From Matchday 1 to Matchday 15, Arsenal only had 5 League wins. scoring just 24 (1.6/game) goals and conceding 16 (1.06/g). The five wins were Liverpool, Southampton, West Ham, QPR, and Tottenham. In that same period Arsenal lost to Chelsea, Norwich, Man U, and Swansea. Matchday 15 was the 2-0 loss at home to Swansea.
In the 16 matches that followed that loss to the Swans, Arsenal have won 11 times, scoring 37 (2.3/g) and conceding 18 (1.12/g). The eleven wins were West Brom, Reading, Wigan, Newcastle, West Ham, Stoke, Sunderland, Villa, Swansea, Reading, and West Brom.
One major difference between the two periods is that four of those teams that Arsenal beat in this (arbitrary) “second” part of the season were either draws or losses; Sunderland, Stoke, and Villa were all draws while Swansea is the team we lost to in one half and beat in the other.
The other major difference is that Arsenal have become more incisive in front of goal. Over the entire 31 game stretch, Arsenal average about 11 key passes per game and about 1.4 assists per game. In the first 15 games, Arsenal still averaged about 10.8 key passes per game, but they only had 16 assists (1.06).
In the second half, the key passes are the same but the assists have jumped significantly to 1.75 per game. Most of the other stats have all remained the same through the entire period and this jump in assists confirms that the big difference between the first 15 games and these last 16 is that Arsenal have become more incisive in front of goal.
There’s something else I have noticed throughout this season: the more chances that Arsenal create, the more likely they are to win.
I know that might sound simplistic but it’s really not because I’m not just talking about shots that Arsenal take or goals that we score, obviously if you score more goals your correlation to winning is going to be very high. I’m talking about passes that lead to a shot a specific action that for this particular Arsenal side correlates very well to winning or losing.
Shots, key passes, goals and assists are not all equal. Some teams rely heavily on one player to win them games and as a result their assists numbers are lower. Tottenham, for instance, only have 37 assists in 32 games and Liverpool only have 35 assists, whereas Arsenal already have 44 assists (and a game in hand).
Arsenal are more team oriented than sides like Balespurs and Suarezpool and as a result, it makes sense that when Arsenal create more for each other and rely less on the offensive output of just one player, they tend to do better. So, for example, Arsenal have created 11 or less chances in a game 16 times this season. Their record in those games is W4 D6 L6. They have created 12 or more chances (remember chances from a pass, not just shots) in 15 games and their record in those games is W12 D2 L1.
The one loss? Norwich.
That Norwich match was one which divides opinion. Some feel like Arsenal didn’t try enough and others, like me, feel that Arsenal tried mostly hard enough but just weren’t incisive enough. Both sets of fans are actually, in a way, right.
The “not try hard enoughers” can point to the fact that Arsenal had 72% of the possession but only took 14 shots. They can also show (if they have my hustle board!) that Arsenal won a season low 46% of their duels, just nine tackles (ugh), and a total of just 29 total duels (one of the lowest totals of the season).
The “not incisive enoughers” can point to the fact that Arsenal did create 14 chances (oddly enough all 14 shots in that game were created from a pass), that when Arsenal create 14 chances they almost always win, but that since it was early in the season, Arsenal were still trying to get Giroud, Podolski, Gervinho, Santos, Jenkinson, and Cazorla to gel and as a result a lot of shots went begging.
My feeling is that if Arsenal create 14 chances again this weekend, they will score 3 goals. Because in this last 16 games, the team have, on average, scored one goal every 4.6 key passes. Whereas in the first 15 games they were much more profligate and scored once every 7 key passes. This Arsenal team, right now, are simply more incisive.
Let’s hope I didn’t just jinx them!
I made an appearance on two podcasts this week. The Arsenal Review USA podcast where we talked about West Brom, Arteta, and the keepers. And then I was on the Arsenal America Podcast with Tim Stillman from Arseblog and Vital Arsenal. Tim, Chris, and I also talked about West Brom but there is a very interesting conversation in there about Arshavin, Arteta, and what it’s like to watch games these days.
Check them out and be sure to complain about my annoying laugh.