Matchday 26 has come and gone and Arsenal, despite the toasty win over Everton, are still stuck in 6th place in the Premier League table. Nate Silver’s model on FiveThirtyEight dot com only gives the Gunners a 17% chance to break out of the Europa League spots and jump into the Champions League spots. That number seems just about right for despite the 2-2 draw between Sp*rs and Liverpool and Chelsea’s massive cock ups of the last few weeks, Arsenal would need to overhaul two teams to get back into the top four. Not statistically impossible, just unlikely and a win over Tottenham would certainly improve the odds.
As for the underlying stats, Arsenal are Almost exactly where they “deserve” to be based on shots created and allowed. Sorting my table by expected goal difference, Arsenal should be in 5th place and Man U should be in 6th. But United keep pitching shutouts – they have five clean sheets in their last six matches.
But United’s luck seems to be holding. They aren’t even getting big performances from de Gea at the moment – in their run of six matches, de Gea has only saved 2 big chances (both against Stoke) and just three shots in prime (again, against Stoke but also against Tottenham). Defensively, Man U are literally relying on misses.
Looking ahead at the fixture difficulty rater, Man U have to play Chelsea, Liverpool, Man City, and Arsenal giving them one of the most difficult schedules in the close of the season. If they were ever going to “revert to the mean” and start shipping some goals, this run-in would be the time!
The team I thought Arsenal might overhaul was Liverpool. But they actually have the easiest fixtures list of any team in the Premier League. That leaves Arsenal to scrap for fourth with Chelsea and Tottenham.
Arsenal could finish above Chelsea who have to play four top six teams plus Burnley away and their manager looks like he’s going to get the sack. If Conte is fired at this point in the season, Arsenal should finish above them, because Chelsea’s underlying xG stats are pretty weak.
Tottenham, however, only play three of the top six teams (same number as Arsenal) and two of them are going to be home games. Meanwhile, Arsenal have to play three top six sides and two of them are away games and Arsenal’s away record is the very worst of any top six team. And Tottenham’s underlying xG stats are better than Arsenal’s.
Looking out at the other stats like Big Chances and Shots in Prime we see that Arsenal’s weakness is defending. Adding Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan has made Arsenal’s attack sexy again but unless Wenger can get the team to play more compact – which actually suits Aubameyang, Mkhi, and Ozil – Arsenal’s defensive openness and inclination toward making mistakes (they lead the League in errors for goals still with 11) will continue to make it difficult for Arsenal to overhaul Tottenham for 4th place.
Arsenal have conceded 13 more goals off Big Chances than Tottenham or Chelsea. Perhaps both teams’ collective wheels could come off at the same time. And perhaps Arsenal could suddenly tighten up defensively but according to the stats of the season, that seems just about 17% likely to happen.
538 – https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/soccer-predictions/premier-league/
FPL Planner – https://www.footballfallout.com/fantasy-football-planner?gw=12
Opta for all shots data and errors