Last night, I went to the 7-11. Since I stopped drinking, I like to test my constitution with the occasional 7-11 hot dog and nachos – by “hot dog” I mean unknown roll-heated meat product and by “nachos” I mean day old corn chips with cheese lotion. Trust me on this, nothing keeps your guts working at peak like 7-11 food. “Food.”

And last night there was a sign on the front door. It was a recycled piece of printer paper on which were scratched the letters “H I R I N G”. Like an angry badger with a pen, they made each letter thicker by just going over the lines several times.

It was odd, 7-11 has this corporate patina. Like you go in and you know exactly what to expect. This isn’t a mom-and-pop convenience store, where the goods are randomly piled all over the place and you get porn mags next to crack pipes; almost every 7-11 is organized, bright, and covered with this month’s fresh advertising campaign.  And here was this hand-crafted sign, hastily scrawled, taped to the door, reminding us that behind the corporate exterior, 7-11 is just another business.

Much like the 7-11, Arsenal last night hung out their hastily scrawled “HIRING” sign and promptly got robbed by the Cherry Hill Gang.

If Arsenal supporters are sick of the sight of Alexis or Ozil or think that Wilshere is some kind of savior they got a good look at what life is going to be like with Wilshere as the only star player. And let’s face it, like 7-11 nachos, it’s ghastly.

Arsenal fans have complained for the last three years about Alexis’ turnovers and poor passing and yet without him there to “turn the ball over constantly” Arsenal had their second worst turnover match of the season and their second worst passing performance of the season. Those other two matches (their worsts) came against Liverpool and Tottenham, hardly at the level of Bournemouth – who were in the relegation zone until Arsenal gave them the gift of three points.

Arsenal supporters have also complained that Wenger didn’t just take the money on offer for Alexis this summer but from what we saw last night we (myself included) have to admit that Wenger was probably right to hang on to the contract rebels. Or at least to wait until he could get a replacement in. There are a lot of rumors out there now that Arsenal might get Mkhitaryan for Alexis in a swap. It’s not ideal, Mkhitaryan isn’t anywhere near Alexis’ production and we would be strengthening a rival and a hated rival at that but Arsenal simply can’t lose Alexis or we might face a lot more matches like last night. Matches which expose Arsenal’s utter lack of depth.

One thing that’s pretty crazy about Arsene Wenger’s tenure at Arsenal is that he’s been insanely consistent regardless of personnel. I was looking at Arsenal’s attacking record (goals scored) over the last 20 years and apart from the Henry era Arsenal have had a consistent goals scored record. Where teams like Liverpool, Chelsea, and Man United have had a goals per game record as low as 1.24 per game and as high as 2.35, Wenger’s teams have averaged 1.89 per game with a high of 2 and a low of 1.71.

This consistency in attack is the hallmark of Wengerism. The problem is that offense doesn’t always correlate as strongly with League position at the end of the season as defense and it never correlates as well as overall goal difference.

Not to get too wonky but goal difference is nearly a .9 correlation to league position. When we compare two things like goal difference and league position 1.0 is what we call a perfect fit and anything above .7 is a great fit. 0.9, then, is a pretty amazing fit. It passes the common sense test too: goals scored and goals conceded should correlate to games won which should correlate to points and thus to league position at the end of the season.

So, it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise to learn that while Wenger’s attack has been consistent and even occasionally close enough to the top to win the League, his overall goal difference has been poor. Gooners will often say “Wenger needs to get the balance right” and here’s visual evidence of what they mean:

Again it’s kind of remarkable in its consistency – while Liverpool and Man U (and Chelsea, not pictured) have had wildly up and down seasons, Wenger’s Arsenal have stayed within just a few decimals in terms of goal difference per game. This season is his annus horribilis with Arsenal’s goal difference now dropping to 0.48. That’s 0.21 points below his 10 year average of 0.79 per game.

Even if we throw out this season’s highs (Man City have a goal difference of 2.17 PER GAME) and lows (Arsenal’s trash fire of 0.48) Arsenal’s average since 2010 is 0.80 per game with the highest being 0.92 and the lowest being 0.71. That’s pretty good but.. the League winner’s average goal difference per game since 2010 has been 1.27. That means Wenger has been 0.47 goals per game off the League winners.

