We're delighted to have Rob Bateman on board as a guest contributor at the Gooner Fanzine.
You might know him better as @Orbinho
Rob Bateman has headed up Opta’s Data Insights and Editorial team since the end of the last century.
He leads the worldwide team who create many of the data-led facts and figures that you’ll hear from commentators and pundits or read in previews, reports and features in the media.
He’s co-founder of @OptaJoe and created the unique style of tweeting.
For fun, he also tweets about Arsenal specifically from his @Orbinho account.
Rob has supported Arsenal all his life, is a season ticket holder and first started writing about the Gunners in fanzines such as One Nil Down Two One Up, Highbury High and the Gooner back in the 1990s.
Read Orbinho's quarterly report in the Gooner Fanzine.
At the start of the season, I posted some tweets about Arsenal and where I felt they needed to improve based on data.
Eight games in, I thought it might be interesting to look back at how things are going in those specific areas, now that Mikel Arteta has been able to work more with the team.
1) Let's start with the bad. 14 teams managed more shots than Arsenal. Only Liverpool had a better chance conversaion rate. So let's try and create more opportunities. 12 teams posted a higher Expected Goals total.
Minutes/chance created in open play from Mesut Ozil
2013-14 - 36.4
2014-15 - 32.6
2015-16 - 32.8
2016-17 - 40.1
2017-18 - 30.0
2018-19 - 48.4
2019-20 - 72.4
Well, not much has changed in terms of totals - Arsenal are still rated 15thin terms of quantity of shots, but conversion has dropped significantly.
The Gunners are rated 13thin terms of converting shots into goals. Expected Goals is at 9.03 and actual goals 9, so we’re basically getting about what we deserve and the unsustainable conversion rates we have had in spells for the last two and a bit seasons, as usual, prove to be temporary. The fact that Pierre Emerick Aubameyang hasn’t had a shot on target, excluding a penalty, in the Premier League since the Sheffield United game and is Arsenal’s most prolific chance creator suggests he isn’t in the positions we would like him to be. And the Gunners have gone Six hours and 26 minutes without a goal from open play in the Premier League. The less said about the Özil situation, the better.
MUST DO BETTER
2) Stop giving away penalties. No team has conceded more than the 15 given away in the last two seasons. In 19-20 David Luiz set a Premier League record for an individual player by giving away five in one campaign
Arsenal have conceded from 38 of the last 41 penalties they have faced and tow of the missed ones were scored on the rebound
After eight games, Arsenal haven’t conceded any penalties. There has been less panicky defending and David Luiz, who set a league record for giving away five in a single campaign, hasn’t played all the games, which may be a factor.
KEEP IT UP
3) Stop getting players booked or sent off. Arsenal have picked up more yellow cards (86) than any other team and also had the most players sent off (5) last season.
Arsenal seem to have the balance better here, with the 14thhighest number of cards in the Premier League this season. Two cards in his first 45 minutes of play for Thomas Partey may have concerned some, but he seems to have calmed down.
SO FAR SO GOOD
4) Be more resilient. Arsenal (21) dropped more points from winning positions than all but two teams. 15 of those came under Mikel Arteta, giving Arsenal the worst tally in the top flight since the Spaniard took charge
Allowing Liverpool to equalise in the Community Shield didn’t come home to roost, nor did late fightbacks by West Ham or Sheffield United, but Arsenal’s lead at Anfield in the league lasted barely three minutes. I think the worry here has been an inability to create much, which leaves the team open to the sort of late flurry of goals Aston Villa scored, even if we have manged to get ahead. The team did manage to win after conceding first in two of their Europa League games, but that was probably expected due to the quality of opponent
THE JURY IS OUT
5) Stop allowing opposition teams to shoot so much. Only two teams allowed their opponents more shots on target than Arsenal. Manchester City just 280 shots in total, Arsenal allowed 553.
Arsenal are ranked 10thin terms of shots allowed to their opponents and 8thin terms of shots on target against. This has been something that Arteta has improved since his arrival and is possibly artificially inflated by having played away at Liverpool, Man City and Man Utd already. The team definitely look more solid and, until the Villa game, it looked as though we were finally seeing the team address something that has been an issue since the Wenger days.
