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Arsenal Happy To be 3rd But Ominous Signs

Eight games into the Premier League season and there is much debate among Arsenal fans about results versus performance. Despite being outshot by struggling teams such as Newcastle, Burnley, Watford and Aston Villa, Arsenal has still come away with points in the form of Win-4, Draw-3 and Loss-1. How does performance compare with other teams in the top-5?

The above table is an indicator but has to be discounted due to the small sample size. None of the listed teams have met an equivalent range of competitors for us to draw definite conclusions. But dark clouds usually portend a storm. These clouds are represented by three highlighted data points.

Goals Per Game

Despite the sustained brilliance of Aubameyang, who was last season’s joint golden boot winner, Arsenal has the lowest rate of goal-scoring among the current top-five.  While it is expected and predictable to be less productive than last year’s league winner and UEFA champions, Man City and Liverpool respectively, the gap is a chasm. City is scoring at twice the rate and Liverpool is 50% better. Of even greater significance is the offensive superiority of the youthful Chelsea team, with an arguable inferior squad and a far less experienced coach but are banging-in goals at nearly twice the rate of Arsenal. Kids are notoriously unpredictable which can either be a positive or negative for Arsenal.

Goals Against

Of the top-5 Arsenal are second only to Chelsea in conceding goals. Liverpool is leading the pack with a miserly 0.75 goals per game. The Gunners are conceding at nearly twice the rate of Liverpool and 40% higher than Man City. We are seeing the   same gulf in goals-against between Arsenal and the top-2 as we saw in the goal-scoring. Very concerning from an Arsenal point of view is that top-4 rivals Leicester City are conceding nearly 40% less goals. Unlike Frank Lampard at Chelsea, Leicester’s Brendan Rodgers is an experienced coach, who took Liverpool very close to the title six years ago. If they maintain a similar rate of goals-for and goals-against, they will inevitably surpass Arsenal.

Shots Against

There was legitimately huge alarm in the Arsenal fanbase, four weeks ago, when the team was outshot 31 to 7 by Watford, currently the worst team in the league. Evidence that the midfield and defense is vulnerable to willing attackers was papered over by victory over lowly Newcastle and Burnley, both of whom out-fired Arsenal 9 v 8 and 18 v 15 respectively. Losing to Liverpool who rained in 29 shots versus 9, and drawing with Spurs, 26 shots versus 13, was generally regarded as par for the course. But Watford was clear sign of a systemic weakness. Since then the club has tightened up and Bournemouth only got 10 shots off. Note however that nine of them were in the second-half when they desperately sought an equalizer, suggesting that Arsenal is still vulnerable. Allowing 18.5 shots per game may be a statistical outlier at this point in the season but it is significant that none of our top-5 rivals are even into double figures. It suggests some something is systemically amiss which if not corrected will doom Arsenal’s top-4 prospects.

Data versus belief

I must remind football fans that, as in politics and religion, a recitation of data rarely changes the minds of people who cling stubbornly to a set of ideas. People accept facts that comport with their beliefs and ignore, even reject, anything to the contrary.

When it comes to Arsenal, there seems to be a split among fans about how the club should be managed and play its football. On one hand there are those who believe that the old regime had outlived the times and was holding back the club. They therefore hold fast to the idea that Unai Emery is transitioning to a more effective way of playing as justified by the results and performance is of minor consequence.  On the other hand are fans who bemoan the way Arsenal is being outplayed and outshot by so-called ”small” clubs and hold strongly to the view that performance will inevitably impact the results. As far as the latter fans are concerned, after nearly 1.5 years and £200 million in transfers, Unai Emery has had sufficient time and personnel to impose his way of playing, certainly more than Frank Lampard and Brendan Rodgers.

Apparently only league position will settle the issue for some fans. Same thing happened last year when Arsenal was 3rd in the league and on a 22 game unbeaten run. Most fans exulted despite poor performances and a dependence on Aubameyang’s fantastic but unsustainable rate of goal-scoring. Once results turned against the club, key players from the previous regime such as Ozil and Ramsey, who had been exiled, were suddenly recalled. But the rot had already set in. An end of season collapse, marked by the unfathomable decision to bring on 3 defensive minded substitutes when trying to get at least a point from a key match versus Brighton at home when trailing 1:nil, was enough to seal Arsenal’s failure to achieve top-4. This time around there is no Ramsey and most likely no Ozil, based on current efforts to demonize and separate him from the football club.

Despite data and experience that poor football leads to poor results some seem to think it will be better this time around. The underlying data may not be conclusive but at best they suggest Arsenal is standing at the brink of success or failure.

11 Comments

  1. It doesn’t matter how well you drum ,or how hard you bang it, the stone deaf won’t hear it.

    Reply
  2. Maybe not George but football fans have been using he simple stats Shotta studies above since the time the first league table (with GD!) was published.

    I don’t there are many/any Arsenal followers who think the club has been well managed of late with Rambo and Ozil but the people who spent a year trying to excuse the shite on the pitch which we could all see need to protect what’s left of their precious reputations (and incomes!) by talking about “Anxiety” amongst the fans, and other gibberish, and that is simply because most football fans can easily spot a crap football coach specifically one who cannot coach a midfield.