And weirdly, because Wenger’s variation has been so consistent, his opportunities to win the League have been rare. The League winners have had a goal difference per game as high as 1.71 (again, not counting this season) and as low as 0.84 per game. Thus, for Wenger to win the League he would either have to have improved his team’s output (which the subtext here suggests that he is incapable of doing – even despite spending £200m on players in the last four years) or… stumble into a season where he could take advantage of a record low goals difference. That chance happened in 2015/16 when Leicester won the league. Their goals difference per game was 0.84 but Arsenal finished the season with 0.76.

I’m not saying this is a giant revelation. Neither was losing to Bournemouth and playing like a mid-table team without Arsenal’s two biggest stars.




  1. Sunday’s game was a shocker but the turnover rate was perversely bad – people who had until recently been performing well – or brilliantly in the case of AMN – were giving it away for fun, not because of the Bournemouth high press.
    Unfortunately, that leaves attitude, exemplified by Xhaka’s lack of tracking for their 2nd goal, and confidence, Welbeck, Iwobi, Laca all seeming well short, as the more plausible explanations.
    So we were bad without O and A on Sunday, but we won’t always be that bad without them.
    Expecially not if we get in some of the players being linked in place of them. Aubameyang would be a great addition, MiM worth a punt, so too Mkhitaryan. Those 3 for a net £50m in place of Alexis and Theo would be a bargain, despite the echoes of our 11/12 supermarket sweep.
    And it would leave our new recruitment team free to concentrate on the defence come the summer. Which is, as you point out, where the damage is really being done to our GD.

    1. I think the problem, though, is that our away form and defensive form generally have been in the toilet even when our best players are on the pitch. It doesn’t seem to matter who plays, we always look like defense is an afterthought, and (especially this season) toothless up front.

      I doubt we could turn our season around even if we did bring in all of Mkhitaryan, Aubameyang, and Malcom. I really wish Wenger also felt central midfield was a priority, but we’ve been screaming at him to buy a proper defensive midfielder for years now, and he’s just not interested. I guess he thinks AMN is up for it (? now that Coquelin’s gone?), but boy that’s a big gamble given that he’s a 20yo. Wenger probably also thinks that Xhaka is an adequate shield…

      1. I think Xhaka is kinda/sorta an adequate shield (instances of egregiously letting opposition goal scorers run right past him aside…) provided we play three in the midfield, and all three can contribute somewhat defensively (so not Ozil-Xhaka-Wilshere, then). It’s pretty clear he will always get exposed in a midfield two where the other person is (a) not insanely athletic and (b) (even a little bit) more attacking than him.

        By the way, I actually thought Xhaka was having a pretty good game against Bournemouth (minus the inane pot shots from distance that inevitably put an end to promising buildups). He combined nicely with Jack and Iwobi on a number of occasions to pass through the Bournemouth midfield, and he won the ball a fair number of times. But then he goes and ruins it all by letting Jordan Ibe waltz right past him. I don’t understand how a professional footballer could be so stupid/negligent and make the same mistake over and over.

        1. The midfield is pretty clearly the most serious problem with the team. The problem is that the defenders we have and who are fit sort of require a back three to thrive and the midfielders we have are probably beyond thriving as a cohesive unit but their weaknesses are far more exposed in a midfield two. Since our defending is worthy of comedy regardless of the formation, I suspect we’re better off in a back four but you have the issue that our “Best XI” doesn’t have any cohesion.

          The guy who takes over for Wenger, assuming similar defenders and midfielders is probably going to have to buy a centre back who can read the game to play with Mustafi as the hunter, a defensive mid who can both intercept well and get the ball forward to our more creative players and probably a midfield all-rounder to compensate for the fact the even if we could improve them with proper coaching, neither Jack nor Ramsey can be counted on to stay healthy.

          I’m wholly uninspired by either Mkhitaryan or Aubameyang as purchases – both are already on the backside of their primes. A team which cannot win anything shouldn’t be buying players with that age profile. If we want ready-made players we need to be plumping for players in the 23-25 range, not paying 200k/week for Aubemeyang’s decline.

          Who can get excited about anything while Wenger is still the manager, though?

