25 June: Arsenal return to top two form

by Tony Attwood

After the three month shut down of football in England in the spring of 2020, because of the coronavirus outbreak, Arsenal re-started their season with two defeats.  However, in the third match on this day they finally gained a win – 0-2 away to Southampton.  This was the start of an 11 match run in which Arsenal won 8, drew 1 and lost 2.    In a reversal of earlier form, Arsenal were unbeaten at home in this run.

But not only this run largely ignored by the football media, what was utterly ignored by commentators generally was that this run was a continuation of a trend which had begun after Christmas Day and ran for the last two-thirds of the season.

Across the final 24 games of the campaign, Arsenal had the second-best record of any club in the league winning 14, drawing five and losing five, thus notching up 47 points.

That was of course still a long way behind what Manchester City were achieving at the time but it was, across those 24 games, two points more than Manchester United got, five more than Chelsea, nine more than Liverpool and ten more than Tottenham.

Because the media refused to acknowledge this dramatic turnaround in form, it continued to put forward the notion that Arsenal had had the most dreadful of seasons, highlighting of course the fact that in the following campaign Arsenal would not be in Europe for the first time in 25 years.

In doing so the media conveniently forgot to mention that all the other “top six” clubs had previously had prolonged periods outside of the European places, and for Arsenal this was the first time without a European place since before Mr Wenger took over.

Certainly everyone knew, and reported what the league table looked like on Christmas day 2020.

Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Liverpool 14 9 4 1 36 19 17 31
2 Everton 14 8 2 4 25 19 6 26
3 Tottenham Hotspur 13 7 4 2 25 12 13 25
4 Leicester City 13 8 0 5 24 17 7 24
5 Southampton 14 7 3 4 25 19 6 24
6 Manchester City 13 6 5 2 19 12 7 23
7 Manchester United 12 7 2 3 22 19 3 23
8 Chelsea 13 6 4 3 26 14 12 22
9 West Ham United 13 6 3 4 21 16 5 21
10 Wolverhampton Wanderers 13 6 2 5 13 17 -4 20
11 Aston Villa 11 6 1 4 21 13 8 19
12 Newcastle United 13 5 3 5 17 22 -5 18
13 Crystal Palace 14 5 3 6 19 25 -6 18
14 Leeds United 13 5 2 6 22 24 -2 17
15 Arsenal 14 4 2 8 12 18 -6 14
16 Brighton and Hove Albion 13 2 5 6 15 21 -6 11
17 Fulham 14 2 4 8 13 23 -10 10
18 Burnley 12 2 4 6 6 18 -12 10
19 West Bromwich Albion 13 1 4 8 10 26 -16 7
20 Sheffield United 13 0 1 12 7 24 -17 1

Arsenal were four points above the relegation places with four of the five teams below them having at least one game in hand over Arsenal. If Brighton and Burnley won their games in hand, Arsenal would be down to 17th.

The media made much of that – far more in fact than they commented upon what happened in the remaining 24 games of the season.  Here is the league table of last 24 games of the season.  For ease of reading I’ve just included the top eight clubs

P Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Manchester City 24 20 0 4 62 20 42 60
2 Arsenal 24 14 5 5 43 21 22 47
3 Manchester United 24 13 8 3 43 21 22 47
4 West Ham United 24 13 5 6 41 28 13 44
5 Chelsea 24 12 6 6 29 22 7 42
6 Leicester City 24 11 6 7 42 33 9 39
7 Liverpool 24 11 5 8 32 23 38
8 Tottenham Hots 24 11 4 9 43 31 12 37

That turnaround was the story that was only ever mentioned in passing, never in detail.

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