You’d have to go a long way to find anyone who believes this has been a vintage season for Arsenal.
Indeed, in many ways, it has been a season that could comfortably be described as ‘one step forward and two steps back’ – despite the improvements we have seen since Christmas.
Most rational fans can see that progress is being made though, and there is something of a cultural shift taking place at the club that would have been difficult to negotiate in normal times, let alone in the grip of a global pandemic that has compressed seasons and thrust everyone into awkward circumstances.
With all that in mind, and recognising that there is plenty of work still to do to get this squad back where it belongs, I wonder whether there may still be a silver lining in terms of our finish to the campaign. Can we rack up enough points between now and the end of the season to surpass last year’s efforts?
On the face of it, it’s not impossible – however inconsistent we may be.
In 2019/20, we finished the campaign in eighth place with 56 points, having clocked up 14 wins, 14 draws and 10 defeats across 38 fixtures. We scored 56 goals and conceded 48, giving us a goal difference of eight.
Currently, with 29 games of the 2020/21 campaign completed, we have accrued 42 points, having registered 12 wins, six draws, and 11 defeats. We have scored 40 goals and conceded 32.
Here are the Premier League fixtures remaining (some dates may be subject to change):
3 April: Arsenal vs Liverpool
11 April: Sheffield Utd vs Arsenal
17 April: Arsenal vs Fulham
24 April: Arsenal vs Everton
1 May: Newcastle United vs Arsenal
8 May: Arsenal vs West Bromwich Albion
12 May: Chelsea vs Arsenal
15 May: Crystal Palace vs Arsenal
23 May: Arsenal vs Brighton
So, nine league matches remaining – five at home and four on the road. If we are to progress from last season – in real terms as well as ‘on the eye’, we’ll need to find 15 points from a maximum of 27 on offer. There are obviously multiple ways in which we could reach that total but, in simplest terms, that’s five wins from our remaining nine.
Is that doable? Given that we play five of the current bottom six before the end of the campaign, as well as Crystal Palace, who currently sit in the bottom half, it is absolutely possible. More than that, I would say it should be a minimum target given the teams involved.
There’s no getting away from the fact that we have been – and continue to be – inconsistent and prone to error so, in truth, no fixture can be taken for granted. However, if this team is to head into the summer on a high and with some semblance of momentum, it has to look at the majority of those fixtures as winnable. There isn’t a lot more you can say.
As a somewhat fanciful aside, the team in sixth place last year (Spurs) managed 59 points. While still possible for us to reach that total and a potential top six spot, the quality and greater consistency of the teams around us means that, in all likelihood, automatic qualification is probably beyond us – barring some sort of miraculous winning run. Don’t rule it out, but don’t bank on it.