          1. Not sure about Mkhitaryan: he looked good early season but went off the boil. Don’t know if this is consistent with a general decline in his stats nor how susceptible his overall game is to age.
            But Aubamayang still looks the main man for a Dortmund side having an off year and from whom he wants away.
            If Sanchez is worth hanging on to/paying £300k pw at 29, Aubamayang can’t be ready for the rest home quite yet.

          2. Dortmund wanted to ship out Aubameyang for some time, he also wanted to leave. they tried selling him to China, but he refused. He’s still good for them as they create a lot of chances and he finishes them, but he’s technically a bit limited.
            cncerning Micky I’ll reiterate whaqt I wrote in the last thread: He’s a gamble, his confidence is very brittle and he only really shone in the last two years under Tuchel at Dortmund, then he was sensational. But before that he couldn’t hit a barn door. Remember the games against Dortmund in the CL a few seasons back? He missed quite a lot then. He was deemed a flop and one of the big reasons Klopp’ time in Dortmund ended the way it did. All in all I’m not sure the club would be a good place for a sensitive guy like him, not in the situation we’re in right now.

          3. Well, I wouldn’t pay Alexis either – he’s the sort of player who could decline fast. That said, Mkhitaryan is hardly in his class as a footballer – we’re comparing a good player to one of the very best in the world.

  2. If I’m reading this correctly, Wenger has been able to stay unfathomably consistent through the years, and, apparently that is actually a bad thing because the lack of variance will always leave the team below someone who is having an “up” Year.

    This triggers lots of questions which I will throw open to the group.
    1. Is this consistency by design? That’s hard to imagine; nobody designs a team with mathematically poor chance to win the league, least of all a scholar like Wenger. Yet, if you were to design a team to always make top 4 but never the league, this is exactly how you would design it.
    2. Is such a design even possible? Wenger doesn’t sit down with a calculator and chicken entrails in order to decipher the exact caliber of player needed to keep Arsenal’s goal difference in the sweet spot.
    3. Does Arsene even know about this? And if he did, would he change anything? My gut says no on both counts.
    4. Does Arsene purposefully minimize variance? Does he view that as the surest way to success? If so, does he prize consistency over ultimate victory? Is this the extreme example of a manager playing it safe?? Does he already know Arsenal will not win the league before the season starts???
    5. How much control does Arsene actually have over any of this? The numbers are too convincing to suggest anything other than that this is a true trend, but can even such a deeply influential man induce such a mathematically precise trend on his own? It boggles the mind. Yet, he is the one constant amid years of squad turnover.

    Conclusion: Arsenal have figured out how to engineer the exact same season over and over again regardless of who is playing for them. This deserves some kind of award. The Rams award.

    Conclusion part 2: the only thing that will work now is to move Arsenal to Los Angeles and hire Josh McDaniels. Your move, Stan.

    1. This is funny, but misses the point.

      Basically, Arsenal prior to this season have a manager who puts together a good attack and a mediocre defense. This doesn’t change from season to season because Arsenal are a big club so they’re able to attact/keep good enough players to maintain the manager’s philosophy. Because the manager is unable to put together a good defense, they never hit the heights necessary to win the league.

      Unfortunately, finally the manager has failed to build a good attack while the comedy defending remains so Arsenal are having a bad season.

      The other teams don’t see this lack of variance because they don’t keep the same man in charge who makes all the decisions at the club and refuses to change. Sir Alex I’m sure saw more variance because in his latter years he left most of the coaching to key assistants and just did the buying and the shouting.

  3. On Alexis…

    Laughing my head off at Petroleum FC’s newfound financial frugality — 20m and no more. They’re getting a readymade replacement for the injured Jesus, and rest and relief for Aguero. A player of Sanchez’s calibre will cost 4, 5x what they would pay Arsenal. Cough up if you’re serious, Pep.

    And since you’re don’t appear to be serious, it looks like United for our Chilean. This gooner doesn’t care where Alexis goes, as long we we het the best deal possible. If as reported the deal prospectively on offer from United is 40m and Miki, bite their hand off already.

    We shouldn’t care if Alexis helps Mourinho or Pep. Neither is manager of Arsenal FC. In any case (rehashing the discussion from the last thread), City won’t be caught this season.

  4. “Laughing my head off at Petroleum FC’s newfound financial frugality — 20m and no more. They’re getting a readymade replacement for the injured Jesus, and rest and relief for Aguero. A player of Sanchez’s calibre will cost 4, 5x what they would pay Arsenal. Cough up if you’re serious, Pep.”

