Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Arsenal from Crystal Palace to Crystal Palace: by the numbers

Arsenal beat Crystal Palace 2-0 on 1 January 2017 and lost 3-0 to Crystal Palace on 10 April 2017. Here are the numbers for that run.

The first 18 matches
18 – Matches Arsenal played before Crystal Palace on 1 January 2017
18 – Goals Arsenal allowed in those 18 matches (not counting own goals)
21 – Expected goals conceded by Arsenal in this period (in other words, Arsenal allowed three fewer goals than average based on the shots that the opposition took)
10.3 – Shots allowed per game
3.5 – Shots on goal allowed per game
9 – Percent of their shots the opposition were converting before January
18 – Interceptions per game
13 – Tackles per game
13 – League matches Francis Coquelin started before 1 January 2017

38 – Goals scored by Arsenal in those first 18 matches (still not counting own goals)
32 – Expected goals for Arsenal (in other words, Arsenal scored six more goals than average based on the shots that they took)
2 – Goals per game Arsenal averaged
17 – Shots per game Arsenal averaged
5 – Shots on goal per game by Arsenal
12 – Successful Dribbles per game by Arsenal
11 – Key passes per game by Arsenal
55 – Percent possession on average in this period
84 – Pass completion percent in this period

The next 12 matches
20 – Goals Arsenal have allowed since 1 January 2017
14 – Expected goals conceded in those 12 matches (in other words, Arsenal have conceded 6 more goals than we would expect based on averages for the shots taken against them)
12.1 – Shots allowed per game
5.3 – Shots on goal allowed per game
14- Percent of their shots the opposition are converting in these 12 matches
12 – Interceptions per game
13 – Tackles per game
4 – League matches Coquelin has started since 1 January 2017

20 – Goals scored by Arsenal in the last 12 matches
21 – Expected goals scored by Arsenal in the last 12 matches (in other words, are you really reading this?
1.7 – Goals per game average by Arsenal in this period
15 – Shots per game average
5 – Shots on goal per game average
13 – Successful dribbles per game by Arsenal in this period
11 – Key passes per game by Arsenal in this period
57 – Percent of possession by Arsenal in this period
84 – Percent pass accuracy by Arsenal in this period

What we have seen here is that Arsenal’s fortunes have flipped: whereas before January Arsenal were scoring more than expected and conceding less than expected, they are now score as expected and conceding more than they should.

It’s pretty clear to me that since January Arsenal’s offence is performing about as expected. 1.7 goals per game is not great and 15 shots per game is pretty poor and both are slight decreases from the pre-January high water mark. I attribute the fall in Arsenal’s goals per game and expected goals rates to the fact that Arsenal’s shots in prime (the area right in front of goal in 12 yard radius) has dropped from 3.5 per game to 2.3 and that Arsenal’s Big Chances (the one-on-one shots, etc) have dropped from 2.2 per game to just 1.6.

But the defense has gone south quick and is now conceding an extra .5 goal per match than they would be if they were an average Premier League side.

Many Arsenal supporters wanted Coquelin dropped throughout this season in order to increase Arsenal’s offensive output and Wenger obliged, benching the Frenchman after a string of lacklustre performances in December. After Coquelin was relegated to a bit role, however, we see a drop in Arsenal’s defensive workrate (interceptions are down) and stability as the opposition have nearly doubled their shots on goal per game output and increased their finishing by 50%.

Ironically, Arsenal’s offense also got worse with Coquelin on the bench and while I’m not saying Coquelin added to Arsenal’s offense, I do think it’s funny that the guy that everyone wanted dropped so that Arsenal could score more gets dropped and suddenly Arsenal score less.

Defensively Arsenal’s expected goals allowed per game are actually down from the sunny pre-January days. It’s tempting to point to that lower expected goals number and higher conversion rate and say “see, Arsenal are just unlucky and don’t need someone in midfield to cover for the defense.” However, the higher the rate of conversion, the fewer shots teams have to take and since “expected goals” is just a fancy way of saying that more shots = more goals we often see teams “overperform” relative to expected goals when they are converting at a high rate.

So I’m not taken the wrong way, this post is NOT a “proquelin” post. I don’t think that he was or is Arsenal’s answer to the midfield conundrum. However, we have hard evidence that dropping him did none of the things that people wanted it to do and in fact after he was dropped, the Arsenal defense became measurably softer and the Arsenal offense measurably weaker.

And if you look at Elneny’s defensive line today, where he made just one tackle and had just one interception along with Xhaka who had 3 tackles and 0 interceptions, while Wilf Zaha completed 8/11 dribbles through Arsenal’s soft as a sow’s ear midfield, you can’t help but wonder if Arsenal are crying out for a player who is 50% Elneny and 50% Coquelin. And hopefully the 50% of each player that isn’t the shit bits.

