Arsenal from Crystal Palace to Crystal Palace: by the numbers


Arsenal beat Crystal Palace 2-0 on 1 January 2017 and lost 3-0 to Crystal Palace on 10 April 2017. Here are the numbers for that run.

The first 18 matches
18 – Matches Arsenal played before Crystal Palace on 1 January 2017
18 – Goals Arsenal allowed in those 18 matches (not counting own goals)
21 – Expected goals conceded by Arsenal in this period (in other words, Arsenal allowed three fewer goals than average based on the shots that the opposition took)
10.3 – Shots allowed per game
3.5 – Shots on goal allowed per game
9 – Percent of their shots the opposition were converting before January
18 – Interceptions per game
13 – Tackles per game
13 – League matches Francis Coquelin started before 1 January 2017

38 – Goals scored by Arsenal in those first 18 matches (still not counting own goals)
32 – Expected goals for Arsenal (in other words, Arsenal scored six more goals than average based on the shots that they took)
2 – Goals per game Arsenal averaged
17 – Shots per game Arsenal averaged
5 – Shots on goal per game by Arsenal
12 – Successful Dribbles per game by Arsenal
11 – Key passes per game by Arsenal
55 – Percent possession on average in this period
84 – Pass completion percent in this period

The next 12 matches
20 – Goals Arsenal have allowed since 1 January 2017
14 – Expected goals conceded in those 12 matches (in other words, Arsenal have conceded 6 more goals than we would expect based on averages for the shots taken against them)
12.1 – Shots allowed per game
5.3 – Shots on goal allowed per game
14- Percent of their shots the opposition are converting in these 12 matches
12 – Interceptions per game
13 – Tackles per game
4 – League matches Coquelin has started since 1 January 2017

20 – Goals scored by Arsenal in the last 12 matches
21 – Expected goals scored by Arsenal in the last 12 matches (in other words, are you really reading this?
1.7 – Goals per game average by Arsenal in this period
15 – Shots per game average
5 – Shots on goal per game average
13 – Successful dribbles per game by Arsenal in this period
11 – Key passes per game by Arsenal in this period
57 – Percent of possession by Arsenal in this period
84 – Percent pass accuracy by Arsenal in this period

What we have seen here is that Arsenal’s fortunes have flipped: whereas before January Arsenal were scoring more than expected and conceding less than expected, they are now score as expected and conceding more than they should.

It’s pretty clear to me that since January Arsenal’s offence is performing about as expected. 1.7 goals per game is not great and 15 shots per game is pretty poor and both are slight decreases from the pre-January high water mark. I attribute the fall in Arsenal’s goals per game and expected goals rates to the fact that Arsenal’s shots in prime (the area right in front of goal in 12 yard radius) has dropped from 3.5 per game to 2.3 and that Arsenal’s Big Chances (the one-on-one shots, etc) have dropped from 2.2 per game to just 1.6.

But the defense has gone south quick and is now conceding an extra .5 goal per match than they would be if they were an average Premier League side.

Many Arsenal supporters wanted Coquelin dropped throughout this season in order to increase Arsenal’s offensive output and Wenger obliged, benching the Frenchman after a string of lacklustre performances in December. After Coquelin was relegated to a bit role, however, we see a drop in Arsenal’s defensive workrate (interceptions are down) and stability as the opposition have nearly doubled their shots on goal per game output and increased their finishing by 50%.

Ironically, Arsenal’s offense also got worse with Coquelin on the bench and while I’m not saying Coquelin added to Arsenal’s offense, I do think it’s funny that the guy that everyone wanted dropped so that Arsenal could score more gets dropped and suddenly Arsenal score less.

Defensively Arsenal’s expected goals allowed per game are actually down from the sunny pre-January days. It’s tempting to point to that lower expected goals number and higher conversion rate and say “see, Arsenal are just unlucky and don’t need someone in midfield to cover for the defense.” However, the higher the rate of conversion, the fewer shots teams have to take and since “expected goals” is just a fancy way of saying that more shots = more goals we often see teams “overperform” relative to expected goals when they are converting at a high rate.

So I’m not taken the wrong way, this post is NOT a “proquelin” post. I don’t think that he was or is Arsenal’s answer to the midfield conundrum. However, we have hard evidence that dropping him did none of the things that people wanted it to do and in fact after he was dropped, the Arsenal defense became measurably softer and the Arsenal offense measurably weaker.

And if you look at Elneny’s defensive line today, where he made just one tackle and had just one interception along with Xhaka who had 3 tackles and 0 interceptions, while Wilf Zaha completed 8/11 dribbles through Arsenal’s soft as a sow’s ear midfield, you can’t help but wonder if Arsenal are crying out for a player who is 50% Elneny and 50% Coquelin. And hopefully the 50% of each player that isn’t the shit bits.

I’m not suggesting that Wenger should revert back to playing with Coquelin in midfield nor that any one player in the answer or the goat, the entire team has dropped mentally and physically since that 3-3 draw against Bournemouth. Whomever you want to blame, Arsenal aren’t creating enough and aren’t covering their defenders well enough. And that, for me, isn’t just down to one or two players, that’s the whole team. And that’s the manager’s fault.


Source: my database


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