Arsenal 1-3 Aston Villa: by the numbers


0 – Pounds Arsenal have spent in the transfer market 2013-2014 and the number on everyone’s lips at kickoff.

Wenger has at his disposal an estimated £70-100m and yet has spent not one single penny on new signings. Probably more infuriating is seeing what £10-15m of that money could have brought in to the club as Mignolet (£10m) and Begovic (£15m price tag) battled it out in the early match — and Arsenal’s Szczesny made two mistakes, one costing a goal and the other nearly costing a goal. Meanwhile, reports are coming back from the Bundesliga that the latest missed target, Gustavo, had a cracking first game for Wolfsburg.

28 – Minute which Gibbs is removed and Sagna switched to left back.

As if to highlight the issue about squad depth, the Gunners finished the match playing with Podolski as cover for Sagna and Ramsey was moved to center back because of Koscielny’s red card. 28 minutes in and Arsenal are already shuffling the defense because the bench was Frimpong, Gnabry, Podolski (used), Cazorla (used), Jenkinson (used), and poor Sanogo.

At the start of the match I tried to put as positive a spin on the bench as possible, tweeting that there was strength there owing to the fact that Podolski and Cazorla were among Arsenal’s top goalscorers (21 goals and 22 assists combined) last season. But the glaring reality is that this is a squad of two depths: a top layer of 18 or so players who have decent Premier League experience and a bottom layer who have almost no experience. For example, Frimpong, Gnabry, and Sanogo have 6 PL starts combined.

You could also see how the lack of cover and depth hurt Arsenal when Ramsey was moved to center half. Villa’s third goal came about because of confusion about who was supposed to remain behind off the corner. In the end, no one did, and Antonio Luna ran out and scored a very nice counter attacking goal. The scenes of  Wilshere remonstrating his teammates after the goal should haunt all Arsenal fans.

39 – Errors Arsenal made last season (in League play) which led to 14 goals. This led all teams and if we removed all errors from League play Arsenal would have won the League last season.

Technically, Arsenal didn’t make any errors that led to goals today but I highlight that stat because it’s one of those definitions that people like to quibble over with the statisticians. When Opta talk about errors they don’t just mean a missed tackle or failing to track a run, they mean something spectacularly terrible, like Sagna’s backpass against United last season.

But they also don’t mean conceding a penalty. Which while it is often thought of as an error is not always an error. Case in point, Koscielny’s tackle today. Even if Koscienly missed that tackle (which he did not) the player wouldn’t be awarded an error because he made a good effort to make a tackle.

19 – Last man tackles made by Mertesacker, Vermaelen, and Koscielny last season

First, the referee got the second penalty call dead wrong: Koscielny won the ball, it’s not a penalty.

But the problem that most people aren’t paying attention to is the fact that he had to make that tackle at all and that this type of last ditch tackle are now the norm for this Arsenal team because Arsenal haven’t had a proper defensive midfielder since Gilberto.

Numerically, Arsenal’s two-most-defensive-minded-midfielders-on-a-not-at-all-defensive-oriented-team did well against Villa. Ramsey was 4/5 in the tackle, Wilshere 2/2, and Rosicky 2/3. While El Ahmadi, Delph, and Agbonlahor combined for 12/17. Moreover, Arsenal actually beat Villa in what are call “ball recoveries” which are where a player wins back the ball when it has gone loose or where the ball has been played directly to him. In fact, Jack and Delph both had 13 ball recoveries each which shows great hustle by both young men.

So, it’s not the hustle but rather the fact that both of Arsenal’s center mids (and “fullbacks”) were pushing high up the pitch in search of the equalizer exposing the back two and forcing them into panic. This happens time and again with Arsenal.

4 – Number of “big chances” Giroud scored in 23 tries last season. 1 – the number he has scored already this season.

As some of you probably read this summer, Giroud was among the most profligate forwards in the League when it came to scoring “big chances” (chances that one would reasonably expect a player to score). So, it was great to see him get off to a roaring start with his very first shot of the season: a well placed ball by Oxlade-Chamberlain.

This stat seems more subjective than others (all sports stats are subjective, a “subject” must watch the game and record events based on an agreed upon definition) but it’s still very useful because it’s attempting to measure those moments like where the fans are watching a game and they see a perfectly played ball, the player one on one with the keeper, and he either scores or misses. Like Rosicky’s miss today. These moments are really what seem to define a player as a “clinical finisher.”

So, for example, Luis Suarez scored 16/30 big chances as defined by Opta. Since he only scored 7 more goals from all his other chances (157) you can see how important both getting in to those positions and finishing those shots are. Since I know you will ask, Suarez was only 7/29 in big chances the season before last where he was widely seen as the most wasteful striker in the League. See, finishing these is bread and butter for a forward. Let’s hope Giroud kicks on from here and becomes the great finisher we all want him to be.


(All numbers via Opta or my personal database)

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