Good Saturday to you, Arsechums. I apologize for my absence this week but family matters and work kept me away from the arduous task of stats gathering and late-night writing. I also have to admit that this season’s Thursday/Sunday/Monday Arsenal schedule is killing me both personally and professionally. Not just the schedule but the results as well. It’s all depressing.
And talking about depressing! I have the Week 28 Premier League 7amkickoff Expected Goals Table and let me tell you, Arsenal top the “This is Depressing League Table.”
Let me just clarify that even though I am presenting this table today (Saturday the 3rd of March) the table DOES NOT include today’s matches. So, for example, Burnley won today and they now have 40 points, just 5 points below Arsenal. But that result is not included in this table. Ok?
Here’s the League table sorted by points but with some underlying stats revealed:
I added a new line at the bottom of the sheet, averages. I know that some managers hate averages and that sometimes averages can lie but in this case we are averaging the Premier League, 20 teams over 28 games. I added this average because Arsenal supporters want to compare ourselves to the top team but in reality Arsenal are defensively closer to an average team.
The positives are that Arsenal are good going forward. 50 goals is 13 above average and all the other stats indicate that Arsenal are still a good attacking team despite the recent slump. Arsenal have created 69 Big Chances this season, that’s third best in the League and Arsenal have more Big Chances on target than Liverpool*, the Gunners are 2nd in the League in Big Chances on target with 53. In terms of Big chances scored Arsenal drop from 2nd in BC created to 5th in BC scored. This is due to a low BC conversion rate of 40% (average is 45%).
In terms of 7amxG Arsenal are just about where we would expect them to be given the shots taken and shots conceded. They are a bit off pace in terms of goals scored (-6) but their defending is conceding just average for the shots they have given up. If Arsenal finished better they would have scored more, but they would need lucky saves to have conceded fewer.
Arsenal’s attack is “ok” but the real problem is that they are an average defensive team this year and specifically what’s killing Arsenal are shots and goals allowed off Big Chances. Arsenal have allowed 51 Big Chances this season. That’s not just the worst in the top 6, that’s 9th worst in the League. Stoke have allowed more Big Chances than any team this season with 65 and Arsenal’s 51 is just 13 fewer than Stoke. Man City have only allowed 24 Big Chances, Chelsea 28, Tottenham 29.
This is also a massive drop in defense from Arsenal over the last three seasons. In 2015/16 (Coquelin/Cazorla) Arsenal only allowed 35 Big Chances – ALL SEASON. That’s less than 1 per game. The next season, after Wenger dropped the idea that you need a midfielder to defend, Arsenal allowed 59 Big Chances. That’s 1.6 per game. And this season continues that trend, with Arsenal conceding 1.8 Big Chances per game.
And since you will ask “what’s the deal with Big Chances, who cares how the opponents score goals?” Big Chances account for 58% of all goals scored this season. To illustrate even further, consider the fact that the “regular” goals (not Big Chances) that teams have conceded are
Man City – 10
Chelsea – 11
Liverpool – 10
Tottenham – 13
Arsenal – 13
Man U – 3
Big Chance goals conceded for those same teams are:
Man City – 8
Chelsea – 12
Liverpool – 22
Tottenham – 10
Arsenal – 26
Man U – 16
Manchester United’s rather lucky record aside there are just a certain number of “unavoidable” (lucky, great shots, supreme talent, just getting beaten) goals that teams are going to concede. Across the Premier League that average for “non-big-chance” goals is 0.6 goals per game this season. Among the top six it’s closer to 0.4.
Given that top teams are going to concede almost half a goal a game no matter how good they are then the key measurement is how well a team controls Big Chances conceded. In this regard, Arsenal are just poor. The worst that they have been in the three years that I’ve been collecting this data.
Incidentally, this data is what I am pointing to when I say “Man U have been lucky” this season. They have only conceded three goals off non-big-chance shots conceded. United have conceded just 1% of those shots as goals while the average in the League is 5%. De Gea is the main factor in this, he’s saved 83% of all shots on target and apparently is blowing away all keepers with a 96.4% saves rate from these other shots faced. The average for keepers is 81% in the League this season. Cech has saved 80% of those shots he’s faced.
Arsenal have had their worst ever season under Arsene Wenger and results have been depressing. Supporters are already well aware that the main problem is defending but I thought I’d offer a little bit more insight into how important it is for teams to control the big chances they concede.
Source: Opta, my databases
*Liverpool are wasteful. Mo Salah has missed 19 Big Chances this season, more than any other player, and his teammate Sane has missed 11. The two combined have missed 30 of Liverpool’s 44 unscored Big Chances. Source. SofaScore.com