4, 5, 5, 5, 1, 0: how many losses will win the league this year?


4 losses, 5 losses, 5 losses, 5 losses, 1 loss, 0 losses

That’s your last 6 Premier League winners’ losses tally. Yesterday Perry Groves made what on its surface seems an incredible claim; that this year the title winner could lose as many as 6 matches and still win the title. Most people would think “6 losses? that’s crazy!” and historically they’d be correct. Arsenal lost 6 last year and it was only good enough for 4th place. After thinking about it, though, I’m going to agree with Perry for two reasons; first, because of the challengers to the top four, and second because it’s better to lose a match while going for the win than it is to sit back and go for the tie.

So far this season several teams have looked very impressive; Sunderland looks like they might be the type of team that will push all of the title challengers — with their stropping two center forwards and a middle of Cattermole, Cana, and Malbranque they are a no nonsense squad and will turn over top four teams this year. Their draw against Man U was no fluke, they earned that. Villa are still a dangerous team and folks would be silly to write Martin O’Neill and his squad off as an easy three points. Everton are constructed to grind their opponents down and with news that Phil Jagielka is ready to make a comeback they should look to make up for their poor start to the season with some solid play. Tottenham is a squad that wants to score a ton of goals and that will surprise a lot of folks. And, of course, City look like they are solid enough to push teams, at least until the infighting starts. All this is to say that beyond the usual surprises, such as Wigan stealing one against Chelsea, there are a lot of teams who are built to challenge, if not beat, the top four clubs. None of which even mentions the fact that the top clubs will fight tooth and nail for all three points when they face each other. so, 6 losses each for the top clubs is by no stretch of the imagination infeasable.

But really it’s not losses that matter so much. Sure, it’s dropped points, but so are draws. The old adage is that top four teams sees draws as two dropped points while smaller clubs tend to see it as a point salvaged. How important are draws on a final tally? Well, a team that draws every game gets 38 points and probable relegation. Whereas a team which wins half, and loses half, ends up on 57 points and playing in the Europa League. As for the title challengers, here’s another way to look at it: during Arsenal’s unbeaten season they went 26-12-0 and garnered 90 points. Man U lost 4 matches last year and got the same point total, because they won more, going 28-6-4. They drew half as many and won just two more games, and they got the same number of points! Incredibly, in that unbeaten season, if Chelsea had converted just 4 of their draws to wins, they would have beaten Arsenal to the title by one point — while losing 7 matches to Arsenal’s 0. Clearly, winning is everything. This sounds almost stupid to say but, 6 losses won’t matter to the league winner as long as they win more games. Win more games, win the title, as it should be.

I’m not saying that draws are useless. They can be a good result, say, in a comeback from a 2 goal deficit. Rather, that top clubs and title winning clubs approach nearly every match as a chance to get three points. It’s early in the season but I think Wenger’s approach to this problem is pretty clear: you need to score goals to win and we’re going to outscore you. Yes, this means that like the City game, we’re going to go into the game saying that we’d rather lose 4-2 than get a 2-2 draw. Under that system, and the way that we are playing defense, I can actually see Arsenal losing 7 or 8 this season — and still challenging for the title. Since our comptetitors will be looking at 5-8 losses as well, it will be the win to draws ratio that will decide this season.

All we have to do is win more!


  1. whilst I agree with the post – I just cant see Chelsea both losing 6 games and drawing maybe 10. I think Chelsea dont tend to drop points in as many games as Arsenal. Arsenal have had a good start and I see them continuing that. But we are still only in fifth spot.
    I think we’ll lose 6 and come 4th like last season.

    1. @gazzap, Chelsea have a problem in that they are going to lose a lot of their key players to the ACN in the hardest part of their season.

      They already have one loss, I certainly see them getting 5+ and then a bunch of draws.

  2. What an interesting piece, Tim? I like that philosophy. Simply win more games and the title is yours. Very good philosophy.

  3. Solid post Tim. Although I can’t see Chelski and Manure losing 6 games, they are vulnerable to the tie. Arsenal may lose more games, but I agree that they have a chance to win more as well. Dropping points to any teams outside the top 6 will decide the race. Thanks for keeping things fresh during this long ass break.

  4. Testing, testing….

    I’ve posted twice now trying to agree with the blog and post a link to some killer Rosicky video and twice it’s appeared to go up but then it’s disappeared…So I’ll try again w/o the link…here goes…

  5. Excellent analysis, especially as it reassuringly justifies the Arsenal style and philosophy of going for the win. Sometimes at all costs, as against both Manchester clubs, but often with splendid benefits, against Blackburn, and also with important results, as with Standard Liège. At any rate, it guarantees Gooners well-bitten fingernails and high blood pressure.
    (Meanwhile, your faithful English teacher, whom you’ll really end up hating, points out it’s “infeasible” or “unfeasible”, not “infeasable”.)

