Category Archives: The 7amkickoff Index

alexis-sanchez

Arsenal’s crosses not as bad as you think, plus a deeper look at Alexis’ poor passing

Good morning, just a quick post today as I am in a rush.

First, I added goals scored off crosses to the 7amkickoff Index and published the data to the web. Practically, that means anyone can look at my timeline now and copy out the data. If you’d like to rearrange the structure you can also do that. Again, just take a copy of my data and make your own table. I’m curious to see what others come up with.

Second, I discovered* the “detailed” tab on WhoScored.com and have to say that it feels like there is too much detail! But keeping with the theme of today’s additions to the 7amkickoff Index, I started playing with the crosses numbers for this year and last.

crosses

If you look at the Index you can see that Arsenal have only scored nine goals off crosses in all competitions and just six times in the League. That’s according to me, according to Opta (the guys who supply WhoScored with the data) Arsenal have only scored FIVE times off crosses… or more correctly “Arsenal only have 5 assists off crosses in League play”. Opta and I disagree on whether Welbeck’s pass to Alexis against Swansea was a cross. I think it was, they don’t

According to Opta, the five cross-assisters are Chambers, Gibbs, Özil, Monreal and Cazorla and I add in Welbeck.

Even if we use Opta’s data, Arsenal’s numbers don’t look too bad.

More-crosses

 

The Gunners are attempting more crosses than ever and they have a League leading 5 assists off those crosses (I would say seven, actually. Gibbs’ cross for the own goal and Welbeck’s cross to Alexis).

If anything, Arsenal’s numbers are being dragged down by two players, Alexis and Ox. Both of those guys have only connected on 4 of their 40 attempted crosses (combined 8 for 80), though 3 of their 4 successful crosses have resulted in shots (total they have 6 shots off 8 successful crosses), and neither has managed an assist yet off a cross.

The player Arsenal miss most is Özil. Corners, crosses, regular passes, it doesn’t matter his passing numbers are spectacular. He had 9 accurate crosses off 27 attempts and 7 accurate corners off 13 attempts. He also had 4 key passes off crosses and 2 off corners along with one of Arsenal’s crossed-assists.

One last thing, much is being made of Alexis’ passing percentage and there’s a good deal of truth to the critique that Arsenal need all of our players to be more accurate with the ball. Using just short passes as a measuring stick (with which to beat him, HA HA HA) Alexis has the most “innacurate” passes of the whole team giving up 103 short passes in 10 games. That’s 10 times a game he’s giving away the ball in a short pass situation. Ramsey is second on the team, by the way, giving the ball away 6.7 times a game in short pass situations.

Alexis’ pass percentages are the same as Diego Costa and Neymar which at first glance seems to vindicate the Chilean but when you see that Costa only has 4.8 giveaways per game and that Neymar has 6.8, Alexis’ 10 per game is pretty poor. Alexis is getting the ball a lot and not quite connecting with his teammates.

The Chilean admitted as much in an interview where he said that he is still learning to play with his teammates.

Clearly I need to improve and that is what I say in the dressing room: I could dwell a little less on the ball, use one-touch play to facilitate counterattacks. That is vital. I must learn that because the rapid transitions are key in this league and with this team.

This football [in England] is hard, very hard. It’s a struggle to adapt. Of all the leagues in which I have played, this is the most complicated. I like the challenge, but it’s not easy!

Imagine the day when he’s all settled in at Arsenal and making short little passes that open up the opposition instead of just scoring all of Arsenal’s goals.

That’s all I can do for today. Have a crack at the numbers yourself and see what you come up with. 

Qq

*I discovered this in the time honored tradition of my ancestors “someone else made it, someone else pointed me to it, and I then blindly stumbled into it, planted a flag, and claimed it for my Queen. Long live the Queen!”

Why the odds makers have Everton as favorites to win Sunday

I was talking to a friend yesterday about the differences between sports betting in the US and in the UK. As an example in the conversation I pulled up the odds for the Everton-Arsenal match for this weekend and I was surprised to learn that Everton are the bookmakers favorites to win the match: 40% Everton win, 30% draw, 32% Arsenal win.

I have to admit that I don’t gamble on sports. I don’t know why, other than it seems like gambling on sports would ruin sports for me. I’ll have a flutter every once in a while, but nothing serious, which would require me to build a model to find value in the Premier League market.

That latter bit would be the part that ruined sport because then I would have to see my favorite team as just another data point in the model rather than as some romantic metaphor.

But the bookmakers don’t mess around. The fact is that Everton have been favorites in this fixture now for two years and by basically the same margin. And in this same fixture last year you might remember that Arsenal were lucky to escape with a point.

Despite dominating the possession stats, Arsenal found it very hard to break down Everton’s defenses and only managed 3 shots on target. That includes Theo Walcott’s 1st minute goal which set Arsenal up for the draw. Meanwhile, Marouane Fellaini dominated the Arsenal midfield and as a result, Everton created 9 shots on target. That game also featured a poor clearance by Sagna which led to the Fellaini goal, a brash tackle by Gibson which I think should have seen him off, and a lucky escape by Arteta for a tackle on Pienaar in the box. It was a game that in many ways mirrored some of our worst performances of the season: sterile domination and an error prone defense.

