Psalm 69

1 Save me, O God,
    for the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in the miry depths,
    where there is no foothold.
I have come into the deep waters;
    the floods engulf me.
I am worn out calling for help;
    my throat is parched.
My eyes fail,
    looking for my God.
Those who hate me without reason
    outnumber the hairs of my head;
many are my enemies without cause,
    those who seek to destroy me.
I am forced to restore
    what I did not steal.

You, God, know my folly;
    my guilt is not hidden from you.

Mikel Arteta has managed 100 matches for Arsenal and by now you are no doubt aware of the much publicized fact that the stats show he’s a better manager than every Arsenal manager except George Graham. Which once again proves that Arsenal supporters love an arbitrary start and end date for a stat.

The stat is (sort of) true. If you count every manager’s first 100 matches in all competitions, and depending on how you count draws with penalty shootout wins/losses, Arteta’s first 100 matches have a higher number of “points” than even Arsenal’s greatest ever managers Arsene Wenger and Herbert Chapman.

I don’t have a huge problem with this stat. I would point out, however, it is funny because when you use this arbitrary stopping point you just so happen to add in an incredible run of 10 matches for Arteta and also a weird patch of bad form for Arsene Wenger. Arteta has won 56/100 matches in all competitions, but crucially, he’s won 8 of those in the last 10 matches. That’s 14% of his career wins as a manager in just a few weeks. If the stats folks had arbitrarily stopped at 90 matches, Arteta’s “points per game” (you can’t really have ppg in cup ties, you either win or you do not win) average would be a respectable 1.78. Very good, but not “2nd best ever Arsenal manager”.

But let’s use the first 100. The question I have is “why does this feel wrong”?

The first issue is that Wenger won the League and FA Cup double in his first 100 matches and Arteta won the FA Cup and finished 8th. That seems like a pretty big difference. The second issue is that you’re comparing 1997 football to 2021 football and the vast majority of current Arsenal supporters don’t remember what Arsenal were like back in 1997. Most of us, myself included, have only seen a few recorded matches from the 1997/98 season. And then, those matches might not even be the full 90, but just highlights. So we often don’t have a basis for comparing the two teams and how they played. Instead, when we think of Wenger’s Arsenal, it’s much more likely that we think of one of his iconic teams, like the Invincibles or his Barcelona-lite side. When I compare the memory of those teams to this one, it’s night and day. So, it feels wrong perhaps due to fault of memory.

But there’s a more statistical reason why it feels wrong. It’s because our league form is not the same as our cup form. If you take all of Arteta’s LEAGUE matches from his hire date to now you get 69* matches. He’s done fairly well in that measure, winning 33/69 for a 48% win percentage. Though, once again, I will point out that 18% of his wins in the League have come in the last month. Literally. Since September 11th (I’m writing this on Nov. 19th) Arsenal have won 6 league matches and drawn 2. That’s 18% of his total points haul in just 12% of his matches played.

I’m not “taking his wins away”. I’m merely pointing out just how incredible this last month has been.

I’ll illustrate just how important this is in another way. Arteta is currently at 1.65 ppg in Premier League matches. That’s not bad, not great, but not bad. But before September 11th, through 61 matches, he was averaging 1.36 ppg. That’s bad for a manager at Arsenal’s level. It’s one of the worst ppg averages for an Arsenal manager. That’s a 44% win rate, below Terry Neill, below Don Howe.

And cup form is weird. Adding in cup wins, when a team is routinely finishing 6th to 8th makes some folks think we are artificially inflating the manager’s numbers. When we compare Arteta’s first 69 League matches to Wenger’s first 69, I think folk’s criticism of the club up to this point holds more validity.

Arteta’s 6969331521100730.481.651.451.060.39
Wenger first 6969381813115580.551.911.670.840.83
Wenger last 6969371121132860.541.771.911.250.67

It’s a not overly terrible run that Arteta has engineered, which is somewhat bolstered by a great run over the last 6 weeks. And I think I speak for all Arsenal supporters when I say that I hope Arteta wins every match from here until the end of the season.

But I would also point out that a lot of people are probably upset at the way that Arsenal are playing (recent 8-10 matches aside) because they very vividly remember the final seasons of Wenger’s reign. Remember, Wenger was fired by Arsenal football club and his final 69 matches for Arsenal was the worst we had seen for 22 years. 1.77 PPG in the Premier League was considered “very poor” and now 1.65 ppg is seen as “really good”.

