Arsenal 2013-14 Premier League Season: by the numbers

Arsenal 2013-14 Premier League Season: by the numbers

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Arsenal were famously top of the table for 128 days this season prompting Arsene Wenger to joke that “we won the stamina League.” And on the face of it, it’s hard to argue that Arsenal failed to make any progress over last season. After all, you don’t stay at the top of the League for that long if you’re not a real title contender, right? But Arsenal also fell away from the title race and into a fight for fourth place with Everton. So which is it: title team or fourth place scrappers?

Arsenal have long been hailed as an attacking team,  a team which plays beautiful football, but this season was marked more by superb defensive performances rather than all out attack. Every Arsenal fan can remember the 1-0 win over Sp*rs at White Hart Lane: early goal scored by Tomas Rosicky followed by 80 minutes of solid defending. In many ways that match typified Arsenal’s season.

The biggest stat in favor of the defense is that Arsenal finished the season with four consecutive clean sheets to take the total to 17, just one shy of the League’s best defense, Chelsea. Arsenal also only conceded 1 goal 14 times, meaning that in 31 games this season, Arsenal conceded just 14 goals. Thus, for the vast majority of the season, Arsenal allowed less than 1/2 a goal per game on average. That is an outstanding record and hearkens back to Wenger’s best defensive teams like the 98/99 Arsenal side which allowed just 17 goals all season.

The problem is that Arsenal conceded 27 goals in the other 7 games. That’s almost 4 goals a game on average and boggles the mind, really. Really. Just think about this: Arsenal conceded 22 goals against the teams in the top five, 20 of those on away games to those same top teams (Chelsea, City, Liverpool, and Everton). Until this year, Wenger had never conceded 22 goals against the top five during his tenure at Arsenal. He’d conceded 18 one year, but that was the year of the famous Old Trafford loss. Cardiff ,who had objectively the worst defense in the League, conceded 23 goals against the same group. Top five The reason Arsenal’s defensive record was so bizarre is down, at least in part, to the fact that Arsenal were the best at keeping teams shooting from distance and at saving those shots and the mid-range shots. All totaled, Arsenal forced their opponents to take 50% of their shots from outside the 18 yard box where they scored on less than 3% of their bulk attempts. When they did manage a shot on target, Szczesny was amazing. He saved 91% of shots from distance and 81% of shots in the mid-range area.

Where Arsenal struggled defensively was in the prime area. The opposition only scored 15 goals on 368 total shots from outside the prime area but they scored 26 goals on 85 shots (42 on target) in that prime area. I have a feeling it’s a debate that is going to go on all summer but I don’t think we have a definitive answer as to whether Arsenal improved defensively or not. My conclusion is that in some ways (forcing shots from distance, 31 games with the opposition scoring just 14 goals, more clean sheets than the previous season, the ability to rely on the defense to get us through games, etc.) Arsenal were significantly better this year over last. But losing by such huge margins to the other contenders is something that still stings.

Offensively, Arsenal dropped out of the top four for shots per game in the first time under Wenger’s tenure notching just 13.8 shots per game. To put that in context, Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea (you know, Mourinho the parking attendant?) led the League in shots per game with 18.2. This was the first time in Wenger’s tenure that Arsenal’s shots taken and shots allowed have converged and I hope that it’s an anomaly caused by the fact that Arsenal had an incredible record of jumping out to an early lead. The Gunners went up 1-0,  24 times this season. After they would take these leads, they would sit back and allow the opposition to attack. As a result, their shots numbers were down, their conversion rate up, and all of Arsenal’s defensive stats went up as well.

INT Blocks Clearances Tackles Attempted Tackles Won Aerial Duels Aerials Won
Arsenal 2013-14 540 101 1294 1175 527 1194 636
Arsenal 2012-13 636 94 943 1035 591 1163 628
Difference -96 7 351 140 -64 31 8

Wenger’s Arsenal has never led the League in shots per game, the most prolific shooters rarely win the League, and Wenger’s most successful Arsenal teams were his least prolific teams in terms of shots per game. The Invincibles took just 471 shots, converting 16% and scoring 73 goals. This season Arsenal took  523 and converted just 13%. If they had converted 16%, Arsenal would have scored 83 goals!

