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April 16, 2012

When did Arsenal’s season really turn around?

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As we approach kickoff of the Arsenal vs. Wigan game this afternoon, I thought I’d take a quick look back at the Gunners’ season and when the data says the season may have turned around.

It’s well documented that Arsenal got off to one of the club’s worst starts ever, but gradually they have come back and are currently in third place.  With five games remaining, their magic number over Spurs and Newcastle stands at 11 and 8 over Chelsea.

Magic number” is a phrase we use in the States, particularly with baseball, “to indicate how close a front-running team is to clinching a season title (or third place and a Champions League automatic qualifying spot in Arsenal’s case). It represents the total of additional wins by the front-running team or additional losses (or any combination thereof) by the rival team after which it is mathematically impossible for the rival team to capture the title in the remaining games.”

Many people point to the goal below by Bacary Sagna when Arsenal were down 0-2 against Spurs on 26-Feb as the turning point in the season.  (Pardon the poor quality; it’s all I could find on YouTube.)  I must say that I love the way Sagna took the goal, followed the ball into the goal, picked it up, ran it to half field and all but said “I’m sick of this!”  The entire attitude of the team seemed to shift on this one goal.  I get the chills every time I watch it.

Again, I have no doubt about the attitude shift at this single moment, particularly after back-to-back poor results against AC Milan (Champions League) and Sunderland (FA Cup).  But looking at the data for the EPL only, one particular match stands out as the turnaround point..the 7-1 thrashing of Blackburn, whom Arsenal somehow managed to lose to during their early season swoon.

Below you will see four chart, all which highlight this 7-1 game.

  1. Points Trend – the upward trend of full-point matches clearly starts with the Blackburn match
  2. Points vs. Possible – Here, you want to see a flat green line, which indicates full points are taken from the match.  Look at that long run of results that starts with the Blackburn match.
  3. Table position – What an ugly start to the season!  There was a recovery for a few weeks 1/3 of the way into the season, but another string of poor results began with the 0-1 loss to Manchester City.  But the run of results beginning with the Blackburn match, combined with a significant dip in form by Spurs, has pole vaulted the Gunners into 3rd place.
  4. Score vs. Result – This is a simple scatterplot. The darker the bubble, the more results for that score.  Excluding the 2-8 drubbing at the hands of Manchester Units, Arsenal have lost every match, bar a 0-2 defeat by only one goals.  This indicates that they have been in every match, but haven’t been able to score late to turn the result around.  But look at our wins, the scores have been tremendous with a but more than a 4-1 average score.


Touch wood that Arsenal will hold on to third place, and please, please, please RVP, sign a new contract!

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