Four consecutive defeats in a row. Two points from the last six league games. Tough statistics to look at, so we now need an easy fixture to turn the tide. And what could be better than a visit to the Emirates where we comfortably won last season, 2-0?
But first, back to the Hull game. Once again my belief in statistics often having little bearing on the outcome of a game was proved to be a sound one in a number of areas. We took the lead, and most teams that do this go on to win the game. A quick look back through the season, and I reckon that we have dropped around 20 points from a winning position. Without checking on all teams in the league, I think it would be safe to assume that no club has a worse record than that.
I haven’t counted up how many goals we have conceded from set pieces, but the Hull winner was headed in direct from a corner. In our recent winless run it happened twice against Leicester, once against both West Brom and Bournemouth, and again in this game. Why can we not defend set pieces? Time and time again this happens. Do we practice defending set pieces, especially corners at training sessions? Who is responsible for our defence coaching? Why can’t we learn from our mistakes? Rumour has it that Rio Ferdinand offered his services to assist with our defence coaching and was turned down. If that is true, then I find it amazing that we could reject such an offer with the state of our defending. Or are our players just not good enough? If we are not top of the league in conceding goals from set pieces then I’ll bet we are at least in a Champions League position.
Once again we conceded a relatively late goal. How many times have we conceded goals in the last few minutes of games? How many teams have let in more goals in the last ten minutes? I don’t have the figures but I reckon we will be close to the top of this league too. We have now conceded 54 league goals. That puts us in the top 3 of that statistic too. Even Sunderland and Middlesbrough, the two favourites for the drop with the bookies, have let in fewer goals than we have.
OK, so we had more possession than Hull, completed more passes, had more shots, and more shots on target. It doesn’t matter. We lost the game. By all accounts it was arguably Hull’s worst performance in recent games. But it didn’t matter did it? They are now just 6 points behind us. And it could conceivably be just 3 after this midweek round of games. We now have just six clubs beneath us in the table, and it could possibly be 4 before we face Swansea next weekend in a game that is now taking on massive importance for us. A few weeks ago we surely couldn’t have envisaged this game as a “six pointer”. And we all remember what happened when they visited “fortress Upton Park” in our penultimate game there last season, don’t we?
But we won’t go down. Just consider the bookies odds. The bottom three are all odds-on to be relegated, and Swansea are just a shade better than evens. We are quoted as seventh favourites to go down at around 20-1. Bookies never get it wrong do they? They knew Trump would win in America, and the result of the referendum on Brexit would be Leave, and that the Tories would win the last election with an overall majority, didn’t they? Mmmmm!
I’m afraid I’ve lost my optimistic hat, and fear for us against Arsenal. Ignoring last season, they often give us a bit of a hammering at their place, and I noticed they withdrew Theo Walcott before the end of their game against Manchester City last weekend to keep him fresh for his usual goal or two against us. Can we match his pace with our defence? I’m surprised they didn’t try to buy back Podolski in the last transfer window to save him for the West Ham fixture where he frequently did well.
All season I’ve been predicting victories for us, often without any real evidence other than my support of the team, and my trusty optimistic hat, to back it up. This time I think we could be on the end of a big defeat. Arsenal haven’t had a good season themselves, but still retain a chance, albeit a receding one, of finishing in the top four for the 21st season in a row, or whatever the number is. It is looking extremely likely that they will finish fifth or sixth. Their fans are not happy and want the manager out. Or at least quite a number of them do according to various polls. Our manager still retains a good level of support considering the season we’ve had, but increasingly some fans are turning. And this week he received a vote of confidence from the board. And we all know what frequently happens shortly after that, don’t we?
I am hoping for an unlikely win, but fear that we will do well to keep Arsenal down to three. Perhaps my hope can overcome my fear? What are the chances? The bookies give us around an 8-1 chance of winning the game. That’s not very generous based on our recent form. But who knows? Perhaps we will keep a clean sheet and Carroll will add to his 50 Premier League goals tally? Carroll to score the first goal and a repeat of last season’s 2-0 win is 275-1. Worth a few bob?