As promised in yesterday’s post, here are two charts that show the conversion rates of Arsenal’s players home and away.
First, this is a small sample size — and even having to say those words makes me cringe. Second, stats don’t tell the whole story — and even having to say those words makes me cringe. Third, I’m not suggesting that any player is the worst player ever or that because some other player happened to score 2/9 goals that he should be included in the starting lineup.
These charts are simply an answer to the people who blame the “toxic home atmosphere” for Arsenal’s home struggles this season. If we assume that these people, the folks who like to blame the other fans rather than the players, are correct and the atmosphere is the culprit then we should see a “Gervinho effect” of lower goal conversion rates.
The home chart (below) shows that the problem is that if the home atmosphere is hurting players, it’s only a few players. Actually, it’s notably just three players: Ramsey, Giroud, and Özil. So far this season those three players have scored just 7 goals on 119 shots at home. If I include Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in that group (he doesn’t show on the chart below because he has a 0% conversion) then the total comes to 7 goals in 132 shots or 5% conversion.
I want to be clear that I’m not picking on these players. I have no personal vendetta against any of them. I do find it interesting, however, that Özil, Giroud, Ramsey, and Ox are among the most controversial players at Arsenal.
I think most people agree that Özil is a world class creative midfielder. The only knock on him is his finishing. Which is pretty poor at the Emirates this season. Giroud has been hammered all season as a player with which “Arsenal will never win the title” and there is a certain truth to that: to win the League you need consistency and with Giroud you simply don’t get that. He can go months without scoring and/or he can be the kind of player who doesn’t score away from home one year and only scores away from home the next. Ramsey is loved and hated in equal measure for his forays forward while Ox seems to have joined the one or two players that most Arsenal fans want to see sold this summer.
The magical thing about football is that scoring solves all the problems. Fans seem to forgive players who score. Look at Joel Campbell. He is not a great football player but he scores goals. Welbeck as well. Fans are willing to forgive players their faults if they A) score goals and B) work hard. Thomas Vermaelen made a football career off of this, what I call “The Joel Campbell effect”.
One final example here of the “Joel Campbell effect” is Alexis Sanchez. This dude is insanely consistent, he scores goals, and he works his socks off. He is often criticized for his turnovers and sometimes for his poor passing but fans seem eager to forgive him because he is capable of scoring from direct free kicks and myriad other situations. Even headers!
Proof of his consistency is in the away conversion rates:
Alexis is 12% on the season, 12% at home, 12% away. And it’s important to remember that this has been a poor season by his standards. He has been run into the ground by Arsenal and his national team over the last three years and there is no end in sight for him even this summer. FIFA have set up another corrupt tournament that they can compel people to play in like slaves and Alexis will play, running himself further into the ground.
In the away chart we get a bizarre flipping of the scoring. Where at home Giroud and Özil are the most profligate, in away games they are the most efficient. Even Ramsey brings his numbers up in away games (to 11%) and Ox finally gets a goal (his only goal of the season so far). Is this the ‘Gervinho effect’? Are these players really more relaxed when they are away from the hot gaze of Arsenal’s cruel home fans?
Hard to tell. I’ve been to many home and away games with Arsenal. My experience is that the away fans were crueler toward the players than the home fans. Both at Anfield and the Liberty stadium, the away fans verbally harassed Abou Diaby. These were direct verbals: get out of my club and that sort of thing shouted down on him when he was mere meters away.
But what if these players are more directly affected by crowd unrest at home? If that is the case, that somehow the home fans are making Giroud, Ramsey, and Özil miss shots, what does that say about those players and their fitness for a title run? Because I wonder how a player would be able to bifurcate their home and away form? How do they pick themselves up to play in an away game but aren’t able to just do that in a home game?
Personally, this looks like coincidental data. Coincidental data that fits a weird narrative about confidence and home fans that has come out this season. A weird narrative that has been picked up on by the players and the manager.