Sunday, November 28, 2021

Arsenal take Stoke to finishing school: by the numbers

Arsenal’s Finishing

Arsenal had 9 big chances today against Stoke — at least that’s what the 442 Stats Zone app told me this morning. That brings Arsenal’s total big chances to 17 on the season, more than any other team in the League.

Even Man City, the runaway best goal scoring team in the history of the game* have only created 12 big chances. And last season’s runaway best goal scoring team in the history of the game, Chelsea, only created 13 big chances in their opening five games last season.

Nine big chances in a game is kinda unheard of, I’m sure it’s happened somewhere but I don’t have any examples in any of my databases. Just to give you some perspective on that number, the most big chances Arsenal had in a single match last season was 5 and the Gunners only created a total of 88 big chances all last season. Imagine 10% of an entire season’s best goal scoring opportunities in a single game. As my baseball following friends would say “they should save some of those up, they might need them on a cold night in Stoke!”

But while Arsenal have created the chances, they haven’t finished them, until today when both Walcott and Giroud finally finished a big chance. Those two finishes brought Arsenal’s big chance conversion rate up from 0.0% to 11.7% (2/17). It’s all looking up from here!

That Arsenal scored two big chances is good but realistically, both players should have scored two more goals.  I say this based off both the big chances scored by Arsenal last season (which was around 45%) and based on the fact that both players had wide open chances in great positions, that weren’t headers: Walcott had the rebound from Alexis’ shot and Giroud was gifted the ball in the best position on the pitch and missed wide — a miss which will surely go down in the Fernando Torres hall of shame.

Arsenal’s poor early finishing this season almost guarantees that they won’t finish the season with 50% finishing from big chances (over the last two seasons they finished 45% of their big chances, each season). To see how difficult it’s going to be to get to their mark last season, in order to get to their finishing rate of the last two seasons (45%) Arsenal need to score 12 big chances in a row without a miss.

The gambler’s fallacy here is that Arsenal will “regress to the mean” and start scoring at a higher percentage. Regressing to the mean actually indicates that if we look at another 5 game period they will probably be closer to their mean in that second five game period (45%) than they were in the first (12%). In short, the number of shots that they have missed has NO impact on the number they will score in the future but people still believe that.

Arsenal’s Profligate Son Returns

With a whopping 28 attempts, no player in the top five leagues of Europe has taken more shots this season than Alexis Sanchez. Sanchez even has more shots than all of Newcastle United (21). The problem is that he’s not getting the shots on target: he’s only tested the ‘keeper 8 times in those 28 attempts.

One weird thing about stats is that some companies insist on removing blocked shots from their accuracy numbers. If you do that Alexis has a fantastic shot accuracy of 8/15 (53%) but if you’re quick at math you will note that Alexis has been blocked 13 times in 28 attempts (46%!!). No player in the top five leagues has been blocked as many times as Alexis and removing his blocked shots makes him look artificially more accurate than he is.

His blocked shots number is so high for several reasons: he’s taking a lot of shots, Arsenal tend to get blocked more than other teams because the opposition defenses set up in a low block against them, he could be lacking a little bit the sharpness having played continuously now for two full years, and he can be a bit predictable because he favors his right foot so much.

But singling out Sanchez for our calumny is unwarranted. As is really singling out any of the players for abuse. Most of the Arsenal players are struggling with their finishing and until today only Giroud had even scored a goal. Based on career finishing percentages I would be shocked if their wastefulness continues, with only one exception:

3-forwardsCazorla is a 6.6% finisher (all shots divided by all goals, excluding penalties, club, country, champions league, premier league) and I won’t be surprised if he only scores one or two goals from open play this season.

Neighborhood Coq Watch

Coquelin put in another outstanding performance going 5/6 tackling, 52/59 passing, and 3 interceptions. But it wasn’t his defensive performance which stood out it was the fact that his teammates didn’t pass around him in midfield. The result was that he ended up creating 2 shots for his teammates bringing his total to 3 KP in 5 appearances. He only had 5 KP in 22 appearances last season!

He has also already completed 15/21 long passes this season which is 71% completion rate and a marked improvement over his 32/54 (59%) last season. And his numbers for being dispossessed are down (1.4 to 1.2) and simply turning the ball over is also down (0.7 to 0.5).

