Arsenal goals from distance: By the Numbers

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A funny thing happened yesterday, Arsenal scored two goals from outside the box in a single game. This was the first time Arsenal have done that in a Premier League match since the 4-1 win over Liverpool in April 2015 when Arsenal scored 3 goals from distance.

This is such a rare occurrence because this is Wenger’s style. His teams almost never score goals from distance. In fact, between 2006 to 2016 Arsenal have only scored 79 goals from outside the 18 yard box, an average of 7.9 goals per season. The exception to that rule was the 2009/10 Gunners who scored 18 goals from distance. If we take that outlier out and the 4 goals scored this season out, Arsenal have basically averaged 7 goals a season from distance.

The logic behind this is simple: outside shots suck. Shots from distance are converted at about a 3.5% rate. Even the best clubs, with the very best players, score goals from distance at about a 5% rate. All of the big clubs know this and instead of wasting possession with a hopeful poke from 20 yards they patiently build up play until they can get a shot inside the 18 yard box or, even better, in the 6 yard box.

Fans complain about Arsenal’s lack of shots from distance and that is understandable: long range shots are crowd pleasers. Long range shots can also sometimes go in, get deflected, result in a rebound, draw a handball (not that Arsenal are going to win any penalties), and so on. There are good reasons to shoot from there. There are just better reasons to shoot from inside.

Alexis has been Arsenal’s best bet from outside the box and has scored 6 of Arsenal’s 9 goals from distance over the last two seasons. If you want to be upset about Arsenal’s lack of goals from distance you might consider criticizing some of the other players who almost never score from outside the box.

And actually, to Arsene Wenger’s credit, creating shots in the box is one of the things his team does exceptionally well. Here is a chart comparing all the top club in England plus the top two from Spain and Germany:

creating

Notice that Arsenal create nearly as many shots inside the 18 yard box as clubs like Bayern, Real Madrid, and Barcelona. And you should also know that Arsenal have created more shots in the 6 yard box than every team but Barcelona: both have 48, Real Madrid has 47, and Man City is second in the Premier League with 38.

The result we should see (in other words “expected goals”) should be Arsenal on par with those top clubs. Or at least Arsenal doing very well or near them in terms of scoring. Here is a chart of actual goals scored by the three locations:

totals

Arsenal are just about the worst of the bunch, only in front of Man U and Liverpool, two teams who have struggled mightily this season.

The reason is simple: Wenger’s team didn’t convert the chances this season. Here is the conversion chart:

conversion

What you’re seeing here is the problem at Arsenal, they have the lowest conversion rate of any of these teams from shots in the 18 yard box. The shots from distance are low percentage finishing, the shots from the six yard box are low creation numbers, that makes finishing shots in the 18 yard box the most crucial metric. And as you can see, Arsenal haven’t been finishing in that area.

So, while goals from distance are nice and they get the crowd off their feet, the real bread and butter are the goals in the 18 yard box. Wenger has the team creating the right shots, he’s got the team creating on a par with the biggest clubs in Europe, and this season Arsenal finished them at just an 11% rate, their worst rate ever under Wenger* and as you can see from the chart the worst rate among their peers,

One last thing. Notice that Leicester is finishing at a 19% rate in that crucial 18 yard area. That is on par with Real Madrid and Barcelona and is the main reason why they are top of the Premier League.

7amkickoff

All stats courtesy Opta, all stats Premier League, la Liga, or Bundesliga only

*As far back as my databases go which is only 2006

Qq

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42 Comments on "Arsenal goals from distance: By the Numbers"

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ThurrkeyOnRye

Remembering some of the howlers from rosicky 🙂

Crash Fistfight

I think you might mean howitzers. Wouldn’t howlers suggest they were very bad?

geolgău

Was really nice to see Alexis being Alexis. I know this season is practically over, and I will enjoy my vacation, but something deep down inside of me is really looking forward to next season. It should be quite the show, since I reckon all the “big” teams will recover, and the smaller ones will be hungry.

