Yesterday I had some thoughts about Arsenal winning every game they play. Even Arsene has often said that he tries to win every game. Most top managers say that. But it has never happened and I don’t think it ever will. So, in their heart of hearts, the managers must know that they will drop points in some games during the season.
I wonder whether the managers would start off with some number in mind. There are a total of 114 points on offer. Considering Liverpool’s 86 points as the highest total for a second placed team, I would say 87 points win you the league. That means a manager would have a buffer of 27 points. In other words, a team can drop 27 points and win the league.
We can have a team winning the league after 9 defeats if they don’t draw any game. Not a realistic scenario but a baseline for losses perhaps. On the other hand a team can have 13 draws and win the league if they don’t lose any game. During our unbeaten season we had 12. The actual results may lie somewhere in between these two extremes with a combination of draws and losses.
The point is top managers would know what the worst they can afford is. I am not saying they would go into a game thinking they can lose it or be happy with a draw. But they must be mentally prepared for some bad results during the season. So I began wondering what approach would make sense. This led to the following classification of our fixture list.
The games against the other top 4 clubs would fall into this category. I know how much every fan and manager wants to win these fixtures but you cannot realistically expect to win all of them in a season. United won the title last year even when Liverpool did the double over them and they got only 1/6 against us. If I were the manager, I would find it acceptable to drop points in 3 out of these 6 fixtures.
This season I would include the games against Spuds, Villa and Citeh in this category. Partly due to the kind of money that has been invested, partly due to the quality of the managers and partly due to the form they have displayed, which proves that the first two parts are gelling together. I would expect the home and away fixtures to be equally tough. Spuds did trouble us last year in both and so did Villa. Citeh have already defeated us at home. If I were the manager, I wouldn’t want to drop points in more than 2 of these 6 games but 3 would also be acceptable. Last year we dropped points in 5 of these.
From an Arsenal point of view, trips to Sunderland, Stoke, Bolton and both the games against Everton and Fulham would fall in this category. Given the squads of these teams, these fixtures are not as tough as the ones in the previous two categories. But these teams are no pushovers. I would expect us to drop points in 2 out of these 7 games.
Must Win Games
I tend to consider the rest of the fixtures as must win games while acknowledging the cliché “there are no easy games in the premier league”. So out of the 19 fixtures, I would expect us to drop points in 2. These would truly be upsets in my opinion but without upsets football loses some of its charm.
I have racked up 9-10 games where we can lose points. Assuming all of them are not defeats it will give us a buffer of a few more games. It does not mean we should go into games looking to drop points or take a poor result casually. Nor am I saying that this is the perfect way to classify our fixtures. It is just one way of looking at them.
Someone else can say that we can forget all about the big four or big five and win all the other games. Another person might want to win all home games and do the best away from home. I am sure everyone has some thoughts on this and would certainly love to hear a different approach. All thoughts and criticisms are most welcome.