  6. Mate, i have to agree. I hope people read your article in full before commenting, or you’ll get stuff like : “OMG how can you say you want us to lose a game, i want the Invincibles Mk. II!”

    Your point about the 38 draws = relegation, 19 wins + 19 losses = mid-table (at least) is a fine one.

    I like to think of it this way – a draw is seen as an okay result. In isolation, it is obviously better than a defeat. But a run of draws is not good. Becuase if we draw one game, it is deemed acceptable by the players/fans and maybe not enough to shake the players out of their stupor, hence we could go and draw the next game (e.g. last season’s run of draws in January). Net result = 4 points dropped.

    Defeat can shock the players and if it has the desired effect and is followed up with a win, net result = only 3 points dropped. So bouncebackability is key. Whether or not we have that in our “DNA” is a different question, given that the end of our last two long unbeaten runs (2002 and 2003/04) saw a run of horrible results. Even in the aftermath of Eddie’s leg break in 2007/08 we had a string of draws. But this is a new outfit, and i have faith that we can bounce back from adversity (having already done so following the Manc games).

    P.S. it may sound like i’m advocating defeats over draws, which of course i’m not. The unbeaten season is massively special to me as it is to all Gooners, i wouldn’t swap it for a CL trophy. But i’d rather take the horror of defeat followed by the ecstasy of a win instead of two creamily middling stalemates.

    P.P.S. loving your blog mate, long-time reader first-time commentor (is that even a word?) It comes out at a great time here in the UK, just as the working day is winding down. The biggest compliment i can pay you is that if i didn’t know you were American, i would probably mistake you for an Islington boy.

    1. @Squid Boy, That is a tremendous compliment, thank you very much.

      Now, if you don’t mind I have to get back to a very serious game of Mornington Crescent: I’m about to invoke the Rule of the Lords of Roses except I can’t remember the particulars and my copy of The Little Book of Mornington Crescent is on a shelf at home. So it looks like I’m going to be in knip until I get off work.

  7. Totally agree with your post….Seems to me the team is maturing (our new signing above is 29 years old!?!) and I find our patience when we’re behind (Std. Liege, Blackburn) or deep in nil-nil games (Olympiakos, Fulham) very encouraging.

    Over the past couple of seasons we’ve celebrated late draws like they weren’t points dropped which, as you point out, is dead wrong. I was glad to see TV5 and RVP barely celebrate their equalizers vs Blackburn as there was still work to do (to secure all 3 points). We’re getting there….

      1. @17highburyterrace, I tried watching the Czech game but the stream was too shitty so I gave up.
        Thanks for posting the compilation. Rosicky looks amazing. Hopefully he stays fit and Arsene gives him a contract extension. Fingers crossed!!

    1. @17highburyterrace, I commented on that lack of celebration as well. I was so proud of that lack of celebration because of the message it sends to the football world. I’ve not seen any British media pick on that vibe which says: we are some serious motherf**kers this year and you better not f**k w/ us because we will be f**king you up.

  8. “How Arsenal stopped fearing to lose” could have been the alternative title to this piece.

    What you have to admire about this team is that it knows, the opposition knows and the supporters should know that: if you score 1 on us, then we’ll score 2, if you score 2 on us, then we will score 4. That was the credo of Brazil 1970. “Damn the torpedos, full speed ahead!”

  9. Good article, I’d never thought about the league like this before. But I’d wonder whether a better analysis of who will win the league is by looking at goals conceded. While it certainly is better to win games than to lose games, clearly the best way to win the league is by having a strong defense. The unbeaten team conceded a league-low 26 goals, and lost no games. So while I love watching the “we’ll score more than you approach,” it clearly has its shortcomings. For me, the reason why we have a strong chance of winning the league this year is the addition of Vermaelen, because we finally have a pair of centerbacks capable of keeping the clean sheet and winning the league.

    1. I agree, I’m afraid, which is why I expect Chelsea to win. It’s also why our lack of quality cover for Song, Vermaelen and Gallas could be our undoing as the season wears on.

      I also think that, while we do score a lot from midfield, we need another reliable striker. I love Eduardo and see him as a cooler finisher than Van Persie – but there are doubts as to how many games he’ll be able to play. Bendtner is a wash-out as a goal scorer, Vela is still too inexperienced for the top level and Van Persie is unlikely to be fit for all the big games of the season – besides, he’s really a deep striker being played out of position because we haven’t got anyone else. Truth is, not buying a replacement for Ade could cost us as dear as injuries to our defenders.