But you might also see in that chart above that the margins are pretty fine. We are talking about the difference of 3-4 games over a 100 game span. It’s a difference of -0.13 goals per game in defense (in Arteta’s favor) and +0.32 goals in offense (in Wenger’s favor). These are pretty small things that often get blown up into huge arguments about who is mediocre, crap, or amazing. “You, god, know my folly.”

I don’t expect to have convinced anyone of anything when it comes to Arteta. I fully expect people to continue the circular arguments that we have been having for the last two years – Arteta walked into a situation that was a mess, yes but we’ve spent hundreds of millions, that was Wenger’s team, Arteta needs more time to get his players fit, etc.

What I do want to convince you of is the validity of other people’s point of view. People who are crowing about Arteta right now are making legitimate points. People who are still wary of this recent run of form (or who were deeply critical of the previous 61 (or 90) matches) have valid reasons for feeling that way.

None of us are “numpties” or “nonces”. You aren’t being persecuted because someone sees the world differently. You aren’t being drawn into the mire. You don’t need god to save you. Please, ma’am, put down the incantation and stop trying to curse your enemies, it’s just football**.



**Which is only the most important of all the least important things.


  1. Here I thought this was going to be a discourse on how the classic Ministry album applied to Arsenal’s season…

    My Liverpool supporting friend is out of town. Lately when I watch the matches with him, it hasn’t gone well. So crossing my fingers that this is a good omen for tomorrow.

    1. I saw them perform that album at Lollapalooza and that day, and specifically them performing that album, was so terrible that it turned me off festival concerts for the rest of my life.

      1. I only saw them once. They had a reputation for being wild, and having one of the loudest shows you could see. It was definitely both of those things, but as you say, beyond that, wasn’t too impressed. The studio album was very good though.

        1. My friend is a huge Ministry fan, has seen them dozens of times, he says that that Lollapalooza show is notoriously one of their worst.

    1. I hope not!

      We were thrashed that day and essentially needed Arshavin to hit 4 perfect shots to get a draw.

          1. I think you touch on a good point in that how we view older games is biased both in nostalgia as well as the access to/how we watch that game. Going back and watching highlights doesn’t necessarily give the nuance and flow of how things came about.

            Additionally, and having read this blog for years now something all of us here reading can relate potentially relate to, is that the way we watch and digest the game is significantly different than decades past. I don’t even mean that specifically in regards to xG and such either. Talking about movement and pressures and tackles as ‘stats’ has sparked a part of me to watch the game with a different interpretation than I would years past.

            Now whether that’s to the net benefit of enjoyment I’ll leave to the individual, but hope this probably blindingly obvious observation might make a few synapses fire and consider the partial contribution to our interpretation of past vs present the particular dynamic has changed.

  2. Err… apparently matters not helped by my Liverpool friend being out of town. We were OK in the first half. Pool turned it up a notch in the second and we faltered. Feel bad for Tavares. Perhaps should have started Tierney, though maybe they wanted Tavares speed vs Salah. Partey didn’t look 100%. Ramsdale was excellent. Hopefully everyone else can shake this off.
    I wasn’t really expecting a win today, but was hoping that w didn’t get another pasting. Need to find some more consistent scoring somewhere.

    At least we’re not United.

  3. Great post Tim. Soery have been absent for a while. We have moved our horses and sold a house and bought another so I have not had much time to read or comment. Great run of form the last month against weaker opposition. Arteta’s teams have always been good against lesser opposition. Before today’s game we had only conceded 3 in the last 8 games. We don’t have the talent to compete with CL level teams like Liverpool but hopefully we can hang on to a Europa league spot.

    The stats about our success in the first 100 games of the arteta era demonstrate why Like to use league games and not all competitions when I compare or evaluate players or managers.The post also points out how easily stats can be manipulated to prove almost anything you want to believe. Arteta has done remarkably well against group stage Europa league level teams which clearly skews the results. It’s the same with goals scored and assists in all competitions. Comparing performances and stats against league opposition instead of all competitions gives much more meaningful data. IMO.

  4. Ugh! We took a beating today by a better team. Liverpool bullied us out of the game and were like sharks when there’s blood in the water. On the positive side, at least we kept trying, up to the end. I have to give some credit to the gaffer; despite his tactics on and off the field, he is at least getting the team to keep trying. Too many of the blowout losses in recent years were worsened by too many players giving up. Bad loss to take on a great day to nick a point. I’m sure it’s no surprise we lost, but the way they (literally) wrestled control of the game really highlighted the difference between where our club are, and where we need to be.

