Arsene Wenger, his philosophy, his wage and his players’ wages have dominated debate in recent weeks. Having claimed to operate a ‘socialist’ wage structure at Arsenal it smacked of hypocrisy that he earns £140,000 per week, far higher than any Arsenal player. As a result of this high wage, making him the fifth highest paid manager in World football, it is fair to analyse why his side have failed to record the success of other top managers. One factor that seems striking is Arsenal’s relatively poor record against their Premier League rivals. Below is a table demonstrating how Arsenal have fared against sides in the top four since the 09/10 season:
|Season||Points||Goals for||Goals against||Goal Difference|
As an interesting source of comparison Manchester City picked up 15/18 points against top four competitions last season, their only defeat coming against Arsenal. Chelsea also picked up 15/18 when they won the league in 09/10. United in 10/11 won with the lowest top four victories, only picking up 10/18, the same number Arsenal recorded. So far this season United have picked up six points out of nine against top four opposition. Losing at home to Spurs but picking up two very impressive away victories at Chelsea and Manchester City.
The defeat to City yesterday demonstrated yet again that they simply are not good enough when they come up against the best sides. A total of 23 points from a possible 69 against top four opposition is poor for a club with Arsenal’s ambitions. There are a number of reasons for this, clearly Arsenal concede too many goals against the top sides. The 15 they conceded last season and 12 in 2009/10 are demonstrative of this. Furthermore, they arguably have trouble scoring against top sides also, recording a -9 goal difference over these fixtures.
Re-assess the ambitions?
Given this poor form, surely any ‘title talk’ is almost laughably premature. Arsenal are evidently nowhere near the top of the league, currently 21 points off Manchester United and even seven points off Chelsea who are third. On this evidence, Arsenal simply cannot compete with the best clubs on a head-to-head basis. Even this season, their only good results against top teams were the 1-1 draw at City and a 5-2 win over ten men Spurs, who led when it was 11 v 11. At home they were beaten comfortably by both Chelsea and United, whilst also being dominated by City (albeit having only 10 men themselves). Arsenal have actually only won three games out of ten against top half opposition this campaign, a dismal record. Everton have done better against top four opposition taking seven points from a possible twelve. If Arsenal re-assess their ambitions and see finishing in the top four as a good achievement in itself then they will probably end up being less disappointed come the end of each season.
It is clear that in recent seasons Arsenal’s form against the sides who they wish to be competing with for honours has not been good enough. Chelsea, United and City in the past have won league titles by dominating their peers, something Arsenal have failed to do. Their record against City is very good, but against United and Chelsea in particular they have struggled in recent years, which has been a huge contributory factor in the side’s failure to win trophies. A top four finish for Arsenal is still possible, but if they lose to Chelsea next week they will be ten points off third, surely too big a gap to draw back.
The gulf between Arsenal and other top teams appears to be widening, not closing. Of course the club could sign to change this, but a return to the top two looks a long, long, way off right now. Getting a result at Chelsea is crucial to demonstrate that they can still pick up big wins, it is also not imposable given Chelsea have lost back to back home games. But, with regards to winning the title, Arsenal are a long way off.