Arsenal are the League’s ‘top performers’ but why haven’t they met expectations whilst clubs like Norwich are overachieving?


Believe it or not, Arsenal were the best performers in the Premier League last year. According to statistical analysis, composed and interpreted by Opta Sports Data and CIES Football Observatory, Arsenal were the only side in the top 5 European leagues – England, France, Spain, Italy and Germany – that were the top performers in their division, but didn’t finish as the Champions.

Assessed on five factors – Open Play Shot (shots and attempted shots), Chance Creation (assists and key passes), Take Ons (dribbling and crosses), Distribution (passes) and Recovery (interception and tackles) – Arsenal came out best in the English Premier League and were the proud owners of three of Europe’s best players, according to the same organisations: Robin Van Persie, Cesc Fabregas and Andrei Arshavin. The latter certainly isn’t replicating the same calibre of performances that reaped him such a high value last season, afforded by the figures; but then again, neither are Arsenal.

Due to such strong performances last season and a maintained balance in relative squad quality – one player out of the Top 60 left, Fabregas, but was replaced with another, Gervinho – Arsenal were predicted to perform to a standard that “may claim a European place” but with a “high probability of performing better than expected,” according to the CIES Football Observatory, which is composed of five highly-skilled statisticians, including two doctors of sciences.

However, Arsenal sit in 5th place and are as close to a top four finish as they are to 8th placed Stoke, who were predicted to perform to a degree that “may claim a European place.” As January draws to a close, a mid-season evaluation shows that two teams are leading their respective divisions as expected – PSG and Bayern Munich – and out of their fifteen top three predictions, the Observatory have ten correct.

The three expectant title winners that are so far failing to sit at the summit are: Barcelona, Chelsea and Inter Milan. The defence for two of the, so far, incorrect hypothesises – Inter & Chelsea – are cited as due to, “frequent manager changes symptomatic of the lack of a clear strategic vision and have had a negative impact on results.” Furthermore, to lend weight to Andre Villas-Boas’ school of thinking, regarding Frank Lampard, the Observatory offer a second explanation, “The ageing of several key players may also explain the current decrease in performance.” This somewhat ignores the fact that Lampard is Chelsea’s top goal-scorer in all competitions; however, it does ring true of a lacklustre Didier Drogba, who has only scored three all season.

The teams, along with Arsenal, considered to possess a “high probability of performing better than expected,” were: Wigan Athletic, FSV Mainz 05, FC Nurnberg, SSC Napoli, FC Parma, Athletic Club Bilbao, RCD Mallorca, Montpellier HSC and FC Lorient.  Montpellier are certainly performing better than expected, sitting 2nd to PSG, expectantly leading the pack, as are Parma. The Italian side were categorized as one star, meaning that they “may only avoid relegation.” However, they’re currently positioned 12th in Serie A, 7 places above their predicted finish. Contrastingly, Wigan Athletic haven’t realised their potential to perform better than expected and are instead doing what was expected, occupying the bottom of the Premier League. Secondly, neither have Napoli; despite performing admirably in the Champions League, the Italian side are two positions lower than expected in Serie A.

Special mention must go to Wolves, who somehow managed to convince statistical analysts that they “may claim a European place” this season, on the back of a 17th place finish that only spared them relegation by a point and only one summer reinforcement that’s made an impact on the starting XI: relegated Birmingham’s Roger Johnson. CIES Football Observatory states Wolves are 8 positions below expectations; instead, Sunderland occupy 10th place.

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Budding Football journalist who blogs at daily as well as writing here for ThisisFutbol and on the England fan's page. Outside of writing is more football. I work at Southampton F.C and I manage a men's football team on Saturdays.


  • Hope1 says:

    I’m sure Refs Howard Web, Mike Dean, Mike Rilely, Phil Dowd & Chris Foy had alot to do with that.
    It used to mean an etra 13 points per season for the mancs, it’s more like 23 points these days.
    Arsenal were the best team in England last season, as in 08′ and everyone knows it.

    • davi says:

      Agree – we were not great, but we were the best side; and that was largely without fabregas!

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