    1. I think we did give up after the Tavares blunder.
      Although it’s debatable if we were in it even before that

  5. I don’t care which team you support…. Diogo Jota faking Ben White out of his shoes, sitting Ramsdale down on his backside and rounding him to score was the most sublime piece of striker skill you’ll see. I hated us losing, but as a lover of football, I enjoyed that. We rave about Liverpool’s big three up front. Jota is a forward of the highest class as well.

    Partey in close proximity, didnt exactly bust a gut to tackle the Portuguese. TP didnt look right to me. Not for the first time, I think that we rushed him back. Funny as this may sound given our midfield overstock, I think we’re short there… quality, not quantity. We need someone else the quality of Partey, and no, it’s neither Xhaka nor Sambi.

    That was a pivotal moment, the Tavares giveaway. They were much better, and the outcome didnt seem in any doubt — but we were still sort of in it at 1-0. But what a moment of brilliance from Jota.

    1. Agree that was a jaw dropping moment.

      I liked the way Tavares reacted. He didn’t stop playing or start booting it upfield. But in a sense when Ramsdale says we stuck to the game plan too much, maybe for 5-10 minutes what was required was just being very compact and focusing on defending spaces and we didn’t do it. I think that requires maturity and I think it will come. Although we got pasted I still enjoyed some of the 1 v 1 defending from Gabriel agains Salah. The world’s best bearing down on you as a CB and you stand your ground and take the ball away in your own penalty box… fearless.

      To me the game swung on that set piece. If we make it 0-0 at halftime I think a point was there to be won.

    2. I don’t know how…but Liverpool absolutely nail most of their purchases from lower PL teams.

      Who woulda thought Jota would be able to disrupt their mesmerising front three ?

      Also, midfield ‘overstock’ ? After loaning out players (who were never going to play for us anyway) we were dangerously shallow, and fans were crying out for a midfield signing till the end of the window.

  6. Its not really fair to Arteta to compare his results to Arsene’s IMO. Arteta did not have players that were comparable to Arsene’s in his first 100 games. Arteta does not have players like Bergkamp, Wright, Anelka, to score goals and a fully set defense with the Tony Adams group and I am confident his results would have been much better if he had players close in skill to the ones Arsene had. Give Arsene this current 2021 group of players and his results would have been worse. The other variable that can’t be accounted for is how much more competitive the league is from top to bottom now compared with Arsene’s first 100 games.

    1. Well, that’s why I added the last 100. Do you think that’s a fair comparison?

      Also, are you saying Arteta’s doing better than expected?

      And finally, if the league is more competitive now, doesn’t that mean that Wenger’s final 100 games – especially considering some of the defenders and MFers he had in that team – are even more incredible than we used to think?

    2. “….how much more competitive the league is from top to bottom now compared with Arsene’s first 100 games”.

      Bill, you regularly assert stuff without evidence. This is simply wrong, and therefore the argument on which it’s based is shaky.

      Arsene won his first title in 97/98 with 78 points. The season before, Fergie won it with 75, and would win it the year after Arsene’s first title with 79. Contrast that with 4 seasons ago, when Pep won it with 100 points.

      Wenger’s 75 points was one of the lowest winning points total of his time in charge. The league isnt more competitive — it is less so in the era of billionaire injections

  7. I thought / expected us to be more competitive yesterday. Not a great performance but in isolation that’s OK.

    However…… when Arteta joined he focused on making us harder to beat. This season that’s gone to shit. Against the top 3 we’re 0 points, 0 goals, 11 conceded. And it’s not like we’re playing gung-ho Bielsa-ball. For much of yesterday’s game we were eleven behind the ball.

    There’s a pattern forming. Against the top sides we’re miles away from scoring PLUS we’re flimsier than eighteen months ago.

    Approaching one third through the season Arsenal rank 8th for goals conceded and 14th for goals scored. XG and XGa ranks even worse (10th and 16th). We’re a mid table team in attack and lower third team in defence.

    Wham, Spuds, Leicester, ManUre and Arsenal are fighting for 4th-8th. At least two of these are going to improve.

    Arteta needs to find a better balance. It’s possible we can flat track bully our way to 6th, but it’s not a recipe for success.

  8. Tim. Arsene last 100 is definitely a more meaningful comparison then Arsene’s first 100. IMO. However I think arsene still had a significant talent advantage in his final 100 compared to arteta. Arsene had ozil close to his prime Sanchez Ramsey Kos nacho Giroud. Most think the best players on arteta’s teams the last couple years are Saka, smith-Rowe,31/32 year old Auba. To me that does not seem like comparable talent. Saka and Smith-rose have outperformed expectations but they are not Sanchez/ozil

    Claude. I thought most people believe the influx of TV money and other revenue has leveled the playing field from top to bottom of the league and made it overall more competitive

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