Arsenal Top The League, But It’s Not Good Enough For Some (AKA More Statistical Bollocks)

To continue this week’s theme of statistics, here’s another that’s getting on my nerves:

Arsenal have played seven league matches so far this season and amassed 16 points.

In the corresponding fixtures last season we had a 100 per cent record and amassed 21 points!

Ergo we are doing worse than last year, despite being top of the table.

 

What a load of bollocks.

For some reason people think that we must at least equal all the results in the corresponding fixtures last season if we are to end up in the top four again. Clearly a moment’s thought should reveal that what you need to do to get into the top four is score roughly the same number of points as last season over 38 games, and ensure you are ahead of 16 other teams. You don’t have to replicate what you did last season match by match, and I doubt any club has ever exactly replicated its results from one season to the next, even allowing for teams to be replaced by others through promotion and relegation.

But, say some, as Arsenal beat West Brom away and Aston Villa at home last season, and this season only managed one point from those fixtures, where are we going to make up those five points in order to achieve last year’s total (never mind improve it)? And I say, how the hell do I know? None of us can predict the future, but as we lost and drew many other games last season there’s plenty of scope for improvement in all the remaining fixtures, is there not? And there’s no reason to suppose that we won’t do better in other corresponding fixtures than we’ve done in the ones to date this season.

In any case, look at what Man Utd have done this season so far in the League:

  • Beat Swansea away
  • Drew with Chelsea at home
  • Lost to Liverpool away
  • Beat Palace at home
  • Lost to Man City away
  • Lost to West Brom at home
  • Beat Sunderland away

Points so far: 10.

A League Table, yesterday.

A League Table, yesterday.

And corresponding Man Utd fixtures last season:

  • Drew with Swansea away
  • Lost to Chelsea at home
  • Beat Liverpool away
  • Beat all three relegated clubs at home, so pick any one to represent Palace
  • Beat Man City away
  • Beat West Brom at home
  • Beat Sunderland away

Points from these: 16

So Man Utd have scored six fewer points than in the corresponding fixtures last season, while Arsenal have only five fewer. So even if you use the faulty logic of result replication, we’re doing better than last season by comparison to Man U. That can’t be bad, can it? However, let’s not overlook the fact that even doing this comparison is pointless, so don’t get too excited by the one point gain.

Comparisons don’t take any account of the circumstances of each pair of fixtures – who was available for both teams in the fixtures last season and this and who was injured, banned, not even bought yet or now been sold; what form were both teams in; who had they just played and how many days ago; was one team concentrating on a bigger match coming up soon, who was the ref, what was the weather, etc, etc, etc. So many variables. 

And every season throws up odd results. Because a large number of football results are down to luck, teams go through periods of form that are essentially random. Sometimes winning a few games in a row is no different to throwing heads on a coin a few times in a row. It’s pointless to worry about the corresponding fixtures last season, just concentrate on winning every match. Sometimes you’ll play badly and sometimes luck will go against you, so you lose; sometimes you’ll play well and sometimes luck goes with you, so you win. There are 38 games in a season, and that’s enough to smooth out most of the effects of the luck and ensure that teams end up in their ‘right’ positions, there or thereabouts. That will still happen whether or not you play really badly against Aston Villa in August.

Follow me on Twitter: @AngryOfN5

 

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10 thoughts on “Arsenal Top The League, But It’s Not Good Enough For Some (AKA More Statistical Bollocks)

    • I’m actually moved to register for this site just to say how annoying some people on the internet are when they just dribble “wrong!” in reply to a fully laid-out argument, without countering any of the points made. It makes the person who does it look like either a troll or an idiot.

      Anyway – Phil, was it you on the Arsenal America podcast recently, along with 7amstatto? If so, then two very contrasting bloggers there, regarding their approach to stats.

  1. We’ve done better this year compared to last year cos Last time i checked we were 12pts after 7 games in the EPL last year.
    Arsenal 0 – 0 sunderland
    Stoke 0 – 0 Arsenal
    Liverpool 0 – 2 Arsenal
    Arsenal 6 – 1 Southampton
    Mancity 1 – 1 Arsenal
    Arsenal 1 – 2 Chelsea
    Westham 1 – 3 Arsenal

    • The difference from last season is as a result gained through team work.

      I felt kind of comfortable of not losing with this team. The point gained this so far merit to better defence and fantastic attack.

  2. Suppose the opening 7 fixtures had been:

    Chelsea (H)
    Norwich (A)
    United (A)
    Swansea (H)
    City (H)
    Chelsea (A)
    Tottenham (A)

    And that Arsenal lost all of these (again). Would the team be on track for a top 4 finish, having replicated the previous season’s results?

  3. Ignoring the obvious impossibility of playing Chelsea twice in the first 7 games, there are two ways to look at it.

    1). The list includes 5 of the 8 possible games against last year’s top 5, and 3 of the toughest games of the whole season (away at United, Chelsea and the Neighbours), so it would have our skewed position far worse than United’s ‘tough start’ this year. I could see people getting the torches and pitchforks out, but an alternative view would be that the worst would be done.

    2). We actually had most of those fixtures in the first half of the season last year — the Spurs game was the only defeat in the last 16 league games (after January), so I’d take the: ‘Past Performance is No Guarantee of Future Results’ option, that with a settled and strengthened side, the assumption we’d lose all 7 of those games is a flawed one.

  4. It’s all relative and as you say author, it really means jack shit comparing last seasons games to now. Why not go as far back as the invincibles to see how they started their first 7 games, maybe it was not so telling of how season will end up?
    I really don’t know except that we play Norwich in just over 24 hours!!
    COYG!!!

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