The context: Arsenal are in a massive slump all over the pitch
This is a long article, I’ll save you my usual bloviating at the start and just get stuck in with Arsenal’s team stats over the last three seasons:
Arsenal passes completed per game are on a decline from Wenger’s last season, from 526.9 per game to 437.6 per game. And since you will ask, things have gotten worse in the last 7 games under Arteta and Arsenal are only averaging 326 passes per game. Those last 7 matches have been so bad from a possession standpoint that it’s dragging down Arsenal’s season average from 481 (which is what it was last season) to 438. Still, 481 passes completed compared to 527 passes completed is a 9% decrease in passes completed.
The decline in passes completed is coupled with an even larger decline in passes completed in the opponent’s final third:
In Wenger’s last season Arsenal completed 46.3 passes per game in the opponent’s area and in Emery’s first season that number dropped to 33.6 – a decline of 27% in one season. That number took a further tumble this season where Arsenal are now below Brighton and Hove Albion in number of final third passes completed per game.
As much as we like to ridicule Manchester United as a counter-attacking team they get the ball forward a lot more often than Arsenal do this season.
If you can’t get the ball forward, you probably aren’t taking a lot of shots either. Since we aren’t getting the ball forward as much as before shots per game are also way down from Wenger’s worst ever season:
Arsenal’s attack dropped 4.6 shots per game over the last two seasons. Arsenal were 5th in overall shots per game in Wenger’s last season and they are now 14th, just a few shots per game above relegation-bound Bournemouth.
What’s worse is that the quality has dried up as well. Arsenal got 6.0 shots on goal per game in 2017/18. That was good enough to be 3rd in the League. This season, Arsenal’s 3.7 shots on goal per game is worse than every team but Bournemouth, Newcastle, Sheffield United, Watford, Crystal Palace, and Burnley.
Just to put it bluntly, Arsenal have managed to get 92 shots on goal this season but have allowed 123. Arsenal concede 1.24 more shots on target than they create per game.
And finally, if all of the other attack metrics are down, it shouldn’t be a surprise when I say that goals, expected goals, assists, and expected assists are all down as well.
This shouldn’t be a surprise if you’ve been watching Arsenal this season. We simply struggle to get shots.
One complaint that fans often leveled at Wenger is that his team played too many sideways passes, or what people deride as “crab football”. But most top teams play that way with the purpose of probing to find space, or in order to move their opponent into and out of space so that they can create a chance in behind.
When Emery came to Arsenal, most fans wanted something different from the Wenger era, and they got it. Emery’s football wasn’t the same as Wenger’s (as we will see in a second) and also (as we see from the stats above) wasn’t able to create chances. Different? For sure.
Crab at the back
First, the baseline. I took every player who played more than 900 minutes and ran their completed passes per90. In 2017/18 Arsenal’s main two players on the ball were Xhaka and Ozil.
Xhaka led Arsenal in completed passes per90 with almost 74 passes per game while Ozil came in a respectable 2nd with 66 per game. Nacho Monreal was 3rd followed by the two main center backs, Koscielny and Mustafi. Below that, the other players all made around 50 passes per game. Even Iwobi, hated by a large and vocal segment of the fanbase, completed 48.5 passes per game.
Fast forward to Unai Emery’s first season at Arsenal and things have changed radically.
Guendouzi has replaced Ozil in the completed passes chart. Ozil hasn’t been completely shut out but he is below Lucas Torreira. And what’s more interesting is that Iwobi’s completed passes numbers have dropped from 48.5 to just 38.5.
Ozil’s main replacement was meant to be Mkhitaryan but he also produced just 36 completed passes per game. That’s a massive drop in possession from Ozil’s 66 per game the season before.
And this season is just terrible. Every player’s performance has plunged. Xhaka is off 12 passes per game, Guendouzi’s down 5 per, Torreira’s down 7, Ozil’s down another 7 from the previous season:
And when we look at each player’s progressive passing (I’m using that phrase to mean passes into the final third and penalty area), the decline from 2017/18 to 2019/20 is stark once again across the team. A note: these are per90 stats and I’m only selecting players with at least 900 minutes. First the 2017/18 season (Wenger’s final):
No surprises here that Xhaka leads the pack but it’s interesting that there is plenty of technical quality in Arsenal’s attack. Ozil, Alexis (who was traded in January 2019), Jack the Lad, Ramsey, and even Monreal added a lot of forward thrust to Arsenal.
That all changes. In Emery’s first season at Arsenal a lot remains from the Wenger approach with some notable exceptions:
Xhaka dropped a bit but literally every player at Arsenal got worse in terms of progressing the ball. Ozil’s numbers dropped significantly under Unai Emery and also Arsenal traded down from Alexis to Mkhitaryan. And then the middle of the pack saw a drop as well.
And this season things got worse:
Once again we see a drop in Arsenal’s progressive passing across the board. But another significant change from 2018/19 to 2019/20 is that Matteo Guendouzi became Arsenal’s most progressive passer. Ozil’s progressive passes have dropped in half from 10 per90 to 5 per90 in just two years. And we see a significant problem over three different seasons with the right side of Arsenal’s attack and after Monreal was sold, the left side as well.
