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.”
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.
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.