    I’ve seen better coaches at the U11 level, and yep I’d rather see almost any current coach in the league manage this squad over our Shrinking Chameleon, which makes the attempts from the idiots and Blaggers to excuse this dross highly amusing
    with the Footy aside from Auba being unwatchable, driving fans away, I have to get my kicks somewhere…

    Reply
    • I am yet to see the big blaggers and podcasters, much less mainstream pundits, give any attention to this widely available data. There is a very obvious explanation as you imply. It exposes the abject failure of Unai Emery to improve us either offensively or defensively. Contrast this with Rodgers at Leicester, who after 8-months, with far less money, has improved them in all categories. Take Lampard at Chelsea who in less than 3-months has transformed them into a goal-scoring machine. More importantly Emery’s failures exposes them for 10-years of constantly spreading a false narrative that everything would be radically improved at Arsenal by simply getting rid of the manager-who-must-not-be-named. Voila. Instead of improvement there is a slow but steady decline.

      We don’t have to use shady underhand tactics like they did to undermine the team in their goal to replace our greatest ever manager. The facts will speak for themselves.

      Reply
      • Shotts every football fan in England can see what difference having a balanced midfield selection can make on the football pitch – as per England’s football this evening.

        Most fans understand a discussion over why players like Carrick Scholes or even le Tissier didn’t play enough for England

        It’s something most football fans appreciate, as per Chris Waddle highlighting England need for creative midfielders before tonight’s match:
        balanced and complementary attributes especially in the midfield are just one of the reasons this team sport is so popular.

        “The beautiful game” is not a term that was invented for the Arsenal only!

        Yep, nevermind the Football, these blaggers have sweet FA credibility left. What a shower they are.

        Meanwhile we all look on to see Davide Bremery next trick because fuck me, who could have imagined his passing out from the back bollocks would fail yet again for exactly the same reasons: shite coaching.

        Remember the Arsenal Holes would go on about Grounhog Day.

        Well o was choking on my jog when I saw that bollocks again in the fort game. From another coach who knew how to change coach (maybe not in every single play lads?) we’d all love to see it, but even that was beyond Emery.

        The unholy trinity:

        – Sharpy AKA Daddy Raul

        – Davide Bremery

        – Gunner Gavin Blog

        (For fans of The Office)

        May the football gods have mercy on our souls.

        Reply
  3. Remember the Arsenal Holes would go on about Grounhog Day.

    I was choking on my hog when I saw the pass out from the back on every play instruction again in the first game. From another coach who knows how to coach (maybe not on every single damn play lads?) we’d all love to see it, but even that was beyond Emery.

    Reply
  4. Good blog Shotta.

    Our league position may not be what is considered pernicious, but no doubt the performances has been pretty underwhelming. I can’t remember one league match where anybody said, ‘that was a good game’ and that’s a real concern, esp with both Chelsea and Leicester looking like they are getting stronger each game. I’m sure Frank and Rodgers look at the performances of us, Manutd and Spurs and tell their players they got a good shot making top 4 if they just keep at it.

    It bogs the mind how a team with our attacking quality lack so glaring an attacking strategy, to instead be reliant on Auba’s magic in Lacazette’s absence and Pépé still finding his feet, so to speak.

    Of the issues many had with Wenger towards the end were a perceived lack of coaching and improvement. Can anybody honestly say any of that has changed under Emery?

    Good run of 8 PL games up till mid December may keep the illusion going, after that though, the xmas crutch – hope Emery and Özil had make up.

    Reply
  5. I barely look at the table before at least 10 weeks in. That’s when teams have had time to get over the upsets and start performing to around their true capability. Upsets like Chelsea’s big loss to ManU, which some pro Emery types were gleeful about. Simpy because it had been pointed out to them that less than 3 games in and it was clear to see how Lampard wanted his team to play. None of the ‘give him time’ and ‘chameleon’ business.

    Emery meanwhile will almost never lose a game 4-0 or so. He’ll simply ask the team to pass around the back when 2-0 down and take the loss. That is the problem. Among others of course. But mainly, it’s his attitude. Not sure what he thinks the point of football is, but honestly I find myself not looking forward to our games at all. As someone who writes previews here, that is not a good thing!

    Worse, we’re not just boring. We’re BAD at that too. Emery is just a poor coach. Many people did voice that when he was first announced, and I chose to give him the benefit of the doubt. There is no doubt now. He’s bad, and has no business being Arsenal coach. Except, we have people running the club who don’t get nor care about Arsenal.

    Reply
  6. Has anyone noticed that with the obvious clear-out and marginalization of players from the Wenger era the quality of the football, particularly the combinations in midfield, have deteriorated? The team is simply unable to progress the ball through the middle of the field. No wonder we are so terrible to watch.

    Reply
  7. Our saving grace currently is that our lack of intensity and creativity in midfield is less of a problem than whatever is going on at both Spurs and Manutd.

    In those circumstances, though mediocre, I think being third on the PL log is exactly where we deserve to be, which shouldn’t be knocked. The concern, however, is correct that it isn’t sustainable and, as I said above, the form of both Leicester and Chelsea could make Emery even more twitchy.

    Reply
    • Hey Labo,
      Surely one of Spurs or Man Utd will get their shit together and make a serious push for top-4, if only for pride.

      But am most leery of Rodgers. We all know he is smart and ambitious and he nearly won the title for Liverpool until that infamous slip by Steven Gerrard. Losing Suarez was a body blow to Liverpool and he paid the price. But surely he is aware how top-4 is so accessible this year and that as a coach he has a chance to rise Lazarus-like from the dead.

      Reply

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