Kolasinac’s final ball is great, but his buildup play is far behind someone like Monreal. Monreal was underrated by Arsenal supporters for his role in getting the ball forward for Arsenal. And more importantly, Arsenal have struggled to recover from the sales of Alexis, Ramsey, Monreal, and Iwobi.
The passmaps confirm this problem with Arsenal and progressing the ball. Here’s the most recent one from the Burnley match courtesy Between the Posts dot net.
Compare to Liverpool’s passmap against Arsenal:
When people complained about Arsenal’s “crab football” we were playing a lot like Liverpool played against us: high up the pitch, hemming the opponent in, searching for openings. What we are seeing with Arsenal now is that we are still being held at bay but that it is happening much further back. Arsenal play crab football, we just play it in our own half.
All of this data may seem like overkill but it’s necessary to explain the context in which Mesut Ozil plies his trade at Arsenal. If I just post Ozil’s numbers from the last three years the comments will overflow with “yabbuts”: people who say “yeah but…” and then ask me to look up hundreds of data points in order to satisfy their pre-formed notion that Ozil’s numbers are false, misleading, or that I haven’t thought of some angle.
The facts are that Mesut Ozil has just five (5) assists for Arsenal in his last 4119 minutes. That’s an assist rate of one every 824 minutes, or one every 9 full games. At that rate, if Mesut Ozil played every minute of a 38 game Premier League season, he would have 4 assists.
In a fascinating twist, Ozil has led Arsenal nearly every season since he’s been at the club in total key passes. That includes these last two seasons: he has 31 key passes this season and had 45 last season.
In 2017/18 he led us with 84 key passes, in 2016/17 he led Arsenal with 100, in 2015/16 he had 146, in 2014/15 he was 3rd to Alexis and Cazorla with 69 key passes, and in his first season at the club (2013/14) led Arsenal with 76 key passes. This is an incredible record to be quite honest. However, there has been a decline:
The question is, however, how much of that decline matches the overall decline of Arsenal’s attack?
Go back up to the top of this article. There you will see that Arsenal suffered a 27% decline in final third passes per game between 2017/18 and 2018/19: Ozil’s decline was 26%. So, pretty much exactly in line with the new manager’s (FUCKING AWFUL) playing style.
Arsenal slipped further between 2018/19 and 2019/20, 12% fewer total progressive passes than the season before. However, Ozil went from 7.72 to 5 progressive passes per90. That’s a 35% decrease over the previous season. Ozil’s sample size is small but there are other data points that are worrying as well.
Key Passes or Expected Assists: why not both?
Key passes are a decent measure of a player’s involvement in the attack but total key passes alone don’t tell us how good the passes were or how likely they were to score a goal. A layoff from 30 yards out that results in a 25 yard shot through a forest of defenders and a deadly cross in the 6 yard box that results in a tap in are not equivalent. That’s where expected assists comes in.
Unfortunately, Ozil’s expected assists per90 have also sharply declined:
That said, expected assists can also be a bit misleading. One problem with the “expected” series of stats is that they simply aggregate all chances. That means that folks with high numbers of low/medium percentage key passes or shots will often pad out their “expected” stats with just bulk creation. Creating a lot of low percentage chances still can add up to several expected assists. To combat that, I use expected assists per key pass. This is roughly equivalent to saying “on average what’s the return rate on this player’s key passes?”
Kevin de Bruyne leads the League this season in total key passes, so you should expect that he leads the League in expected assists, which he also does. And when I look at his expected assists per key pass this season it’s excellent. De Bruyne averages 0.16 expected assists per key pass. His teammate Riyadh Mahrez has an xA/KP rate of 0.19 this season. That is nearly a big chance created with every key pass on average. Trent Alexander-Arnold’s pretty good with a 0.12 xA/KP this season, Salah’s rate is 0.16, and both of the Silvas at City average 0.14.
Mesut Ozil’s xA/KP in 2019/20 is 0.05. So, while he’s leading the Gunners in key passes, he’s creating shots that aren’t much better than layoffs outside the 18 yard box, folks. And this is a major decline from last season’s 0.10 which is pretty average. In 31 key passes this season, Mesut Ozil hasn’t created a single big chance for his teammates. It’s not a surprise then that his total assists numbers are low.
We know from the data in the first section that Arsenal’s attack is bad: we struggle to get the ball forward, we struggle to create shots, and we play the ball around the back a lot. So, at least part of the reason for Ozil’s decline is explained by Arsenal’s mid-table attack. And Ozil himself shows signs that he’s also being forced to drop deeper.
Twitter user SMukherjee pointed out that Ozil’s heatmaps from the 2016/17 season to the 2019/20 season show a remarkable shift in average position on the pitch. Here’s Ozil in his pomp:
That red area is Ozil’s bread and butter zone. That’s the area between the defense’s two banks of four. Ozil receiving passes in that area forces the opponents to collapse on him, opening spaces for the attack to run into and behind. Now look at this season:
The contrast is stark. Ozil is being deployed wide and forced to come very deep in order to collect the ball. It’s no wonder that he’s struggling to create.
