Monday, July 4, 2022

Cech yourself, Bro: Cech, Turnovers, and Ox – By the Numbers

Cech yourself

43 – Percent of Cech’s kicks which were accurate against Bro
49 – Percent of Cech’s goal kicks which are accurate this season
57 – Percent of Cech’s goal kicks which were accurate last season
58 – Percent of Szczesny’s goal kicks which were accurate in 2013/14

Cech is putting up some astonishingly bad numbers this season, making it look likely that Wenger will have to make yet another keeper change this summer.

First, his saves. As you know I keep keeper save percentages from positions like Big Chances and Shots in Prime. Last season, Cech was the best keeper among the elite Premier League teams in terms of stopping shots in and around his 6 yard box saving 64% of those Shots in Prime. This season, that number has dropped down to a much more human 52% which is low-normal for a top keeper.

What’s killing Cech this season, however, is his saves from Big Chances. Negredo’s goal against Arsenal was the very definition of a Big Chance (it was also a “Shot in Prime” in case you need further illustration of the definitions) and this season, Cech is only saving 30% of the Big Chances he has faced.

Now, in his defense, like last year where he allowed the 2nd most goals from outside the 18 yard box, part of the problem here is that Arsenal are allowing too many Big Chances. Arsenal have already allowed the opposition to take 48 Big Chances this season, 13 more than all of last season, and Arsenal have conceded 28 goals off those Big Chances which is 15 more than all of last season. In fact, 72% of the goals Arsenal have allowed this season have come from Big Chances (28/39) and Cech has only saved 12/40 (30%) of the Big Chances he’s faced.

Penalties are also counted in Big Chances and Cech also hasn’t saved a single penalty in his entire Arsenal career going 0/9 since making his transfer from Chelsea. Penalties aren’t saved at a high rate but as a point of comparison, Wojciech Szczesny has saved 4 of the 12 penalties he’s faced for Roma. That’s a bit above the normal save rate of 25%.

Cech’s distribution is also problematic and during the match against Middlesbrough he was kicking the ball around like a dipsomaniac sprinkler so readers asked me on Twitter to look at his numbers.

This season Cech’s goal kicks are down 8 percentage points from last season, which is also reflected in his long kicking which is down from 44% accurate last season to 36% accurate this season. I think this is partially because of the benching of Giroud.

That said, Cech was woeful against Middlesbrough despite having Giroud to kick to, completing just 8/21 long kicks and only 9/22 forward passes. Perhaps that calf injury was worse than advertised. Or perhaps his distribution is just awful: Cech has never been a highly accurate kicker but his 36% long ball completion rate this season is the lowest he’s notched since his 2009/10 Champions League rate of 34% and 5% lower than his career average of 41%. Hugo Lloris is completing 62% of his goal kicks and 75% overall while Cech looks bog average with his 49% goal kicks and 63% overall. And Ospina (using Champions League data) is 60% from goal kicks this season but his average distance kicked is just 32 yards, 12 yards shorter than Cech.

Among the many things that Arsenal have to solve this summer is the long-term inconsistency at keeper.

Bro, Turnovers

9 – Number of times Alexis Sanchez lost possession of the ball against Bro
3 – Number of those times that were in or near Arsenal’s own half
3 – Number of failed dribbles by Alexis (of 3 attempted)
15 – Number of failed passes by Alexis
3 – Number of those failed passes which were in Arsenal’s own half
1 – Number of those failed passes which eventually led to the Middlesbrough goal
1 – Number of fans century made by Alexis handing them a shirt
0 – Percent of blame I assign to Alexis for that goal

Alexis turned the ball over a lot against Middlesbrough. Too much, in fact. Arsenal had 65% of possession and yet only managed 12 shots to Boro’s 13. Another way to look at that dominance by Arsenal is to say that Arsenal had 785 touches, 584 passes, 192 passes in the final third, and just 12 shots. Alexis himself had 77 touches on the day and 24 of them were turnovers (either a bad pass, lost touch, or was dispossessed). That means over 30% of his possessions were given back to the opposition. He also had 31% of Arsenal’s total turnovers and 17% of Arsenal’s failed passes.

