This week our statistician Josh James looks at Arsenal's record at the business end of the season.
Only twice in the previous 15 seasons under Arsène Wenger has Arsenal's final league position been different to that with four games remaining.
In 2005/06, Arsenal climbed to fourth from fifth on the final day of the season, and last season the Gunners dropped one place from third to fourth after losing two of the last three matches. Other than that, the position Arsenal have occupied at this stage of a season has ended up being their finishing place.
This year Arsenal know that four wins from their remaining four games will guarantee them a third-place finish - making it 16 consecutive seasons that the Gunners would have finished inside the top four. That, of course, would extend an existing club record. The previous best run of top-four finishes was five - between 1930/31 and 1934/35 inclusive.
Should Arsenal take maximum points from these remaining matches, it will be the third time the team has taken 12 points from the last 12 available during the Premier League era (2002 and 2008 being the other occasions).
Overall since the Premier League's foundation in 1992, Arsenal have averaged a cumulative 6.95 points for the final four games of the run-in – or 1.74 points per game (PPG) – which is actually less than the overall PPG average of 1.9 for the rest of the Club's Premier League matches. That means statistically Arsenal's form at this stage of the season is traditionally not as good as for the rest of the campaign.
This was certainly true in each of the past three seasons when Arsenal picked up fewer PPG in the last four games than in the preceding 34. Overall the numbers show that in 13 of the 19 Premier League seasons, Arsenal's PPG has been lower in the last four games of the campaign.
There are, however, plenty of possible explanations for these figures, as we will see below.
|Season||Points||Goals||Points per game||Rest of season PPG||Final position||Change in last four games|
Dead rubbers are a common occurrence at this time of season, which can serve to skew the stats when analysing late April/May fixtures.
In the very first Premier League season for example, Arsenal were solidly mid-table, but did have an FA Cup final to look forward to, and as such George Graham rested several regulars for the league matches, claiming just four points from four games.
In the following two seasons Arsenal also had cup finals to prepare for (both in the Cup Winners' Cup) and so league football took a back seat as they were out of the running for the title.
In 1998 Arsenal were fighting for the championship, but once this was secured, Wenger's men lost the remaining two 'meaningless' league games, again with an eye on the upcoming FA Cup final.
In 2004 Arsenal were already champions by the time the last four games came around, but there was still plenty to play for as they chased an historic unbeaten season. Four draws were all that was needed, in the event they won two and drew two for eight points.
In seasons when there has been something at stake (2005/06 for example) Arsenal have often responded. That season the Gunners famously only moved into fourth place on the very last day, after taking 10 points out of 12 in the run-in.
Wenger however, will hope that his team have learnt their lesson from last season. Twelve months ago Arsenal had secured their place in the top four with three games remaining, but then lost their grip on third place after taking just one point in those three matches. It remains the only time Arsenal have lost places at this stage of the season under Wenger.
Arsenal took maximum points during the 2002 and 2008 run ins, but had they also managed 100 per cent records over the last four games in 1999 and 2003 they would have been champions each time.
|Average for all seasons||6.95||7|
|Average under Arsène Wenger||7.53||7.8|
Average for seasons with a cup game
among final four league games
Average for seasons without a cup game
among final four league games
The encouraging news is that Arsenal have already beaten each of their remaining four opponents so far this season. Chelsea were beaten 5-3 (away), Stoke 3-1 (home), Norwich 2-1 (away) and West Brom 3-0 (home).
Indeed, of the 19 other Premier League sides the Gunners have faced in 2011/12, they have beaten 17 of them (all except for Fulham and Manchester United).
Arsenal also defeated every team they faced in the Champions League, as well as Shrewsbury in the Carling Cup and Leeds in the FA Cup, meaning they have beaten 24 of the 26 different teams faced.
It is the first time since the 'Invincibles' season of 2003/04 that Arsenal have beaten as many as 17 different Premier League opponents. That year Portsmouth and Manchester United were the only sides to deny the Gunners a win.
The most teams Arsenal have beaten in a single league season is 18, during the 2001/02 title-winning campaign. That year Leeds were the only outfit undefeated against Wenger's men.
The Club have never had a league campaign in which they have defeated every other team at least once.
Since the Premier League was reduced to 20 teams in 1995/96, Arsenal have beaten an average of 15.47 of their opponents at least once during the season.
|Season||Different Premier League teams beaten|
All stats correct as at April 19, 2012. Josh James also provides the stats for the Arsenal Analysis pages of the matchday programme. To subscribe, or buy online, click here.Copyright 2013 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 19 Apr 2012