I’m not suggesting that Wenger should revert back to playing with Coquelin in midfield nor that any one player in the answer or the goat, the entire team has dropped mentally and physically since that 3-3 draw against Bournemouth. Whomever you want to blame, Arsenal aren’t creating enough and aren’t covering their defenders well enough. And that, for me, isn’t just down to one or two players, that’s the whole team. And that’s the manager’s fault.


Source: my database


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Perhaps a line by line comparison (similar to what you’ve done before) would work better for this post.

– 18 interceptions before 1 Jan
– 12 interceptions after 1 Jan

Faisal Narrage

“you can’t help but wonder if Arsenal are crying out for a player who is 50% Elneny and 50% Coquelin” You mean the elusive and mythical DM the fans and the media have been calling out for almost a decade? The type of player Wenger himself actively says he doesn’t want as he doesn’t like dedicated DMs (and is now tending Coquelin into a shit B2B player)? That player? Shoot what’s next? Next you’ll claim we need a strong, and physical CB with leadership qualities to fight against the likes of Benteke. Basically, this team has been built to Arsene’s… Read more »


Arsenal under Arsene is analogous to the simpsons- a brilliant first ten years, and then it went downhill


The thing about the Emirates years is that the majority of them (in my opinion anyway) though certainly not always enjoyable, have actually been quite well managed. But the past year and a half or so has been absolutely awful. No excuses for the state we’re in now without the financial restrictions of the first six or seven years at the emirates. This falls on the manager and a board who can’t be fucked to do anything about him.


Sean my friend, we got 4th place every season and I definitely don’t scoff at that. It’s helped us in a huge way to overcome the stadium move and the financial burden that came from it. However, there have been a number of shortcomings. Mostly managerial too. Recruitment and scouting: As a club, we’re known for dilly-dallying while other clubs swoop for players. Now I’ll accept defeat if Chelsea/City/United have an interest in the same player because they pay more. However, we shouldn’t be losing out to Southampton or West Ham, let alone Liverpool or Leicester right? Southampton purchased Virgil… Read more »

Spanish Gooner

I still think the biggest change is the decision to move the best striker in the league to the left wing, so that a guy who had never hit double figures in the PL (and has 0 goals this year) could play up front


Welbeck scored against Liverpool so not 0 goals.

Faisal Narrage

His point still stands. Sanchez as CF was working; he was scoring and assisting. Brought out the best in Theo and even Ozil. Why did Wenger feel the need to change it? Worse yet, why does he still refuse to go back to it? It’s not like his new set up is working exactly is it? But why does Wenger do whatever he does tactically? This is a manager who seems hellbent of always playing with 2 small and fast CBs. Tried it with Gallas-Toure, didn’t work. Tried it with Gallas-Verm, didn’t work. Tried it with Verm-Kos, didn’t work. Was… Read more »

Early Mournings with Arsenal

Go back and have a look at the results of the last 5 games playing Sanchez at 9 and the reason for moving him wide are easy to see as being result driven. Sanchez at 9 was scrapped after we lost consecutive games in late December and then when he was tried again this year at 9 we have lost. But the problem wasn’t and isn’t Sanchez and where he is playing. If the defence and midfield continue to play as they have this year it really doesn’t matter where Sanchez plays. In saying that I too would like to… Read more »


Agree with your point about Defensive pairing. I mentioned in another comment about how we were linked with Van Dijk(6’4 and comfortable on the ball) for weeks before Southampton bought him around 12mil. He’s now rumored to be worth around 30 million,and that’s a conservative figure.


If it was working so well how come we needed Giroud to be Supersub and do in 20 minutes what sanchez couldn’t do in 90?

Old Boy Gunner

Anf still the Wengernistas will continue their support of Wenger… As he gradually takes us into the Championship!


That is the toughest part. Even carrager who is not even an arsenal fan understands that a change is needed. But some us require want arsenal to finish at the bottom of the table yo realize we need a better manager.


still…woudl rather lose all these gutless players and kroenke than wenger.

wenger has proved to us his worth with titles, doubles europe stadium etc etc

what have these players offered? shown? or the owners?


i’ve always been a fan of wenger and for what he has done still am . if wenger could’ve right the ship he would’ve done it by now , he just cant . you can blame whoever you want , the manager , the players , the owners but right now there is no other solution than to bring in new manager . somethings just never works , raineri was a good manager who acheived the impossible , mourinho was a good manager , but both leicester and chelsea had to change their managers to reverse their fortune . right… Read more »


You’re as clueless as carragher!