His total passing numbers are up from 46 passes per game last season to 61 a game this season, his accurate long balls per game have doubled to 3, and he’s already taken 4 shots this season where he attempted just 5 shots in 22 apps last season.

Coquelin is making great strides as an all around player and it’s great to watch.

Oh, and we can finally put this “Coquelin drags down Arsenal’s attack” narrative into the fire: Arsenal are leading the League in shots and big chances. What Coquelin does is add balance to Arsenal. In fact, it looks more like having Coquelin in the team frees up the other midfielders to get forward and create or take shots themselves rather than Coquelin’s technical limitations stifling the team.

Crazy Stats

Arsenal’s 9 big chances was weird but even weirder was the fact that Ozil and Cazorla combined to create 15 of Arsenal’s 29 shots. Ozil is well known as a “pass master” but even his own very high standards 8 key passes in a game is extraordinary. But Cazorla chipped in with 7 of his own and I have to say, they were the more dangerous of the two player’s passes:

Cazorla-stoke - Copy Ozil - Copy

Both players had an assist, both players created chances in great areas which put their teammates 1 v. 1 with the ‘keeper but I have to give Man of the Match to Cazorla. His passes were the more dangerous of the two players (two of Ozil’s “key passes” were toward or in the center circle) plus he bossed everything else in that game in terms of touches and all those stats that sound good but don’t mean much.


*read that in a Bill Walton voice

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La Défense

10 – points arsenal have from 5 games.

Man Manny

That’s right – the most important stat of all. Arsenal has won 60% (3 out of 5) games this season; this has to go up if we are to stand a chance. The last time we won the league, it was 68.4% (26 of 38) and there was no City then!
Not a bad attempt at ‘by the numbers’ there.


Who cares how many shots you have at goal?I rather have one shot and score and win rather than a staggering 100 shots with no goal and you lose. Recall Wenger’s games where he had out possessed and outshot the opposition only to lose. Recall Hull and Blackburn in yesteryear. Chelsea play like Arsenal with incessant passing and were swiftly hit by Everton.The latter were more direct but I believe Naismith was given far too much room and time. I don’t know but Kane has been pretty quiet this season.It’s obvious the opposition know how to shackle him . Time… Read more »


Shots matter. Sure, teams win sometimes with just one or two shots in a single game but you’re looking at one event and extrapolating that to an entire season. The facts are that more shots equals more goals and therefore more points and the correlation between shots and winning is very high.

Put another way: no football coach wants their team to take fewer shots.

Woolwich Peripatetic

LvG wants a word, he doesn’t want his team taking shots unless they have a high probability of going in. Passing the ball to their keeper doesn’t fit with his “philosophy” at all.


We also know that some shots are better than others: shots from outside the 18 yard box are dumb, shots inside the box in a circle from the goal to the penalty spot are highly effective. Shots from feet are more effective than shots from headers, and shots from through balls are better than crosses.

I think I do a great job explaining all of this in my posts but please let me know what I could do better


Your articles are very insightful and well written. I enjoy your column here and

Corona X

I see where you’re coming from, but nobody in their right mind can call Koscielnys rocket yesterday dumb 😉

Gutbukket Deffrolla

Stats cannot and will not ever experience the joy of a 40 yard screamer hitting the back of the net. Poor old stats. Oh, by the way, you combined with me to cause me a small amount of irritation this evening. I was happily reading your article and I suddenly found 3 KP and, proving that Gutbukket is thick in more than just belly, I couldn’t work out what it meant. Killer Poohs was my first thought. Twenty seconds of scanning back through the article and I was none the wiser. Oh how I hated you for being so American… Read more »


Have to admit that I too didn’t have a clue what a KP was… Koshelny (spl) pass?


Shots os the area are not dumb, they are not efficient at scoring. They are however efficient at creating space be forcing the keeper to stay closer to the goal. Which creates a little more space to play through balls into. most teams should take more.

Arsene's Apologist

4 – points Chelski have in 5 matches.

Gutbukket Deffrolla

…and lucky to have them, the c**ts.


The interesting part is how will the gunners cope shd Coquelin be injured or banned.
Arsenal have lacked balance in the team for years.Wenger was/is as arrogant and refused to address the issue until lately. Hopefully it t too late.


