The Invincibles — an analysis on Arsenal’s most incredible season

Arsenal’s best and worst seasons yet

Arsenal Football Club (Arsenal FC), is an elite football club based in Islington, London. The club competes in the highest level of the English Professional league — the Premier League(PL).

The Premier League is the professional level of the English football played by 20 teams. It operates on the system of promotion and relegation in the English Football league.

Each of the twenty teams play each other twice — home and away which means there are 38 matches to be played by each team. Each match is valued at 3 points, if they match ends in a draw, the both teams get one point each but if a club wins the match it gets the full 3 points. The club with the highest number of points leads on the premier league table. If two teams are at par in terms of points gained, then their position on the table will be evaluated based on goal difference.

At the end of each season, the last 3 teams at the bottom rung of the table will be relegated to the Championships which is the Tier 2 English Football League while the first 2 teams from the Championships are also promoted to the PL. With a final team joining from the Championships after a series of play-offs. The PL is counted in terms of weeks, as each club plays at least one PL match per week.

The top 4 clubs with the highest points get to feature in the Champions League which is a professional league for all the top division European Clubs. While the 5th and 6th placed clubs on the table get to play in the Europa League which is the second tier competition of the Champions league.

The Big 4(6)

Asides the bragging rights as top finishers of this elite league, the ability to finish in the top 4 or 6 ensures greater participation in more football competitions which increases the club’s revenue, fan base and helps in attracting quality players to the team with the hopes of winning silverware.

Over the years, some Premiership clubs have managed to establish themselves as elites clubs having finished within the first 4 positions on the PL table consistently. They are often referred to as the big 4 — Manchester United FC, Liverpool FC, Chelsea FC and Arsenal FC.

Though recently since around 2013, this has been renamed to the big 6 with clubs like Manchester City FC and Tottenham FC breaking into this hierarchy.

This Analysis will be based on Arsenal FC, how they have fared in the league since 1992 till date. The data used can be accessed here. In this analysis, I will be making use of Power BI which is a great data Visualization tool from Microsoft, you can also check out my previous write up where I used Tableau for visualization here

The team with the highest number of points wins the PL and they are always topmost on the table. Therefore, the performance of football clubs per season can be measured by what spot the club occupies on the table.

According to the data given, Arsenal won the Premier League four times, winning it consecutively in 2002/03 and 2003/04 seasons.

In the history of the club, its most successful season has been the 2003/04 season. In a total of 38 PL games played, 26 were won while 12 were drawn with no losses recorded which saw that squad nicknamed The invincibles. 96% of the 2002/03 squad were part of the invincibles which boasted the likes of top goal scorer Thierry Henry, and talented players like Patrick Vieria, Ashley Cole and Kolo Toure.

Till date, the invincibles are still regarded as the most successful squad Arsenal ever had. The squad was managed by Arsene Wenger who coached the club from 1996 to 2018. During his tenure as coach, he won several silverwares but it is worthy of note that his average position over the period of 22 seasons is 3.54 approximately 4th which ensured that they qualified for other league competitions and the attached financial benefits compared to the 4.76 average position the currently occupy since his leaving the club

During Wenger’s tenure, he was known for his attacking style of football and as such, he had some of the best attacking prowess in English football with the likes of Thierry Henry, Nwankwo Kanu, Dennis Bekamp and Jose Antonio Reyes who were all members of the invincibles. However, from our graph, it is evident that the years where Arsenal won the PL, they lost lesser games than the years when they did not which points to a good defense mechanism which the invincibles had in the form of Ashley Young, Kolo Toure, Sol Campbell etc. who were brilliant on the field.

The average age of the 2003/04 squad was 23.05 years old which means that Arsenal ultimately fielded a youth side for that campaign which became historic.

Following the 2003/04 campaign, a lot of the members of that squad were either sold or released with the likes of Patrick Vieria, Martin Keown, Edu Gaspar, Nwankwo Kanu amongst others being part of the sell out.

Worst Season

According to the data, Arsenal’s worst seasons are 1994/95 and 2020/21 where they placed 11th and 15th on the table. However, I will ignore the 2020/21 season because it is still running as at the time of this write up. In the 1994/95 season, Arsenal drew 6 matches, won 6 also and lost the remaining matches. Perhaps, this is what spured its owner to employ Wenger whose first season in charge of the club was the 1995/1996 season.

This is the overall visualization of the data:

In summary,

The 2003/04 Arsenal FC squad dubbed the invincibles were the most successful squad Arsenal has ever fielded in the PL history having run a full PL season with 26 wins, 0 loses and 12 draws. Some of the peculiarities of the squad are:

  • Arsenal’s worst season is the 1994/95 season, the season before Arsene Wenger was employed.
  • In 1995/96 season, Arsenal won and drew the same number of games, 6 and lost the remaining.
  • The overall squad strength was fantastic boasting the best attacking and defensive players in English football at the time.
  • The squad was youthful with an average age of 23.05 years
  • The coach, Arsene Wenger who went on to coach the club for 22 years, valued youthfulness, had an attacking mindset and was very technical with his defense.
  • Over Wenger’s 22 years in charge of Arsenal FC, he averaged the 4th position which means Arsenal usually finished among the top four on the table which makes him one of the most successful coaches in English football.

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Data Science, Software Development and lots of Satire...

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Data Science, Software Development and lots of Satire...