Category Archives: The 7amkickoff Index


Match for Match, Arsenal dead even with last season but opportunity looms

If you compare match for match last season to this season, Arsenal are dead even on points, have scored four fewer goals, and yet with the games remaining there is a very real chance for Arsenal to win their first League title since the Invincibles.

Many of the media elites argue that this is Arsenal’s best chance at a trophy in years — citing the closeness of the race, the fact that Arsenal were leading the League for much of the season, and the void left at the top by the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson. And sure enough, looking at the Cann table from last year to this produces a rather dramatic presentation of the two seasons.

12 points clear with 11 matches remaining, Man Utd at this point last season were presumptive champions and the excitement in the League was in following which teams would get relegated; from the League and from the top four. Arsenal were four points behind Spurs and were just getting ready to start their “negative spiral” up the table to eventually overhaul their North London neighbors.

Now this season. The table is topped by Chelsea with Arsenal just one point below, Man City three points back (but with a game in hand), Liverpool four points back, and Tottenham 10 points off the leaders. Whereas last season there was a clear favorite, there are now three clubs who can take the lead on any given weekend and a fourth club who would need two good weeks over all three of the other clubs in order to get into the title equation. In that sense, you can see why people feel this is the most open title race in years.


But when you look at total spend on players, this race shouldn’t even be this close. You don’t have to agree but the fact remains that spending huge sums improves your club’s chances of winning trophies. Chelsea and Man City have proven that in spades and there is no end of the spend in sight for either of those two clubs. If Jose Mourinho’s team is a “little horse” it is a little horse with a gilded saddle and a feed bag full of caviar — the perfect little horse for Chelsea’s Napoleon to ride in on.

But while everyone was ogling the riches Man City and Chelsea are throwing around people seem to have forgotten that Man Utd spent their fair share as well. This season alone, Moyes spent £67m on transfers in to boost his squad, buying Mata and Fellaini. It’s not been for lack of spend that United are struggling, but for lack of management.

Meanwhile, plucky little Scouse underdogs, Liverpool, have had the same problem as Moyes. Brendan Rodgers is a serial spender in the transfer market, plumping out huge sums for players like Joe Allen (£16m) and taking a huge dump on Stewart Downing when they lost £15m selling him to West Ham. This season he spent another huge sum, £17m, for Sakho who has been “less than convincing.” Rodgers’ most important transfer dealings in his career has actually been to keep Luis Suarez. Without the Uruguayan having a career season, the Liverpool defense, which has more holes than a sunken ship, would be dragging them back in to mid-table mediocrity. And they might still yet miss out on 4th place if Suarez has his annual freak out ahead of the World Cup.

Top seven clubs, last three seasons transfer spend:
Chelsea £191m
Man City £165m
Man U £159m
Liverpool £110m
Arsenal £19m
Tottenham -£28m
Everton -£27m

The media elites will go on about what an open season this is for Arsenal and what a chance to win the title but for me this is just the first of many rebuilding seasons with the Arsenal. Wenger’s grand plan to build a team around Cesc and van Persie has been utterly overhauled and he has now become much more pragmatic in the transfer market, buying seasoned professionals like Santi Cazorla, Per Mertesacker, and Mikel Arteta instead of players for the future. This season, he added a sparkling new gem to the squad when he captured German International Mesut Özil from Real Madrid so, with a hugely talented base of seasoned professionals, a framework of young players who have been at the club for years, and a topping of a big-money signing, what I’m looking for, then, is an improvement. Sadly, if we count results from this year to last, Arsenal have stayed a bit static, and by some measures even fallen a bit short.



Take a look at the graphic above. I’ve matched up Arsenal’s results from last term (on the left) with the results from this term (on the right). Then I took the points difference between the results, the goal difference between the results, and the goals conceded difference between the results and created a table on the far right. The colored bars are for the 11 matches Arsenal still have yet to play: red bars indicated losses last season, yellow bars are draws, and green bars were games we won.

The first thing to notice is that Arsenal are dead even on points with the results that we had last season. This, combined with our second place ranking, indicates that Arsenal had a relatively weak schedule to start the season off and when you look at the fact that of the 11 games remaining this year our record last season was W4 D2 L5, you can see that Arsenal are headed into a very rough patch of games.

Rough patch, or you could think of those 11 games as an opportunity to pick up some points. For example, using my color bars, think of the green as “must win,” and yellow or red as “opportunity to pick up points”. Then any red bar becomes a chance to earn points with either a draw or a win and the yellow a chance to earn points with a win. Now, Arsenal have 7/11 chances to earn more points than last season.