@Wolfgang what are you smoking over there. Kindly stop cos it’s bad for your health..


I had noticed increased aggression from Arteta at the beginning of last season, sadly he was injured for the most part. If you watch closely he still has that aggression. Not as much as Coq but he’s not useless. I love Coq and want him to stay healthy but we’re not going to be doomed if he were to…. I can’t continue that statement.


There is always that motivation someone like Arteta gets from being out for so long. He can most definetly do a job, might not be coq-quality but he will perform when called onto.

You can’t have ‘Henry for Henry’ sub in every position that would be impposdible

Bob's Mexican Cousin

I could read your excitement all the way from here 7am


With all these missed chances, some day a small team is going to get a proper thrashing. I just hope it’s Chelsea.


The most dangerous assumption particularly by those who cling religiously to statistics is that things will stay the same. They don’t Two seasons ago the so called experts predicted City would run away with the next season having won 2014. Chelsea won. And when they did the pundits then predicted Chelsea would run away this season. Just because a particular striker has ratcheted up numbers for a particular season does not mean it will remain so for the next season. Dzeko and Jovetic, Negredo. Not exactly better than Giroud. Costa is one goal in seven starts. World class form? Falcao… Read more »


Bar your last paragraph with which I concur, you have made all the previously listed points many, many times before. As have others. Cut and paste?


This article only highlights a big problem Arsenal will have this season : a top drawer striker of the Aguero/ Suarez mould who can turn a half-chance into a meal. Where we are standing, Walcott misses unbelievable sitters that your five year old would put away with glee, and Giroud has a history.. Ozil-Cazorla-Ramsey will create, there’s not a better engine room anywhere in Europe. But, pray, who’ll tick the board?

Gutbukket Deffrolla

Walcott and Giroud did yesterday. They scored 2. We didn’t let Stoke score any. We won. That is the point where you start to smile. It’s nice.


Walcott has essentially not played football for 12 months. He needs matches. Simple as that. Fingers crossed HSIF and then we can make judgements on his striking ability come Christmas. Don’t forget he was red hot before his injury and if there is one thing you always want to see from a striker, is them consistently having chances. Theo has bags of em. He’ll be fine for us this season.


Cazorla was glorious yesterday, has to be said


So i saw the chances missed/created but why isn’t Ozil missed chances included.


It was priceless watching Moaninho’s face yesterday. Hahaha….


Giroud clear chance that he missed was a difficult one I think. He didn’t expect it he wasn’t alert. The angle was made tight by Butland and a Stoke player closing him down.


Have to agree. He was coming back from an offside position (was still offside I think), only to be played on by a touch from a defender, so the chance was way harder than it looks at first glance.

That said, if he was in form and not bereft of confidence, you’d have bet on him putting it away.

Gutbukket Deffrolla

I blame those French bastards for booing him the other day. He’d have been more switched on if he felt the love when he represented his country without getting booed. It worked yesterday when he gained confidence and sharpness as he settled in with the sound of the crowd cheering him on.


Sadly it seems to be a French thing beyond football. The grief the crowd gives their national rugby team when things are not going their way is amazing.

Still, he’s home now where he’s (mostly) appreciated.

NZ Gooner

I reckon it is a problem with technique rather than it being a tough chance. With both this miss and the one against Serbia ( I think it was Serbia ) for France, the problem is that he does not want to use his right foot. Both chances required him to open his body and tuck the ball into the right hand corner of the net with his right foot. Both times he went with his left and it made the chance harder


A chip would have fixed it, that’s Giroud’s specialty. A bad miss, there’s no sugarcoating it by fans or, in fairness, by him. In 8 of 10 repeat situations he would score that, the other 2 being for France & vs Stoke.


I am very happy we got all 3 points today. Ozil, Coq and Santi were ominous. But looking around over the league and Europe, Chelsea with Costa, Falcao and Pedro, United with Martial and Rooney, Man City with Aguero and Bony, Barca with Neymar, Suarez and Messi, Madrid with Benzema, Ronaldo, PSG with Ibra and Cavani, Munich with Muller and Lewandowski. All those big, almost all of them have better and big striker and even though we create so much, we don’t have anyone to put it in the back of the net. Don’t get more wrong not trying to… Read more »


Abhishek; since when is martial a world class player better than what we have?

