Welcome to this week’s edition of Clayton’s Calculator where I examine the main “numbered” talking points. This week, I wanted to delve into some of the numbers that highlight how Arsenal’s season is going so far. Our first number is…
21 Seasons Without an FA Cup 3rd Round Loss
Wenger’s impressive streak of 21 straight FA Cup 3rd Round wins is officially over. An embarrassing 4-2 loss to Nottingham Forest adds yet another blemish to the tail-end of the Wenger era. I haven’t quite been able to understand Wenger’s lineup decision. On paper, a side with 7 international players should’ve dispatched Forest easily. Recently though, on several occasions, the “B Team” has struggled to create chances and defend soundly. He should’ve taken that into consideration.
There’s a nearly unanimous consensus across social media that we needed experience on the bench in case of an emergency. I hardly imagine that Sanchez and Ozil would’ve minded pairing up against a tiring Championship side in the 2nd half. Forest would’ve been shaking in their boots had those two stepped onto the field with 30 minutes left in the match. Even if Sanchez is heading off to City soon, I doubt that one of their big requests is that he must be eligible to play in the FA Cup for them. It’s truly, mind-boggling stuff that a manager with so much experience in this competition didn’t realize that Forest had nothing to lose and would be going all out.
4 Penalties Conceded in the Last 3 Games
While at least 2 of the penalties were clearly wrong calls, it still doesn’t bode well for the Arsenal defense. The fact that you’re having penalties called on you consistently (whether correctly called or not) means there are holes in the defense and opponents are allowed too much time in your box. The prime example of this was Armand Traore blowing past both Debuchy and Mertesacker in order to earn a penalty. Whether Debuchy hit the ball or not, he invited more trouble than was necessary and should’ve cut Traore off before allowing him to get that far. Aging defenders, players playing out of position, and forever changing formations are probably all at fault. Speaking of a leaky defense…
12 Goals Allowed in the Last 5 Games
This might be the worst of this week’s numbers. The most incriminating detail is the fact that 3 of the games were against a mid-table Championship side and 2 struggling Premier League sides. No matter the competition, formation, or opponent, Arsenal continues to concede goals. Inconsistency has come standard with this season’s defensive performances as well. The team has gone in streaks of games with clean sheets, concessions, clean sheets, concessions… Arsenal’s future will be bank on whether they can introduce sound defensive coaching after Wenger and bring in younger talent to help offset the losses of Koscienly, Mertesacker, and Monreal.
76 Points is the Goal
While many people are writing Arsenal out of the Europa League after seeing sides like Atletico Madrid and Borussia Dortmund drop down, I’m not so quick to throw in the towel. However, it’s never a bad idea to have a backup plan. If Arsenal doesn’t win the Europa League, it seems most likely that at least 76 points will be needed for a top-4 finish. With each passing year under Wenger, it has become more and more difficult for a Premier League team to finish in the top-4. The revival of Tottenham and the relatively recent introduction of City and Chelsea as “big clubs” has left the top of the league very crowded. Not only are the top clubs getting stronger every year and investing heavily, clubs lower down the table are no longer strapped for cash due to the league’s immense commercialization and television deals.
This dynamic leaves Arsenal stuck right in between it all. While Arsenal certainly has the capability to match City’s or Chelsea’s investments, it’s clear that the club owner has other ideas. Combine that with Wenger’s inability to motivate and train a squad that can perform week after week and it’s no surprise that Arsenal is in this current predicament. The Gunners will need to find a way to pull something similar to 12 wins and a draw out of its remaining 16 fixtures. That would put them right at the 76 point mark. It’ll be a bumpy ride but the Gunners have to put their foot on the gas from here on out.