Arsenal 2013-2014 Shots and Goals Conversion/Shots per goal
Shots Out 203 3%
Shots In 204 14%
Shots Prime 117 29%
Goals Out 6 34
Goals In 28 7
Goals Prime 34 3

Instead of chucking shots down range, those Championship winning Arsenal sides were insanely efficient. Between 2001 and 2005 Arsenal converted 15, 17, 16, and 18 percent of their shots in each of those seasons. This season, one of Wenger’s most efficient in recent years in terms of shots on goal per shot, Arsenal converted just 13% of their total shots. To put those numbers in context, if Arsenal had converted 15% of their total shots this season they would have scored 78 goals, 17% conversion rate would mean 89 goals and an 18% conversion rate would be 94 goals.

Wenger’s teams, however, have never scored more than 87 goals in a season and that was that 04/05 season where they had an 18% conversion rate and lost the title to a rampant Chelsea team. Just like with defense, I’m struggling to see improvement from this Arsenal team. We finished the season with 68 goals — the lowest total goals haul in 4 years. We finished the season taking just 523 shots — the lowest in four years and part of a steady offensive decline 595 shots in 10/11, 585 in 11/12, 546 last year, and 523 this year. Meanwhile Arsenal’s conversion rate has flatlined at 13%.

Did we progress? Consolidated That’s your lot for this week. Next week, I’ll be back with a look at the entire season including the cup matches. Over the summer I will also be doing some player profiles of transfer targets here and on my own site. See you then.

@7amkickoff

56 COMMENTS

      • 15,000,0000
        The amount of times I’ve had steam coming out of my ears reading that bullshit “Arsenal…who haven’t won a trophy since” blah bloody blah. Why don’t they say
        “Sp*rs ,one of whose major trophies was the Sun International Challenge Trophy (Swaziland). etc. etc.”
        2014-the year we did not snatch defeat from the jaws of victory
        COYG

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  1. Great stats and analysis as usual.

    A more clinical striker is paramount.

    And we need to learn to park the bus against the so called big teams in the league.

    Its very strange cos we seem to be capable of parking the bus in Europe against arguably better teams(Dortmund, Bayern) but for some reason we cant in the league!!

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    • That was odd. It seemed like it was a tactical decision to be a little more open against the top English sides, I dislike parking the bus as much as the next guy, but grinding out 0-0 or 1-1 scorelines away at Chelsea, City, Liverpool, etc. would probably have been a boon for us. I know Wenger probably wanted to win in style or make a statement against those guys, but I’d forgive him if next year we played for draws on 3 or 4 occasions next season

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  2. 7amkickoff any chance of some interesting stats like these of some of our best players in each area against the rest of the league’s best?

    Like Woj vs other keepers, Kosc vs other defenders, Ramsey vs other box to box and Santi/Ozil (or Rosicky) vs other midfielders, Poldi vs other wingers, Giroud vs other strikers, etc?

    Would be great to see if possible :D

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  3. Interesting numbers. anomolous to say the least. Quick question Tim – in the table that compares this and last season’s defensive stats, what is the column labelled INT? Couldn’t work it out…

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  4. I think we have improved massively this season. Even if you look at the thrashings we took away from home they essentially down to bad “match management”. For example if we had defended deeper after conceding 2 , the games could have ended 2-0 or 2-1. We didn’t just forget how to defend, but we should have approached those games differently. We can defend very well and have proven it many times this season, so our weakness was in our approach, something I feel can be changed easily. Last year we had to fight tooth and nail to 73pts. This season we played our last 5 games like friendly’s and finished on 79 pts .We have less reliance on individuals and more depth then at other any time in the last decade. On top of this our best players are bound by long term contracts, we have no obligation to sell, which also has a cumulative effect. You just have to look at our transfer targets to know how much things have changed. On top of all of this we have a CUP FINAL on Saturday and the chance to get over the “emirates curse”

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    • “Last year we had to fight tooth and nail to 73pts.”

      Arteta had to give his tooth this year as well though :P

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    • But as someone Said below here, we were Lucky Sir Alex Ferguson retired when he did, or we might very well have been playing Europa League next season. It is important to see improvement in relation to the other teams. We got lucky with spurs messing up last season, and we dodged a bullet on the retirement of Fergie this season. If anything it could look like we are about to get left behind.

      United might very well be back in it next season with a top manager and massive transfer budget, Liverpool will strengthen further, City and Chelsea will blow the usual billion on New players, Everton and Spurs will both do their damndest to improve aswell.

