You think you know football?

It’s often been something that makes me think. How many Arsenal fans actually play football on a regular basis? From their apparent understanding of the game, it would appear not that many.

Now, I’m not a qualified coach, nor am I that good at football. I can run fairly fast, like to think I have an eye for a pass and understand how to play. I played to decent standard at school, have made a few cup finals in the local Sunday league divisions and even played Saturday football for a brief period.

Nowadays, I play 5-a-side in a local veterans league. I think the standard is pretty high; I’ve come up against goalkeepers who have played for Luton Town, and even teams that take part in annual international tournaments, but no matter who I’m up against, the football is often quite good.

On a Friday nights, we play a friendly match. It’s usually 6-a-side but it’s more of a practise than a full on competitive match. There is no ref, so it’s not quite as combative, but still people like to win and score plenty goals.

One chap I play with is renowned for having a very accurate left foot. He will shoot on sight from just about any distance and usually the ball will end up in the back of the net. However, one week, he couldn’t hit a barn door with a banjo.

He did hit the woodwork 3 or 4 times, but we laughed at his inability to score because of how out of the ordinary it was. The more he tried, the worse it got. His usual accuracy had deserted him for that period of 60 sweaty minutes.

Another story of randomness,  would be a game I played in last Friday. My team found itself loosing by about 9 goals with about 10 minutes to play. Not only were we getting pummeled, but also frustrated with our inability to hit the target as the opposing team enjoyed an almost unopposed goal fest.

That was until one of my team mates score a halfway line belter.

That was swiftly followed by a flurry of around 10 strikes with only a couple in reply. Sure, we ended up beaten by the usual last goal wins, but the score line was a much more respectable and pride had been restored.

Why did all that happen? Really, we had no idea.

Football can be a funny old game.

Those of you that play or have played, I would hope are able to appreciate this view point, especially if you played regularly to any standard.

The unpredictability of the game is something that can’t be explained. It’s human, it’s random and it’s something that you can’t manage or control, no matter how good the players are and no matter how assured the tactics, the human influence that is involved in football, will always affect the outcome.

My point is, that my experiences playing in the veterans league, and other’s experiences playing football, can easily be compared to how the Arsenal are playing this season.

You see, I would argue that Arsenal aren’t playing as poorly as people make out.

I would argue that Arsenal don’t need any more signings in the January window.

I would argue that Arsene Wenger is as tactically astute as the next manager.

Why? Because football really is a funny old game.

Arsene and Arsenals task is to try and effect the random elements and turn them in our favour, but there certainly isn’t any call for sackings, players being dropped to the bench or the back room staff muttering of discontent and disillusionment.

Fans need to be a bit more realistic in their assessment.

Our league form is, well…as normal…

This season, folks are getting very wound up about our position in the league and our lack of progression up the table. The latest loss to Swansea went down like a lead balloon amongst the Arsenal faithful, and subsequently we dropped from 5th to 6th.

6th position and 17 points. Ohh the terror.

With only another 27 games to play, you might think we are fighting a relegation battle, judging by some of the reaction. If you look to past seasons league positions at this stage, you might be surprised we are actually par for the course;

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Premiership Table 2014 & 2013 to November 13th
statto.com
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Premiership Table 2012 & 2011 to November 13th
statto.com

Our league form fluctuates in the top half of the table every year as our squad looks for form and players get on their game and grow in confidence.

Such is the way of football. It’s difficult to predict, and this happens every year, with a few exceptions of course; last season for instance.

We might not be top this season, but Arsenal are still competitive.

This season, the knives appear to be out in a big way, probably because in comparison, we had such a good start last time round and Chelski are running away a little bit. But there is plenty of games to go, and don’t forget the players we have out injured.

Injuries?!? Arsene should have prepared by buying more players!

I disagree. The players that we have already are good enough and despite the absences, Arsenal are still playing very decent football.

Those of you who aren’t convinced that we are playing well should also pay a bit more attention how we are playing, not just the results.

But the results are what matter!?

