Category Archives: The 7amkickoff Index

Cazorla (1)

Game winning goals or how I learned to stop worrying and love Cazorla

I hate the third day of a four day weekend. Four day weekends always seem to start out with a bang. It’s like a Wednesday night and you’re going out with friends because you have the next day off! Then before you know it Friday has come and gone. And then you’re sitting there on a Saturday with a massive hangover and you can suddenly see Monday on the horizon. Filled with dread, you scan your mind for some way to make the day last longer.

If you choose to mow the lawn, turn to page 23. If you decide to take a nap instead, turn to page 6.

You lay your head down on your pillow and try to take a nap but some smell keeps bothering you. In a fit of pique you spend 30 minutes playing “where’s that smell” before realizing it’s your pillow. You should have mowed the lawn. If you choose to mow the lawn turn to page 23. If you choose instead to wash your filthy bedding turn to page 17.

And that’s how I clean my house, choose your own adventure style.

Anyway, there’s not much going on Arsenal-wise this morning. Yaya Sanogo scored for France and probably should have had two off a great cross on a breakaway but for a mis-timed kick. It was clear he was trying to do too much with the ball, probably lift it rather than just poke it in. I already saw some tweets about how he was “Gervaise Sanogo” but just a few minutes of watching him run channels, spray passes, hold the ball, and makes adroit runs was all I needed to see that he’s probably a better option at center forward than Gervinho or Chamakh. I suppose we’ll have to wait and see, he’s very raw. He reminds me of the good things I liked about Adebayor. Let’s hope he doesn’t have any of the bad things.

Anyway, I wanted to leave you with some stats that I made up. In thinking about measuring a forward’s efficiency I went back through the last 5 months of the Premier League season (January-May) and marked down all of the game winners. That means any player who scored the goal that broke the tie +1. So, for example, in the 4-1 win over Wigan, it’s Arsenal’s second goal which is the winner. That one was scored by Theo Walcott in the 63rd minute.

I tend to try to find elegant or simple stats when possible, but there is another option, which is to assess goals based on the time the goal is scored cross referenced with the percentage of those goals that win games. So, again going back to that 4-1 win, Podolski scored the third in the 68th minute and it’s common for us to say things like “that put the game to bed” or after Ramsey’s goal in the 71st minute, to say, “that really put the game out of reach”. So which one is the real winner? Is Walcott’s goal more valuable than the others?

I tend to think so, but how much more valuable is debatable.

Anyway, I compiled all the game winning goal scorers from January to May and there were a few surprises.

winners

First, remember that we are only talking about Premier League games here. Second, I chopped off all the players who only won 1 game because they would have made my graphic unbearable!

With that in mind, you can see that Bale scored 6 game-winning goals in Tottenham’s last 18 games. They only won 10 of their last 18 games, meaning a Bale goal won 60% of their games in the run in. I bet if I count goals that earn a tie (down a goal and he gets the tie) that number goes up even higher — and assists as well. He probably won all of their games.

 

Arsenal meanwhile, had 19 matches from January to May and won 12. A Cazorla goal won three, Giroud two, Walcott two, and Koscielny, Mertesacker, Monreal, Podolski, and Rosicky won one each. Cazorla also had 6 assists in that run, though I can’t tell how many were “game winning” because I haven’t looked, plus, I kind of hate the way some places count assists. Just because I pass someone the ball and they score 10 seconds later does not mean that the pass deserves an “assist.”

Another thing you may have noticed (because I highlighted it!) is that Gerrard won three games for Liverpool in their run in and all three were penalties. Conspicuous in his absence is Luis Suarez who won Liverpool ZERO games in the run in. I have no idea why this guy gets so much hype. Honestly. Any time I look at any stats with Suarez he comes up looking like a ball hog who doesn’t win you games: he misses more shots than anyone, he loses out on more dribbles than anyone else, he turns the ball over a ton, and he didn’t win Liverpool a single game in their push to 4th (partially because he was suspended for the last 4 games of the season FOR BITING ANOTHER HUMAN BEING).

Another interesting wrinkle in all this is that a Rooney goal won Man U 3 games and Robin van Persie’s goals in the last half the season only won 1. Van Persie got all the credit for the trophy but it was a real team effort from United with Rooney helping more than van Persie according to this metric.

Anyway, just something I was playing around with on a Saturday. Now, if you’ll pardon me, I have to go mow the lawn.

