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:
Cazorla 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.
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:
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.