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Arsenal and Top 4 Expectations
I have been thinking about writing something like this for a while but this morning @YouAreMyArsenal had a tweet that helped push me to write this up formally.
I have tried to stay consistent in my goals and expectations for the team this season. I wanted to see an improvement in the points total of 61 points last season, I wanted to finish in the top 6, and I wanted the performances of the team to show a team that looked like it was making progress towards taking the next step of challenging for top 4 next season (with top 4 being a make or break goal for the season after).
I think that generally, Arsenal are getting back on track to meeting my expectations. This is something that I will look at monthly as the season heads towards its conclusion.
What I think has changed for others is one, Arsenal were in 4th place in the table just 10 days ago (January 11th) and that made the possibility of actually finishing in that spot feel a lot more realistic. It is not that I don't think that is realistic, my model gives Arsenal a 1 in 4 chance of finishing in the top 4, FiveThirtyEight gives Arsenal a 4 in 10 chance, and the betting odds a 1 in 3 chance.
I think that this is more a reflection of the general quality of the teams that are fighting for top 4 rather than Arsenal looking like a "true" top four type team. I have gone through and looked at how previous teams that have finished 4th have done statistically and all of the teams that are fighting for that spot are well below the average quality.
Average 4th Arsenal West Ham Tottenham Manchester United Points Per Match 1.88 1.75 1.68 1.89 1.67 Non-Pen Goals 1.71 1.60 1.45 1.21 1.62 Non-Pen Goals A 0.99 1.10 1.36 1.16 1.33 Non-Pen Goal Difference 0.72 0.50 0.09 0.05 0.29 Non-Pen xG 1.69 1.55 1.41 1.58 1.44 Non-Pen xG A 1.06 1.42 1.35 1.33 1.58 Non-Pen xG Difference 0.63 0.13 0.06 0.25 -0.14 Open Play Shots 11.11 10.20 8.77 8.63 9.90 Open Play Shots A 6.28 9.25 9.32 8.53 8.86 Open Play Shot Difference 4.84 0.95 -0.55 0.11 1.05 Deep Completions 24.56 19.15 18.86 19.89 18.14 Deep Completions A 13.65 17.70 19.82 17.79 17.52 Deep Completion Difference 10.91 1.45 -0.95 2.11 0.62
There really isn't a team that looks like it deserves to be 4th this season. So Arsenal being in the hunt is for me more a reflection of the teams that they are competing with, rather than a team that has taken a step forward where it would be a disappointment to not finish in the top four.
It would be a great outcome but I think that we should still have our expectations based more in performance rather than in absolute league finish.