Now look at Lacazette’s heatmap this season:
Lacazette gets a lot of criticism for his goal drought this season but look at how many touches he’s taking in the center circle. That’s wild, especially compared to 2018/19:
I will leave the conclusions to you all and instead I will close by just saying this: I don’t dislike any of these players and I have a lot of faith in Mikel Arteta to get us back to where we need to be. This article shouldn’t be used to score points with people on the internet, but rather to see where Arsenal are, in terms of what is probably the worst Arsenal team that most of you all have ever seen.
This is what Arteta has to fix. This is the wreckage of the last two years.
Up the Arsenal.
And by “up” I mean return Arsenal to one of the best attacking teams in the League like they were under Arsene Wenger.
Emery’s managed to destroy 20+ years of Wenger’s work in just over a season…
But we are in a bery good process and more competitive according to senior Emery
He must mean a bery good self destructive process!
Arteta is bringing the identity back. As Emery inherited a team that had some Wengerball left in them, so Arteta will need some time to put the positives back in our game, including the win column.
Ozil has a few months here to redeem himself and this team. Let’s hope that al the reports of his invigorated work ethic behind the scenes begins to pay dividends on the pitch and that his teammates, young and old, follow suit.
Ozil is finished, everything is sideways, everything is safe, he never shoots, never gets into shooting positions. Last pre-season we fixed our wide areas for the long term, it may take 18 months or so to see the benefits of the transition, but Saka, Martinelli, and maybe Nelson and Pepe? Are the future, they’re much more direct What we need now are players to progress the ball through the lines. Maddison or Grealish would be the safe bets, although I wouldn’t be against giving opportunities to Willock or Smith-Rowe. We need a quality centre half, enough Is enough now in… Read more »
I won’t change your mind here, as your view of Ozil is clear, but he did get into a shooting position last game and took a shot, but it was blocked. Seems absurd to defend a player who took a shot, but when one says a player is “finished,” it invites another into the absurd. The team is re-training to play a quicker form of football, one that will enable them to take better advantage of the spaces available and to create those spaces when they aren’t. It will, as you say, take time to see those changes in effect,… Read more »
Arsen’s brand of football had all but deserted us before his final season at the club.
Our players could barely string “offensive” passes together nor defend as a unit.
Games with two to no attempts on target were the norm.
As visible in the number of shots taken column putting us as lowly 3rd in the league in Wenger’s worst year.
Good post 7am – and thanks for the stats and backing what you say with them. I am of the opinion that who ever made the decision to gut our midfield (Emery or Raul) did an amazing job as your stats reflect. Guenduzi is not really a creative box midfielder (i like him) like say OX who we got rid of, including Iwobi, Mykhi T, Ramsey, Jack, Sanchez, Carzola, Jeff etc. Carzola esp hurts. We have not replaced that offensive quality. We had possibly the best ball playing midfield for decades so this midfield is going back to the midfield… Read more »
People need to dispel with this narrative.
Wenger systematically destroyed Wenger’s work.
Emery did not improve on it at all – there’s a debate to be had that we regressed a bit further under him.
The malaise he encountered had set in from Wenger’s time in charge and he clearly possessed the wrong characteristics to set things straight.
This Club (including some of it’s fans) has failed to be honest with itself for a very long time; and I’m glad we finally have someone who tells it as it is (in a positive way).
Nope – it’s your narrative that needs to be dispelled. The decline since the invincibles coincided with us having to tighten our belts because of the new stadium, and the financial doping of other clubs at the same time which priced us out of the players we would normally sign. Hence we had to make do with players a level below, like Adebayor, Chambers, Wellbeck, and do our best. If Chelsea and Man City hadn’t been bought by their respective billionaires, the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, N’Golo Kante, would be Arsenal players, Petr Cech would have been the Arsenal… Read more »
What let Wenger down was his trust in players:
What was Wenger’s best quality led to his sad end.But it was good that Wenger left and exposed that he alone was doing a lot of tasks and covering the ass of alot of asses.
Even his sad end was better than the later version 🙂
Reading all of this makes me miss the Arsenal arc of frustration. Side to side at the opponents box, trying to ‘walk it in’. I don’t miss doing that, losing it and the opponent almost always scoring from the break – think Drogba, Rooney et. al (thank you Mikel for sorting that part out).
Midfield. Been a deficiency since the departures of Rosicky, Cazorla, Wilshere, and Ramsey. Even Arteta himself. Declining pass stats won’t improve– until the style of our passing in the middle of the pitch changes. Unless MA is planning on going full-retro and re-establish tiki-taka? It’s doubtful this team, with this personnel will approach those levels.
Ozil’s stats are a byproduct. Doubt today he’d be Mesut of 2015-16, if with comparably talented teammates around him.
This team was whittled down to little more than a token of itself. Small wonder then, the same can be said of Mesut Ozil.
