Arsene Wenger’s last 5 years at Arsenal, Visualized
Arsene Wenger is writing a book: My Life and Lessons in Red and White.
It won’t come out until October 2020, and there’s already talk that it won’t have as many details as fans would like about his relatively turbulent final years managing Arsenal. I’ll still be buying it regardless.
For those that don’t follow football, Arsenal FC are a team in the English Premier League, and Arsene Wenger was their manager from 1996 to 2018. His reign is unique because managers are usually the first to be sacked when the team’s performance dips. Having that job for 5 successive seasons is rare. Having it for 22 is nearly unheard of, unless you’re Manchester United, whose manager Sir Alex Ferguson won the league 13 times between 1992-2013, over a reign than lasted 26 seasons.
Between 1998 and 2005, Wenger won the Premier League thrice and the FA Cup 4 times. The first 10 years of his Arsenal tenure are seen as transformational, particularly regarding player nutrition and fitness, and the development of a distinctive fast-paced, counterattacking style of play.
The next 12 years however were a struggle, with trophies far and few in between and mounting criticism of his tendency to let his top players move to rival teams, and having them replaced with cheaper, inexperienced youngsters who were thrown into the deep end of high-stakes league and European competitions.
Anyway, this isn’t an inquisition about Wenger. I’m writing this post to share a little dashboard I created in Google Data Studio mapping Arsenal’s performances between 2013-18, the last half-decade of Wenger’s tenure.
And a little preview:
The dashboard has the following bits of info you can browse through:
- # of points in the league, and the gap between Arsenal’s points haul and that of the eventual league winner
- Transfer market activity, both incoming and outgoing players and fees
- Player performances (goals and assists)
- Games played, Goals scored, Total wins for each season
Overall, I’d say Arsenal had a relatively strong final 5 years with Wenger at the helm. He added 3 FA Cups in that time, taking his tally to 7, a Premier League record. But as with most sports, the numbers rarely tell the whole story. Arsenal’s best chance to win the league in a decade came in the 2015/16 season, when rivals Manchester City, Chelsea and United were all going through turbulent periods. Wenger’s competition for much of the season was from upstarts Leicester City FC, led by Claudio Ranieri, who hadn’t managed in England since 2003. LCFC’s odds to win the league were 5000:1. And they won it, with a team that cost a fraction of what Arsenal’s did.
In February 2016, with 12 games remaining in the season, Arsenal beat Leicester to go within 2 points of them at the top of the league. The momentum was in their favour, as you can see in the reactions to Danny Welbeck’s last-minute goal.
But momentum comes and goes, and a series of avoidable losses, plus a morale-damaging elimination from the Champions League would result in Arsenal ending the season a full 10 points behind Leicester.
It do be like that sometimes. There’s no doubt that the book will include plenty of highlights from the glory years. That said, I am eager to find out if there will at least be something of a post-mortem regarding all those missed opportunities.