In Praise of Mikel Arteta's Arsenal

Reasons to be cheerful for 2024-25 as Ian Tredgett reflects on Arsenal's 2023-24 Premier League campaign

In Praise of Mikel Arteta's Arsenal

Ian Tredgett hails Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta and can't wait for the 2024-25 season to start

Le Mot Juste

The dust has just about settled on the 2023-24 campaign, and common consensus is that it was a good season, and one of which we should be very proud.

Most wins, most points since the unbeaten season, first side to score five or more in three consecutive away games, the list of impressive statistics goes on.

There are a couple of other statistics that I find as impressive, and more of them later. 

On less measurable matters, the French have a term ‘le mot juste’, to mean the use of exactly the right word or phrase in a particular situation.

Arsene Wenger himself was a master of it, there were many instances in press conferences, my personal favourite his response to being asked whether Tottenham had closed the gap on Arsenal when, in 2017, the season passed without the celebration of a St Totteringham’s day for the first time in 22 years. “Last time I checked they were still 4 miles and 11 titles away”.

I’m not sure if there is a Spanish equivalent of ‘le mot juste’, but Arteta’s promise to the crowd after the Everton game “don't be satisfied because we want much more than that (i.e. second place) and we are going to get it” seemed to me to be exactly it.

Cast your mind back a year ago and he asked us to enjoy the journey. 

A bland platitude to an equally bland question about our prospects for the coming season or did we enjoy the 2023-24 season?

Think of the atmosphere before the Everton game, during the shoot-out v Porto and, amongst others, the celebrations of the late goals from Rice v United, Trossard v Liverpool or Martinelli v City and you’ve got your answer.

The Stats Don't Lie

I mentioned earlier a couple of statistics that aren’t ‘out there’, but for which the team and Arteta should be congratulated.

Firstly that our points total has improved in each of the last four seasons, from 56 in 2019-20, chronologically to 61, 69, 84 and last season’s 89.

It is the first time in the club’s history that they have improved their points totals in four consecutive years.

Consider also that in the entire year lifespan of the premiership only Chelsea and Leeds (both in the mid to late 90’s) have also managed to improve for four consecutive years, and for both clubs it was a much slower rate of improvement and peaked around way below even 80 points; let’s face it, by the end of the 90’s neither had mounted a serious title. Of course statistics don’t tell the full story, they never do, and we were coming off a low base in 2019-20.

We’d all rather have got, say 93 in 2023-23 and plummeted to 92 in 2023-24 as it would have meant back to back titles, but for Arteta to take the club from 56 points four seasons ago to two consecutive years of 80 plus (only the second time we’ve managed that incidentally) is a huge achievement.

This is the Premiership, with the spectre of City and their bottomless pockets raising the bar, not a fantasy league.

The other stat for which the team haven’t received enough credit is that the total of 89 points is the second best league season, in terms of points, that we have ever had (90 in the invincible season tops the list, need you ask ?).

For a club with 13 titles, 12 of those wins came with a lower points total than last season (that’s after adjusting for 38 game seasons and 3 points for a win for those years when these weren’t ‘a thing’). You could forgive Arteta for thinking “what more can I do ?” 

Before we wallow in too much self-pity, remember Liverpool got 97 points in 2018-19 and 92 three years later and still didn’t get above second place (that said the consolation of a Champions League win in 2019 probably softened the blow a bit.)

All this suggests it’s getting harder to win the title, and that can probably be traced back to the arrival of the multi billions into the premiership.

Abramovich bought Chelsea in 2003, and City had their own ‘lottery win’ in 2008, meaning the premiership suddenly had two mega rich clubs in their midst, and between them Chelsea and City have won 10 of the 15 titles since, and only once in that period have neither made the top two.

I’ve written before about the number of points required to win the title, 83 over the last 50 years, 86 over the entire premier league era (i.e. since 1992-93), and 90 in the last 15 seasons; clearly the bar has been raised. Given City have won six of the last seven titles, the real target is surely not the historical average total of the champions, but to beat City. Pep’s side average 91 over the last seven seasons, and 93 across their six victorious campaigns. How do we translate 89 into 94?

Telling Stats

One of the most telling stats, and the other side of the rising points coin, is the declining number of defeats the champions suffer; the current average is four, but it’s also highly unlikely two of those four will be against the nearest rivals.

Not that it’s any consolation, but City were unusual as title winners this season in that they conceded more points to their nearest rivals (i.e. us) than they gained from them, only the fourth time that has happened in more than 25 years.

If we’re to get ahead of City, who rarely lose more than four, then it seems three’s the limit. If we had instead won two of the five games ending in defeat last season that’s six more points and we’d have been at 95.

City’s three defeats were away to Villa and us, arguably amongst their five or six hardest fixtures and at Wolves, which was a bad day at the office. If three is the limit, and it’s not unreasonable to expect say two of the harder away games to end in defeat, then you can only really afford one bad day or officiating nightmare.

It’s hard to argue that at least two of our defeats weren’t avoidable though. Of the losses last season, Villa would fall into the category of harder away game, Newcastle an officiating nightmare and then it was really three bad days at Fulham and at home to West Ham and Villa.

Of course achieving all that (i.e. losing just three games) is a damn sight easier on paper than on the pitch.

Which reminds me, has anyone ever mentioned we once went a whole season without losing  at all?


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