Progress is a big thing in football these days. You can’t be seen to stand still, and heaven forbid you should get worse. Have Arsenal made progress this season? Let’s consult the handy Progressometer that I invented last year.
The criteria are simple:
- Has league position gone up?
- Has the points tally gone up?
- If Arsenal aren’t first, are they closer in points than last year to whoever came first?
Two or more ‘Yes’ answers and that’s definite progress, though last year I ruled that it was progress based on a rise in league position alone – let’s face it, getting nearer the top of the table is surely the key performance indicator. So this year, as you can see, the position is up and the gap between first and Arsenal is down, so undeniably progress has been made. In fact progress has been made seven years out of the last ten! Suck on that, Arsene haters.
Could more progress have been made with some judicious spending last summer? Probably. Should Arsenal eliminate embarrassing results like losing 4-0 to Southampton if they want to be seen as really ‘progressing’? Indisputably. Is ‘progress’ actually a load of bollocks when some teams get better and some get worse every year, and you can’t possibly measure against a constant? Undeniably. Should clubs just try and win the league every year and not bother too much how not winning the league is measured? Yes. Yes they should.
However, having said that, Ziontrain in the comments pointed out that looking at the number of points the winner got each season would be instructive in ascertaining whether Arsenal really made a serious challenge for the title. So here’s the Progressometer (TM) with added column:
And here’s how the spread of winning totals breaks down over the 20-year Wenger era:
The first three years were the lowest title-winning tallies in the whole period. Mostly since then the winners have been in the upper 80s or above, perhaps reflecting that the mega-rich clubs found in easier to dominate from the early 2000s onwards. From this time the income gap suddenly grew as a result of Sky money going a bit more to the biggest clubs, Man Utd monetising everything not nailed down, and a couple of billionaires playing with their new toys. Meanwhile Arsenal clung manfully on to the coat tails of the richest, with Arsene’s fabled consistency guaranteeing at least a respectable points tally every year, if never a spectacular one.
Leicester’s 81 points this season is low. This may be a blip, or may signal the start of another period where greater equality in spending power means it’s harder for the biggest to steamroller everything in their path.
What do the winning totals say about Arsenal, though? You can argue – as Ziontrain has below – that Arsenal have rarely made a consistent challenge when in only two of the last 12 years have they been a single digit figure away from the title-winning total. Realistically you need to target at least 85 points for a decent shot at the title, and Arsenal’s average has been 73.67, with 83 in 2005 and 2008 being easily the standout seasons. So: progress. All subjective of course, but it does look rather as though Arsenal have been off the pace for quite some time.
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