Burnley 0-1 Arsenal: By the Numbers

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1 – Number of times Burnley has beaten Arsenal since 1975 (2-0 League Cup, 2008)
0 – Points Burnley have taken off Arsenal since 2010 (all competitions, home and away)
7 – Consecutive matches Arsenal have won over Burnley since 2010 (all competitions, home and away)
3 – Consecutive matches Arsenal have won over Burnley with a 90th minute goal
2 – Consecutive matches Arsenal have won over Burnley with a 90th minute penalty scored by Alexis Sanchez
17800 – Burnley supporters who chanted “Same old Arsenal always cheating” every time the referee made a call
17800 – Burnley supporters who clapped every time their chief diver Ashley Barnes went down looking for a free kick after any touch
17800 – Burnley supporters who didn’t see the stonewall penalty denied to Bellerin
17800 – Burnley supporters who filled their diapers when Ramsey was awarded a penalty for a shove in the back in the final minute
4000 – Arsenal supporters who sang for 90 minutes and ended with a chorus of “one-nil to the Arsenal”
8 – Shots by Burnley in 90 minutes
0 – Big chances created by Burnley in 90 minutes (the shot by Gudmundsson which hit the upright wasn’t counted as a big chance even though I would guess most fans think it was)
0.45 – Expected goals by Burnley
0.8 – Expected goals by Burnley if you count the Gudmundsson shot as a big chance
17 – Shots by Arsenal
2 – Big chances created by Arsenal (Ramsey off Lacazette cross and the penalty)
1.77 – Expected goals by Arsenal (I count penalties as regular big chances in my formula)
0.97 – Expected goals by Arsenal if you count the Ramsey shot as a regular shot and don’t award the Ramsey penalty
2.22 – Expected goals by Arsenal if you correctly award the Bellerin penalty and the Ramsey penalty
28 – Tackles attempted by Burnley in this match
11 – Tackles attempted by Burnley in the Arsenal half
6 – Tackles won by Burnley in the Arsenal half
21 – Tackles attempted by Arsenal in this match
2 – Tackles attempted by Arsenal in the Burnley half
2 – Tackles won by Arsenal in the Burnley half
0 – Number of time Alexis Sanchez was dispossessed today (season low)
2 – Number of times Xhaka and Iwobi were dispossessed today (each)
6 – Number of times Ashley Barnes “was fouled” by which I mean that Ashley fell over whenever there was any contact (real of imagined) in order to win his team a free kick so that they could generate a shot (led all players)
2 – Number of times Aaron Ramsey was fouled (led Arsenal)
0 – Number of times Hector Bellerin was fouled
1 – Number of times Bellerin was clearly fouled in the 18 yard box but which wasn’t given
4 – Key passes by Alexis (led all players)
5 – Attempted dribbles by Alexis
2 – Dribbles where Alexis lost possession due to poor touch
3 – Successful dribbles by Kolasinac and Ramsey (each, of 3 attempted each, led Arsenal)
5 – Successful dribbles by Gudmundsson (of 7, led all players)
2 – Number of those successful dribbles by Gudmundsson that skipped past Ramsey and Monreal (each, total of 4)
9 – Defensive Aerial duels won by Mustafi (of 14, led all players)
56 – Percent of aerial duels won by Arsenal, who are clearly a soft side that don’t like to do it on a cold November in Stokernly and to recap – Arsenal’s center back, Mustafi, who has been accused of being soft bossed the aerials, including one where he stooped to head the ball away, and Arsenal matched Burnley 14-12 in tackles. And while Ashley Barnes fell over a lot to draw fouls he went down easier than a cold beer on a hot summer day after a game of football.

