Tag Archives: Stats


Have Arsenal progressed? A player-by-player and team breakdown

My doors are open and a soft cool breeze blows the steam off my coffee into my face. It’s the first day of Spring and sitting here writing with the Spring breeze gently blowing through the house I feel light and fresh.

It helps that the Arsenal won this weekend. That win was a single green shoot in the dark soil of loss and recrimination.

As we head into the final phase of the Premier League campaign I did some numbers crunching and came up with a projection of Arsenal’s final League position: 2nd. I know that points-wise Arsenal are still closer to 5th than 1st but I still see Arsenal finishing the season with 74 points, just 3 behind Leicester, and 1 above Tottenham.

I based that projection on the schedules ahead and the current form of the three teams. Tottenham have the toughest schedule and unless they outperform their season so far, they will drop points.

But I wonder if 2nd place is good enough to consider this season “progress”? Arsenal haven’t even finished in 2nd place and many folks are already claiming the “P” word for Arsenal this season. I love Arsenal as much as anyone but that seems a bit ludicrous considering the fact that Arsenal were knocked out of the round of 16 in the Champions League for the 6th consecutive season, were kicked out of the FA Cup by Watford, and failed to mount a serious title challenge in the weakest Premier League season since 1998.

To continue the agrarian theme, this season seems like the fields were left fallow for a year. Wenger went into the season with £150m in his pocket and bought just one player. He instead banked on Walcott, Welbeck, Wilshere, Ramsey, and his other players to improve. Did they? What growth did we make as a team? What did we plant in our fields? What crops did we yield?

Cech – Oh hey! Look what happens when you buy a world class player to play in an important position (are there any unimportant positions?). When Arsenal’s first choice midfield was playing, with Cech at the back, Arsenal had the best defense in the League, statistically.

Giroud – If I’m generous I say he’s the same player as last year. Actually, it looks like Wenger is phasing Giroud out. Wenger has tried a number of smaller, more mobile players up front, with Welbeck now preferred in the starting role. He started the season finishing better but that has dropped from 20% last season to just 14% this (League – 16% last season all games and 14% this season all games).

Alexis – injury and constant use by his national team have taken their toll. He’s nowhere near the player he was last year and I mean that in all aspects of his game. His tackles and interceptions numbers are down, his turnovers are up, his finishing percentage has plummeted, and even his dribbles are down. It’s clear that he’s tired to the bone. However, Alexis has been Arsenal’s best Champions League player, raising all of his stats in those games, and he was Arsenal’s best playmaker, statistically, in that tournament.

Wilshere – epitome of a fallow season. He hasn’t played. Abou Diaby has played more than Jack this season.

Walcott – I think Wenger wanted Walcott to be his “10-15 extra (league) goals” this season. Sadly, he has scored just 4. He was supposed to be Arsenal’s tractor, but the wheels fell off. Most Arsenal fans have stuck a “for sale, cheap, make offer” sign on him.

Welbeck – Welbeck epitomizes the frustration Arsenal fans feel about this season: Wenger refused to buy a forward, knowing that Welbeck was hurt, then after the window closed announced that Welbeck would be out long term, stuck with Welbeck, and when the Mancunian returned from injury, he showed Arsenal fans what they have been missing all season. Like so many of the young, British, players at Arsenal, he spends huge swathes of the season out injured. You almost have to bank on them all getting injured (Walcott, Welbeck, Ramsey, Wilshere) and playing 15 games a season at most. Which is exactly why so many fans want Wenger to buy another forward.

Özil – 18 assists this season is fantastic and he should break the Premier League record. He has also developed into a corner and set play assist threat. One of the few players who have grown this season. One gripe is that he sort of shrank in thee Champions League. He scored 2 goals but all of his other stats were way down from where they are in the Premier League.

Cazorla – Grew into the most important player in Arsenal’s midfield. Then got injured. This is the equivalent of our cash crops going up in flames.

Coquelin – has shown some signs of growth in his passing, going from a 59% long ball passer to a 70% long passer. His tackling is slightly better (percentage wise) and his other defensive stats are relatively the same. Fouls are also down but did get sent off against Tottenham and sometimes looks a bit wild (Barcelona) in possession.