Stringer Bell

Is there any stats relating to hair. From the looks of it most of our players spent part of game day having their hair done. Theo Ox Ramsey Sanchez Giroud


Who else noticed that the team simply refused to acknowledge the presence of Giroud when he came on? Nothing changed tactically to try and take advantage of his strengths (however few and oftentimes ineffectual). The team didn’t look desperate to win or even take anything from the game. This has all the markings of Mourinho’s Chelsea last season. If Arsene survives this one, I will christen him Chuck Norris.


I agree with you, except for the Giroud part. He is a great player and is quite effective.


I don’t think his point is about how good/bad Giroud is. His point is more about the team not adapting tactically to Giroud being up top.


They often do that!Everytime,Giroud comes on its always the case,what’s the point of playing him if they can’t use him to his advantage?

FollowThe Money

Another number; 2. Times that Özil passed the ball straight out of play. Özil, FFS. He’s supposed to be £42m “King of the Assists” and he can’t even pass to a team-mate under no real pressure.

Faisal Narrage

He did make one blinding pass to a team mate.

Unfortunately he was a sub who had yet to actually come on.



50% Elneny and 50% Coquelin, 100% Kante? I’d also say Coquelin wasn’t just dropped due to his inability going forward but also after a string of woeful individual defensive performances against Watford, Chelsea, Bayern away and Liverpool. And really he’s only been dropped since Liverpool


Absolutely THIS. 1. Kante is the guy. Obviously we’re never going to get him, but Kante and Xhaka would make a superb partnership. 2. I know Tim explicitly said this wasn’t a pro-Coquelin post, but I really think the narrative above needs to be tweaked: it’s not just that Coquelin couldn’t pass the ball and so Wenger dropped him at the turn of the year (he also had an injury in January, remember). It’s that of those games he has played in (see loose_cannon’s comment), he’s not only looked poor offensively, but even defensively. Like, really poor. Now, I think… Read more »

The Loon Ranger

I’ll give you some numbers. 11 players who aren’t what they should be which is 1 team. We’ve seen it with the chavs and with manure and with others. They get bloody well paid and whoever is doing the coaching they ought to be working and reacting as a team. They ain’t and most of us have got the right ache with it. We’ll bounce back but only after massive change otherwise we’re in free fall. FA cup not really likely but great if it happens. No St Totteringham? I can live without it. What could let AW leave on… Read more »


Our team doesn’t play attractive football anymore.
e.g. enough with getting the ball to the side! All the memorable “Invincibles” goals came from the centre!


I’m sure if we tried harder we could’ve gone head-to-head against a CL-less Chelsea for the signature of Kante instead Xhaka. It’s not like the money spent on Perez and Holding has served us well this season (yeah I know, hindsight and all that), even if it’s not the players’ fault.


I think that’s the wrong way to think about it. They’re very different players. We needed Xhaka AND Kante. And maybe, just maybe, we could have pulled that off, if we had had real ambition. But hindsight is 20/20 and all that. I’ll hold my hand up and say last summer I didn’t think Kante was much of an improvement on Coquelin, because I think I didn’t fully realize how badly Coq holds us back when we have the ball. But then again, I’m not paid millions of pounds a year to make these decisions…


Hi, I normally love your articles and look forward to them after each game, but isn’t this a bit misleading/wrong? In the 12 league games since Coquelin has been “dropped” he actually started 6 of these not 4. And it looks to me like he played 406 minutes out of the 1080 minutes in 12 games (not including injury time). During the time he was on the pitch I think we conceded 11 goals of the 20. So we conceded 55% of the goals during the 37.5% of total time he played. I haven’t looked at anything else other than… Read more »


This squad is more than capable of competing for the title. Arsene has failed.

Wade wilson

Clear foul on the first goal, nicely tucked in the “well you gotta show some passion” folder. Seriously how easy is it for refs to go against us. It’s not normal, who else gets cards like confetti, non calls and then spurious penalties. I heard Townsend did an interview on Sky, did they ask him or allardyce about the dive? No probably not.


This is the icing on the frustrating cake: we can’t just suck, we also have to get repeatedly screwed over by the refs and media (it also should be against the rules to purposely grow your grass high and not water it so that it becomes harder for passing teams to pass–that pitch last night was an embarrassment).


And Giroud was fouled in the box!


Time to give the youngsters a chance. Cant be worse than the way this lot are performing.

