What is it about playing at the Emirates that seems to be causing Arsenal trouble of late?
We started the season with a turbulent 4-3 defeat at the hands of Liverpool, and, in our latest home match, narrowly avoided a draw against Southampton courtesy of a last-gap penalty.
But for that penalty, we may have found ourselves without a win at home this season and scratching our heads as to just why we don’t seem to be able to make the advantage of home pay as much as it traditionally does.
It’s too early to say that the pattern we saw emerge at the back end of last season has returned but the early signs are that the team is again struggling to find form at the Emirates.
But what is it about playing at home that has become something of a problem for Arsene Wenger’s side? Is there a psychological problem? A nervousness? Or are visiting teams that much smarter now?
In 2013/14, of the 19 games played at home, we recorded 13 wins, five draws and a single defeat. We finished fourth that year and it was largely because of our strong performances in the relative safety of North London. We scored 36 goals at home, and conceded 11. Away from home we scored 32.
Two seasons ago, in 2014/15, our home record was again solid. Of the 19 games played at Emirates Stadium, Arsenal won 12, drew five and lost only two.
We scored a pretty healthy 41 goals at home, whilst conceding 14. On the road we scored 30 goals.
Last season, we again recorded 12 wins at home, but were held to a draw on four occasions and suffered three defeats. We scored 31 goals at home, and conceded 11 goals. On the road we scored 34 goals.
Out of interest, we scored 47 goals at home in 2012/13, 39 in 2011/12, and 33 in 2010/11.
Although it’s difficult to draw context from statistics, it is well worthy of note that our goals tally at home in 2015/16 was markedly down on where it normally is and, as we know, goals ultimately win games. It’s also interesting to note that our goals tally away from home actually exceeded goals scored at the Emirates last season.
And the problem wasn’t isolated to the Premier League, we also seemed to suffer a drop in goal-scoring form at home in other competitions.
In the 2014/15 Champions League, Arsenal scored 11 goals at home, including the qualifying round, and we knocked out in the round of 16. Away from home we scored eight goals.
In last season’s competition, we scored only seven goals at home and were again knocked out in the round of 16. Away from home we also scored seven goals.
On the face of it, it seems to be a question of goals, and that naturally points the finger at the playing personnel, but is it really as simple as that?
I suspect it is, rather, a combination of factors.
Recent seasons have seen the re-emergence of defending as an art form and, with it, we have seen a series of what would otherwise be described as ‘freak’ results. Take Leicester City’s Premier League triumph, Wales and Iceland’s excellence on the European stage and Portugal’s unlikely victory in the same competition.
All three were built on the back of ultra-organisation in midfield and defence.
This new breed of compact, defensively solid team is incredibly difficult to break down and, thus, is a lot harder to score against.
And teams are much more inclined to stay tight and stick to their game plans when away from home, thus we typically face teams at their most disciplined at the Emirates.
The fact that we scored more goals away from home last season suggests that teams alter their style on their own ground, allowing us to take advantage of situations that would otherwise not present themselves at the Emirates.
Combined with the absence of a genuinely world class centre forward at Arsenal, someone capable of taking advantage of that one opportunity when it comes, we find ourselves caught in the perfect storm of goal-scoring frustration.
Is that likely to change this season? I suspect not. Inspired by what they have seen over the last 12 months, many a manager will be setting out to do more of the same in both league and European competition this season.
The arrival of Lucas Perez may change that, but it will depend entirely on his efficiency in front of goal.
Leicester were able to score plenty of goals home and away last season because of their sheer efficiency in front of goal, something Arsenal are not exactly renowned for.
But, if they are to avoid a repeat of last season’s frustrations, they will have to find a way of making their chances count, or we may well find ourselves on the wrong end of a few more noodle-scratching results.