Monday, 25 November 2013
There is a bizarre fascination in the media with pointing out that Arsenal have taken fewer points and scored fewer goals than in the corresponding 14 League games from last season and therefore, nobody quite knows what. But it's important dammit and they're going to keep on saying it to make it more true, even though having dropped points against West Brom and Villa, it would have taken an unlikely result at Old Trafford to stop this stat remaining true for several weeks.
Leaving aside how fixtures are obviously not directly comparable year-on-year (squad turnover, refereeing decisions, the rarity of goals within the course of a football match), it is just cognitive dissonance at its finest.
Are we supposed to have watched Arsenal this season and think the team look poor? Presumably. It's certainly the conclusion I would draw from harping on about this statistic, devoid of any further context.
It might have been an interesting stat after five or six games because of a lack of a sample size this season, but after twelve it's pretty fair to say Arsenal have improved. The other reason it's entirely meaningless, is that seven of the twelve games being compared year-on-year were played from February 2013 onwards. Nobody disputes Arsenal improved in the last third of last season, so comparing those fixtures is even more pointless. Given Arsenal had the best League form of anybody in the last third of the season, it's probably quite good to be about on a par with that so far - it signifies a title challenge which is all anybody who supports Arsenal has been speaking of.
Seriously, I am genuinely confused. Presumably what they're trying to show is that Arsenal are not as good as Chelsea or Manchester City. But I don't - and I think almost all Gooners - don't dispute that. The media have not so much destroyed their own straw man as utterly obliterated it into a ball of anti-Arsenal flames.
And what happens if Arsenal beat Man City or Chelsea or even both? Then we'll be told there's still half the season left. It's an odd attack on a much-improved team to say "well they're not the best yet so we're not going to give them any praise at all". Having lost to United, a quirk of the fixture list means Arsenal need to wait until the 8th of December (a month on) to try and improve our year-on-year record, and meanwhile the press can wheel this largely pointless statistic out to prove what? That Arsenal aren't top of the League? They are. I promise.
It's particularly odd as there are legitimate statistical points to be raised with this Arsenal team: the number of shots on target they've been allowing is worrying, for example, but that's not even brought up.
All a team can do is beat the teams they face. If it's a quirk of the fixture list that they don't face the two best teams until fifteen games into the season, what are we supposed to do? Have some sort of amnesty on proffering any opinions on Arsenal until they've played them? I remain confused.
Keep the faith.