Bellerin – spent the entire season plowing furrows down the right at Arsenal. 4 assists this season plus one against Bayern in the Champions League. Turns out that he’s a bit of a big game player as well with his man of the match performance against Tottenham. One problem is that he tends to turn off on defense.  I watched a bunch of the goals Arsenal have conceded over the last few months and Bellerin can often be seen chasing back rather than taking up good, tight positions in line with the center backs.

Monreal – unanimous choice for starting left back at Arsenal. Makes me wonder how we ever played with Gibbs.

Mertesacker – he is tall, he hasn’t gotten any taller.

Koscielny – Most games he’s the best center back in the league, some games he’s not.  Still, statistically the best center back that we have at Arsenal.

Gabriel – Hit and miss season. One of the things Wenger likes his center backs to be able to do is nip in and steal the ball from the forwards. Koscielny is the best in the League at that but Gabriel is not far off. So, I can see what Wenger wants to build, two tall, fast, dynamic center backs who can play a long, vertical pass on the ground. Gabriel and Koscielny could do that, if they can figure out how to communicate. I can’t say he progressed because he can be caught out on defense too often.

Flamini – done.

Arteta - “get him a body bag”.

Ospina – same as he was last season.

Ox – This has to be his most disappointing season of his career. From the hype of the goal against Chelsea to the horrible turnover against West Ham. In just two weeks, Ox summed up his season at Arsenal. Many want to be shot of him already. But at 22 years old, I think he’s got a lot of room to grow as a player.

Ramsey – Has played almost exactly the same number of minutes as last season and both his goals and assists are down, his tackles are way down, he’s been dribbled on more than any Arsenal player, and his turnovers numbers are nearly double what they were last season. Worse, what position is Aaron Ramsey supposed to play for Arsenal? Wide right? Center mid? He’s not great at either of those positions and doesn’t want to play wide at all. Also, he’s one of the constantly wounded players. I can’t say he progressed this season.

Joel Campbell – I’ve never been a fan. His touch always looked poor to me as were his decisions. Yes, he was always a great tackler but before this season that was shorthand for “he sucks”. But I have become a convert this season. His excellent vision for those splitting passes is wonderful to watch. Almost as good as the work rate he puts in.

Gibbs and Chambers – both players lost their starting spots but have been useful when Arsenal have the lead and Wenger wants to play “all the fullbacks”. No progress.

Iwobi and Elneny – Both players look like nice green shoots. Need some proper care to get them to harvest.

The team – Created more chances than any other team, but failed to finish them. Have the player with the most big chances created, and three of the players with the worst big chance conversion rate. Had a chance to win the league, but bottled it against Southampton (twice), Swansea, and literally the worst Manchester United team I have ever seen. Had the money to buy players, had the open roster spots to buy players (3), and didn’t buy any players until the situation was so desperate that Wenger had to use Flamini in midfield. Worse, I can’t figure out what style of football Arsenal play. We aren’t a slick-passing possession team: if anyone pressures us we collapse. We aren’t a pressing team: for some reason Wenger gave that up, despite the fact that it worked brilliantly last season — maybe he figured we couldn’t press all season with all the players we have who have been out with international duty. And we aren’t a counter attacking team: at least not normally, Wenger does do it at times but it’s not the basic way we set up. So, what is Arsenal’s football style?

I have to say that it looks like Arsenal took a year off. When we look back at this in 10 years time it’s going to go down as a lost season. Precious few players progressed, Wenger banked on the growth of Walcott and Ox and that never happened, Wenger refused to buy players despite the glaring need and the money in the bank, and Arsenal let the League title go to Leicester. As a result, fan unrest is at an all time high: they are signing songs about getting rid of Kroenke and even Arseblog has called for Wenger to resign.

The fields have been left fallow, and the fans are angry.


Premier League on par with Champions League and League Championship for fouls per game

Quick post today, I just need to point you in the direction of Garry Gelade and his football stats blog, manVmetrics. He wrote a column on February 11th showing that the Premier League has the fewest fouls called per game.

Fouls per game chart comparing the top five Leagues, Premier League has fewest fouls per game

(fouls both for and against counted)

It looks like his chart only goes up to 2014 but I ran the numbers and this season the Premier League is at a historical low of 21.3 fouls per game. That’s counting both fouls for and fouls against.