Qq

giroudl

The Benteke Mystery

It was a bright and sunny morning. The kind of morning that’s unusual for the start of a detective novel but this is no ordinary novel and I’m no ordinary character in it. But back to the morning, it’s bright, and sunny, and the birds are chirping. The kind of chirp that makes you feel all happy inside. Then she walked in and by “she” I mean my dog, Pepper.

She looked at me funny, “oh yeah,” I remembered, “time to walk the dog.” I grabbed her leash and took her for a walk around the block.

“This is the worst detective novel ever.” I said out loud as I picked up my dog’s scat in a little bag. It was warm and I never could get used to that. “Why does the author have me picking up Pepper’s scat? And why do you keep making me call it scat? Isn’t there a fourth wall somewhere?”

And that’s when I found Luis Suarez’ dignity. It was on a paper lying there in the gutter under the headline “The English Press Don’t Like Me.” Astonishing, really, the thought that he would blame the press. Put aside everything else, he bit a man. A grown man bit another person and not in a zombie film.

That whole match was surreal. It took place at the height of the Arsenal fans insistence that Luis Suarez would be a terrific Arsenal player. 7amkickoff was fending off people on twitter and their arguments that “he makes his own shot” by showing that everyone on Liverpool just passes him the ball, so he can turn the ball over, fail at a dribble, or if Liverpool were lucky he would shoot, which he’s not very efficient at and never has been. Then Suarez handled the ball, created a shot, bit Ivanovich, and scored the tying goal and suddenly no one, no one in their right mind, wants Suarez on any team that they love.

I even doubt the stories that Real Madrid want him. I know enough about how this all works to smell an agent behind these rumors. Suarez wants out and I’m sure Liverpool want to offload him (despite their insistence that he’s going no where) but would a big club like Real Madrid take a chance on a player who is, to be fair, crazier than a sh*t-house rat? Going from Liverpool to Real Madrid is something that happens to good players, it’s a step up in a man’s career.

But I do suspect that he is on the move, Liverpool are playing it cool but they want to get rid of him as fast as possible and at the best price they can. In many ways, I wonder if his sale won’t spark a bit of a carousel of player transfers. Falcao is reportedly almost a Monaco man which opens a spot for a player of Suarez’ ability at Atletico. Though, even Atletico is reportedly after Benteke and not Suarez, proving they have decent taste if true.

I watched Benteke score a brace against the USA in their international friendly Wednesday and I do have to admit that I went off a bit half-cocked on him. His numbers at the start of the season were pretty poor but it’s a lesson in why sample size matters: one hat trick changes a player’s conversion rate dramatically if the player only takes 100 or so shots in a season. The facts are that Benteke scored 19 goals this season and took just 104 shots, which when you compare to Giroud who took a similar number of shots but scored just 11 goals, you can see what people like about him.

What you don’t see unless you watch a lot of Aston Villa is that he leads the League in being caught offside, he’s tied for second with Fellaini in total turnovers (unforced errors) behind Suarez, and is tied for fourth in number of times he was dispossessed last season. In fact, Benteke saw twice as much of the ball as Giroud did, or nearly twice.

 League Play Giroud Benteke
Goals 11 19
Assists 3 4
Passes 697 1142
Aerials 232 474
Shots 107 104
Turnovers 71 76
Dispossessed 49 83

That’s the thing, you can like Benteke and no one should disabuse you of that, he is big and scores goals. But I don’t see him as anything significantly better than Giroud. That’s not to say I wouldn’t take him at Arsenal but at £20m there is a lot better value out there for a squad player who would need a lot of the ball to see significant return.

In fact, this was an early mystery for me this season at Arsenal “Where were all the shots going to come from?” Cazorla, Podolski, and Giroud all led their respective teams in shots last season (Cazorla was second) and like the Benteke’s and Suarez’ of the world were used to getting most of the ball. So how would they all jell at Arsenal, especially with Theo Walcott demanding a more central roll?

The short answer is that the departure of Robin van Persie left a 174 shot hole at Arsenal, plus Arteta, Arshavin, and Podolski all gave up shots which all went to the top three Arsenal goalscorers, Walcott, Cazorla and Giroud. On a side note, Podolski’s 11 goals on just 54 shots makes him Arsenal’s most efficient forward. On another side note, Arsenal had four players in double-figures for goals, the quadruple-double-trouble crew.

Hmmm… warm scat. I really wish he would stop making me pick that up.

Qq

Soft feet, Jazzy hands

Arsenal decidedly more incisive over the last 16 matches, long may that continue

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!

Bonus

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.

Cheers.

Qq