who offered odds of 5000/1 at the start of the season. Equally, who could have foreseen Chelsea’s fall from grace. Twelve defeats and thirteen draws, and still one game to go, would have been another high price at your local betting establishment.
So, onto Arsenal.
This season promised to be the one. After back to back FA Cup wins and a smattering of world class players, this was our time. We were going to push on and mount a real title challenge. After 11 games the end of October saw us only second on goal difference and by the turn of the year we were top of the pile. Our regular rivals of United. Chelsea and Liverpool were a mile behind and us fans were rightfully expecting great things.
But, as is far too often the case, we dropped away and never managed to end another month on top. Yes, we had some injuries, but that’s nothing new. I am not surprised that we haven’t won the league, more who we have surrendered to. It is far too simplistic to say Leicester, the famous English underdog that we all love, produced an outstanding season and with a combination of skill, determination and a dose of good fortune managed to beat all comers. Because, when you actually analyse the season the stats tell a different story.
With a final match against relegated Villa, we should finish the season on 71 points. We could finish second and many fans are clinging to this as a mark of progress and success. Unfortunately, upon closer inspection, you will see that you have to go back to 20010/11 to see an Arsenal side finish on less points and even the 68 points that year could be matched if we fail to beat Aston Villa. Infact the last time we amassed less points than we have now was, 67 in 2005/6.
Then you need to look at Leicester’s points. They can finish on 83 points and as creditable as that is, only once in the previous ten seasons would that have given them a sniff of the title. They have won the title with time to spare and even though it was our best chance for years we didn’t look anywhere near challenging.
Quite simply our biggest problem has been scoring goals. We have scored ten less goals than last season. The last time we scored fewer goals was 1998/99. Incidentally, we finished second that season but actually conceded very few goals. We may have scored a couple less but conceded only half of what we have this term. I’ve seen lots of criticism of Mertesacker and some saying that Gabriel isn’t good enough but only Leicester and Spurs conceded less than us and only marginally in Leicester’s case.
We entered this season without buying a single outfield player last summer. Experience should have told us that we needed to generate more goals and the obvious starting point was a top striker. Of all the mistakes that Wenger has made, and I think there are a quite a few, not buying us a front man was the worst.
We know that we could do with another decent centre back, we know that Walcott isn’t going to be a consistent striker. It’s clear that you can’t win the premier league by trying to pass the ball into the back of the net at every opportunity. But, you can’t win matches unless you outscore the opposition. It’s a fundamental aspect of the game that Wenger seems to have neglected.