Still, that particular pass, no matter how bad, was not the reason Negredo scored. Alexis tried to thread a pass into Ox and…

..I remember a match at the Emirates where Song and Denilson passed the ball around the 18 yard box and I was screaming for them to attempt a pass, any pass, into the box for some offense and that match ended 0-0, so while Alexis had an easy pass to Ozil on his right I am still in favor of him trying that pass to Ox rather than keeping possession because after all what’s the point of possession if you’re not trying to score? The fact that Arsenal fans are obsessed with Alexis losing possession is actually a symptom of Arsenal’s defensive weakness: we want him to be audacious and use possession to create but we also don’t want him to lose the ball because we are terrified of how our defense will cope with the ensuing counter attack. The real problem here isn’t that he loses the ball, it’s that Arsenal can’t cope with it when he does. As I will illustrate here..

he missed. But Arsenal’s 352 meant that Negredo was covered by three CBs as he made his run. Downing had the ball and Monreal recovered to mark him but Downing beat Monreal by slowing down and going back on his left. From there he put in a pin-point accurate cross, which Koscielny couldn’t cut out and which Negredo poked home. The problem here was that Monreal didn’t kill that play, either by fouling Downing (the best choice) or by forcing him to continue his run down the line. Monreal has to recognize that Downing is entirely left footed and prevent him from getting that cross off or at the very least prevent him from having so much space and time to put in a good cross. So, again, for me the problem here isn’t that Alexis lost possession but that 4 Arsenal defenders couldn’t stop Stewart Downing and Alvaro Negredo from getting a shot mere inches away from the goal mouth.

As for Alexis: Alexis also scored a goal and helped set up the second goal with his pass to Ramsey. I will take 30 turnovers for two goals. I will also point out that, like all forwards, turnovers are part of his game. When Alexis is made the focal point of his team, like he has been at Arsenal and for Chile, he will be a turnover machine. The Arsenal defense needs to be aware of that and win the ball back or at the very least make it difficult for a player like Downing to put in a cross.

Ox on the back of a winged horse, through the sky pearly grey

2 – Tackles won by Ox (of 4 attempted)
5 – Tackles won by Monreal (of 5, led Arsenal)
4 – Tackles won by Özil (of 5)
21 – Total tackles Özil has won all season
1 – Foul by Ox
1 – Yellow card for Ox
3 – Minute of the match in which Ox received his yellow card
90 – Minutes Ox went after his yellow card without committing another foul
1 – Blocked cross by Ox
0 – Blocked crosses by Monreal
4 – Successful dribbles by Ox (of 8 attempted, led Arsenal)
9 – Ball recoveries by Ox (2nd on Arsenal behind Aaron Ramsey who led all players with 11)
2 – Successful crosses by Ox (of 9 attempted)
0 – Key passes by Ox
2 – Shots by Ox
1 – Big Chance by Ox (that shot in the 6 yard box which was saved was recorded as a Big Chance)

Against Middlesbrough, Wenger fielded a 343 (which was a 352 in defense) for the first time since the 1996/97 season when Steve Bould, Tony Adams, and Martin Keown played in the center of defense with Winterburn and Dixon as the wingbacks. In the system against Middlesbrough, Arsenal got a look at a back three of Gabriel, Koscielny, and Holding with Monreal and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the wide areas.

The idea behind the back three is to provide stability to the Arsenal defense. Wenger has played with a high line of two center backs since the break up of the invincibles. With both of his fullbacks pushed forward (sometimes even crossing the ball to one another) to say that that formation has been vulnerable to counter attacks is about as understated as an Adam Sandler character. So, with an extra center back, Arsenal should in theory, be able to continue use his wingbacks, but also have an extra man for cover on counters.

That is on paper, they should be more stable. In reality… Arsenal conceded a goal on a counter attack, despite having three center backs, largely because Monreal didn’t close down Downing.

I applaud Wenger’s change in formation. A back three compliments his attacking style and covers for some fundamental weaknesses in midfield – basically covering for the loss of Coquelin while providing some passing ability by pairing Ramsey and Özil with Xhaka.

The midfield passing was exemplary: Xhaka passed 90% (84/93), Ramsey 91% (61/67), and Özil 93% (43/46). However, those three players only created 3 chances for their teammates with Özil creating zero shots on the day, which is unusal for him.

Another problem is that Arsenal’s center back three was fairly poor in possession. Koscielny connected on just 48/56 passses (86%), Holding was 42/49 (86%) and Gabriel 61/73 (84%). All of their misssed passes were forward but 25 blown passes between your three center backs is not a good stat. It’s one thing if Alexis is turning the ball over but yet another much worse thing when your center backs are doing the same. Gabriel and Holding also turned the ball over in their own half. Which is unacceptable from your center backs.