Goon

I think and hope pep will be found out next season. Utd still unstable. I think Chelsea will do well. Spurs and Leicester will struggle with the champions league (Spurs and Leicester have played with the same XI all season, something you can’t do if you’re arsenal, because injuries)

loose_cannon

Do you think you have any stats for the quality of these chances in the box? I don’t think many are 1-on-1s, rather there shots from tight angles blocked by a couple of defenders. Or headers from corners that would never actually go in.

Just from watching the games I’d say we don’t make enough high quality chances, mostly because our build-up play is too slow so we can’t exploit gaps in the opposition defence with our pace. Also, how are we doing for counter attacking goals?

darpman

https://twitter.com/MC_of_A/status/723149490119565316

He’s also a lot of graphs showing single matches

Kahn?Kanu!

Well the two alexis scored yesterday were definitely higher % shots than 5%… or atleast he made it look that way. He beat the keeper easily on both.

assistantref

It’s not so much an issue of beating the keeper in the abstract. It’s that to beat the keeper from 25 yards you have to hit the ball either so hard or with so much spin that it is virtually impossible to keep the shot controlled. The shots that go in look great but what you forget about is the 19 other shots that veered off into row Z.

Ozenal

Someone needs to make a matrix of the {shoot, alternative} vs {likelihood of shot on target/goal, in X number of moves}

You made a valid point that shooting can make other things happen. And is sometimes the best option. I mean how many times have we been counterattacked when a shot resulting in a goal kick or maybe even a corner would have been ‘safer’.

And then again, some players may hold onto the ball for too long or overestimate their dribbling ability. Even dribbling several times, during which time Ozil probably would hava played two passes and a through ball!

I haven’t a clue what goes on in the stats world, but if i was the only man tasked with the job that’s the sort of data I would provide for each player, so they know what their own stats are.

And over time their teammates would get to know their new style. I believe Wenger has all these stats inside his head as he is a big advocate of playing to players strengths and is probably the reason why certain players do well for him and suck when they leave (we mask their weaknesses by playing certain types of passes to them) and another clue is that players often go on streaks of goalscoring form for several games.

What is missing is the repeated mistakes by individuals and opposition finding that weakness quicker than we can fix it.

Obviously improving overall quality would reduce it, but then we wouldn’t need a manager. Just bring in an amazing negotiator and get in Messi and friends and then we wouldn’t be the Arsenal

Man Manny

The issue is simple; go out and get a fox-in-the-box kind of finisher and we are good to go. There is no ready made striker in the top clubs who would want to move so the scouts must comb for a 21 – 23 year old with huge prospects; such as Suarez when Liverpool signed him from Ajax.

A Yank

So you’re saying you want a striker who gets a lot of good opportunities from close and performs at or above his expected goals?

That describes Giroud. Yet Arsenal fans don’t like him much.

Gunner in Canada

Zlatan

Rohith J

This is clearly outside the Arsenal mandate, but I am very curious to know what Tottenham and Leicester have done much better from last season. What are their stats like? Are they benefiting from something that Arsenal don’t have? Apart from the obvious like more goals and better defensive numbers because of organisation, and for Leicester, better fitness record as well?

Oliver

You should probably convert these Total Shots into per90 shots for a valid comparison with other leagues with less games and therefore less opportunities for taking shots.

Overmars

Ramsey is a shocker when it comes to shooting from low % areas. But to be fair to him, he did score those beauties vs Norwich and Fenerbahce.

Vedant

Not to mention that goal against Liverpool and the rocket against galatasaray

Riku

Walcott has best conversion rate of our strikers- I looked them up after man Utd defeat to see what problems was . Walcotts conversion rate was 48% nearly one goal for two shots. Logically if we could have found a way of making this work tactically there is the answer. Giroud was 18%. Campbell 28% Sanchez 25%. Welbeck was 54% but had only played two games Leicester and man Utd ( will now be lower)

crapaud

Interesting stuff and suggests we need a quality CF who can better convert the chances being created however, I’m not sure you can just look at this aspect in isolation. Liverpool have some reasonable stats yet are well down the table (missing someone like Suarez?). Arsenal need to combine better conversion of chances created with a more solid defensive philosophy – total attack & total defence rather than just the former.