      So we need to step up our game quite drastically if we want to remain a part of the elite. But i hope to F.A cup trophy can spurr us on to greater things :)

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  5. Offensively, we were damaged by Walcott missing 80%, Podolski missing 40% and Ramsey missing 40% of the season. Next season, if we add a striker and keep those guys and Ozil averagely fit, I’m sure we’ll be OK in terms of goals.

    I think our defence is fundamentally sound and these stats prove it. If we can replace Sagna with a decent right back and make our tactics much more conservative away to the top 5 playing first of all not to lose (as Chelsea did at the Emirates in December) we will have a chance in 2015.

    Yes, 4th again but we’re really not far off. 7 points. It’s about tweaking a few issues, not starting from scratch.

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  6. Saids it all really we just need to do better next season against our main rivals in the away games.. perhaps aim to get a draw and perhaps nick a result…

    We have bounced back from big defeats this season to City, Liverpool but that Chelsea game was one big defeat to many.. players will get knocked confidence wise when you lose that way..

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  7. Funniest chant of the season?
    This made me LMFAO
    ‘Your eyes are offside… Your eyes are offside…. Mesut Ozil, your eyes are offside’
    Although the Gerrard one runs it close.

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  8. Better defense for the most part. Very defending in some games. Blunt attack, albeit some lovely goals scored. Bittersweet. Let’s win the FA cup now and the community shield and the Premier League and domestic cup double next season!

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  9. …all of which proves just how misleading stats can be. Unfortunately we’re becoming a bit like the US, have to statistise (is that a word??) everything.

    Which stat measures the fact that we were psychologically and tactically not prepared in our big away games this year? Which stat shows that Chelsea’s high number of shots are actually pot shots (resulting in the number of deflected goals Mourinho’s teams get)? Apparently the stats show we haven’t progressed. Well then, screw the stats!

    The goal of football is not to have the best stats, there are always contradictions. We clearly need a striker, and some cover in other areas, and more than this we need to sort our preparation, both tactically and mentally, for some of these big games. We’ve definitely improved since this time last year. And you don’t need stats to tell you that.

    Sorry that was a massive stats rant !

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    • statistics are like a thong bikini – you can see a lot but sometimes the really important pieces are still hidden :)

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    • You can’t have a go at stats in general. They are whatever we make them.

      “Which stat shows that Chelsea’s high number of shots are actually pot shots”? Probably ExpG to Shots ratio.

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    • Actually, the stats that we leaked 20 goals against the top teams and many of them in the first 15 minutes of games show that we were tactically and psychologically unprepared.

      And Chelsea did take a lot of pot shots, 47% were from distance.

      If you’d like to know something just ask, if I can provide it I will.

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    • I’m a statistician, but I agree that statistics can hide some important facts and can be cherry-picked to ‘prove’ almost any argument.

      For example, “shots on goal’ can be misleading as a measure of effectiveness: a naive striker shoots at the goal, and as often as not the shot is straight at or close to the ‘keeper. An effective striker puts the ball out of reach of the ‘keeper — one of the reasons, to give an example, why Ramsey’s scoring record is infinitely better than Sanogo’s. Equally, Suarez is brilliant at scoring against average goalkeepers, but has a poor record against the best goalkeepers in the league.

      Nevertheless, I greatly value Tim’s stats, because he seems to me to make an effort to pick out those statistics that enlighten us about what is working and what isn’t in our game.

      Statistics are just figures. The art is in the interpretation.

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  10. The most important stat…

    2010-11: 68pts
    2011-12: 70pts
    2012-13: 73pts
    2013-14: 79pts
    2014-15: ??pts

    If we continue on this trajectory we’ll be up there competing for the BPL trophy in May next year.

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      • You see what you want to see with statistics and 7amkickoff’s problem is he tends to show the statistics that hold his argument.

        nor I can tell you does he want others who disagree with him on his site. Its a bit sycophantic there.

        That said, he does provide good numbers that can better dissect and understand some performance parameters.

        But they are still a bit crude and we need better details before we can format an opinion whether there is improvement or stagnancy.

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        • You were kicked off my site for being belligerent, if I remember correctly. That’s the only reason I kick people off the site.

          I invite people to prove me wrong. I like learning things.

