weapon are at the top of the Premier League midway through the season and are on track to hit 100 points, equaling the highest total points ever in the league. At their current rate, they will surpass last year’s total by the end of March. It’s a remarkable feat for a team that hasn’t made it into the top four since 2016, and it marks steady progress under Mikel Arteta: eighth to fifth to first.
However, while he and his players receive loads of praise and are likely to be rewarded with contracts and bonuses, Kroenkes, who owns the club, may want to consider a sum. bonuses for another part of their staff: sports science, fitness, medical, and physical therapy teams. Because, to put it simply, Arsenal’s position right now is astounding and almost unprecedented.
By some distance, this is the most consistent starting lineup in the league. Seven players have started every game this season. Among others, Martin Odegaard missed one, Thomas Partey three and Gabriel Jesus (injured) five. Oleksandr Zinchenko also had a considerable time injured, missed eight games to start. All told, the 11 top starters for Arsenal this season have started 91.9% of their games, making them the most consistent team in the league.
(Table explanation: “Players” refers to the number of people starting every PL game this season, “Total starts” refers to the total number of starts of the 11 most frequent starters divided by the total number of possible starts and “%” refers to the percentage of all the total starts of the 11 most frequent starts)
What does this “stable group” metric tell us? Firstly, they have largely avoided injuries and Arteta is satisfied enough with their performance that he sees no need to adjust the team. And, perhaps as a result, they developed a lot of chemistry and cohesion.
Obviously, having a “stable team” doesn’t necessarily correlate with success. Everton is currently the 7th “settled team” in the rankings and has the fewest points on the table and has just fired head coach Frank Lampard. It’s also worth considering that this isn’t some “holy grail” of a metric, because there are factors beyond your control.
Sometimes players get injured before the season or they arrive at the end of the transfer window when the season has already started or they leave in January, it all affects the numbers. Some, like Gabriel Jesus, were injured on international duty. Some coaches may choose to rotate players and give players more rest than others — especially if they’re in European competitions like the Champions League — have a deep or simple squad is wanting to tailor their team to the next opponent, in hopes of gaining an advantage. City of Manchesterwho scored 77.7% – below the league average (78.7%) – is a clear example of this.
And most of all, this is a physical sport where impact injuries can happen at any time. While there are experts who will tell you that you can minimize soft tissue injuries if you know what you’re doing, they can also be unpredictable. There is certainly an element of luck and statistical variance in this and, from the outside looking in without access to the players or their medical records, it is difficult in most cases to to say for sure if injury can be avoided. However, as a lagging indicator to help understand a team’s success, it has value.
There’s a bit of tension — most coaches won’t interfere with a team that’s doing well — but most fans will agree that Arsenal, Newcastle United Football Club (89.1%), Brighton (84.7%), Fulham (84%) and Crystal Palace (85.5%) are meeting or exceeding expectations this season. Perhaps unsurprisingly they represent the top 5 in this metric. Chelsea (last dead, at 69.5%) and Liverpool (74.6%) were well below results expectations, so it’s perhaps no surprise that they’re far below the league average.
Now, keep in mind that this is a single vantage point and it is not an exact science. brentford well below the league average (77.3%), but they are eighth in the standings and are enjoying a great season relative to their resources. It’s not like they’ve been hit by a trauma — although they’ve had quite a few beginners injured, such as Kristoffer Ajer, Pontus Jansson, Aaron Hickey, Christian Norgaard – perhaps more than their style of play and Thomas Frank’s approach could better absorb injury.
equal, Forest of Nottingham four points above the relegation zone — maybe higher than you’d expect at this stage — but only Chelsea have a score below them (70%). You can assume it’s due to the sheer number of transfers they’ve made over the summer, the fact that many of the newcomers there are late and manager Steve Cooper, understandably , it took a while to find his Best Team.
OK: back to Arsenal, where Arteta clearly has priorities. Of his 11 most frequent starts, only two (Granite Xhaka and Gabriel) started more than three Europa League matches. Only one, William Salibaplayed in the League Cup against Brighton, when they were beaten 3–1, and only featured in the 3–0 FA Cup third round win over Oxford United (Bukayo SakaGabriel and Gabriel Martinelli). They play Manchester City on Friday in the FA Cup, and again I wouldn’t blame him for securing a starting spot.
Few people expected that this approach brought results for the Gunners. Similarly, they know that history and probability suggest they will remain unscathed for the remainder of the campaign. Nor can they accept that one or more of Arteta’s automatic picks in the starting line-up won’t suddenly lose form, leading to a change – that’s why they committed around 50 million in this transfer window to add depth to the defense (Jakub Kiwior) and attack (Leandro Trossard) and, if the reports are correct, they may bring in a third boost. (Damn, before they went to Trossard, they were ready to go even bigger to take down Mikhailo Mudryk.) Not to mention the fact that if they go deep in the FA Cup or Europa League, they’re going to want their best XI. I’m there.
Did luck play a part in ensuring Arsenal had the luxury of a stable squad in the league? Sure. But so is the health and fitness sports science staff, so is the professionalism of the players, and so are Arteta’s priorities.
It is important that they recognize this and are doing the best they can to address it.