Very insightful. Thank you
and to think that “don raul” wanted to extend the contract of the greatest footballing disgrace this club has come up with in ages. makes me mad!
Raul’s position in the club should be reviewed. Mislintat was a genuine talent spotter, he brought in Leno, when everyone was saying that Leno is fifth choice in German national team. With Raul, his networking and contacts have superceded quality scouting.
We are/were looking to bring in Kurzawa, who’s quite an underwhelming player. I’m not sure what exactly Raul brings to the club. Merely having worked at Barcelona isn’t good enough. No major successful signing from La Liga yet under Raul.
Let’s all hate on raul now, coz we gotta blame someone. Seems like every time we blame someone they get moved on. Yet we get worse
Why Raul shouldn’t be criticized? He was the one who wanted Emery, he made a mess with Koscielny’s and Ramsey’s contract. When Gazidis was still at the club both players were ready to sign, when he went suddenly thr contracts were off the table. He started a power battle with Mislintat. Again a promise which was made was broken. Then we sold both Mkhitaryan and Iwobi without replacing them. If we talk in financial view how many new sponsors have we got since Raul took in charge? We have lost around 10. The last but not least he brought super… Read more »
The point was we always blame someone. We wanted gazidis gone and he went. We wanted wenger gone and he went. Emery the same. It’s the same thing. We don’t get quick results, let’s look forsomeone to blame. Like we’re entitled to be better than the rest. We had a great manager and it was too much for him. So we said he wasn’t good enough any more. Well who is good enough? We can’t afford the best players so we take a punt on players who may or may not come good but the expectation that those decisions HAVE… Read more »
Well-said tanned arse. Blaming one man for all of Arsenal problem’s? Thought we decided to stop that with Wenger.
The point I’m making is that nobody should be immune to criticism. Raul drove Mislintat out of the club, he wanted to extend Emery’s contract and now we’re being linked with below par players represented by super agents. If fans don’t make a noise, he will very well go on to sign players like Kurzawa on a fat contract and then find difficult to move him off after one or two seasons. Luiz is another example of Raul and his contact with super agents, not very promising signing, but hope under Arteta he plays well. I strongly believe that he… Read more »
Sorry to break it to you, but Raul leveraged his agent mates and contacts when he flew to Brazil to help Francis Cagigao close the signing of Gabriel Martinelli. And the experienced David Luiz for two years is a good idea when you sign Saliba and have youngsters Holding and Chambers still developing. Sven Mislintat did a similoar thing when he signed Lichsteiner. And f*ck Sven Mislintat. Edu was more qualified for the technical director role, period. We gave Mislintat the role he was qualified for – Arsenal’s Head of Scouting, but he chose to bail. Or were his issues… Read more »
Not the popular opinion, but on point.
Most of the fans were ok with Emery following our pre-season excursions.
Almost certain “improving his contract” talk was contingent on an improved performance through the season, otherwise he would’ve received it before the season started.
I expected us to struggle for 4th; certainly not the level of decline that followed.
It’s easy to gain 20/20 vision after the fact.
Okay, let’s review Raul’s position at the club. He is the Head of Football Relations. He is not a scout or the person who decides on his own that “I want Kurzawa”. Even at Barcelona, his job was not *identifying* players (during most of Raul’s time at Barcelona that was Txiki Begiristain, who Man City eventually poached). If you don’t like Kurzawa, and we didn’t sign Kurzawa, isn’t that a good thing? Raul’s actual job is overseeing our football depts, and closing transfer deals *after players have been identified*, like the difficult deal for Kieran Tierney or the Gabriel Martinelli… Read more »
Wasn’t Sanllehi eager to give Emery a new deal this Fall?
Raul and Edu will have to accept criticism until this club returns to winning ways.
Oh for sure… Sanllehi was so eager to give Emery a new deal, he called Emery into his office, fired him, then negotiated a deal with Man City to appoint Mikel Arteta.
But yeah don’t give him credit for that. Just waste your time and energy criticising him for the things he didn’t actually do.
Emery claims Raul wanted to give him a new deal this Fall. Unless he is lying, that indicates a significant degree of faith in someone who was doing a poor job. Emery couldn’t get the team out of its funk, and the misery that started back in April proceeded to get worse, making his tenure at Arsenal untenable. Nearly every Arsenal fan on the planet aside from Rich and Santori were demanding action and a new coach, and that noise combined with the obvious finally motivated Raul to act — too late, of course, to salvage the season. Yes, he… Read more »
Arteta was appointed when City agreed to release him, which was after the match between the two clubs. It was City’s way of spiting us and him, because they didn’t want him to leave.
They weren’t just gonna say “okay cool” and release him when it suited us – you’re smart enough to know it doesn’t work that way.
Anyway, my overall point is that criticism should be fair and balanced, instead of snarky and vindictive – so I appreciate you praising Raul for hiring Arteta.