Duece

Every club in the world, bar Barcelona, are missing ‘someone like Suarez’

Gargoyle

Seeing the numbers, it’s hard to disagree, but I’m gonna propose something else: Arsenal are not as good at creating chances in the 18 yard box, not in terms of quantity, but in terms of quality. Somebody is always off balance, a pass is always a bit over hit and too hard to control, a defender is always close by to block or put pressure on the player… I’ve noticed these things at Arsenal, and not at Barcelona, Bayern or Real Madrid, or any of the better teams. So, no, Arsenal are not as good as those teams at creating chances.

kaius

Agreed, our chances created in the 18 yard box are often contested by a defender in a good position – they’re not always clear-cut. But we also have to account for the numerous near-misses and also different defensive style in England that makes it harder to convert when a defence is set.

The Wengerball offense works best with the Pires, Hleb, Nasri style of player. This squad, bar 2 or 3 individuals, just can’t execute that style efficiently.

tomtheginger

Spot on. It’s not just about creating chances in the box, it’s about the types of chances you are creating.
Leicster, Barca, Madrid get in the box and overload it on counter-attacks. It’s lightening football, it’s easy for their players to finish.

We on the other hand pass it around so much that it becomes a dirty horrible mess in the box and hence our shots get blocked, or our players shoot as they’re falling over, or it’s a toe-poke as someone has lost control in the mire etc. We need much more than getting that striker that can finish. We need a complete overhaul.

btw

True, True. but Ozil, everyone says if our strikers could just finish the chances he creates… Nevermind that a load of the chances he creates are corners, and we never score those.

I digress.

The problem is not a lethal striker, as everyone on here keeps suggesting, it is our build up play. I’d like to know how often Aguero scores on a breakaway versus patient build up play with the opposition box packed with defenders? I bet he would struggle at Arsenal.

Little Tripoli

Depends how much you trust the “Big Chance” methodology, which being a fundamentally qualitative measure should take into account your objections. As 7am states, we lead the league on that. And leads to the conclusion that build up has been good, but finishing bad. Or unlucky.

Merlin

(very) interesting analysis , but…..what about alexis’s goal (the last one, outside the box) vs leicester this season? if you count it, does the stats changes? if yes, how much?

charley

all these stats are saying is sign a bloody World class consistent striker. The Chances are just not being converted

assistantref

It goes beyond any one player. We just have shit shot conversion across the board.

Gervinho

Top striker in the summer should be priority 1. I think it would have happened last summer but Wenger thought players like Ramsey, Ox, Walcott, etc. would be able to finish guilt edged chances and grab 10 goals each.

Now we’ve seen that it can’t be relied upon.

heihaci

long shots or close shots..it doesn’t matter as long as they go in
Sometimes the team are just trying the walk the ball in the net

kaius

As this post documents, shot location clearly does matter.

heihaci

if you can’t finish at close range then it means jack!

kaius

go ahead and parrot the tabloid talking point of “they always want to walk it in” even when faced with evidence that clearly illustrates the method to the madness. not convinced that we should start shooting from the halfway line just because our finishing is pure banter

John Stepanovs

I think what is missed is that goals from range worry teams and cause them to draw defenders out of the area aiding the success rate of shots in the box.

Otherwise teams suss us out and put every man and their nan between the shot taker and the goal.

Holyviper

Stop it! Stop making why it is that we aren’t winning SO OBVIOUS!

Actually do it. This is great stuff 7am. Atleast some sort of catharsis for the season.

Dexterbear

Do you have the same stats for the teams playing against us?

Mark J

the reason for not scoring is obvious – read the piece on ESPN with Elneny – wenger is coaching him NOT to score from outside the box !

its just show’s how really clueless wenger has become – and why we lose or draw tight games with our endless tikka takka around the box.

how ridiculous to coach talent and ability OUT of players – no wonder Ramsay and Ox are crap now – imagine telling Dennis or Wrighty not to shoot on sight !!!!!!

Wenger OUT.

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