Sunday, 16 August 2015

Arsenal’s all-time away record: Crystal Palace is our happiest hunting ground

As we start our away fixtures against Crystal Palace later today, I thought it would be interesting to look at which trips away from home traditionally provide the most and least success for Arsenal. Well, interesting to me, at least.

How it has been done
I’ve come at it from two directions: firstly, looking at Arsenal’s record in every away match, in all competitions, against each of this season’s Premier League teams except Bournemouth who we have only ever played once (all of the data for that has come from the Arsenal World database of head to head results). I’ve ranked the teams by their winning percentage and by Arsenal's and combined the two to collate an amalgamated overall table.

Secondly, I’ve pulled out the outcomes of the last 10 league games only to assess things on a more recent basis.

For seven of the 19 teams, that means looking at the past 10 seasons as they have been in the top flight alongside Arsenal throughout that time. For the other 12 it has involved going back to the early 2000s, sometimes the 1990s and in a small number of cases the 1980s to collect 10 sets of league results.

In Swansea and Watford’s cases, it meant working with a reduced set as they have only ever hosted Arsenal six and eight times respectively in the league.

What is the point?
As the famous stocks and shares warning goes, previous performance is no guide to the future. Can you really learn something today from the fact that Arsenal lost 2-0 at Vetch Field in October 1981 or that Woolwich Arsenal picked up a 1-0 win at Aston Villa in the 1907/08 season?

Well, I think history can offer a decent indicator of where Arsenal fair worst and best, particularly at the extremes of good and bad.

Who knows why certain trends can be seen: perhaps getting to particular locations may be more awkward for a team based in North London; maybe the opposing supporters or Club as a whole have a particular hatred or respect for the Arse that lasts generations; maybe the slope of a pitch may freak out our players for no particular reason.

Whatever, if nothing else it gives a useful guide whether the pre-match gut-wrenching pessimism or inspiring optimism is justified by earlier results.

Arsenal's all-time, all competition away record
Click to enlarge
The happy hunting grounds
Reassuringly, Crystal Palace are the club where Arsenal have the best record overall, winning a massive 59% of games compared to the Eagles winning only 6%. It is the only place where we have won the majority of matches and from our most 10 recent league encounters at Selhurst Park we have claimed five wins and five draws. We could certainly do with improving that record even more today to kick-start the season after last weekend’s deflating loss against West Ham.

Speaking of which, the Hammers sit near the top of all of my tables, which was a bit of a surprise to me. I imagined many more variations in outcome given the passions and fireworks a London derby can involve but we have a 6-3-1 record at Upton Park over the past 10 league games and have won 43% of all games there.

Arsenal's record away from home: by actual points won
Click to expand

Sunderland is Arsenal’s most productive destination recently, with the Gunners dropping just seven from 30 points available. But historically Sunderland has proved a more difficult task, the fifth toughest destination in our history by my reckoning.

Another team that Arsenal have improved against more recently is Aston Villa. Villa Park has always felt like somewhere you should be happy to take a draw from but in the last 10 years we are unbeaten and have won six times there. During all of Arsenal’s away trips, though, Aston Villa have been the seventh hardest to claim points from.

To a lesser extent, Liverpool have also slipped away from their loftier perch, with Arsenal winning 13 of the 30 points available at Anfield since 2005/06 but they remain our second worst destination historically, winning just over a quarter of matches. You can also lump Newcastle into that group of club's whose hoodoo over the Arsenal is seemingly starting to wane, with us claiming five wins and suffering only one defeat in the past 10 matches.

The bogey teams
We can split the bogey teams into two: those that are expected and those that are not.

The most high profile names in the first category are obviously Man Utd and Chelsea. As we all know, Chelsea has no history so their place in the overall table is fairly high with wins, draws and losses split almost exactly in thirds.

Man U claim the bottom spot of each of my rankings although, before collating these figures, I would have said we earned more at Old Trafford than Chelsea recently but actually an extra win at Stamford Bridge means we have accrued at extra point there over the past 10 seasons. Only one win at ManUre in that time speaks volumes for the two clubs’ respective trajectories over that time and even taking on the fairly ropey Moyes and Van Gaal editions only generated a single point for the Arse.

Arsenal's record away from home:
by percentage of points won
Click to expand
Trips to White Hart Lane have led to Arsenal winning an average of one point per game in the past 10 years which, even if we have finished above them in the league over those 10 seasons (and the previous 10), sounds par for the course for such an intense rivalry. I did assume we had won more than twice in that time, though, and that is well below the historic win percentage of 32%.

Southampton, meanwhile, sit in the surprise bogey team list, particularly over the shorter term. Arsenal have only won 13 points from the 30 available over the past 10 matches on the south coast, the same as at Anfield. Yes they have had some tidy players during that time but even then rarely finished beyond mid-table, and more often it was closer to relegation than most so it is certainly counts as an under-performance by Arsenal. Over the longer term, the Saints have been less heavenly, sitting fifth in my table of Arsenal happy hunting grounds.

Then there is Leicester, where we have won only half of the points available recently and less than a third of our matches against them overall. Even though the majority of the last 10 league games date from the Martin O’Neill era which must count as the best in their history, you would think Arsenal would have defeated them more than three times.

Arsenal’s record at Swansea counts as another turn up for the books. Although based on only six games, we have been defeated there as often as we have won. Watford’s record is based on a slightly larger set of results, eight, but is even more bleak. Arsenal only won three and managed to lose five at Vicarage Road. Even though the majority of fixtures, and all of the losses, date from the era of Graham Taylor’s over-achievers it is still a horrible record of Arsenal’s.

And finally we come on to the ultimate bogey side: Stoke.

Arsenal being rubbish at Stoke in the 1980s
(courtesy of The Oatcake website)
It doesn't come as a shock to know we have a poor record in the Potteries but it isn’t the recent Pulis-inspired, long throw-wielding human orks to blame: Arsenal have been getting beaten there for more than 100 years.

We managed to lose all of the last three league games we played at Stoke got relegated in 1985 (which make up the first of the 10 games included in my tables), and since they returned to the top flight in 2008 Arsenal have won there only once.

In fact, looking at our league record at Stoke dating back to 1904/05, of the 44 trips we have returned with a win only 10 times. That leads to our worst league record anywhere outside Man U and Liverpool and given the relative potential of all four clubs, it is incredible – and to Stoke's credit, in many respects - that they have achieved so much against Arsenal and keep company in my rankings with two of the most decorated clubs in Europe.

Supporters of other clubs may view it as arrogance that I assume(d) Arsenal would have stronger records than many of their opponents even on their travels. But even neutrals would assume, given the relative resources at their disposal and the success that Arsenal have enjoyed over the years that they would be better than most.

Actually we have won more than we have lost over all encounters at only four of the current top flight, increasing to eight of the 19 if you look at only the past 10 league games.

The history of a club and their status in your formative years play a big role in how you judge how 'big' a club is, where they sit in comparison to Arsenal and how you view what constitutes success against them. Hopefully this exercise has cut back some of the myths and reinforced the reality about how much effort is required to reach the summit of the league again.

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