Tag Archives: Stats


Arsenal’s 4 match rolling average shots taken and shots allowed looks like a monster

I was asked if I could produce a line chart for Arsenal’s points per game over the season and I did and it was boring. I used a rolling average and as a result there wasn’t much variation. When I didn’t use the rolling average it was also not instructive: Mostly Arsenal win, they have lost 4 times this season and I bet you can recall every one of those matches and you also probably know that they aren’t clumped up, that one of them (Chelsea) was an actual farce, and the other two were West Brom and Southampton. Flukes.


When I did the chart for shots taken and shots against, put a few labels on there, and did a rolling average, it looks interesting. Well, it looks like you might imagine it to look.


As you can see the trend for shots taken was down from the start of the season and reached its nadir after Coquelin, Cazorla, and Alexis all went out injured. There is a slight upward trend at the end of the graph because Arsenal took 12, 16, and 14 shots against Bournemouth, Newcastle, and Liverpool respectively before dropping back down to 8 shots on Sunday against Stoke.

The shots against chart is interesting because it takes a few matches after Coquelin, Alexis, and Cazorla go down injured for the rolling average to catch up but when it does you see a huge spike in shots against. That’s because Arsenal allowed 17.5 shots per game over Villa, Liverpool, and Southampton.

I looked at other stats as well (big chances created, etc) and they all have a similar feel to them: the season started on a high, has slowly gone down, and kinda broke after the three injuries to Arsenal’s three starters. Arsenal are top of the League but based on the stats, their position seems quite precarious.

Or perhaps, if you’re an optimist, and we all know you can’t spell optimist without “TIM”, then you could say “Arsenal have survived the injury slump, are still top of the table, and with LANS Alexis and Ozil coming back, along with ANS Elneny, are poised to turn this bad period over and win the League.”




The stats that prove Elneny is going to be a great signing for Arsenal

92.4 – That’s the percent of passes that Mohamed Elneny completed in the Europa League last year. And that was the only number I read in an article with a headline similar to mine. His passing rate was compared favorably to Flamini and Coquelin but the problem is that it’s a number that proves absolutely nothing.

The facts are that anyone taking Elneny’s Europa League stats and saying that they prove anything is simply selling you clicks. Maybe you like to click for people. I’m not going to judge.

I actually suspect that these people are anti-stats. These writers have to know that comparing two players from two different teams playing in two different competitions, with one of the players having a sample of 5, without any context of how their respective teams play doesn’t tell us much about the two players.

That last bit about “how teams play” is very important when looking at player stats. For example, Man U and Arsenal are #1 and #2 in terms of possession, and as you know possession is essentially just passing. So, since both teams are passing the ball more you’d think that they don’t intercept the ball as much, but Arsenal are 4th in the League (they usually lead the League) in interceptions with 19 per game and Man U are 13th with 15.3. If you were to look at any of the Man U players interception numbers and try to make a comparison to an Arsenal player, you’d be comparing players who are playing on teams with two different playing styles.

A similar thing happens with Elneny and Basel. Basel is 10th in the Europa League in possession with 56%, but they are 32nd in interceptions per game. Unlike Arsenal, they don’t play the passing lanes as much on defense and as a result all of their player’s interceptions numbers are low. So, comparing Elneny’s 2 interceptions per game to Coquelin’s 2.7 doesn’t work as a straight across comparison.

It doesn’t even necessarily work as a percentage. Elneny intercepts about 11% of his team’s interceptions while Coquelin about 14%. Does that mean Elneny won’t intercept the same number as Coquelin? I wouldn’t bet on it. Wenger will make Elneny play the way he wants. That will mean being more aggressive going for the interceptions.

Similar with tackles, again, Basel have 56% of possession just 0.7% less than Tottenham. But Spurs have a very aggressive pressing style and are 4th in the EL in tackles, while Basel are 39th! So, looking at Elneny’s tackle stats, where he averages just 2.4 tackles per game, and comparing them to Coquelin, who averages 3.4 tackles per game is like comparing.. uhh.. two different things.

You can look a little more closely at Elneny’s stats and see some things that are interesting. For example, he has made 12/14 tackles this season in the Europa League. A high percentage of tackling is very good. And it’s especially good because 2 of his successful tackles were in the 18 yard box. It’s a small sample, but shows great promise as a player who gets back and puts in the kind of last ditch tackles that have made Coquelin a fan favorite.

As for Elneny’s passing stats mentioned at the top of the piece he is, of course, good at that. More important than his 92.4% overall pass completion rate is the fact that he completes 75% of his long passes. They do have a target man who wins 4 aerials a game but that’s not at all like Liverpool who have Benteke winning 6 per game. So, 75% long passing indicates someone who is talented with the long pass. This is important because some people see Elneny as the long-term replacement for Arteta and the Arsenal captain in his heyday (two years ago) averaged 86% long passing.

Elneny’s passing stats also have another weird quirk: he only made one sideways pass in all five games this Europa League campaign. 1/460 passes sideways, all the rest were forward or backward. I can’t tell whether that’s just how Basel play, super vertical, or whether the stats keeper just considered all of his passes to be vertical but that strikes me as slightly odd.

