Why A Loss Hurts Less Than A Draw
On the surface, that hypothesis is utter nonsense. It’s common knowledge that a draw is worth an entire point more than a loss, plus it nets you the excitement of kissing your sister. To date, I am unaware of any kisses that are earned from a loss. However, I believe that the Premier League is changing and that the mindset of a top four side must be adapted to treat a draw as more damaging than a win. Allow me to explain.
Before I dig myself out of this intellectual hole, take a moment to review the current EPL table.
Now that you have perused the table, consider some statistics that are relevant to this discussion:
- Blackburn Rovers, currently in 18th position, have fewer losses than Manchester City who sit in 8th place. In fact, seven of the twelve teams that sit below City in the table have fewer losses than City’s 13 and two teams have equally as many.
- Arsenal have only one loss more than Chelsea.
- Manchester United lost more games than Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool last season.
- In the last three seasons the team with the fewest draws has been champion.
- Over the last three seasons, the league winners have also been the league’s top goal scorers.
These statistics along with others that I got too bored to include, seem to indicate that, while a mean defence is always important, the modern English Premier League is won by winning the most games. (Now if that isn’t a tautology, I don’t know what is.) And winning the most games requires the attitude that a draw is worse than a loss. Manchester United are the masters of this philosophy and they have been rewarded for it. As the bottom teams increasingly play for the draw, the top teams must be willing to get more aggressive in pursuit of the win. Otherwise the missed opportunities start piling up.
Right now Arsenal have a whopping ten league draws. If we traded in six of those draws for losses, but converted four of them into wins, we would actually be in better shape. Imagine, losing six out of ten matches and being in better shape. It would be labeled a crisis at the club, and yet it would be more advantageous.
When Arsenal play the other members of the perennial top four, some degree of prudence is the better part of valor. But the other teams we face are content to steal a point. The threat of relegation is so financially crippling that most teams have no ambition against Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea or Manchester United. They have become more adept at putting ten men behind the ball and playing for a draw. And to their credit, it is working more often. That means it is incumbent upon us to go all out for the win. And in order to go all out for the win, we must be willing to lose the odd game that we should win. As we have seen this season, you can’t move up the table with draws. While we are on a wonderful unbeaten run in the league (as Wenger keeps reminding us), we have actually lost touch with the leaders during that period.
This season we have scored an alarming number of late goals to equalize or win matches. The reason could be down to fitness, but it’s more likely down to tactics. Late in the game when we’re desperate for the win, Wenger often sacrifices a defensive player for an extra attacking threat. Some of our most threatening moments have come late in matches when that extra attacker is on the field. Certainly this opens up the possibility of being hit on the break, but that’s the risk you must be willing to take in order to secure all three points. I submit that we should be playing more matches with that approach from the start. Remove the holding midfielder for games against the bottom clubs. Play Arshavin in central midfield with Fabregas when he returns. Or play a 4-3-3 like Barcelona and pressure the ball high up the field. Naturally we will be more vulnerable at the back, but we will get the goals and subsequently get more wins.
Arsenal have a wealth of attacking threats when healthy. Next season the lesser teams will once against attempt to frustrate us into a bounty of bore draws. It’s incumbent upon Arsene to realize that those draws are detrimental to our league ambitions. Only by employing a strategy that sacrifices defensive stability in favor of greater attacking options can we ensure that we get the goals necessary to turn draws into all important wins.