Balanced, indeed: Raul did the right thing hiring Arteta, he just did it a little too late; for which he should be criticized. He appeared to back Emery for too long. But better late than never, as it was definitely the right appointment and though Pep gave his blessing for Mikel to leave, I’m sure it wasn’t any easy negotiation with City. Vinai and Edu should get some credit, too.
Mate, you are the problem. Not just with Arsenal or in football, but with the entire human race.
If you don’t have the FACTS, then please don’t have any opinions. Having the rumours does not give you the right to an opinion.
I mean Emery’s claim of Raul’s desire to give him new deal was probably true. Raul could also have given false promise so that Emery focused on his work.
That’s just smart management. If Emery was actually given a contract then Raul would like a clown.
Messi won’t have been a success under Unais Arsenal
Or just used this as incentive for Emery.. like you people have such hard time with how people at the top operate. He got incentive with new contract and support of transfers. Club did a lot so Emery could be successful this season. I know its difficult to understand from position of stacking new items on shelf, but there is no problem with talking to Emery about new contract, if he reaches certain milestones. He didn’t, was fired. Arteta WOULD NOT come before the City game, not that you read about it here on unbias, not-neurotic arseblog. You can terminate… Read more »
Precisely. Arseblog and the Arsebloggers do an amazing job here but there’s an element of our fanbase that just loves to criticise. Like their entire fandom of Arsenal is based on finding a hate figure to throw their poop at.
Raul has been here since 2017, sacked Emery and appointed Arteta, but gets more criticism on here than Kroenke, who’s been the defacto boss since 2008. Mad club
We haven’t replaced Cazorla. We’d have won the title in 2015/16, if Cazorla had stayed fit. His reception of the ball, and ability to beat the press, gave us an out. Ozil has been on the slide for a long time, he’s finished at the top level, the Ozilites still can’t see it for some reason though…., We haven’t managed to find a replacement for Alexis, who always looked to go forward, with a high risk, high reward style. Pepe maybe has the characteristics to do it, but he’ll need to seriously up his intensity, if he wants to get… Read more »
Well said my fellow supporter. Cazorla was our quarterback who set everything in motion.On his left or right foot ran the show in many games and on the same wavelength as Ozil and Alexis and that’s where we have seen the steady decline in Ozil.The players brought in not in the same class or on Ozil wavelength regarding movement and technical quality.These 3 players moved the ball quickly through the lines something we rarely do now.Ozil was spoken about being world class in that period but you would need to have a good memory to remember his last good game… Read more »
HAHA.Nice to see all the thumbs down from Ozil fanboys.SADDOS.
Ozil still won’t join you at spu*s
“Xhaka, Torreira, Ozil is by far the least dynamic midfield in the league.”. I don’t know if it’s the least dynamic in the league but it’s definitely the least dynamic in the top half and when it comes to MAGA (Make Arsenal Great Again) this area is actually the priority for me, even above CB. There’s no running power in our engine room, no one that can really beat a man and break lines. Xhaka and Torreira are both uncomfortable higher up the pitch so the creative burden really falls to Ozil and he simply doesn’t have the ability/presence/motivation to… Read more »
A conductor is as good as the orchestra.
You take out a violin player and replace him with drummer from metal band then don’t expect Symphony
It’a joy to read your number article @7amkickoff. I miss your regular articles.
Everyone shitting on Emery & yet this mans own stats show that things have actually got worse under Arteta.
you can make stats show anything you want to, whether that be for or against something.
once Arsenal get rid of the players who aren’tup to scratch hopefully some w’s will come our way.
Missed the point completely. Again.
There was zero structure and confidence in the latter days of Emery. A draw was a relief.
Arsenal were unlucky not to win a couple matches under arteta. Arsenal were lucky to win many games under emery. Auba and alca saved emerys ass throughout his arsenal tenure. Auba missed 3 games and laca lost his form under arteta
Arteta is terribly unlucky. If you can’t see that, then I’m afraid football isn’t the sport for you lad
Both manager has their own share of luck and unluckyness, that’s just how football is. If you can’t see that, then I’m afraid football isn’t the sport for you lad.
What Kran is saying here is the sample size in consideration.
Agreed that luck spreads itself over but a sample size of 1.5 seasons under Emery against 1.5 months of Arteta makes the argument that Arteta has had more bad luck in this short span and it’s visible for all to see.
On a side note,
Come on guys, we are here discussing in the forum cos we love football and let’s not spread hatred in the name of fandom. So cut out the “football isn’t for you” crap.
I think this is the main reason why we became such a draw team
Or maybe ozil is just getting old and on decline. It’s easy to blame everything on emery, but the fact is under arteta, we have won 1 in 7 games, attack is as loopsided to the left as ever, instead of sead overlapping iwobi for a cutback, now we have saka overlapping martinelli for a cross, wow what a difference, the number of shot is getting lower, etc. I like what I’ve seen from arteta so far. The defence is getting better and the team also looks like it has a structure, but whether the structure is actually good is… Read more »
Fully agree with this. Ozil lost his spark well before Emery, his loss of form was a major factor in Wenger’s horrible last season. Half the fanbase had given up on him – to the extent that people on here would be shocked, actually SHOCKED when he was selected for an away game. This “Ozil decline under Emery” narrative is just the cherry on a very stale cake. The dirty little secret about Mesut is that peak-Ozil led us on a title charge for what? Half a season? He is as good a creative player as I’ve ever seen, but… Read more »
This was said with the Özil tinted glasses well off ?.