All of this, however, is based on just five Europa League games. We don’t know how Elneny will perform once he’s dropped into the cauldron of blood and spikes that is the Premier League. Michael Yokhin’s article for ESPN paints the picture of a quiet player who just loves football and doesn’t like to court controversy, which for some reason (combined with his very unassuming stats) reminds me a lot of Gilberto. According to the interview in Aargauer Zeitung (some parts quoted in the ESPN article) he’s a devout family man and very religious. But I think the best part of that interview was the suggestion that he loves to sacrifice himself for the team:

Running is part of my job, I like to permanently be in motion. As a child I often played ten hours or even longer in the street – I think there I learned to run nonstop. My duty is to the team to help with my strengths. And if my colleagues see how much I run, then they automatically run even more. 

More than the stats, which look good even if the sample is small, it’s the fact that he wants to work hard for his team and to lead by example which I think will get him through to the next level.

Elneny has drawn a lot of comparisons over the last few weeks, without anyone seeing him play a single minute of football, but if I were to compare him to anyone it would be Arsenal’s Gilberto. An unassuming character with the talent to get the job done.

Exactly the kind of player Arsenal need.


Wenger on FIRE

Footballistically Speaking: Giroud among the Best

After scoring a hat trick at Olympiacos, Arsene Wenger was adamant that Olivier Giroud has cemented his place among the very best in Europe, saying,

He is at one of the best clubs in Europe and scores goals. If you look at the number of goals he has scored you have to give him credit. And he is not only a goalscorer, he works a lot for the team. He is among the best strikers in Europe.

Giroud has been in and out of the Arsenal first team this season but has still managed to score an impressive 13 goals in just 1179 minutes of Premier League and Champions League play. If we look at his total goals scored in the context of a Per90 measurement, he has essentially scored 13 goals in 13 full 90 minute games. This puts him on par with strikers like Lewandowski, Aguero, Aubameyang, Higuain, Suarez, and Vardy.

Goalsp90Lewandowski and Aubameyang’s p90 numbers are high but both are having peak seasons at their respective clubs. Aubameyang has already surpassed his total goals haul for any time in his career (counting domestic and Europe) and Lewandowski is 2 goals shy of his total from last season (again, only counting domestic league and Champions/Europa league).

Lewandowski is currently at double his output for last year with 1.2 goals per90: last year he averaged 0.6 goals per90. Aubameyang is even better, he averaged 0.5 goals per90 last season. To give some context to these numbers: if you have a striker who averages 0.5 goals per90 and he plays 38 games, he’s going to be a 19 goal per season striker. Anything above that is indicative of a top quality forward.

Where we have to be careful with Giroud is that he’s taken about half as many shots as Lewandowski, 56 to 106 (again, we are counting both domestic and European league play) and he has just scored a hat trick. Those three goals are 23% of his total haul on the season and right now his numbers are going to be at their peak because of that bump. Of course, Lewandowski, and Higuain both just scored a brace in their last matches, Aguero scored five goals 4 matches ago, Vardy went on a record-breaking consecutive goal scoring run, and Aubameyang had back to back hat tricks a few weeks ago. All of those players are also getting a bump.

What Arsenal fans are seeing is that Giroud had become significantly more efficient this season. Wenger also mentioned that,

This has been a typical Olivier Giroud year,” said Wenger. “That means that when it’s not working for him, he puts effort in. Recently he has come back with an improved game in his finishing (emphasis mine) and link play. Wednesday night was one of his best performances on all fronts.

All of the forwards in the comparison above have low passing percentages (below 70%) except Aguero and Lewandowski who pass above 80%. As an aside, Aguero is like a false 9 in that he passes above 88%, but he’s also like a 9 in that he scores goals. He’s truly a special player, when he plays. All this is to say that most forwards have a low percentage passing because they are usually passing in the most marked areas of the pitch.

But link up play aside, where Giroud has most impressed is an improved finishing each season with Arsenal:

Giroud career

Again, this chart compiles Giroud’s league and Champions League goals and shots since 2011/12. 2011/12 was his last season at Montpellier and his career high in terms of goals. Since that season, Giroud took a year to get acclimated to the League and has since consistently improved his finishing. Look at the bottom three numbers and you can see the trend is upward in terms of getting shots on target and converting those shots.

Comparing Giroud’s numbers this season to those players previously mentioned and once again we see that Giroud, despite a small number of chances, is looking a lot like a top striker:


Wenger, as usual, knows: Giroud is currently among the best in Europe in terms of finishing. What remains to be seen is if he can keep his level this high. We have seen this trend with Giroud before, for him to go on a scoring streak and then quickly revert to the mean, and when he’s on the streak or on the down is typically when we see a spate of articles (like this one) either praising or bashing the player.

This article seeks to do neither but rather simply illuminate Wenger’s words. The debate over Giroud, much like the debate over everything to do with Arsenal and Arsene Wenger, will never truly be over until Arsenal win the League, the Champions League, the FA Cup, the League Cup, the Charity Shield, and six Arsenal players score goals to win the World Cup for England. Even then I suspect people will complain that Arsenal should have done it the year before.