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    • True, the points total has gotten better these last four years but our League position has not. This is because points totals are rather fluid. Wenger won the League with a team that earned 78 points and spent the first 5 years at Arsenal earning less than 80 points a season before the Invincibles.

      So, while I track points totals I also track points differential between Arsenal and the team who won the League and that tells a different story:

      -7 -16 -19 -12 -11 -18 -4 -21 -24 -12 0 -5 0 -10 -18 -1 0

      The 0’s are the times we won the League. So, as you can see, the difference between Arsenal and the winners since leaving Highbury has fluctuated with just two seasons below -10 (07/08 and this one). It’s hardly a clear trend in the right direction, however.

      And that was the point of the article. I don’t see a clear trend up or down.

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  11. It seems to me people think we improve every year. There is no hiding results have improved this year. Since March 2013 we have gained gained 400 points on the Euro Club Index. That’s massive improvement, like going from being Napoli to Juventus.

    From the underlying stats it’s not so clear why this happened. Our shots taken and conceded stats are worse, shots on target are the same, goal difference slightly worse. I guess the main improvement statistically has been in the areas we allow shots and take them, but this should be offset by less shots taken and more shots allowed. Looking at the underlying stats you got to fear we will regress next year, if we don’t buy quality.

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  12. “Probably ExpG to Shots ratio.”

    I have no idea what that means. Don’t they just have ‘pot-shots’ on Opta?

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  13. Hmm, are we better? Number-wise I don’t think we’re better. But at times, when it mattered, we moved the ball quicker and our attacks were sharper. This is something that stats can’t tell and tend to hide. Also, the opposition’s crosses are less dangerous and are more easily dealt with by our defenders because we tend to close their wingers down and push them wider and away from our box. I don’t think that there is a definite answer to this question, however I do know that we will be better next year.

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    • the statistics would look very different without several ‘freak’ results that sadly have repeated themselves.

      This points to an issue that will need to rectify.

      Statistics would not be helpful in explaining why we have been so generous on the road to peer riivals.

      Central to it IMO is tactical decision making.

      We adopted the philosophy as rightly put out here by 7amkickoff in ‘keeping teams at arms length’.

      We ceded territory to stay compact providing less space between the lines.

      This made it difficult for teams with less quality to find a way through.

      At the same time, Giroud is a striker who affords us a muscular approach up front, particularly effective in holding the ball and opening up defenses that sit tight against us. Again this happens to be the lesser quality oppositions that sit deep (and park the bus)

      Therefore our attacking play has at times been measured and tailored frankly to grabbing an early lead with security in numbers to absorb pressure sitting deep.

      Why? because Wenger realises he does not have the asset he needs up front on apex of whom he has been hunting unsuccessfully for. We lack pace(and creativity) right up top.

      That said the tactics we have adopted for general games have born some fruit in counter attack late on in games as we also know that we have enough quality in midfield to pick through teams if they sit deep against us through the game and lose steam chasing the ball.

      Which IMO is why against the better teams away, Wenger decided that they have too much quality to afford them space in our half to pick through us. It would be like an open invitation to perform surgery with the sort of intricate passers available to particularly City and Chelsea or for that matter Liverpool’s Suarez getting closer support from his midfield.

      So the tactical decision which flew against most of our other matches was to go at time higher up.

      Problem was we sat one CDM either Arteta or Flamini in these games and they had also pacy assets that could kill us, which they did. They realise the space behind our high pressing midfield could be over loaded and that’s what they did with Arteta and Flamini .

      There was simply too much space to cover for either player. We would have fared slightly better maybe if both were available but without the striker up top that could create his own, it would put a dent on our forward threat where Giroud is the sort of striker that needs numbers around him to merit his better traits.

      Most of the games we lost by big margins, Liverpool, City, Chelsea , we were repeatedly raped down the middle. As the defensive core came in field to help cover the overloaded CDM, they caught us out on their flanks.

      The one game we were not exposed down the middle was at Everton away where instead, Wenger’s curious decision not to match pace on at least one flank with a speedy option in Chamberlain left us exposed to their best assets in their flying full backs.

      This came after the game against Chelsea where he adopted Ox through the middle, whose attacking intent left our CDM under covered.

      but the tactical flaw’s real issue was Wenger’s failure to react quickly to the situation unfolding.

      his dogmatic ethos of laissez faire footy works when he has full quality assets on hand. Without critical direction from bench and timely substitution (reshuffling) we were caught out time and again during these matches with the team looking clueless as to why we were getting beat.

