1 Save me, O God,
for the waters have come up to my neck.
2 I sink in the miry depths,
where there is no foothold.
I have come into the deep waters;
the floods engulf me.
3 I am worn out calling for help;
my throat is parched.
My eyes fail,
looking for my God.
4 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.
5 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.
|Wenger first 69||69||38||18||13||115||58||0.55||1.91||1.67||0.84||0.83|
|Wenger last 69||69||37||11||21||132||86||0.54||1.77||1.91||1.25||0.67|
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.