Great set of results today* for Arsenal and the team has to be absolutely licking their lips at the chance to extend their lead at the top of the table against Everton tomorrow. It’s a game in which Arsenal’s new-found ability to create goals in dangerous areas and to frustrate the opposition will be key as they will face Everton with Romelu Lukaku, darling of Fleet Street and transfer dreamers everywhere.
Lukaku is a darling for good reason, when he scores Everton are 6-1-1 and prior to being loaned to Everton, the Toffees were 0-3-1. His coversion rate is among the best in the League and when he’s not scoring he’s sullying the gussets of opposition pants up and down England.
Everton’s gain is Chelsea’s gain as well and the Blues are benefiting from the absurdly deep pockets of Roman Abramovich. Chelsea’s policy of buying up all the world’s talent and loaning them out both in the Premier League and to their feeder club in Holland is causing a bit of an uproar all over Europe. The Dutch side Vitesse has 6 Chelsea signings on loan and that fact has prompted rival clubs to ask the Eredivisie to investigate the Dutch loan system amid grumblings that Chelsea’s financial power is distorting a league they don’t even play in.
Lukaku’s loan to Premier League rivals Everton is even more problematic from my perspective because he is helping Chelsea take points off rivals (like the two he scored on Liverpool) with his stellar play for Everton and, as Arsene Wenger pointed out, due to a recent change in rules can’t even play against his parent team.
It’s been a theme here in my column to complain about Chelsea having two full teams of the same value as Arsenal and without some kinds of checks in the loan system I see no reason, unless Farcical Fair Play is suddenly implemented with some teeth, that Chelsea won’t just buy all the players and loan them out to teams who have no chance of competing against them for titles.
That all sounds like sour grapes to the football fans who hate to hear Arsenal fans complain about the injustice of a system which has Arsenal as one of the wealthiest clubs in world football. And that’s a fair criticism to which I will simply say that Arsenal can beat Everton. And we can beat Everton with our defense.
Over the last 24 games, Arsenal’s form tops all kinds of imaginary “league” tables and they have done so by limiting the opposition to shots from distance. I will be expanding on this notion of shot location in my Monday column but for now you should know a few things about the importance of patience in shot buildup and subsequently why Arsenal try to walk the ball in.
Over the last two seasons Arsenal have taken 320 shots from outside (or nearly outside) the box and have scored just 9 goals from those shots. That’s 2%. The Arsenal opposition haven’t fared much better. In the same period while playing against Arsenal, they have combined for 276 shots from distance and also scored 9 goals. That’s 3%.
I’m not saying distance shots are useless, one cracking goal can be a real game-changer, and the hyperbolic value alone is worth 10 goals from the “right” position. Rather, shots in the danger area are just more productive and thus the reason why all teams try various methods to get those shots and why Wenger preaches patience. This is also why Wenger’s apparent switch in defensive tactics since the Bayern match has worked such a treat.
While you’re watching today, pay close attention to shot areas and whether the shot is from outside the 6 yard or 18 yard box. The team which controls the shot area and not just the number of shots, I think is the team that will win.
But before the game…
My dear friend Brian (aka @11cannons) has just opened a shop where he is selling his amazing Arsenal prints. His style is sort of anime, sort of architectural, but all Arsenal and he does a great job capturing the raw emotions of our Arsenal heroes.
His store is aptly named The Artillery and you should get your fingers down there and buy a great print just in time for the holidays. As a special bonus to my long suffering readers he is offering 15% of all prints until December 19th, 2013 with the offer code 7AMKO15.
Brian is also running a contest to give away three of his LARGE prints. The first of which will be today and is a 13×19″ print of Jack Wilshere scoring on the Swans in the FA Cup (see above). To enter all you need to do is send me an email to email@example.com with the subject JACK CONTEST and tell me which game was Jack Wilshere’s first Premier League goal for Arsenal. One lucky winner will be the proud owner of a badass print.
Good luck to the Arsenal, and good luck to you!