A quick note on xG

There was a mini controversy over expected goals the other day and I wanted to clear a few things up. First, I have been doing a version of expected goals for almost 10 years now. It started very simply when I noted that Arsenal were an unusual team because they take a lot of shots but are almost always one of the lowest ranked teams in total shots from distance.* I wondered why and started compiling the stats (this is what I do, folks). After gathering an absurd amount of data I found that all shots were scored at about a 10% rate but shots outside the box were scored at a 3% rate. Shots from distance may win goal of the year but they are not a good shot selection choice and Wenger, wanting his teams to generate the best shots possible, was coaching his team to be patient.

I don’t have access to the Opta long form stats and since I collected all of my data by hand (and eyes) I didn’t really have the ability to take this idea much further. Fortunately, many (smarter) people than me did. They looked at not just where shots were taken but the angle of the shot, whether it was a header, and whether there were defenders in front of the shot or just the keeper. They compiled all of those instances into “shot types” and assigned them each with a fractional value based on the rate at which they were scored historically.

When you aggregate the shots (which was another brilliant idea and one I would have NEVER thought to do) you get a number which correlates very well, over the course of a season, to the total number of goals a team scored. This is a very logical approach and was branded as “expected goals.”

The most common complaints about this stat is the name, that it doesn’t tell the whole story, and that it’s used to distort the truth. All of these are valid gripes.

“Expected goals” is a great marketing slogan but the stat is really “aggregated shots percentages”. But what are we going to do now? Rebrand it? Believe me I tried. It’s kinds stuck now.

XG also doesn’t tell the whole story – beware of any stats guy who claims that any one stat tells the whole story – in the match against Spurs, Arsenal ended up with an expected goals of 2.05 but they scored the first two goals off two shots with a combined xG of just 0.55. They then generated a bunch of great shots which brought the xG up to 2. So, the (not quite) whole story is that Arsenal finished their first two chances and then actually probably should have scored at least another goal when Alexis was put through (twice) for one on one shots with the keeper but Lloris saved both and saved Spurs an embarrassing scoreline. A more embarrassing scoreline, I should say.

And the final criticism… yes, xG can be used to distort the truth but that’s true about ANY stat. How far did a player run today? Oh 14k? Must have been really “working hard” for the team, right? Not necessarily. In fact, distance run is pretty much meaningless. Sprints are far more important – especially sprints forward and sprints back. But no one publishes that kind of data and the big papers seem mostly concerned with “distance covered” as some kind of meaningful measure. (Narrator voice) It isn’t.

Football stats are just starting to gain popularity and there are loads of new ideas all the time. Some stick and some fail but that’s the way it should be when you’re seeking to explain things objectively, you learn from the failures and move on. I remember when I first started out, I used to gush over Denilson’s pass completion rates. But fans pointed out that he was constantly passing the ball sideways and I had to have a look at what I was doing and re-think. Same with dribbles, tackles, whether there are defensive stats that even matter, possession stats, and so on.

But it’s an exciting time to be involved in football stats. Per90 was super popular a while ago but a new idea just cropped up called per100 which is measuring certain outputs based on number of events per 100 touches. It’s a great idea and I can’t wait to see what evolves out of it.

One last thing that I often hear in response to stats: “I believe my own eyes”. This is also expressed as “doesn’t pass the eye test.” Stats are collected with eyes. Human eyes watch a game and after months of intense training they are able to mark down any one of hundreds of stats that companies like Opta collect. I believe your eyes too, it’s just that there are these other eyes, who are doing this professionally, and who do this using strictly defined definitions, which (agree or) disagree with you. It doesn’t make me right and you wrong, we just saw it different.

Have fun out there Gooners and don’t let the stats get you down.

*This season Arsenal are third overall in shots from outside the box: Xhaka takes almost all of his shots from outside and Alexis is putting in an unusual year, taking the majority of his shots from outside the box. Those two account for 43 of Arsenal’s 87 shots from outside the box. So, while this season is slightly odd, it is true that Wenger’s teams have always been shot shy from distance, no doubt part of his plan.

Follow me at 7amkickoff on Twitter or at 7amkickoff.com

Sources: WhoScored.com Chalkboard and my personal database. All expected goals numbers are my formula and not at all related to Opta.

Qq

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