Wenger changing systems with 8 games left in the season is not recommended and smacks of desperiation. You can see why Arsenal are so eager to change though, because the Gunners have conceded 40 goals this season, 48 big chances, and 101 shots in prime — that 101 shots in prime allowed is more than any of the other big 6 teams by 25 total shots or almost a shot per game.

And the fucked up thing is that his change didn’t work: Arsenal conceded more shots than they took (13 to 12), allowed Boro to have 2 Big Chances (they scored 1), and allowed 5 shots in prime… Middlesbrough, the lowest scoring team in the premier League, took 5/13 shots in and around Arsenal’s 6 yard box.

I don’t know what Wenger is going to do. The 352 looked just as vulnerable to counters as his favored 433 but it was also the very first time we have seen a 352 (or 343 whatever you want to call it) in 20 years so there is bound to be a steep learning curve. That said, Leicester is up next and if you give Vardy 5 shots in prime and two big chances I can guarantee that he will score more than one goal. But to switch back to a 433 at this point would seem equally silly. It’s a conundrum.


Sources: 442 Stats Zone app,, my database


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Fascinating stuff as always. Boro are poor, so we shouldn’t be getting too excited at a narrow victory. Our run-in is tough so let’s hope they have learnt the 3-4-3 or whatever and can execute it better, especially the passing part.


I cant help but think there is a direct correlation with Gerry Peyton as our goal keeping coach and Cech’s slow decline into becoming an average keeper.

Look at the fact that Wojech leaves Arsenal, and is now one of the top keepers in Europe statistically.

We’ve needed to ship out Peyton for years – he isn’t good enough at all. I think that goes for a load of the coaches at Arsenal. And the medical staff too.


And the manager. And the board. And he players. Thank god we have such great fans.

Ponsonby Gooner

Hahaha outstanding comment sir.

Wright on the money

Cech was a very good goalkeeper a few seasons ago before we bought him that is why Chelsea let him go they knew he was getting older and not as good.

We haven’t had a decent keeper since Seman to me and I hope Wenger doesn’t bring Scezney back I hope he goes for a decent young keeper that will be at the club for many years.

Cech has had his time now but I doubt we will get much interest or money for him now so keep him as a back up.


pickford at Sunderland is a class young keeper but arsenal will sit and wait till someone else signs him.
also Joe Hart is better than cech


You are talking nonsense. First Lehmann was a great keeper and so is Cech. He might me a bit more fallible than he was but still very good. Szczesny seems to have fulfilled his true potential at Roma and should be brought back. Pickford could be one for the future but we need someone with good experience.

Wright on the money

Pickford won’t go anywhere if he is not playing all the time. I say buy Pickford and put Cech on the bench has a good second keeper.

Lehman wasn’t that good either he just had a good enough defence and midfield in front of him.


Why buy a relatively inexperienced keeper when we already have better one in Szcsesny. You have a short memory regarding Lehmann who was a great keeper

Thierry bergkamp

Lehmann was not great.


Absolutely agree. Bring back Szczesny. Still can’t figure out why so many people don’t give him credit. I would love to see Szczesny back, but unfortunately I don’t think that is going to happen and we will be sorry for it later. BTW, it doesn’t hurt that he seems to love Arsenal. Talent AND love for the team. Not a bad combination.


Szczesny is arguably just a good Keeper and not a potentially a great one. I believe that this is the reasoning why Arsenal has slipped. They started to believe that they cant or wont atrract top tier guys. Why settle on somebody who clearly hasnt proved himself if you can somebody who potentially is great. Admittingly a tag that Szczesny once had. Pickford might be that guy. Why not go for the third German keeper. Leno of Leverkussen. You know dem germans got skillz. Get a leftback. (Kolasanic, not a fan But could be good. Just because he is on… Read more »


you have petr cech ….you have seen jens lehman…and you think seaman was more decent than those two?

i can not relate with such lunacy…

what next?

tony adams better than mathias sammer and baresi? equals?

and ian wright was like batistuta wasnt he? …..


Thank you for making sense about Alexis’s turnovers. I get so annoyed when people concentrate on it. He’s a forward. Forwards are not supposed to have great passing percentages, they are supposed to make things happen.

