Arsenal Big Chance Finishing
Arsenal created four big chances today against Bournemouth and scored three bringing Arsenal’s Big Chance conversion on the season to a healthy 55%. Last season Arsenal created more Big Chances than any other team (97) but only converted them at a humble rate of 38%. This season, Arsenal are still creating Big Chances at a good clip of 2.23 per game (last season was 2.55 per game) but the big difference is, of course, conversion.
Big Chances are best defined by the four chances we saw today; Alexis picking the ball off and rounding the keeper, Walcott nodding home a header from inside the six, Giroud’s miss from just in front of goal, and Alexis finishing off Giroud’s great drag back for the easy goal. In short, these are shots we expect the players to score.
Now before you get all “that’s too subjective for me”, all football stats are subjective. A human watches the game and categorizes events based on a set of definitions. Assists are a stat we all like to take as pretty solid but they are notoriously subjective, so much so that we have settled on a definition that basically any last pass before a goal counts as an assist, whether the passer intended to make the pass or not. I’m sure you can think of a number of instances where Walcott made a cross-cum-shot which was scored. Sometimes he gets an assist for those, sometimes not, but a human makes the call: it’s subjective. Big Chances are similar because the human has to say “oh he should have scored that” but I’ve almost never disagreed when they are counted and accept a certain amount of uncertainty baked in to the stat.
Big Chances are an important metric for me because even though the definition is a bit squishy they reflect what fans think of when they call someone a “good finisher” or when we think of our team having a profligate game. When Fernando Torres moved from Liverpool to Chelsea he was considered a good finisher. But when he started missing easy chances, which is subjective, his “finishing value” dropped. So, Big Chances are a good way of discussing how well we think the team/player is finishing.
Big Chances also account for most of a team’s goals. Last season Arsenal scored 63 goals, 37 of them were Big Chances. Remember that was a large return on a pretty poor finishing rate for a top club. If Arsenal had finished last season’s Big Chances at the rate they are this season, they would have added 16 goals to their tally and won the League at a trot. Even if Arsenal could have raised their rate of finishing to the average for big teams last year (43%) it would have been an extra 4 goals to the bottom line.
Arsenal’s most profligate finishers last year were Ramsey with 20% (2/10), Walcott with 27% (4/15) and Özil at 37% (4/12). Sanchez was 50% (8/16) and Giroud 50% (9/18). If Walcott, Ramsey, and Özil could have found the net just 2 more times each that would have put Arsenal in the normal range for finishing at a top club and would have made the title race a lot closer.
This season, both Walcott and Özil are 50% (5/10 and 2/4 respectively) and that is the difference. Specifically, Walcott is the difference. Walcott gets into great positions and this has always been Walcott’s strength, but his finishing this year is on point. Arsenal need a healthy Walcott, getting great shots and finishing them if they have any hope of winning the League.
Interestingly, Sanchez is finishing 57% of his Big Chances this year, with 4/7, but that includes 2 missed penalties. He’s actually 4/5 finishing Big Chances from open play. I expect that number to drop as the season goes on. Either that or for him to win the Golden Boot and celebrate the achievement with a 300 mile run with his dogs.
The Bournemouth Identity
This game… specifically, this first half. UGH. Bournemouth did that high tempo thing that Spurs did against Chelsea and which football fans love to see. But Arsenal responded in the second half with some high tempo football of their own in the second half. The best way I can express that is like this:
16 – Arsenal tackles in the first half
17 – Bournemouth tackles in the first half
3 – Xhaka tackles in the first half (Xhaka led Arsenal in tackles)
6 – Gosling tackles in the first half (Gosling led Arsenal in tackles)
23 – Arsenal tackles in the second half
11 – Bournemouth tackles in the second half
8 – Xhaka tackles in the second half
6 – Gosling tackles in the second half
8 – Arsenal interceptions in the first half
13 – Bournemouth interceptions in the first half
15 – Arsenal interceptions in the second half
10 – Bournemouth interceptions in the second half
0 – Mustafi interceptions in the first half
5 – Mustafi interceptions in the second half
18 – Loss of possessions by Arsenal in the first half
11 – Loss of possessions by Bournemouth in the first half
8 – Loss of possessions by Sanchez in the first half
12 – Loss of possession by Arsenal in the second half
9 – Loss of possession by Bournemouth in the second half
2 – Loss of possession By Sanchez in the second half
268 – Passes by Arsenal in the first half
180 – Passes by Bournemouth in the first half
196 – Passes by Arsenal in the second half
241 – Passes by Bournemouth in the second half
112 – Final third passes by Arsenal in the first half
64 – Final third passes by Bournemouth in the first half
108 – Final third passes by Arsenal in the second half
100- Final third passes by Bournemouth in the second half
7 – Shots by Arsenal in the first half
7 – Shots by Bournemouth in the first half
9 – Shots by Arsenal in the second half
2 – Shots by Bournemouth in the second half
Sources: Whoscored.com, my personal database, Flea the bassist from Red Hot Chili Peppers, a pile of cutting boards piled by my nightstand