We know a home crowd has a huge effect on players. We know it changes the course of decisions for referees – home teams are nearly twice as likely to get a big decision than the away team.
Is it truly the 12th man though?
It seems that way for Arsenal right now, and last season too for that matter.
The contrast between our home and away form is quite startling. Since December (this is written in the aftermath of our 1-0 loss to Everton at Goodison) we have won a solitary game away from The Emirates in the Premier League. That victory was at bottom of the table Huddersfield, and we have had five away wins since the start of 2018 – Cardiff, Newcastle, Fulham, Bournemouth and Huddersfield.
Add to that our lack of a clean sheet away from home – the ONLY team to not have one this season – and you have a severe case of travel sickness.
It would be a case of relegation if it weren’t for our impressive home form. Only Manchester City have more home points banked than us, and it has seen us stay in contention for the top four.
Is our home crowd that vociferous that we need it to buoy us? Even Lacazette has twice as many home goals than away. Does our team require the home crowd more than we think?
As good as we can be at home sometimes, our crowd at The Emirates is probably not the answer. So why do our teams come out and play like artists at The Emirates, and yet fingerpaint away from home?
Losses against West Ham, Everton, Southampton and draws against Brighton, Tottenham and Manchester United have all been games where we have failed to show up, or failed to push home the final blow.
The Hammers, Gulls, Saints and Everton results were devoid of anything remotely Arsenal-esque, and all shared the same fact – Our star-striking duo of Aubameyang and Lacazette didn’t start simultaneously alongside Mesut Ozil. Against United and Tottenham, our attacking threat was enough, but we failed to put away our chances, and it cost us.
When all three start, our results have been staggering, without loss this season. Mesut Ozil took his time to adapt to the ways of Unai Emery but has recently been involved in the starting eleven with increasing frequency.
Ultimately, that is down to the Manager and his selection.
It appears as if Emery favours attack as the best approach when at home, with our star three playing more often at The Emirates. When it comes to away from home though, one of our two strikers is usually selected, with Ozil, Mkhitaryan, Iwobi and / or Ramsey behind them. Emery is going conservative, trying to keep things a little tighter and emphasize the focus on closing down spaces rather than all-out attack.
The thing is though, when we do go for it at home, no matter the calibre of opponent, we create so much that we invariably have enough chances to win the game. We may concede a few – although in 2019 we have conceded less than all but Manchester City – but we seem capable of outscoring the majority.
Our knockout phase wins in the Europa League highlight the disparity of our home and away form.
Away from home against BATE Borisov, we fell to a 1-0 loss – the first English team to lose in Belarus.
Bring them back to The Emirates, we take them apart easily 3-0.
Same with Rennes – 3-1 loss in France, 3-0 win at The Emirates.
Let’s be straight here – these two clubs shouldn’t be able to hold a candle to us home OR away, yet they defeated us and left us to rely on our home advantage.
It seems then, that our malaise is down to a different approach, a lack of confidence to replicate our sizzling home form, and quite simply not playing well.
For this to carry over from last season shows that we need to change something, although there have been plenty of changes since Emery took over. The very fact we are still in with a shout of the top four shows we have improved from Wenger’s last season.
We have to hope we find the answer soon, otherwise it could cost us dearly.