Lord Bendtner

I’ve been saying this for long, here goes again: When Coq came back from Charlton, we didn’t really need a player like him. He is a very average player, below Arsenal standards. BUT, when Wenger got him to play as a pure pure DM that does nothing but tackle and intercept all over our side of the pitch, a new Coq was born. A Coq we all came to love. Recovering the ball right and left, allowing our fullbacks to go up front without worrying too much. Then the manager tried to make him into someone he’s not. And no… Read more »

Captain Walcott LOL

I have been saying this for a very long time. Bless your heart TGSTEL


There’s some truth to this, but I don’t think it’s the whole story: 1. You have to admit that when he’s played in the past few months, he’s just looked out of form, even with the things he was always good at, like intercepting and tackling (think of the Hazard goal, for instance). I don’t see how that’s been down to playing him super high up the pitch. He’s played more or less as a “destroyer”, not like a number 10 or anything. He might not be the deepest midfielder, but that’s because Xhaka receives the ball from our defense… Read more »


Agree with all that though I’d add that if we did adopt the high press, Coquelin would need to show quality on the ball having won it. I also see your Hazard goal, and raise you one Robben goal

fed up

Time for silent Stan to go and the only way that will happen is if all the fans refuse to turn up for the remaining matches – sounds extreme but that is the only way to get shot of this viper!!! Aside from that it is also time for Wenger to call it quits!!! Massive shake up required but it is only the fans not turning up to matches that will get things done – sad times!!!

fed up

I would also like to point out that this team has no mental strength – Wenger says they have but I don’t think even the title winning squads had as much mental strength as they should, just look at what happened after our 49 game unbeaten run ended!!! Ridiculous!!!


“… an extra .5 goal per match than they would be if they were an average Premier League side.” But that’s what Arsenal are right now, an “average Premier League side” at best. It’s pretty much what they’ve been for years now, just slightly “above average” to slide into 4th place and bounce out of the Round of 16 CL. I’ve seen what Kroenke does to a professional sports club State-side (ahem, Avalanche, Rams, ahem), and he’s doing it at Arsenal. Prepare for a decade-plus of disappointments while Stan sucks millions of pounds of profit out like a parasitic tapeworm.… Read more »

Crash Fistfight

So you’re saying you’re a glory hunter, then?


At the turn of the decade around 1980, there existed a massive socialist imperium. Visibly powerful, resourceful, full of bright minds and engaged in a global battle in sea, air, land and space. This Union was feared and respected because of once (truly) great victories that had benefitted the global community. Underneath the surface, though, there was rot and decay. The ruling establishment had ran the Union into regress and dept. Food was in short supply (no, really, milk was a rarity, as were hundreds of other products we take for granted today), machinery was derelict, and much of everyday… Read more »


Jeez everybody is writing an essay on here


Comments like this are why I always keep coming back to the comments sections


Defence is the biggest issue for me. What bothers the heck out of me is how wide and high up Bellerin and Monreal frequently get AT THE SAME TIME. This basically leaves us with a 2 man defence for a moment on a quick counter, and we are always struggling to get in position from then. Its no wonder I shit myself every time we lose the ball. I cant remember where I heard it, but basically with our wing backs always both so high, we are saying that we think this gives us a better chance of us scoring… Read more »


This is basically what Fat Sam was saying after the game, the fullbacks are too far away from the centre backs, who then aren’t good enough one-on-one against players like Benteke. Doesn’t help that our DMs seemingly find it impossible to track runners beyond our own 18 yard line or really to mark anyone at all, ever


We are not looking for a 50% Elneny 50% Coquelin. We are looking for a player who can dribble with ball at feet and attack the vertical, what Ox did but with also more natural defensive awareness than young out of position Chambo. We need to replicate the ability (which we only saw fleetingly) with Rosicky or Diaby. Santi was a stroke of genius by Wenger but he is getting on and now carrying a chronic injury. We need the player who can hold the ball for us and have some vertical movement forward with ability to take on players.… Read more »


In other words, Jack Wilshere?


With Alexis CF goals were made earlier, with pptheutting the pressure over the opponents and concentrating on defending. But Wenger never accept that


Totally right. There are two sides to a possession-based game like Arsenals. One is possession and the other is swift pressing as soon as the ball is lost (to stop counter-attacks). Wenger understands the first half and not the second. That’s why the full-backs are exposed, because nobody steps forward, when the ball is lost to stop the counter-attack before it gets started.


Coquelin is vital to the team because he adds some real bite to the high press. He is particularly good at getting into advanced positions and shutting down or slowing counter-attacks before they get started. That is absolutely vital with a possession based team like Arsenal who will always be exposed to the counter-attack. That is why Pep makes a religion out of his possession based teams recovering the ball in 6 seconds.

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