You know what would solve the problem? Put him back at center forward. It won’t be as harmful when his passes don’t come off, and when they do, it will create more chances.


So basically formation is overrated and brings an illusion of change, but in the end it’s the players on the field that matter.

nimble foot

Finally, someone who gets it.

Early Mournings with Arsenal

Wenger has been desperately searching for the answer this season by making changes to the midfield and forward line in both formation and personnel and also trying different styles of play from direct to possession and attempts at trying to sit and counter. It’s been an extraordinary season of changes with no discernible style or form being found and set. We have tried almost every combination of players in midfield and up front. It’s been amazing the amount of change this manager has been making this season without making changes to his back four. It was certainly time for a… Read more »

Mein Bergkampf

in total agreement with this mate. You would’ve thought a manager of Wenger’s experience would have a bit more managerial nous than to play trial and error all season like he’s a clueless janitor with a big ring of keys and only one lock. Why did he spend so big on Xhaha if he clearly doesn’t know what type of player he is and who he would form an effective partnership with? We can all bemoan the loss of our Santi but if it takes losing one player to totally derail our season, it doesn’t say a great deal about… Read more »

Spanish Gooner

Thank you for some sense on Alexis! I really think this problem could be lessened by putting him at CF where his turnovers are less disasterous. For reference, Henry had a passing % in the high 60s in his first double winning season


Job of Alexis, Welbeck, Giroud, etc, are make goals and create goals opportunities for others. Alexis does his part here.
Job of Defenders is to… defend. Genius, ah. And that´s a pending matter.

For all those crying drama queens, Alexis playing as CF would manage to kill upfront with the last touch.


Another stat for you: percentage of refs bought by Spanish teams in the latter stages of the European cup by the Spanish football mafia. •••• 100%


As long as there’s no VAR football will be ruined week in week out.


Too many of those successful midfield passes were back to the defenders who, being pressed quickly had to attempt the forward passes that the midfielders didn’t. No wonder stats poor, their passes had to be longer balls.

Gabriel has to be told to stay back in this system not gallop forward leaving holes behind him. Holding looked promising again.


Great stats as always!

Would be more interesting to see comparison with Ospina this season.

Comparison with Szczesny at Roma, or Arsenal in previous seasons a little unfair on both.

Seems we’re about to lose Ospina to Fenabache – are we letting the wrong keeper go again?


I don’t understand blaming Monreal for the goal. He was coming back infront of Boro box,where is the energy to really block the guy?where was Xhaka to block to cover the space Alexis and Monreal left? COYG


If it was Bale or Robben I’d maybe say fair enough but it’s Stewart Downing. To expect our first choice left back to be able to stop Stewart Downing from having enough time and space to put that cross in isn’t expecting too much.

Why not

I think you are giving alexis a bit too much lee-way here. He doesn’t only lose the ball when he is being audacious. He also loses it when he unnecessarily trying to do things that are not necessary. Trying to beat men, that there is no point in beating. Trying to attempt difficult passes that are still not creating chances if successful. This isn’t audacity. This is self-indulgent show boating and he should be taken down a peg or two. The greedy little kid in the playground running rings around everybody and then kicking the ball into the road. Petulance… Read more »


Heretical: please finish outside of Europe. Please focus on rebuilding and coaching. That is the proven way of competing for / winning the EPL without unlimited cash. Then, retire.

Yes, probably also requires 3/5 at the back.


well…Szczesny had 2 pretty good right backs to aim at, sagna and debuchy, who are good at headings…

wonder if we should swing to the left, psycho nacho is pretty good at heading too…no?

Clive St Helmet

“When Alexis is made the focal point of his team, like he has been at Arsenal and for Chile, he will be a turnover machine.”

Which is (partly) why he is so much better up front. He presses defenders effectively, scares defenders with his pace and ability, doesn’t like tracking back and is turned over often. Better to be turned over in their final third than anywhere else.

David C

I think we should try this lineup if we continue 3-5-2 or 3-4-3:

Mustafi, Mert, Kos
Bellerin Xhaka Elneny Gibbs
Welbz Sanchez

Bench: goalie, Monreal, Holding, Ox, Giroud, Lucas, inanimate carbon rod


“With both of his fullbacks pushed forward (sometimes even crossing the ball to one another) to say that that formation has been vulnerable to counter attacks is about as understated as an Adam Sandler character.”

Bad analogy. I get you though.

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