Guest Post: Looking Forward to the Top Four Battle

One of our regular readers  sent in an interesting analysis for the rest of the fixtures to see the chances of Arsenal getting ahead of either Chelsea and/or Spurs. As he says, it’s worth focusing on something immediately relevant and possibly positive rather than speculating wildly about the future.

Mick from Brisbane/Sydney is an avid Gooner who has been supporting the Gunners for nearly a decade. Over to him,


When I wrote to Desi initially with the idea of writing a piece providing some analysis on the run in to the end of the season, it was fuelled by my usual ‘blinkers on’ optimism for all things Arsenal. However, like many Gooners, I didn’t see the results of the last fortnight coming or, at least, not the extent of the results and have been left somewhat numb, shell shocked, and more than a little angry. But let’s see if I can dig deep for a sprinkle of optimism and provide some much needed relief for what’s left of another dark season.

Before I get to the analysis let me just say that I am not going to talk about anything other than what I feel we can achieve this season. We can only speculate about what will happen in the summer. Whether Arsene will stay, whether he gets the rumoured transfer war chest and actually spends it, and if he does will he bring in true world class quality or more unproven potential?

So let’s put that to a side and concentrate on what’s left. I may not associate myself with those who currently hate on the club, the board or Arsene (although I am obviously not happy about the current situation), but I’m also not optimistic enough to suggest that we’re still alive in the Champions League. So that leaves the ‘trophy equivalent’ top 4 finish.

Well, fortunately, this is where the good news begins. Of the teams realistically competing for spots three and four (Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea in my opinion: feel free to disagree) I believe we have the easiest remaining fixtures and at minimum an even money chance of continuing our impressive run of Champions League qualifications.

So this is where my analysis comes in. As you can see in the chart below I have focused solely on two factors:

1: Difficulty of each fixture (open to debate) from Well above average to Relegation battler and;

2:  An average of table position for each remaining opposition as the table currently stands 21/02/2013 (Hopefully a strong unbiased indicator of difficulty)

Top 4 run-in fixtures analysis

Click to enlarge

From the table we can make a number of inferences. To keep it as concise as possible I’ll list them in dot points:

  1. Average opposition position shows us that independent of whether the fixture is home or away Arsenal (11.91) play a significantly higher proportion of games against inferior opposition than Chelsea (8.75) and Spurs (9.25).
  2. We will also play a significant role in the relegation battle and so too will it play a major role in determining the outcome of our season. With games remaining against Aston Villa, Reading, QPR and Wigan all falling at the wrong end of the season, when, as we know, players, managers, and clubs are desperately fighting for their survival, we are left very exposed.
  3. Tottenham have the highest proportion of games falling into the Well Above Average and Above Average categories, 8 of the 12 remaining fixtures in fact. With 5 of those 8 games being played away from White Hart Lane with fixtures at Liverpool, Swansea, Chelsea, West Ham and Stoke.
  4. Chelsea have the to play all of the current top four teams (excluding themselves obviously) with two of those fixtures played away to both Manchester clubs.

All of this is to say that despite all the setbacks, disappointments, and pessimism maybe the strong chance of us retaining our Champions League position for next season can be seen as some sort of consolation. Who knows? Maybe the season has gotten to me so much that I’ve started to see it as silverware.

Let me know what you think about anything and everything I have written about in the comments section and up the Mighty Gunners!


My Two Cents:

I think it’s a very good idea to focus on the short term. There is one objective left in the season (don’t see the point in expecting miracles in the Champions League) and it’s still achievable (which does say something about the impact of transfer activity at other clubs?!).

If we look at the results of the reverse fixtures of the ones remaining in the run in, we get the following table –

Top 4 run-in corresponding fixture results

Arsenal definitely have a good chance of getting more points but a vital question is – Compared to the rivals, how many more can they get? If the teams get exactly the same points as they did in the reverse fixtures (highly unlikely), the Gunners will fall short.

This does boil down to consistency. Spurs have lost 5 of the reverse fixtures but 4 of those defeats came against the current top 6 and one was a surprise result against Wigan. If they can get some points in those games they could get more than the 19 they have against these sides.

Chelsea have drawn more games than they’ve won or lost. And given their inconsistent performances under Benitez, it’s very hard to predict just how much they can improve.

The Gunners will probably have to get more than 21 points if they want to keep matters in their own hand. It’s highly unlikely that 65 points will be enough for a Champions League spot. The lowest under Wenger has been 67 in 05-06.

We also have to see the impact that results in Cup competitions have on League form. Chelsea and Spurs might have more games to play and that could affect their League form. On the other hand, we saw how exits from the three Cups affected the team’s confidence and form in 2010-11. Will they be able to perform better this time around?

Also, Everton do deserve a mention even if they’ve not been included in this analysis. I think it’s a race between four teams for two spots.The results in the games between these four sides could be decisive as they’ll all be six-pointers.

What’s already happened this season is in the past. The next few weeks can still salvage some respectability because finishing above either Spurs or Chelsea will be an achievement given all the transfer business they’ve done.

Thanks Mick for a practical, informative, forward-looking article with an upbeat tone.

12 Responses to Guest Post: Looking Forward to the Top Four Battle

  1. Gerry Lennon says:

    Well done indeed Mick. We really do have to put aside thoughts of what might happen in the summer, and just concentrate on the each game as it comes along.
    If we can get some kind of run going I think the confidence that follows we see us into 3rd spot. BUT! The winning run has to start with the Villa.