For example if Arsenal earn a draw at home to Man City, away to Chelsea, away to Spurs, home to Swansea, and away to Norwich they will actually be four points better off than they were last season. Draws in all those matches would hardly be a string of memorable results but given the results of the season prior would indicate that Arsenal are in better form over last season. Turn any of those losses into wins and we are even better off.

No, I look at the record Arsenal had in the comparable 11 games last season and I take heart. To finish this season with the same points total as last season, Arsenal would have to go W4 D2 L5 or some equivalent which would leave Arsenal earning just 14 points from our last 11 games. Losing 5 of the remaining 11 matches seems almost impossible, especially when you consider that Arsenal have only lost 6 League matches in the last three years worth of run-in’s from February to May.

Where all this starts is this weekend against Stoke. Arsenal earned a 0-0 draw in this match last season and a win there puts Arsenal 2 points better off than last season. The perfect way to kick off the end of season run-in.


I like how Luis Suarez pulls back his sock to reveal the devestating injury that Szczesny supposedly inflicted.

Liverpool v. Arsenal: stats preview

  • Arsenal are third in the league in goals scored with 47, Liverpool are second with 58
  • Arsenal have scored more (25) away goals than home (23)
  • Liverpool have only conceded 8 goals at Anfield, second best home record, only bettered by Arsenal
  • Liverpool have scored the second most home goals in the League (33) and have already scored as many goals at Anfield this season as all of last
  • Suarez has scored 23 of Liverpool’s goals this season. That’s the same number of goals as he scored all of last season. Suarez has taken 84 fewer shots to score those 23 goals this year over last (103 v. 187)
  • Suarez has scored 16 of his 23 goals at Anfield this season, 70% of his total goals.
  • Suarez is averaging 6.3 shots per game at home meaning that he’s scoring every 3.5 shots on average
  • Suarez has scored in 8 of his 9 home games (all but the 2-2 draw against Aston Villa)
  • 15 of Suarez’ 16 home goals have come against bottom 10 teams. In fact, Suarez has only played one top 10 team at home, Everton, and he did score.
  • In fact, Suarez has only scored 3 goals against top 10 teams this season
  • Olivier Giroud has scored 6 goals on away days, 1 less than Suarez’ away record
  • Podolski has scored all three of his goals in away games
  • Both Arsenal and Liverpool lead the League with goals scored off headers with 9
  • Arsenal’s goals have actually come in a very evenly distributed manner: 19 goals with right foot, 19 goals with left foot, and 9 from headers. No other team has such an equal distribution between left and right and only three teams are left foot dominant (Hull, Palace, Cardiff).
  • Arsenal have only scored 3 goals in the first halfs of each of the last 10 matches.
  • Arsenal had scored 12 goals in the first halfs of each of the previous 14 matches
  • Arsenal’s opposition are scoring on one of every 50 shots from outside the 18 yard box (best in the League), one in every 26 shots inside the area (excluding the Red Zone*), and one in every 3 shots in the Red Zone.
  • Arsenal are scoring one in every 23 shots from outside the 18 yard box, one in every 7 inside the box and one in every 4 in the Red Zone
  • Liverpool are tied with Chelsea for most prolific team from outside the 18 yard box, they have score 12 goals from distance this season, 8 of those have been at home, 5 of those 8 goals from distance have been scored by Suarez, off just 25 shots (not including blocked shots)
  • Arsenal are the only team who have stopped Liverpool from scoring when both Suarez and Sturridge have played together (from the 442 app)
  • “Liverpool have won just one of their last 13 Premier League games against Arsenal and none of the last six at Anfield” (also the 442 app)
  • Liverpool lead the League in defensive errors with 28, Arsenal are second with 23.
  • However, Arsenal have only conceded 4 times from those 23 errors, all away
  • Liverpool have conceded 6 times from those errors, just 1 at home.


*Red Zone refers to the area in the 6 yard box, extending in a T to the penalty spot, this:

red zone


Who has the better center back pair, Arsenal or Chelsea?