You probably hadn’t heard of him until desperate united spent all that money him.

Think you need to grab a beer and be happy that we won. I dread to think what you would be like when we lose.

Pass debuchy from the left hand side

He’s the new Thierry Henry… Haven’t you heard?


I am very happy we got all 3 points today. Ozil, Coq and Santi were ominous. But looking around over the league and Europe, Chelsea with Costa, Falcao and Pedro, United with Martial and Rooney, Man City with Aguero and Bony, Barca with Neymar, Suarez and Messi, Madrid with Benzema, Ronaldo, PSG with Ibra and Cavani, Munich with Muller and Lewandowski. All those big, almost all of them have better and big striker and even though we create so much, we don’t have anyone to put it in the back of the net. Don’t get more wrong not trying to… Read more »


Sadly, even if I agreed all of them were better than we have (some are), what might have been could only have happened through kidnapping one of them.

You cannot buy what isn’t for sale, no matter how often the media like to say otherwise.

Gutbukket Deffrolla

The danger with this sort of thinking is that you are comparing Walcott and Giroud this season with your impression of the players you listed that you have built up over a few years. Not all of thos players are at their peak all the time. No player is, but you compare our players current exploits against the other player’s reputations and assume ours to be worse. Confirmational Bias when our guys miss a few shots even though they both scored.


All Giroud woes must be blamed on thiery henry. Felt so sad to see him unable to celebrate, hope he pulls himself up coz we need him to. We can do it without the experts and henry…..


Any one noted how gunner trainers shine for only one season and completely fade out the next…..rvp, adebayor, nasri, song……cess????




It’s truly tiring that you always under-estimate Mesut’s actions in favour of Holy Santi. A key chance is a ball given to a player feeling well enough to shoot, basta! This is not about more or less dangerous! And your comment is anyway based on subjectivity and for a guy who is meant to talks facts, this is embarrassing.
We know you’ll never appreciate Özil to his due and that you systematically over-praise Cazorla. I like Cazorla but you are tiring.
Especially since Mesut had less time than Holy Santi yesterday on the pitch.


If you read 7am’s writings, you will find out that that’s not the case


As I noted in another article, Arsenal converted more of the chances created by Cazorla than by Ozil last season, which means that over the course of a season Cazorla created better chances, it might not fit your narrative -get over it.

In fact the conversion rate for chances created by Ozil was less than most other “creators” in the league last season, out of the top 20 players in terms of chances created, Ozil ranked 18th for converting those chances to assists. For all his pretty play Ozil lacks some end product, I hope he improves.

numbers from Squawka

Crash Fistfight

Quick question but why do blocked shots not count as ‘on target’ if they are, in fact, heading towards the goal (i.e. the target)?

If a goalkeeper ‘blocks’ the ball it’s classed as a save, but if a defender does it’s a shot off-target? I don’t get it.


Great teams and players always always create chances. They always miss large part of them. You have to be good to create chances in the first place. You have to be a great striker to read the game and put yourself in scoring position too. Fans and so called experts fail to see that. As far as yesterday’s concerned, any fans with basic football knowledge will praise the brilliance of Butland instead of slagging our players

M Shadi

Fantastic as always! I was especially impressed by the part about Coquelin, since he keeps getting reputations (wether correct or false) without anyone actually making the effort to look more deeply into his movement on the field, and his numbers (like you did). It’s easy to forget Wenger is way better than all of us at analyzing football, and he has obviously been working on Coquelin.

As always a great read, whether here or on…. Keep up the GREAT work!

Mach iii

Really goes to show how abysmal the finishing has been this season.
Walcott in particular has been a horror to watch.

I hope they practice and practice finishing and come right. Best team in Europe we’ll be.

Mach iii

Top quality comment; it’s true that all those teams have awesome strikers; and if you put those strikers in our team – you looking at the best team in the World.


How can you argue that the number of shots that they have missed has NO impact on the number they will score in the future?

Isn’t a ‘big chance’ by definition a situation in which the player is likely to score? So in continuing to create lots of these ‘big chances’ they will end-up scoring more goals?

I’m not saying they will necessarily continue to have as many big chances in future games, but if they do wouldn’t it likely lead to more goals than we’ve seen so far?

I’m no statistician but I would love to get clarification!

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