This Kaius! Exactly
Thanks for the article. It makes for really sad reading, but has really confirmed my suspicions about how difficult this team currently finds it to progress the ball up the pitch and keep it there. What I also find interesting is how much the heat maps seem to show a trend away from the centre, which could be because we have had a lot of our most technically gifted players that can progress through the centre leave recently. Sanchez, Ramsey, Wiltshire, Iwobi and before that Cazorla. Interesting that Ceballos has such a high progressive passing rate, might be worth giving… Read more »
I’m sorry for my long essay…. There is much more problem in this team than I imagined. We have the coach but we lack the machineries required to execute the plan. All our midfielders only know how to do the basics like pass to the next available player. We lack specialist in the midfield. For instance, we all know Carzola will collect the ball from the deep, skip 2 or 3 players before making a forward pass which will give our players time to adjust and get into dangerous positions to receive the ball. This is where Ozil benefited the… Read more »
I’m not a football authority or anything, but the way i see it, almost all great premier league teams of the past have been great technically as well as physically. Think Invincibles, Fergie’s united, Mourinho’s chelsea, Klopp’s liverpool. Apart from their obvious technical qualities, those teams could either run u off the park or just plain bully u. But after the invincibles we seemed to focus solely on the technical side neglecting the physical side. I blame it all on Fabregas. He was so damn great he made the club forget we needed physicality as well. Fast forward to 2020… Read more »
I feel the same also. That period does not only reflect our shift in physicality, but also a gradually increasing dependency on “hero” ball (from Fabregas/Van Persie, to Alexis/Carzola, to Aubameyang). An erosion of the “collective” unit. Our Invincibles, Ferguson’s United (of that era), original Mourinho’s Chelsea, current Liverpool and City sides all have something in common ; every player in their starting elevens were amongst the the top five for their respective positions in the league. I like the trend I see developing; the profile of the players we’re currently going for as longtime replacements (Saliba, Guendozi, Martinelli, our… Read more »
The only reason I was happy that arteta didn’t have an instant impact like ogs at manutd or ancelotti at Everton is that it shows the players didn’t down tools to get a manager sacked. It was just bad practice repeated over a year and half that destroyed rhythm and confidence
There has been a conscious change under MA for central defenders – esp Luiz but even Mustafi – to play long balls out more often. This obviously reduces the passing stats by 4 or 5 each time. It’s the pass that overcomes and confuses the high press (that our defenders have trouble with). This Leicester style needs a Vardy and quick support from midfield that we don’t have. It was the way that Southampton always used to hurt us, long ball to Shane Long behind our full back space caused by pushing forward. Teams recognise that we are poor on… Read more »
Excellent analysis, thank you for that.
One small suggestion, in the players passing charts I think you should have kept the same scale between for all three years. When the last tick in the progressive passes charts 17/18 is at 12, while for the next two seasons it is at 10, one doesn’t really feel the real pain hidden in that comparison.
One thing I’ve noticed from these stats: Auba and Lacazette are actually making *more* progressive passes per 90, as everyone else declines. Maybe this means that in previous seasons, they were both in dangerous positions, and opposition defenders had two powerful attackers to be aware of. Now, they both have to drop deep to try and get on the ball, and maybe one of them is trying to supply the other – so the opposition defenders only have one attacker to focus on.
It’s a good point. Auba and laca are basically just goalscorers (regardless of this perception that laca is somehow some talented link player). Neither are above average at receiving the ball anywhere outside the box. Auba is super clever off the ball when making runs to receive the final ball but that’s it(hence his goals). Yet we ask two off them to be part of our build up play and attack. Ozil maybe still has the ability to create and cause danger and stress but when his ambition is never to get into areas where a final ball or dare… Read more »
Can’t help wondering something. If Auba and Laca are playing further back and involving themselves in our build up play, then who the flip is ahead of Ozil on the pitch for him to make pinpoint passes to and get his assists score up? His decline may well include an element of aging, but it is also partly caused by the forwards not being particularly forward, in my opinion. It’s not just the forwards though, the whole team are clearly not playing near enough to the opposition goal to be a threat to it, so nobody is exactly hitting the… Read more »
Over the last season we’ve seen Aubameyang pushed wider and Lacazette drop deeper to accommodate the team, but no one else is picking up the slack to be consistently dangerous in and around the box. So they have to try and pick each other out. It’s a poor attacking strategy!
I guess the big question is which begets which ?
was Emery’s football the cause of the decline of Emery, or was Ozils football the decline of Emery ?
