Former Arsenal coach assesses their title chances this year

Arsenal’s Swedish Interim head coach Freddie Ljungberg gestures on the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Manchester City at the Emirates Stadium in London on December 15, 2019. (Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images)

After narrowly missing out on the Premier League title in 2022/23, Arsenal are back in the hunt for the trophy again this season, going top of the table with a win over Brentford at the weekend.

Former Arsenal winger and interim head coach Freddie Ljungberg thinks the team are now ready to challenge for the title, but he worries about the strength of Manchester City and the drop-off in Arsenal’s attacking statistics.

“I think definitely they’re ready to challenge for the title,” Ljungberg said on Monday. “But the stats here are quite telling and I don’t think they work in their favour.

“I think so (Arsenal could be City’s closest challengers). But then I think City are amazing so it’s hard.”

norwich city v arsenal fc premier league
NORWICH, ENGLAND: Interim Manager of Arsenal, Freddie Ljungberg next to Per Mertesacker during the Premier League match between Norwich City and Arsenal FC at Carrow Road on December 01, 2019. (Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images)

Stats shown on the BBC’s Match of the Day programme at the weekend highlighted that Arsenal’s attacking stats have indeed dipped slightly compared to last season.

The Gunners are scoring 2.1 goals per game this campaign so far, versus 2.3 last season, and their expected goals tally has dropped from 1.9 to 1.8.

Yet at the other end, Arsenal are showing improvement. Mikel Arteta’s side have conceded 0.8 goals per game compared to 1.1 last year, which perfectly reflects the expected goals, also 0.8 versus 1.1.

So whether you look at the actual goals or the expected goals, Arsenal have improved defensively by slightly more than their offensive dip, leading to a net increase in goal difference (or expected goal difference).

And the difference is marginal. A shift from 1.9 to 1.8 could be down to the normal ebb and flow of a season.

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 04: Mikel Arteta, Manager of Arsenal, looks on during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Arsenal FC at St. James Park on November 04, 2023 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND: Mikel Arteta, Manager of Arsenal, looks on during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Arsenal FC at St. James Park on November 04, 2023. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Having said that, it remains true that Manchester City have continued to impress this season, and Arsenal have to keep grinding out results for another two-thirds of the campaign to end up on top.

It’s a long season, as we saw in 2022/23. Ljungberg is probably right to be cautious about Arsenal’s chances at this stage.

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