Football Features

11 damning stats from Arsenal’s worst start to a top-flight season since 1974/75

By Harry Edwards

Published: 11:10, 15 December 2020

Almost a year after he got the job, Mikel Arteta’s role as Arsenal manager is looking very insecure.

The Spaniard replaced Unai Emery in December 2019 and, following a rocky start, managed to get things under control at the Emirates, coming into 2020/21 on a high. With an FA Cup and Community Shield added to the trophy cabinet, hope had returned to Arsenal and they had begun the season on a good note. But then everything unravelled.

Now in December 2020, Arsenal have experienced their worst start to a season since 1974/75, with Arteta reportedly losing support from some members of the squad and stories of training-pitch incidents being leaked. According to reports, Arsenal players were unhappy with the way Arteta publicly called out Nicolas Pepe for a red card received during a draw with Leeds United, while his handling of Mesut Ozil has split opinions.

There have been calls from some for Arteta to be sacked, with fans unable to see Arsenal turning things around under the Spaniard, who is still yet to complete a full year in management.

But just how bad has their start been? We’ve had a look back and picked up 11 stats that best exemplify the sad state of affairs at Arsenal right now.

1. The worst start

Starting with the headline problem, Arsenal’s 1-0 defeat to Burnley at the weekend meant they have managed just four wins and one draw in their opening 12 games.

Not since 1974/75 have they endured a worse start to a campaign, when they won two and drew three in the First Division (gathering nine points in the two points for a win era). That season, they ended in 16th, just four points clear of the relegation zone under Bertie Mee, who had previously led them to the Double in 1970/71.

2. Home horrors

Arsenal’s game against Burnley on Sunday saw the Emirates draw level with Highbury in hosting 272 Premier League games, but it has not been a happy period for the Gunners.

They have now lost their past four home league games, the first time that has happened since 1959. In those games, the Gunners have scored just once and conceded seven times.

Leicester were the first in that run, as Jamie Vardy continued his excellent record against the Gunners. Then Aston Villa shocked the Emirates with a comprehensive 3-0 victory and Wolves also left north London with all three points before Burnley joined the club.

3. Unwanted firsts

Not only is that run of home games their worst in over 60 years, it also brought two Premier League firsts.

Going into their game at the end of August, Arsenal were unbeaten at home against Leicester in all competitions since 1973, a run of 27 games including 14 in the Premier League. That run obviously came to an end, but Arsenal weren’t done there.

Burnley also left the Emirates with their first-ever away win against Arsenal in the Premier League, at the 13th time of asking, while they had last beaten the Gunners on the road in September 1974.

4. Troubles at the back

Another stat coming from the Burnley game (who knew it would be this damning) and this time it’s a defensive one.

The defeat means Arsenal have now failed to keep a clean sheet in any of their last nine home games in the Premier League, since Norwich were kept out in a 4-0 win at the start of July. Since that game, Arsenal have conceded 13 goals, winning four times, drawing once and losing four times.

This is their worst record since 2007 when they also went nine home league games without a clean sheet, but that came across two campaigns.

5. A terrible run

When Arsenal beat Manchester United 1-0 on November 1, they moved up to ninth in the table with 12 points from their opening seven games. Although it’s not a position they could boast about, the Gunners were just four points behind then-league leaders Liverpool.

Fast forward to the middle of December, Arsenal have now played 12 games and have 13 points, earning just one from their past five games. That came in a goalless draw with Leeds, now four games ago.

6. A worrying drought

Arsenal’s defence hasn’t been great, conceding 15 goals in 12 games, but their attack has been undeniably worse. Only Burnley, West Brom and Sheffield United have scored fewer goals than Arsenal (10) in the Premier League this season, and the Gunners are on a poor run.

The goalless game against Burnley means Arsenal have now gone 12 hours and 32 minutes in the Premier League without scoring from open play since Pepe found the net in a 2-1 win over Sheffield United. Since that game, Arsenal have scored twice in eight outings, one coming via a Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang penalty in the 1-0 win over Man Utd and another through Gabriel who headed in from a corner in a 2-1 defeat to Wolves.

7. Cross and hope

Moving slightly further back in the season, Arsenal made unwanted headlines in their defeat to Tottenham Hotspur, in which they attempted 44 crosses, more than any other team has managed in a single match in 2020/21.

The problem here, however, does not lie with the number of crosses Arsenal put in but rather the quality. For Arsenal, these crosses have been a hit and hope kind of deal, without any real aerial threat to get onto the end of them. Think Barcelona constantly whipping in crosses for Lionel Messi to try to head in, or Tottenham doing the same for Jermain Defoe during his two spells in north London.

8. Toothless on the road

Games at the Emirates are not Arsenal’s only problems right now. The 2-0 defeat at Spurs saw them fail to trouble Hugo Lloris in the home goal, without a single shot on target.

This came just two weeks after they had failed to produce a shot on target in their away visit to Leeds, the 0-0 draw mentioned slightly above. The last Arsenal player to have a shot on target on the road in the Premier League was, in fact, Aubameyang when he scored that penalty against Man Utd at Old Trafford.

9. Slow starters

It’s not just on the road that Arsenal have had problems in front of goal, it’s games in general.

Twice in the Premier League this season, Arsenal have failed to produce a shot on target in the first half of a game, doing so first against Man Utd and then against Leeds. In fact, only Aston Villa, Newcastle and Burnley have had fewer shots on target in first halves in the Premier League this season.

10. Worst attack in almost 40 years

Back to breaking records for Arsenal, and it’s another one related to their attack.

Arsenal’s tally of just 10 goals after 12 Premier League games this season is their lowest at this stage of a top-flight campaign since 1981/82 when they managed eight. Then, however, they managed to pull themselves up to eighth in the table.

11. Gunners see red

This is not a stat set to this season alone, but it is still a damning one for Arteta to take a look at.

Since the Spaniard took charge of his first Arsenal game, against Bournemouth on December 26, 2019, Arsenal have received six red cards, more than any other team in the Premier League.

In that same time, no team has received more than three with Norwich, Leicester, Brighton, Man City and Everton all tied for second. Arsenal’s worst offender in that run is David Luiz, who has been sent off twice.

Granit Xhaka, the latest to be sent off for violent conduct against Burnley, is joined by Nicolas Pepe, Eddie Nketiah and Aubameyang on one red card.