Yes, back Laca, back Pepe, but each costed us a lot and are paid week by week. It’s a pity to try and find the slightest stats to make Laca look good, but a striker goals, basta. And for a £70M striker, Pepe is a failure (for now?) not working nough at the training to start and even to come in. This guy has a good salary too. I know it’s fashion to invent some stats : key passes/passes good enough for the lazy strikers to goal/assists/assists but not in the right path of the striker/assists that MAY have led… Read more »
Excellent analysis, insightful and covered a range of angles. Good stuff!
Some assists of ozil depends on mates finishing it.see against Bournemouth,ozils central pass to laca who fails to shoot before being tackled.physically ozil will drop but his vision and eye for pass will remain.he needs superior technical support.cant do it alone
This would be fair enough if Ozil was creating a lot of high quality chances that just weren’t being finished. But as we can see from the analysis, the pass to Lacazette has been the exception not the rule (not that it was a particularly easy chance anyway).
You can read those stats a lot of ways, and how you do it will largely depend on who at the club you hate the most.
An extremely interesting article, thank you. The only issue I have with it is the title, if you’re not picking on one single player then why use that title? It would have been more honest and less biased to refer to the whole teams “deep dive””. I’ve never thought of Arseblog as a clickbaitey site but that title is disappointing, the article actually explains why Mesut’s stats are so bad and still tries to blame him.
Did you read this paragraph:? “Arsenal slipped further between 2018/19 and 2019/20, 12% fewer total progressive passes than the season before. However, Ozil went from 7.72 to 5 progressive passes per90. That’s a 35% decrease over the previous season. Ozil’s sample size is small but there are other data points that are worrying as well”. The author rightly acknowledged that the attacking performance of the whole team has dropped from previous year, 12 %. However, went on to prove that at 35 %, Ozil’s drop in that criteria is almost three times the team’s average. That alone tells me where/who… Read more »
Yes, and I also looked at the heatmaos and what he has been expected to do. Hopefully the set up changes with Mikel, it’s far too easy for other teams to nullify our only creative player.
Because he is our only creative player.
Thanks for putting so much time and effort into this Tim!
Its so sad to see Ozil’s heatmap turn into a smoulder.
Maybe Emery wasn’t setting fire to Arsenal after all, just dousing it in water…
If his heat map was where it was a couple of years ago you’d find he was about ten yards ahead of the current heat map of the rest of the team. He can’t get many assists when his targets are nowhere near the goal and have a wall of defenders in front of them. The whole point of the analysis is not that Ozil is shit, it’s that the entire team is failing to get forward into dangerous positions enough. I see that as telling us that they are still playing scared. That is what Arteta must overcome and… Read more »
Superb analysis Tim. It puts into numbers what we have been watching over the past two seasons. The destruction of an attacking football philosophy and team by a fraudulent clown. I hope that MA8 can continue his impressive rehabilitation of the club.
Emery wasn’t fraudulent. He was just never quite as good as the highlights of his career suggested.
He never once balanced cup and league at his former clubs. We went for him for his record in the Europa League and pretty much ignored his struggles to get a team performing in their home league at the same time. Then it happened to us too. No surprise there, but the constant failures in the league basically wore down our players belief in themselves and their teammates.I hope this break has started the healing.
A really interesting read – possibly more interesting seeing the comments below. At our peak we had an outstanding, ball playing defence who were giving it to Vieira or Petit who were giving it to Pires, Bergkamp or Henry. We have nothing close to that level of quality, possibly Auba aside (at a stretch). I don’t want to be classed as an Arseblog fan boy, but as he has said on many an occasion the mis-management of this club stretches back a long time, and quality players were not adequately replaced. The move cited above of swapping Sanchez for Mkhi… Read more »
Just to get back to the boss’s worst season is such a big deal….In Arteta/Arsenal, I have no doubt we can and will do better.
For all the praise Arteta’s getting, he’s set up absolutely abysmal attack. That right side is dead. Martinelli, Aubameyang will be killed there. Pepe has been doing Artetas dirty work on touchline, bringing people into play but is benched for it, Martinelli then produces 2/10 on that side for a reason. Hopefuly he will learn, im not holding my breath. No top clubs attack dies the moment something happens with one of their side. There is reason we are drawing games, Arteta setup is one of them. When our left side dies, we tend to not even generate single shot… Read more »
Have patience. Arteta is working with one thing at a time. He won’t fix everything before the season is up, but he’s making important changes that will start to pay dividends.
Bellerin’s return to form will help massively on the right side, and hopefully he can dovetail well with Pepe. Martinelli started last game over Pepe because the former had such a good game previously, and deserved a start. With Arteta hoping for Laca to play through his funk, he made that decision. I imagine Laca has one more game, against Newcastle, to produce results, before he hits the bench.
The rot started when we sold the world’s best left back to a direct competitor for the sake of £5k per week. Slow inexorable decline from there.
Great read. Thanks.
There were some rumors that Arteta blocked an Ozil transfer this January. Do you know if there is any truth to that? Seems strange if so, as the reality is he costs us far too much for what he is delivering.
Personally, I love the guy, it really is time we say goodbye.