      This flaw will bear some attention this summer.

      It will of course benefit us to have the added firepower and ability right up top as in some ways, there is no better defense than offense for us. A more lethal and unforgiving striker up top could keep teams like Chelsea, City or Liverpool (whom we beat twice by the way) from being too adventurous going forward.

      But it won’t fix all problems if the gaffer’s tactical inflexibility is not recognised. Wenger needs to realise the critical flaw and crucially make adjustments quickly. first of course he needs to realise the flaw.

      Whilst a stubborn man, I don’t think he is entirely dogmatic (as can be witnessed by the transformation with our general defensive solidity these days). but will he recognise and fix it quickly enough?

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  14. Statistics.

    I’d be curious how many goals we have leaked from the counter?

    Particularly against the peer rivals

    That would be a better view of our problematic issue this season which are the big losses away.

    I bet you the statistics look a lot more charming without certain key losses.

    And this would give indication whether tactical ‘openess’ adopted was counter productive.

    Much of this really affirms what we all know in that we are lacking firepower this season on the apex. Giroud has scored 22 goals this season and that’s not to be laughed at but he can be more efficient. But he holds us to a certain way of playing because of his limitations and we lack an optional approach.

    I’d be also curious to see if our percentage of chances created has fallen.

    These statistics are rudimentary and not indicative or helpful to seeing the picture in better detail.

    This is the problem with American piecemeal statistics.

    Other than that good job.;)

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    • Arsenal created 403 chances this season, 77% of their shots were created by others.
      Arsenal created 461 chances last season, 77% of their shots were created by others.

      Chance creation is down, however, we probably created fewer chances because we were a more defense orientated team this year in all games except the ones which we blew.

      I don’t like the way counter attacks are defined by Opta. I’m working on my own definition.

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  15. In terms of improvement – how many games this season did you enjoy, and think: “Man, this is a team that can go the distance.”. Yes, we fell apart in March, and did not hold ourselves well to the top 5 in away matches, but this season is a HUGE improvement in terms of fighting for the league and not scraping for fourth from the get go.

    Statistics are all well and good, but a good statistician can bend numbers to his will. So believe them if you want, or just watch all the games and formulate your own idea on where Arsenal stands :)

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    • Stats are generated by people watching games. They do so with a set of definitions. So, yes, stats are subjective. If you want to argue over the stats, you should probably start by looking at the definitions.

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  16. First time since 1992/93 that we haven’t scored *more* than 4 goals in any competitions.

    That said I don’t remember going ahead this season and feeling like at any point we would bottle our lead.

    Total destruction of other teams can be pretty fun though…

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  17. Improvement in itself is not enough. Our rivals also improve, so we need to see improvement in relation to the other Clubs. We have to improve more than they do, and enough So to make a difference in the league standings, and this year we did not manage this. Even though United degraded, Liverpool did what we need to do and improved more than their rivals and thus overtaking them on the table. We However remain in 4th, and that is not improvement.

    Infact You could say we were lucky Ferguson retired after last season or we would likely be playing Europa League next season, which would have been a major setback and failure on our part. We dodged a bullet there for sure, And with that wake up call we now need to get our sh#t together and really start improving. Because next season with Van Gaal at the wheel in United, and a big transfer kitty at his disposal, we run the risk of losing out on Champions League football unless we step up our game.

    Imo we have been lucky the last couple of years with Spurs messing up and Fergie retiring just as Liverpool is rejuvenated among the top 4. If anything we are losing ground on the competition and it is paramount to get some good signings that really strenghten the team, or we can wave goodbye to CL football next year.

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  18. Hey Tim,

    I am a big fan of wenger but for once I think he looses the plot sometimes in terms of squad rotation. Can we have a comparison of minutes played by the players (all 25) in different positions across the top 4. We can analyze the data to see how other teams are rotating their players (merely substituting them or have different players for different cups/league games).

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  19. I’m off the opinion that our stat for this season might no be relatively comparable to seasons past ; simply because towards end of last season, Arsene has gone Bouldy.

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  20. He counts when he wants, he counts when he waaants …. 7 AM Kick Off … he counts when he wants!

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