Yes they are. But we have to be playing well in the first place to achieve better results. And Arsenal are set and ready to go in that respect.

Defending is not the issue…scoring goals is.

Some ans are currently talking about the need for a new centre back and a new midfielder, as we are apparently scoring goals with abandon through Alexis Sanchez.

But we are not.

Despite the heroics of our Chilean and his firey boots of thunder, putting the ball in the back of the net appears to be Arsenal’s undoing, again.

Our ability to convert the chances we create is letting us down, big time;

Chances created by premier league teams so far this season.
Chances created by premier league teams so far this season.From www.squawka.com

 

The statistics speak volumes. Second in the chances created table for the Premiership so far. It’s a a pity that the assist figure isn’t higher as if it was, we would be winning more games.

This can be reinforced further by looking at how our shooting fairs against the other sides in the premiership, as in the past, that’s always been a quandary;

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Shots taken by teams in the premier league this season. From www.squawka.com

Oops. Second again. Higher than all the teams above us in the league, bar Man City, and we are taking the most shots outside of the area. Plenty of shots…just not many goals. Be that because our players go boss-eyed at the sight of the sticks, or that opposition are literally sacrificing themselves to keep the ball out of the net, who knows, but if you don’t take shots, you don’t score goals.

Just to appease you, as you probably don’t believe those figures…I took a look at our defensive performance too;

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Defensive performance by Premier League teams so far this season.From www.squawka.com

Huh? Third ? According to the statistics, we have a better defence than Chelsea ? How can this be ?

Well, there are several factors that can influence these figures, and this is how I interpret them;

The lower the score, the better a team is at dealing with opposition through it’s midfield, with the forward players tracking back to defend. Either that, or the defenders never really have to do much defending, because we are always attacking, or we maintain a lot of possession.

That is the best way to stop the opposition scoring – don’t let them have the ball.

But those defensive numbers don’t take possession into consideration – that’s a different statistic.

The numbers would suggest that we are actually defending very well, all over the pitch.

Of course, there will be anomalies, but what you can’t count in all these figures is the number of goals we concede through no fault of our own. Through elements out of our control. What I mean by that is the oppositions ability to fashion a chance themselves – be that from a free kick, good play or how the ball bounces.

Gylfi Sigurdsson’s epic against Swansea is a prime example, as is the Anderlect offside goal and Southampton’s Clyne strike in the Capital One cup.  They aren’t errors of Arsenals making, rather the oppositions ability to capitalise on brief opportunity, and you can’t do much about that.

Arsenal are creating a world of opportunitie to win matches, we simply aren’t making the most of then at the moment.

Still not convinced ?

Well how about if I show you that Arsenal are currently 12th on the list of chances created per game in Europes top 5 leagues;

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Chances created – Top 5 European Leagues this season.From www.squawka.com

Or how about that statistically speaking, Arsenal are the 7th best performing team out of those same leagues ?

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Team performance score so far this season – Top 5 European Leagues.From www.squawka.com

Yes so it’s a performance score…that really mean nothing, but it’s applicable to all teams and a good way of measuring how you are playing, and Arsenal are playing very well. We are not winning, but we are playing very well.

The fact is, that you can play very well in all your matches, you can create the chances and defended resolutely, but if the ball simply won’t go in the net…then it’s not going to be your day.

Scoring more goals than the opposition is what really matters.

But isn’t that just the point?

Regardless of how you play, regardless of the statistics and numbers, from veterans league, all the way up to the premiership, there is no football script. There is no “win the game” power up, nor is there a switch that turns on skills or goals.

In reality, it’s all about specific moments on the pitch and how individuals deal with them in a split second. Even the galactic mind powers of Arsene Wenger, controlling all he surveys like a zombie king, can’t stop Arsenal’s opposition from having an excellent match winning moment or give the referee sight beyond sight.

That is after all what they are are also on the pitch for and if we can’t get the ball in the net, we’re not going to beat them no matter what we do.

That is just how football goes.

Don't be blue - make the world Arsenal!
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