  10. We will score more than you.
    I don’t think there is a team in the league that can compete with the offensive firepower of a full-strength Arsena. As the mid-table and Boltons of the league have been reverting more and more to anti-football, Wenger has been pushing through his “total-football”. There was a few seasons of transition and I’m sure he would admit privately that losing Flamini was a big setback but Le Prof may be onto something. You win titles winning matches and you win matches by scoring more than the other team, whether that be 1-0 or 10-9.

  11. At the beginning of last season I was slaughtered for saying I’d take third and a Champions League semi with both hands (this was on a Polyanna-ish blog where predicting less than three trophies was taboo). I still would.

    Yes, we’re as good as anyone in the Premiership and in the top six in Europe, but that’s not the same as saying we’ll win. It’s not the best team that wins trophies – as we know to our cost – it’s the efficient team, the cheating team, dare one say it? – penalties at Old Trafford spring to mind. And to go further than a semi in Europe, a team has to be lucky, lucky with injuries and with the draw.

    When have we ever been lucky with injuries? Yesterday people were saying we’ve now got strength in depth, but I don’t agree. True, our attacking midfield looks brilliant and we’ve got good cover at full back. But our defensive midfield, central defence and strikers all look very vulnerable. A serious injury to Vermaelen or Gallas, to Van Persie, to Song – where’s the back-up? There’s none that I can see, and sod’s law predicts that it’s precisely in the positions where we’re most vulnerable that the injuries come. So, unless we buy reinforcements in Jan, which we probably won’t – prices too high, good players all cup-tied – I’d say it would be a miracle if we did much better than last year. What does anyone else think?

    1. @Mia, Yeah, I kinda agree with what you’re saying, mostly because this group of players haven’t been there before. On the other hand, I am overwhelmed by what Arshavin, Rosicky and Cesc (who I think is reaching another level) might be able to do if they can stay healthy. I’m also hoping that Senderos is pulling his act together and that AW will play him ahead of Silvestre if we need back-up in Central Defense. RVP is fragile and certainly not a traditional up-front striker, but the others are perhaps aware enough to let him do his thing (come back for the ball and/or prance around in the box with it). Bendtner looked very good vs Sweden the other day and Theo is certainly valuable just as a counter-attacking threat. That’s not to even mention Eduardo (who proved he knows how to cheat) and Vela who will carry that Mexican team at the WC even if he only carries our Carling Cup hopes (and I am very much looking forward to the match with Liverpool in that competition).

      The more I think about the makeup of our team the more pleased I become. We are certainly improved over past seasons and losing Ade and Kolo (think about over-celebrating goals and lapses in concentration over the past couple of seasons) means we won’t miss them during the tough stretch in February. I am definitely interested in seeing Nasri maybe try to play a little DM in the CC, or perhaps seeing TV5, try out that position as he seems to have a bit of an eye for goals, as back-up for Song who is leaps and bounds ahead of where he was….

      Still, as always, luck is a huge factor (injuries, calls, the bounce of the ball), but if it wasn’t it wouldn’t be football….

      1. Agree, our mentality is much better, more efficient and determined, than last year, and that’s good to see. However, so far we’ve played mainly poor teams, with the exception of United and City, where we knew we could win even after defensive slips put us a a goal or two down. Will we feel the same confidence and resolve against, say, Chelsea or Barca or will we crumble again, as we did in the second leg of the CL semis against United? Time will tell!

    2. @Mia, but every team is vulnerable to injuries. Take out Torres, Rooney or Drogba and all those teams are in trouble. I’d say with Eduardo and Bendtner as backup we’re in better shape than anyone up front.
      At the back, Chelsea are the only team to me that have three very good centerbacks in Terry, Carvalho and Alex. Evans won’t perform as well as he did last year at ManU and Carragher has lost it.

      I don’t think it’ll take a miracle for us to win, it’ll just take a bit of luck. With Rosicky and Eduardo back in the mix, there’s more bodies around to distribute the stress and take the punishment in midfield and up front, and while i do agree that our CB depth isn’t ideal, the Senderos fanboy inside me sometimes wishes that Gallas get injured so that Big Phil gets one more chance to show us what he can do. I had him down as future captain back in 2006, and i still think he has it in him to become a legend.

      1. Well, on the plus side, I suppose, everyone else is weaker than last year: Liverpool without Alonso; United without Ronaldo; Chelsea without Hiddink. Don’t know if you read Gabriele Marcotti; he’s a very knowledgable, insightful journalist, but when it comes to predictions he has a hundred percent record of being wrong. He says we’re too thin, and though I agree with him, it ought to mean that we’ll win!

