GN5’s post yesterday reminded us of our dreadful away form last season, especially in the 2018 calendar year to May when it took that final day of the season victory over Huddersfield to break our duck. Anyway, this set in motion a train of thought about how long our away form has been in decline.
As you can see from the above, our away form ranking was fairly high earlier in the decade; higher in fact than our final League position in many cases. Season 2015/16 was the odd ‘Leicester as champions’ season and our away form ranking was one position lower than our final League position (thanks to the spuds coming third in a two-horse race). 🙂
In season 2016/7 we got pipped to the 4th Champions League place by Liverpool by only one point, came 5th and our away form ranking was 6th.
Last season the slide really began. Finishing in 6th, our away form was disastrous. We ended up 11th best in terms of away form, winning just the 4 games (including that final day win at Huddersfield).
The current season is only 66% complete and we have faced most of the top teams away from home already – so perhaps it is much too early to judge if there’s been an improvement. We currently have a ranking of 9th in terms of away form (having decent home form has kept us in the top 6).
Our points per game averages this season stand at 2.46 at home and 1.25 away, a difference of +1.21 which is the highest in the Premier League (the pesky spuds have the best away form and have actually won more points away than at home – largely thanks to dubious penalties and goals in Fergie time, it has to be said).
Our goals conceded this season stand at 36 with 25 of those coming while on the road, a percentage of 69% – again the highest proportion of away goals in the Premier League.
When Unai Emery joined the Club, he must have looked at last season’s results with dismay. Our away form needed sorting and goals conceded column reducing (though I’m sure Micky will disagree with the latter). Shoring up the defence, getting us to actually defend as a team and plugging the large gaps left for opponents to exploit on the counter (especially behind the full backs), all must have been priorities.
Some might say that results this season are relatively unimportant as the new manager strives to get the team playing in a new style to his own liking and there is some truth in that suggestion. Unai has tried 4 at the back and a back three with wing backs with varying degrees of success.
It’s true also, that some of these changes have been prompted by our horrendous luck with injuries, Rob Holding really was looking like our number one centre back and with Nacho injured, the Wardrobe at wing back gives us far more confidence than him playing as left back in a four. The double pivot of Xhaka and Terrier appeared to be a successful pairing which was then curiously amended to push our Uruguayan further forward and wider. The need to make early subs at half time has suggested Senor Emery is still trying to find the right formula for a longer term strategy and that he will still make some errors of selection as he beds in.
Our remaining away games this season …..
Huddersfield … 9th February
Spuds … 2nd March (now confirmed as a Wembley fixture)
Wolves … 16th March
Everton … 6th April
Watford … 13th April
Leicester … 27th April
Burnley … 12th May
Perhaps we’ll see a steady improvement in the last 7 away matches and exploit our ‘relatively easy’ run-in. Then again, those West Ham and Southampton defeats are still fresh in the mind. The game at the London Stadium possibly our worst away performance of the season. Perhaps our best performance came at Fulham when a Harlem Globetrotters style exhibition produced magnificent entertainment.
Anyhow, what do you think? What has caused this apparent fragility away from the Emirates?
Will we see our defence start to gel as injured players return and partnerships have a chance to develop, promoting far greater solidity away from home?
Or do we just need to score more at the other end ? Creating more chances against Huddersfield tomorrow might be a good place to start.