    Another thought crossed my mind, and that is what sort of team do we put out in the CL with important league games either side? That will be one distraction we could have done without? I guess they will have to go to Germany with a strong squad and give it a go, but on recent evidence, it is a forlorn hope? Perhaps a ‘convenient’ injury might pop up so an important player or two, so they do not have to travel either?

    Just a though ..

  2. Forza Gunners says:

    There are no easy games at this stage of the season. AW always talks about relegation battlers giving their all in a bid to survive and we have lost points against such sides. Wigan, to name one, are a club who will get some points against us.

    Thankfully it’s applicable to all teams. I wish the Chavs, Tots, and the Toffees all share their points making it easier for us. Then again, the Chavs beating the other two would work just as fine seeing as they’ve already taken points off us.

    Can we count on City doing us a solid? I think they’re going to implode and bottle it in the league.

    Mick, good one mate. You should write more.

    Gerry, Second your thoughts about tanking the return leg. About time injuries help us in some way, eh 😉

  3. Winner says:

    Good analysis and positive post. Less fixture congestion means more time for the players to recover between games and that means we can field the strongest possible team in almost all remaining games. Our greatest enemy right now is our fragile confidence.Of all the remaining opponents only United is untouchable at the moment. On paper 4th or even 3rd is achievable.

  4. Steve says:

    It’s been a while since this blog carried anything other than pre and post match articles. Hope you write more as you did before. There is a need for sensible opinions in the Gunnersphere.

    Well done Mick. I agree, 4th seems like Silverware now. Grasping at straws but it’s our only glimmer of hope

  5. […] rather than speculating wildly about the future. Mick from Brisbane/Sydney is an avid […] …read more Read more here: […]

  6. Cupsui says:

    good analysis mick…
    a more statistical look at the up-coming fixtures. Although i still believe there is a lot of “X” factor that stats can’t account for in games like this so right now our season hinges upon how wenger can get the side back up after recent disappointments.

    Its going to be tough although i’m still not sold on spurs quality although AVB is a good manager and has them motivated right now.

    fingers crossed we can get there and the 5th no 6th no 7th …. time something like this has happened is enough to motivate the board and wenger into action over the summer…cause something has gotta happen!

  7. My Heart Is White says:

    All what transfer business we’ve done? Oh, you mean podolski, giroud, cazorla, park? I could go on, although I think that I’ve made my point. That was only very recently too. We haven’t made many more signings than arsenal if any at all. So I wouldn’t keep trying to use that as an excuse. See how the season pans out. I wouldn’t hang all your hopes on those points you made, many tiny details decide goals, fixtures, titles and positions. Anything can happen till the close of the season, but at this very point in time I still feel that Spurs are strong and creative enough to qualify for CL. Hoping for players to get injured is as nasty as it is desperate.

  8. Spurred-on says:

    All very interesting and quite an effort to put that lot together. However, there is nothing predictable about the EPL, remember Chelsea 0 QPR 1? The run-in will be very entertaining and there are sure to be thrills and spills but as a Spurs fan I would add this: Arsenal and Chelsea are teams that at the moment are very unpredictable (even Man City come into this category to some extent), Tottenham over recent months have shown considerable consistency and are a very difficult team to beat; we have even been Man Utd-like in our capacity to grind out wins and score late goals. As a Spurs fan I would say for a number of reasons that the run-in will be more about team cohesion and confidence than about the supposed strengths and weaknesses of teams above or below the CL place chasers. I do sincerely believe that Spurs deserve to finish in the top four (where they have been for several months) and hope they can avoid the kind of mishaps that tarnished things last season. I wish Arsenal all the best in the return against Bayern, though don’t go on and win the thing and do a Chelsea on us!

  9. […] in the day I’d published a guest post with analysis of the fixtures in the run-in for Arsenal and other top 4 competitors like Chelsea and Spurs performed by Mick from Brisbane. Do check it out in case you missed […]

  10. Charlie says:

    Here’s my 10 cents. I have estimated the scores in the next 6 games only based on current form (5 home and 5 away). I estimated scores too but let’s keep it simple.

    Man City (Away): 1pt
    West Brom (Home): 3pts
    Fulham (Away): 3pts
    West Ham (Home): 3pts
    South’ton (Away): 1pt
    Sunderland (Home): 3pts
    Total of 14pts putting them on 63 with 6 to play.

    Villa (Home): 3pts
    Spurs (Away): 1pt
    Everton (Home): 3pts
    Swansea (Away): 1pt
    Reading (Home): 3pts
    West Brom (Away) 3pts
    Total of 14pts putting them on 58 with 6 to play.

    West Ham (Away): 3pts
    Arsenal (Home): 1pt
    Liverpool (Away): 0pts
    Fulham (Home): 3pts
    Swansea (Away): 1pt
    Everton (Home): 1pt
    Total of 9pts putting them on 57 with 6 to play.

    So I have Arsenal taking a narrow lead heading into the home stretch but much depends on the swing of the games against Everton and Arsenal are predicted to win by virtue of scoring more home goals than Spurs recently. That game will probably be close in both cases. If Everton win both they will probably take the initiative from both Arsenal and Spurs.

    In the final 6 games Arsenal have an advantage with only Man U (Home) likely to be dropped points. Chelsea have Spurs, Liverpool, Man U and Everton in their last 6 games so they are by no means guaranteed third. Spurs will face challenging games against Chelsea and Man City in the last 6 matches.

  11. Charlie says:

    Of course football results cannot be predicted by statistics but bookies make a good living so statistics have their place.

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