Almost daily right now I get asked to use WhoScored or Squawka to compare X player to Y player and I understand, because it’s entirely my fault having helped popularize stats in football with this blog and with my column on Arseblog News. And I have usually obliged the requests and will often post some boring old “here’s a box, with some numbers in it” style answer. It satisfies, or perhaps mollifies the crowds but really, let’s face it, people like shiny new things. So, I made you this:


What I did here was take Mertesacker and Koscielny’s numbers and mashed them up into one beast and then took Cahill and Terry’s numbers and mashed them up into an uglier beast. Then, instead of dividing by Per90 or by the number of matches that they played, I just used their bulk stats. So, clearances is the total number of clearances that each pairing made, interceptions is the same, tackles and everything except passes. I chose to do passes on a per game basis because it would really look weird to have several thousand events in one category and “two” in assists.

Now, as you can see, the four center backs are similar in some ways and different in others.

Similar: all four center backs clear the ball at nearly identical rates. Chelsea clear slightly more than Arsenal on a per game basis but because of injury to Cahill their bulk numbers are basically the same. Passes per game are also almost exactly the same and all four players pass the ball at an 87-92% rate.

Actually, Arsenal have the edge here because Mertesacker and Koscielny lead the League (no.1 and 2) in pass percent (not included in the graph above). Not only are the two Arsenal men overall better at making the average pass, they are vastly superior in long passes. This could be down to the fact that Terry and Cahill don’t have a target man up front but for whatever reason, Per-Koz have only misplaced 21 of their 161 long passes (13%) while Cah-Ter have misplaced 86 of 229 (38%). To make this point even clearer, Per-Koz have completed a total of 140 long passes and Cah-Ter 143, that’s despite the Chelsea players attempting 68 more long passes.

The other advantage for the Arsenal pair is in interceptions and tackles, which is shown above. The interceptions number (100-39) is almost entirely down to the speed of Koscielny. Koz could very well be the fastest center back in the League and it shows not only in his ability to steal the ball off opposition strikers (3 per game, 4th best in the League) but also in his ability to recover and get back for a block.

As for tackles, Mertesacker and Koscielny have attempted and won more tackles than Cazza-Tazza but the truth is that you don’t really want your center backs making a lot tackles because the dangers involved as last man. And Koz again gets the plaudits here, whereas Terry and Mertesacker are 52% tacklers and Cahill is slightly better with 57%, Koz is 63%. To put it another way, Terry and Cahill have only combined for 27 successful tackles, Koz alone has 32 (combined, Arsenal’s CBs have 56 successful tackles).

Where the Chelsea duo have the advantage is in aerial duels won. Both Chelsea CBs attempt more aerials and are more successful than the Arsenal pair. Cahill wins 73% of his duels (66/91) and Terry wins 66% (75/114). Meanwhile, Arsenal’s Big Flying German wins 73% of his duels (65/89), but Koscielny is only a coin flip at 52% and oddly has only even attempted 52 total aerial duels. Over his career, Koz has been better, 62% in his first year and 64% last season, so I have to wonder if his low numbers both in terms of attempts per game and in success isn’t by design on the part of Arsene Wenger and Steve Bould: especially on set play defense, where Olivier Giroud is often deployed to clear opposition corners.

The Chelsea duo also have the advantage in terms of the small numbers at the bottom: errors, goals, and assists. Because these are such small numbers (2 assists for Chelsea, e.g.) they could swing rapidly at any time over the next 10-12 games so, take them with a Himalayan grain of salt.

Not shown above is that when Mertesacker and Koscielny have started together this season (in the League) Arsenal have won 14. drawn 3, and lost 2. That’s good enough for 2.36 ppg. This is almost exactly the same as Gazza-Jazza who have played 17 together, won 12, drawn 1, and lost 1 for 2.35ppg.

That said, there is a significant population of people who will point out that for both of Arsenal’s losses with Per-Koz, Koscielny missed part of the game. Against Villa, Koscielny was shown a red card in the 66th minute, after which Tony Moon scored the 3rd Villa goal. Arguably, Arsenal were already in a losing position at that point in the game. Also, Kozzer came off injured in the 41st minute against City, after which City put four goals on us, though, again, the Citizens were already up 2-1 and again Arsenal were in a losing position. Still, if we take away the goals that Arsenal conceded when either Koz or Per were off the pitch, the Arsenal center back pairing have only allowed 12. Meanwhile, the Chelsea pair have allowed 13.

No matter how you look at it, this is an extremely close call. Do you prefer blockheaded lumberjacks pounding balls out of the backfield or nimble defenders stealing the ball and distributing to kick start a counter attack. It’s close, but I give this one to Arsenal’s center backs.

Because I’m biased.