I can see it being true from the perspective that, as poor as Ozil has been recently we really aren’t stacked for alternatives ATM. With no time for a replacement it would leave use even more underpowered than we already are.
Whilst all these statistics are really interesting, you don’t need to hold a coaching badge to identify the problem. The more passes between the goalkeeper and the defence means the more time the opposition have to get back into their allotted positions and organise themselves. This puts us constantly on the back foot.A ball over the top occasionally will cut out the opponents attack and midfield. The passes completed stat is irrelevant if theyare either sideways or backwards. What we want are passes completed in a forwards direction. In addition, some of our wing backs seem to have lost confidence… Read more »
There is nothing wrong with sideways and backwards passes so long as they ultimately end up going forwards. There is also nothing wrong with a Luiz longball to Aubameyang, but it’s a much harder ask to bring that ball down and tuck it away than tapping in a well-worked 20-pass move. I think we’re going to see both from Arteta’s Arsenal. Sure, around the opponent’s box our fullbacks can take on a man and try to work it in deeper, but I don’t think I want them doing that any further back on the pitch! Bellerin is still working his… Read more »
Even if the numbers show a further decline under Emery, maybe we should look at why we haven’t challenged for the league since 2008. It’s not like Wenger’s superior stats truly made us competitive, beyond the FA Cup run.s
I think you’ll find that we challenged in 2009/10, 2010/11, 2013/14, and 2015/16 as well.
Come on! None of those were serious challenges. Especially 15/16 when we managed to finish 10 points off Leicester, who won the league with the lowest points total in the past 10 years. We have not had more than 80 points in the league since that 07/08 season and below 80 points you cannot really speak of a title challenge, in my opinion. Just look at the league tables. Plus, we were often out of it with months to spare, and racked up points at the end of seasons to get us into the top four. So while I was… Read more »
We won the league in 98 with 78 points. So going by your logic, we didn’t challenge for the title in a season in which we won the title. I’d rather look at when were we out of the title race, and in all of those seasons I mentioned, we were mathematically out of the title race in April or May. So they all count as title challenges for me.
Fair enough. But you’d have to concede that generally points totals have risen steadily since 1998, there’s a clear upwards trend. Leicester‘s 81 points is by far the lowest title winning tally in 10 years. City and Pool and to an extent Chelsea earlier have taken it to a new level with high 90s tallies and even now looking at 100 points. In all the seasons you mention we collapsed like a house of cards under pressure. 2-8, 0-6, 1-5 … that doesn’t happen tot title challengers. Not to mention what we had to endure in the CL. And that… Read more »
I’m not willing to give up on Ozil, or frankly any members of this squad. I think we are barely scratching the surface of how terrible life was under the old regime. Emery took almost 2 years away from many of our players. I think the above does a great job of showing how ineffective Ozil can be when not played to his strengths. His is arguably one of the greatest talents on our team (even now at 30). So we are left with the question: do we try and build a gameplay around him, getting him into space where… Read more »
“…in terms of what is probably the worst Arsenal team that most of you all have ever seen.”
You must be joking. I saw Terry Mancini and Jeff Blockley, Lee Chapman, Ray Hankin and John Hawley. They make what we have now look like early 90s Milan.
Great article. The saddest thing for me is that we are just boring to watch. I guess 94/95 is the closest parallel.
So basically, we’ve become much worse since Arsene Wenger left. If only there was someone telling us to be careful what we wish for, and not drive the great man out of our club.
There should be a new law: thick people are no longer allowed to have an opinion.
We’ve been in decline since Kroenke got a say in running the club. Wenger was fighting a losing battle with Kroenke’s lethargy and mismanagement after that. The idiot henchmen the bastard hired haven’t helped. The one thing you might have expected from our new owner would be business acumen and an increase in our off-field earnings, but basically he’s sat back and watched the money roll in without ever trying to improve us. When things didn’t go so well Wenger always got the blame, and ended up being the one that paid the price. We lost our identity when that… Read more »
Yikes! That’s some serious regressions right there. I know Arteta needs time, and I’m glad we’re slowly improving the defense, but we need some attacking shape like Liverpool. We can’t seem to gather ourselves in attack like we used to because we’re so worried about keeping the door closed. some risks needs to be taken, and Arteta needs to develop his attacking ideas asap.
To be fair he’s been without Auba for three games and Laca lost his shooting boots. I’m hoping he found them in Dubai and the whole team comes back rejuvenated. I think the break will do them all good.
I disagree that Wenger’s slow paced crab football of his last seasons is equivalent to the high tempo switch flangs of Klopp
This article just put it all out in grim stark numbers: Arsenal is no longer fun to watch, and we are making good players bad. Is it player management or coaching or what? How much I long for the days when an Arsenal attack running at the opposition used to give me sweet memories!!
Would be nice if you could make a new article comparing stats after a few more matches to see what’s the trend. It seems to me we’re still creating little and conceding the same, even if some say we’re more in control. I don’t think we are and we rely too much on individual moments from Auba. After 5 matches we’re one of the last teams on average shots per game, that’s sad.