From a sports-writer’s perspective it’s easy to tell why Arsenal aren’t favorites in this game: injuries and recent form.

Even with the great news that Aaron Ramsey is on his way back, you have to admit that Arsenal’s injured list reads like a who’s who of Arsenal starters: Walcott, Wilshere, Koscielny, Ramsey, oh and Özil. Meanwhile, Everton look almost certain to recover Phil Jagielka and Ross Barkley for this match. Add to that the fact that all their regular starters, like Romelu Lukaku (who has scored 4 goals in the 8 appearances since his return from injury), and you can see that Everton are significantly healthier than Arsenal at the moment.

Recent form favors the blues as well. In League play, Arsenal have won just 3 of their last 10 matches, going 3-4-3 and taking just 13 points from a possible 30. Everton, on the other hand, are on a 5-match winning streak and have a 6-1-3 record in the last 10 games. Those three losses were all to top seven teams (Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham) but they were also all away games.

And head to head, home record v. away record, again favors the Toffees. Everton are 11-3-1 at home, losing just once to Sunderland (0-1) and drawing to Tottenham (0-0) and Liverpool (3-3). However, what is keeping the bookies’ odds close is the fact that Arsenal have the second best away record (29/48 points) and 4th best goal scoring record in away games (27 goals scored).

You could, however, simplify all of these arguments and just look at goal difference. In their seminal work Fitness, chance, and myths: an objective view on soccer results Heuer and Rubner lay out a compelling argument for why goal difference is the key stat for determining the relative strength of a team. This is something I have felt was true for a long time but never put the work in to prove it. Again, using goal difference, you can see why Everton are favorites. Despite their rather good record in terms of both results and goals scored, Arsenal’s away goal difference over the last three seasons has been just +14 (it is +/-0 this season) while our overall goal difference has been +79. And that figure is largely buoyed by Arsenal’s best-in-the-league away defense last season where we only allowed 14 total goals.

This season is another odd one. The Gunners have scored 27 away goals and have conceded 27 for a 0 GD. However, as you know, 17 of those 27 goals came in just three games. If we abstract those big losses out, Arsenal’s away record goes from one of the worst in the League to the best in the country, scoring 23 and conceding a measly 10 in 13 games. In fact, if we take out the big away losses in 2011-2012 (against Man U and Blackburn) Arsenal go from having the 11th worst away defense to the 3rd best. So, without the five big losses in away games the last three years, Arsenal actually have a pretty solid away defense conceding just 44 goals in 51 games but 29 goals in those five games. mentioned above. I guess when Arsenal lose they really are the best at losing!

If there is any “value”* to be found in the stats above it’s that Arsenal’s away record is so strange over the last three years that you might take pause. On the one hand, Arsenal have the most consistent, stingiest away defense in the League over the last three years. On the other hand, Arsenal also have allowed 29 goals in just 5 games.

Can Arsenal get a win in these circumstances or are the odds-makers right?

*The difference between the odds on offer and the probability of a result going in favor of the gambler.

THROW

Stoke City v. Arsenal: stats preview

  • In the last 4 meetings between these two teams at the Britannia stadium both teams have the same record: P4 W1 D2 L1
  • In those same 4 meetings both teams have won 3-1 once, drawn 1-1 once, and drawn 0-0 once
  • In the last meeting at the Britannia, Peter Crouch won 18/21 aerial duels and was only called for three fouls, all of which he complained about
  • Thomas Vermaelen might start at left back and he won 6/13 aerial duels in that same game, leading Arsenal (Diaby won 6/17)
  • Giroud won 5/12 aerial duels in that same game, none in the Stoke final 1/3, 1 in the Arsenal defensive 1/3
  • In the last meeting Stoke only completed 150 passes
  • In that same match both teams made 70 aerial duels, Stoke won 41 of them. Yes, 70 aerial duels in one game. Arsenal only averaged 17 aerial duels per game last season. Arsenal average 17 aerial duels per game this season as well.
  • Peter Crouch is averaging 8 aerial duels per game this season, second in the League behind Christian Benteke
  • Giroud leads Arsenal with 4 aerials per game
  • Bacary Sagna is second at Arsenal this season with 3.8 aerials per game, just 17 fewer total aerials won than Giroud
  • Sagna is 18 cm shorter than Giroud
  • Vermaelen might start tomorrow at left back, he won 55% of his aerial duels last season. Crouch won 66%, and Koscielny wins 57% this season.
  • Stoke will probably angle long passes in to Crouch against Koz and Vermaelen because Mertesacker has won 72% of his aerial duels
  • Crouch has scored 7 goals against Arsenal, his second highest tally against any team (Opta stat that you’ve seen floating around)
  • Over the last 10 years, Arsenal have only averaged 1.66 points per game away from home and Stoke have averaged 1.61 points per game at home
  • This season, Arsenal are averaging 2 points per game away from home and Stoke are averaging 1.62 points per game at home


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