It’s the time of year Arsenal fans tend to dread more than any other in the year.
No, it’s not a transfer window, the last 16 of the Champions League or a picnic with Sir Chips Keswick. It’s November, the time of their annual slump.
The Gunners are widely acknowledged to struggle for results in the 11th month of the year under Arsene Wenger and the notion of a ‘November curse’ has crept its way into football parlance in England whenever anyone assesses their title hopes.
Of course, there are plenty of football cliches that are too often trumpeted without checking the facts (just how dangerous is a 2-0 scoreline, really?), but this is one that seems to have a pretty solid basis, as Opta’s data shows…
GUNNERS DON’T FIRE IN NOVEMBER RAIN
Looking back over Wenger’s Arsenal career, November is indeed when they have achieved their lowest average points tally in the Premier League.
The Gunners have won 37, drawn 18 and lost 26 of the 81 matches played in this month since 1996, which works out at 1.6 points per game. By contrast, their highest average rate comes in September and October, when it is as high as 2.15.
The next worst month under Wenger is August, which is down at 1.8. It’s also the month in which they have won the fewest number of matches (36 out of 68).
A LEAN MONTH FOR STRIKERS AS DEFENCE DISAPPEARS
What goes wrong every year? Well, looking at the goal difference gives some clues.
Arsenal have scored 132 goals in their 81 November league games under Wenger, the same as they have managed in February and May. While that doesn’t sound terrible, August (128) is the only month in which they have scored fewer.
There’s a problem at the other end, too. Arsenal have conceded 98 goals in those 81 November games, making it their worst month for defending. They have conceded 114 goals in December, but from 114 games.
This gives them a November goal difference of 34, which is by far their worst in the calendar year, August being next on 52. Their best month is April, for which they have a goal difference of 109.
WILL 2017 BE ANY BETTER?
Arsenal face Manchester City, Tottenham, Burnley and Huddersfield Town in the league this month and it would take a bold fan to predict taking more than six or seven points from those matches.
Added to that is the complication of Europa League football. The Gunners made 11 changes for Thursday’s dour 0-0 draw with Red Star Belgrade before travelling to City this weekend and a potentially troublesome trip to Burnley comes after an away game against Cologne.
The international break in November is never welcomed by clubs, especially those competing in Europe, but it could prove particularly damaging for the Gunners this year given their first match when players return is the north London derby at the Emirates Stadium.
Still, if November looks bleak, at least they can look forward to December, which begins with a home game against Manchester United.
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