    Claude, I promise, I’m not stalking you in the comments section although I wouldn’t blame you if you thought I did.

    Most your comments make perfect sense and I probably agree with 90% of them, but the 10% that ariginate from your obvious bias tend to get ridiculous and don’t do you justice.

    KDB is City’s best player and probably one of the best three in Europe right now, and he just signed a new contract paying him €265k a week.

    Sanchez is 29 and asking for €400k per week ,and by all accounts he is a freaking prima-donna on and off the pitch.
    It doesn’t take a huge foresight to imagine that signing him under these conditions would throw a monkey wrench in the City’s wage structure and might put off a player or two.

    Also, I have a sneaking suspicion had Pep signed Sanchez under the conditions being reported , you would be the first one here condemning him for destroying PL’s wage structure , giving in to greedy agents , and trying to buy the CL , FA cup, League cup and god knows what else.

    But maybe I’m wrong about that.

    1. Tom, I don’t take this stuff personally, so do continue to give me your personal attention. 🙂

      I don’t think that the marketplace and commerce work in the way that you imagine they do. One, wages are a moving target, because of wage inflation. Lacazette is the highest earner at Arsenal. By your logic, he’s the best player, but what actually happened is that he signed his contract in 2017. Also earning more than Ozil and Sanchez is Kolasinac. By your deBruynian logic, the Bosnian left-back is better and more valuable than Sanchez and Ozil. Wage inflation, mate. Sanchez will get what the market determines he can. And if City had signed him for what he had been demanding or close to it, it would have given de Bruyne every incentive to ask for a pay rise at his next contract talks.

      Two, free transfers are more lucrative for players because of the absence of a transfer fee (see Kolasinac), or an artificially low one for a player with 6 months left on his contract. You don’t get to decide what is exorbitant. Sanchez will earn the same as Zlatan. The way football is going, that won’t seem like a huge wage in 3 years’ time.

      Third, I am amused that you think that City — those paragons of Financial Fair Play — were worried about the PL’s wage structure.

      1. … which is why anyone who thinks that Ozil is giving up double-your-money wages for a year to re-sign for Arsenal is deluded. He’s less noisy and disruptive than Sanchez, but he’s off too, and he’s going to earn a barrel-load of dosh.

        Here’s the squad pay league. Take note of what Koscielny earns, and then try to tell me again that pay is ability-based.


      2. Sorry , but your logic and examples you are giving to make your point are escaping me.
        KDB just signed his new City contract so comparing his situation and Sanchez’s , had he signed for City at €400k per week, to anything that happened at Arsenal with Ozil and Sanchez in 2013/14 vis a vis Lacazette and Kola 2017 wages wise makes absolutely no sense.

        Wage inflation?
        Sure, I get the concept.
        But best player in the league just signed a six year contract for €265k a week and two months later , a player on €140k having a stinker of a season should be earning €400k per week on the same team and you want to justify it by wage inflation?

        1. Well, but I wouldn’t take the 400k/week not that serious, that is the figure quoted his agent asked for at Arsenal, which was a nice way of saying “I’m not signing”.

        2. Breds, you just don’t understand how the football market works, do you? Sanchez’s was an ask, not an actuality. The best isn’t always the highest earner (see points 1, 2 and 3 — ALL together), but the comparative level of wages becomes a good negotiating tool for a standout player.

  5. I don’t think City are worried about PL wage structure but sure as $hit the want to keep the team spirit that has served them well thus far.

    Nothing destroys the balance and the well being of the squad like a pain in the a$$ player making double and triple what other no less important players on the team make.

  6. I don’t know if this was said after the Bournemouth match but good grief I think Wenger would drop Mustafi like a hot rock if he could. He goes hunting at the wrong times, and half the time he gets turned or completely misses his header, or fouls the forward. Against Bournemouth the first goal was almost all his fault – Cech made a misjudgment but that was a wicked cross and it happens.

    If I was the manager I would be thinking hard about a back line of Holding, Chambers and Mavropanos until Koscielny is fit. It’s the kind of dice roll he would make.