SIGNS OF IMPROVEMENT
6) Concede fewer goals. 150 across the last three seasons is too many to challenge for the top four let alone the title. Arsenal have some way to go. The average goals conceded by a title winning side in the Premier League over the last ten years is 33.
New defenders may help but I'd be happier with a better midfield shield and maybe fewer forwards playing away games.
Ten goals conceded in eight Premier League games doesn’t sound too bad, but will still pan out to between 45 and 50 goals by season’s end at this rate, so very little improvement of note. Also, no clean sheets in their last seven Premier League games at the Emirates and one clean sheet in three games against weak opposition in the Europa League indicates a team that is always likely to concede and when you’re not scoring then these goals cost points. Gabriel has settled really well, but if Arsenal’s lack of verve in attack is meant to offset defensive weakness it isn’t really showing in the numbers as yet and isn’t worth the sacrifice in terms of scoring.
STILL NEEDS ATTENTION
7) Don't be fooled by the fact Arsenal conceded fewer goals than in each in the twop previous seasons. Expected goals against was 56. Our goalkeepers saved us a bit, while we also got lucky at times, especially under Mikel Arteta (21 goals xG 31.2)
Expected Goals Against (xGA) for Arsenal is around 9.4 in the Premier League. The team has conceded 10, so it’s not as if we can say that we’ve been hard done by. We have been outperformed on Expected Goals in four matches and were almost dead level v Leicester). The only games where there was a significant advantage were Man Utd where the penalty swung it in our favour and the opening day win over Fulham.
AS ABOVE, STILL NEEDS WORK
8) Defend set pieces better
Arsenal conceded 48 goals durng the 2019-20 Premier League season, with the percentage of set piece goals conceded 45.8 per cent.
In comparison Everton's was 33.9 per cent from 56 goals conceded.
Arsenal haven’t conceded a single goal from a set piece this season. This on the face of it seems good, but it means that with 10 goals shipped from open play, only three teams have conceded more. Arsenal are in fact the only team in the top flight not to concede a goal from a set play.
9) Keep the ball better. We may have hated the aimless possession without purpose of the later Wenger years, but last season saw the Gunners ball retention fall off a cliff.
Arsenal's average ball possession since 2003.
When I tell you that Arsenal’s average possession this season is at 52%, on the face of it that looks like this is an area where we continue to struggle. That figure is certainly dragged down by away games at Man City and Man Utd, but also by Liverpool where we had just 34% of the ball. The team certainly have looked more composed when knocking it around at the back, but there is still room for improvement in terms of transition to attacking positions and then using that possession to fashion attempts at goal.
SOME SIGNS OF IMPROVEMENT BUT NEEDS WORK IN SPECIFIC ASPECTS
10) Spread the goals around. Arsenal had 17 scorers last season. Their PL high was 2009-10 with 18. But when you look at players with three or more goals, 2019-20 saw just four - the lowest total since 1993-94. 2018-19 had eight. 2017-18 saw 10 players with three or more.
We have six different scorers in the Premier League. The problem is, four of them have only one to their name. With Aubameyang not scoring, the team look bereft. Lacazette has had a total of nine shots in six games. Aubameyang 10 in eight. Compare that to Kane who has had 38 in eight matches. 47 players have had more shots than Aubameyang so far. Bukayo Saka has fired in the most shots for Arsenal (12) and with this lack of firepower, Arsenal will struggle to score.
Other surprising things I’ve noticed include:
In the last 33 games, Arsenal have drawn only three. Two were cup games decided on penalties, so there’s actually been only one drawn game. Are we the subjects of Amazon’s “All or Nothing” this season? Nine of Arsenal’s last 12 league games have been won by a single goal margin, showing how tight things are.
Harry Maguire (11) has had more shots at goals in the league than Pierre Emerick Aubameyang (10) or Alex Lacazette (9) this season.
Despite the two home defeats Arsenal have two more points than the equivalent fixtures from last season.
Mikel Arteta's Premier League win percentage versus English managers is 31% and against non-English managers is 60%.
Arsenal have made 632 touches in their own penalty area - more than any other team in the Premier League this season.
Arsenal ended a run of 29 games away from home with the Big Six without a win by beating Man Utd at Old Trafford.