What’s the difference? Well, it depends on your perspective.

For example, in a Valencia match this season, in La Liga play, on average there have been 32.8 fouls called per game. If we say that football lasts about 95 minutes per game, then that’s a stoppage less than every 3 minutes. Compared to the Premier League where we are getting a stoppage every 4.5 minutes or so. This is the same for the German teams, the other Spanish teams, and the Italian teams.

For the average fan I think we know that there are fewer fouls called per game in the Premier League. We see it and complain about it. But is it a good thing or a bad thing?

And what about the Champions League? Most fans think that the Champions League is the gold standard for refereeing so, would you imagine more fouls being called?

It’s actually on par with the Premier League.

I ran the numbers for the last two seasons of Champions League football and there are on average 24.5 fouls called per game over the last two years (25 last season, 24 this season).

I also compared the top clubs in the top leagues with the fouls called in their league versus the fouls called in the Champions League. The results aren’t that surprising. Most of the British clubs (except Arsenal!) have MORE fouls called in the Champions League than the Premier League, while almost all of the continental clubs have fewer fouls per game in Champions League play.

Club CL Fouls CL Fouled CL Total DL Fouls DL Fouled DL Total +/-
Bayern Munich 8.80 9.00 17.80 11.4 12.80 24.20 -6.40
Real Madrid 12.00 10.80 22.80 10.8 13.70 24.50 -1.70
Paris Saint Germain 12.00 12.00 24.00 10.8 11.70 22.50 1.50
Atletico Madrid 11.80 12.80 24.60 13.8 11.60 25.40 -0.80
Barcelona 9.30 13.70 23.00 9.5 15.70 25.20 -2.20
Chelsea 13.90 16.30 30.20 11.3 12.60 23.90 6.30
Arsenal 10.30 9.00 19.30 9 11.50 20.50 -1.20
Manchester City 12.00 9.50 21.50 10.5 10.20 20.70 0.80
Wolfsburg 8.80 11.70 20.50 14.1 13.80 27.90 -7.40
Juventus 11.00 13.70 24.70 15.2 15.70 30.90 -6.20
Bayer Leverkusen 14.20 10.50 24.70 15.4 14.80 30.20 -5.50
Sevilla 9.30 11.30 20.60 14.2 13.70 27.90 -7.30
Lyon 16.30 14.30 30.60 13.2 14.40 27.60 3.00
Manchester United 12.70 9.50 22.20 12.5 9.50 22.00 0.20
Borussia M.Gladbach 12.80 7.70 20.50 14.4 13.80 28.20 -7.70
Roma 11.30 12.00 23.30 14.6 12.40 27.00 -3.70
Valencia 14.50 17.30 31.80 15.3 17.50 32.80 -1.00
Average 12.38 11.69 24.07 12.71 13.26 25.96 -1.90

This is but the tip of the refereeing iceberg and begs more questions than it answers. Some have suggested that the superior talent in the Premier League is the reason why the English clubs have fewer fouls per game. Garry looked at the fouls per game in the Championship as a counter to that argument and sure enough they mapped directly to their Premier League counterparts. But how do we explain that the Champions League is just slightly above the Premier League?

I took a quick look at fouls per card and both Premier League and Champions League average about 6 fouls per yellow card, so it’s not like officials are controlling the games with cards in the Champions League. 

My theory is that the officials are being told, both in the Champions League and the Premier League to let play go on. Or at the very least they are being told to keep in mind the “flow” of the game. I base this theory on the observation that officials in England seem over-eager to play “advantage” whenever there is a foul that probably should stop play. I’ve seen it happen too often that the official waves for advantage when an Arsenal player is fouled in his own final 1/3 but is able to make a pass that lands to a teammate or the ball is tackled away but goes to a teammate.

Faster games are more exciting and make for a more marketable product. Both Champions League and Premier League are the two most desireable football products on the planet at the moment. And it’s a no-lose situation: the League’s get the fast play, with fewer interruptions, and when there is controversy that just adds to the discussion of the product.

What other reasons could it be that the Championship, the Premiership, and the Champions League all consistently have fewer fouls than the various leagues in Europe, even when the very same officials from those leagues are calling games?



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.”