  7. After the influx of TV deal cash, Arsene Wenger’s remarkable consistency is probably the biggest reason the Premier League is as strong as it is now. We sat in one of the lucrative Champion League places like some occupying guerrilla army. Our competitors had no choice but to hire and fire managers, sign and sell players and refine their tactics to hurdle over us. Of the five teams above us Pochettino’s the longest-serving manager and he’s only been there since 2014.

    We were more consumed with making the top four during the austerity years (an incredible achievement no doubt). But there’s this idea that around 2012-13 our new found financial freedom would see Wenger go for a title *and* he’d earned the right to do it. It’s complete rubbish. Wenger has only ever paid lip service to the idea.

    Buying Ozil and Welbeck in the same transfer window, proclaiming every January how happy you are with a squad filled with holes, etc etc. Those brutal Champions League defeats to Utd and Liverpool in 2008 and 2009 weren’t down to having less money to spend, they were down to a tactical set-up that was way too open.

    We’ve waited ten years for Wenger to evolve and failed to respond to the possibility that our rivals would start doing everything we were doing and add better managers. We’re in the position we’re in right now because we didn’t pay our competitors the same respect they paid us.

    1. I agree.

      Credit is due Wenger for keeping us in the top four during times of austerity, but even during those years we had great squads capable of mounting title challenges (07-08 comes to mind), only to see us collapse for reasons of mental and tactical fragility. So the narrative hasn’t changed.

      We were patient for those years, too, but once we were free from the financial shackles, nothing changed. What you see is what you get with Wenger, no matter how much money is at our disposal for strengthening the squad.

      What surprises me, though, is that we’ve gotten worse, not better, since the stadium debt was paid off. I would expect stagnation (or consistency, if you like), maybe, but not regression. It speaks to how other managers have improved, I suppose, which is coinciding with Wenger’s obsolescence.

  8. I can’t see any club in Europe paying Sanchez £400 thousand now or if he walks on a Bosman in the summer. Added to this the reported 10/20 million demanded by his agent makes it a complete deal breaker.
    Perhaps there’ll be some room for negotiation (a huge signing on fee perhaps), but he’ll still want twice as much as he’s worth for twice as long as he’s worth it for.
    I see The Guardian has latched on to your ‘Malcom in the middle’ headline Tim.

    1. Again, those figures were quoted by Arsenal, which probably was Alexis’ camp polite way of signing, “Yeah, not singing anything”.

  9. Intuitively, the goal differential having a high correlation to league position makes sense – the best teams can get the ball off the other team more efficiently and get the ball up field and create more scoring opportunities. If you aren’t good at defending but great at attacking you might win shoot-outs but your goal differential will suck. Also, might it be pointed out, that the best teams tend to hammer the minnows when they get the chance. That’s why Lukaku is a good buy for United; he disappears in big games but scores buckets against the lower half of the table. If you can just beat the lower half of the table home and away that’s 50-60pts right there. Marry that to a 0.500 record against the top half and you get to 80-85 pts which usually gets you the title. I believe Sir Alex did that a few seasons at United.

    I’m so tired of being an Arsenal fan. Mhkitaryan and Aubamayang are 29 year old band-aids, and expensive ones. Why are we saddling our next manager with these two problem childs? Why are we letting Wenger dictate our moves in the transfer market anymore? Malcom I get, he’s a Mislintat identified prospect. The other two? Are we going to go after Subotic and Kagawa while we’re at it and recreate Dortmund circa 2013-2014? c’mon… this is b.s.

    1. Well, strategically one could say that these signings if we can pull them off are necessary band aids to steady the ship and put out a statement that we’re willing to invest the money. I mean most players we will need will want to join a stable team with ambition to get into the CL. A clean slate is a touogh sell. Aubameyang should be alright, we clearly need more goals and his pace cancome in handy.
      What’s caring me though is that the cenral midfield remains unaddressed.

    2. Both are sound buys, with (mostly) good track records, Jack. We assail Wenger for an excessive devotion to project youth, and we assail him for buying experience. Aubameyang for the money being mentioned is excellent business in today’s market; Miki as Alexis makeweight is a no-brainer. With both (and with space being freed up by Walcott and Alexis) we have a stronger squad.

      On Miki, failing with Mourinho is not a career death sentence. Ask Kevin de Bruyne and Mohamed Salah.

Comments are closed.

Related articles