    3. @Mia, You make your own luck buddy. Passion and will also play a major role, as does confidence. We saw that when we came oh so close before the leg break.

      The attitude of the team this year is right. Hey we may not win the league. But we will push for it and the FA cup is right up our alley this year.

  12. I like to think more in terms of points then losses. The points figures corresponding to the losses you have mentioned are 90 87 89 91 95 90. A total of 114 points are on offer. If a team is aiming for lets say 90, any combination ranging from 0D 8L to 12D 0L is possible. The bottom line is a top club can afford a maximum of 12 slips if they are all draws something we had during the unbeaten season. Over the last six years the winning team has dropped points in 10,11,10,9,9,12 games. That to me is the most relevant figure. We can drop points in 6-9 games but any more and we start flirting with danger.

    Btw I have done a comparison of the top 4 squads on my blog. Do have a look.

  13. Truly enlightening stuff. Does it mean a change in your “defense wins championships” Tim? I can see us outscoring anyone except chelski. Those will be 1-0 matches, hopefully with us scoring the 1.

  14. @b, I’m a fan of Senderos too, but I think he’s a bit slow for us, hence the rabbit in the headlights panic when he’s caught out. Still he’s just kept another clean sheet for Switzerland.

    Now fuck this: isn’t Ramsey supposed to be resting because he’s suffering from a bad back? Well, he’s playing, he’s just scored, which doubtless means he’ll have done his back in again and we won’t have him on Sat, unlike Liverpool, say, who’ll as ever have a well-rested Gerrard.

    Arshavin has scored, so has Thierry.

    Players so far not going to the World Cup: Eduardo, Ramsey and Rosicky. They can play scrabble with Almunia and Denilson.

    1. @Mia, Vermaelen is also staying at home. I feel kind of guilty rooting against the guys that i like, just because i want them to have a rest next summer…here’s hoping Russia and France lose in the playoffs!

  15. I’m not enjoying this “we’ve only won against rubbish teams” argument. Fulham, Blackburn, Wigan, Everton, Portsmouth – all teams that have taken points off us before. The real question is: would they have been poor against whoever they faced, or were they made to look poor against Arsenal?

    I think the answer to that question can only be answered by time. If we carry on winning like this against “poor” teams, then clearly something has changed.

    I’m hearing a lot of tedium about this international break on the different gooner blogs, and I think it’s because everybody is so interested in what will happen next. This team looks like a prospect now and the story of the season is waiting to be told.

  16. Sorry, I was trying to reply to Cpta above.

    But on Erichero’s point as to whether the teams we’ve beaten are poor, well,they’re all in the bottom half of the table and have a minus goal difference, so it would be fair to say they’re not Barca or Real or even Man United.

  17. Most of you lucky people must be watching Uruguay-Argentina, whereas I’ve got only the Guardian’s minute-by-minute report. This, though entertaining – massive sendings-off are predicted – isn’t really enough to stay up for. I’d like both of them to go through, and Equador, and Venezuala – they’ve all got interesting players. It feels like there are too many much-of-a-muchness teams from Europe qualifying, but I suppose Slovakia et al. have earned the right to be there and it’s churlish to complain.

  18. There were 2 things of note in the England-belarus game the the 3-1 score doesn’t count.

    David Beckham’s football IQ is unsurpassed and the Walcott’s, Lennon’s and Phillips’ will be in their graves before they have a clue as to how to play his position.

    The only reason that Johnson is the England RB is that Neville is practically using a cane and seeing eyedog Just how many times did we hear the commentators say that Belarus has no speed to get behind the England defense only to have Johnson get beat time and again.

  19. Arsenal’s record last season was 20-12-6. Our problem last season was drawing too many matches. We’ve already lost 2 and i can see us losing another 3 or 4 but if we can win, say 26-29 games this season we have a very good chance of winning the league

  20. Really great analysis. If Arsenal maintains this Barcelona-esque mood (the Barca from last season) and outscore most teams, then it’ll be a good season for the fans. But based on the season so far, there havent been many draws in the EPL and there have been lots of high scoring wins from the top teams. Indication of the top teams getting better or the lower teams getting worse?

    Wenger seems to have taken a few pages out of the Barcelona guidebook though.. maybe we can start publicly declaring our love for and intention to sign Messi and Xavi every month too.. see how the Catalan club likes it.

    Anyway, SkySports did a great compilation on Wenger: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=khqKZgNkosA

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