In the 24 hours after Arsenal’s horror show against Liverpool, I had some crazy statistics thrown at me on Twitter by those who disagreed with my assessment of where their club is at.
One pointed out a Sky graphic which showed Arsenal have a better record in 19 games against top-six rivals under Mikel Arteta than in the 19 before his arrival.
While another said people shouldn’t get too concerned by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s form because his expected goals ratio is better this season than the year he won the Golden Boot.
They completely ignored the fact that stats like that first one are only valid when a club is second, third, or maybe fourth.
That they don’t matter a jot when you’re 10th and have lost to Burnley, Aston Villa and Wolves in a season.
As for the guff about Aubameyang, just look at his form and body language, because that tells all of us far more about where he is at than some stat about expected goals.
There are only two things Arsenal fans need to concern themselves with now and that’s the fact they have lost almost half their league games this season and are 10th with eight games to go.
That’s madness and I have every sympathy for those supporters raging at the position they are in given the money their club has made in the last 25-odd years and the success it has enjoyed.
These days, if there’s a ‘big’ club that another side needs to go to for a soapy back rub, a warm welcome, some lovely boys to play against and a nice run-out to get three points, it’s Arsenal.
And Saturday’s performance was a manifestation of the fact they have become a club with an over-reliance on a manager who puts data, stats and expected goals ahead of, ’Can we keep clean sheets today? Can we put our bodies on the line for each other today? Can we work through this together?’
The blame for all of it lies with Arsene Wenger.
He had in the palms of his hands the perfect recipe for English football with the exceptional brilliance of Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp mixed with the technical brilliance and mental strength of a Patrick Vieira, and the mental strength and roll-up-your-sleeves, base pragmatism of Martin Keown, Tony Adams, Lee Dixon and Co.
But instead of building on that, he turned Arsenal into Barca lite, a team that might have won in La Liga but not here.
What binds the Invincibles, Manchester United’s Treble winners, Leicester’s Miracle Men, Liverpool last season and Manchester City this, is that in every one of those teams, usually within the spine, you see three or four players with absolute bottle and desire.
In the last 10 years, Arsenal may have had one or two, but never four and, as a result, have become an average football club, a chunk of whose fanbase think they’re doing better than they are based on modern jargon and statistics.
That’s while the rest of us sit there and draw our own conclusions from simply watching performances like Saturday’s, surmising ‘Crikey, that lot are in trouble, aren’t they?’