Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal teams have always been a real threat on away days. Wenger’s sides have twice gone undefeated an entire away season and have been remarkably consistent over the two deceades he’s been in charge, dropping out of the top 4 in away record just four times: 2000-01 – 22 points, 8th; 2005/06 – 22 points, 7th; 2016/17 – 30 points, 6th, and this season – 13 points, 12th.
Arsenal are averaging less than a point a game in away matches and even if they win their last three away games they will only reach 21 points in away games, the lowest total of any season under Arsene Wenger. The reasons for this are twofold: this is Arsene Wenger’s worst ever defensive season and on away days, his attack has shriveled up like feet in cold water.
The first problem I see is that Arsenal’s defense is consistently shocking whether home or away. Arsenal are allowing 1.8 Big Chances per game overall with 1.9 big chances allowed per game in away games. The result is a consistent expected goals against regardless of venue.
However, there is a difference in actual goals conceded. Arsenal have committed the most errors leading to a goal this season with 16. 11 of those have happened in away games and 5 in the home games. In addition, Arsenal have conceded 3 penalties in away games and 2 in home games.
Arsenal’s most guilty player for errors is Petr Cech. He has 6 goals conceded off errors, 5 of them in away games. If we just look at away games, the 2nd most is Xhaka with 2 and then there are a few players with 1 error each: Monreal (Newc), Merte (Soton), Bellerin (Pool).
In addition, the following players have committed fouls for penalties in away games: Bellerin (Watford), Monreal (Man City), and Chambers (WBA). Penalties and errors leading to a goal are non-overlapping stats.
This accounts for the difference in goals conceded.
The other major problem you can see in this chart is the difference in offensive output between home and away matches.
Most teams drop in offensive production in away games: Man City have scored 53 goals at home and “only” 40 goals in away games, Liverpool 41 and 37, and Man U 35 and 28. But no team has dropped as much as Arsenal offensively in away games: 45 at home (2nd best in the League) to 16* away (tied for 9th with Newcastle and Watford). That’s a 64% decrease in goals scored in away games.
Goals have decreased because Big Chances have dried up. Compared to Tottenham (39 Big chances away), Liverpool (44 Big Chances away), and Man City (48 Big Chances away), Arsenal’s 25 Big Chances is pretty pathetic, it’s just 1.5 Big Chances per game and Arsenal are on track to create just 29 Big Chances in away games this season. That’s down from 37 last season and 41 the season before (when Arsenal led the League in Big chances created).
The other shots data reflects the problem Arsenal find themselves in as well.
Shots per game, Arsenal are 5th in the League in home games with 18.1, just 1.7 fewer shots per game than League Leaders Man City. In away games, Arsenal are 4th in shots per game with 13.8. The same number of shots per game as Tottenham! The problem is that Arsenal are being held to shooting from distance.
Arsenal are first in the League in shots in the 6 yard box (1.6 per game) in home games and 2nd in shots in the 18 yard box with 10.3. In away games, Arsenal are 13th in shots per game in the 6 yard box with 0.6, and 5th in shots in the penalty area with 6.9 per game.
Why? Well, this is one of those stats areas where I don’t have a lot of data. The data points that are publicly available like tackles, interceptions, dribbles and whatnot are all basically unchanged in home/away splits. What I’d like to see is how teams change when they face Arsenal which I can’t see unless I collected all of that match data and looked for patterns.
There are some publicly available data points. For example, WhoScored.com has a “pass types” chart that you can sort by “against”, which shows Arsenal are being treated almost exactly the same in home/away splits. They face 17 crosses per game in each, 62 long balls at home and 65 in away games, and around 300 short passes in either match.
I suspect that teams are stepping up their defense. Newcastle today had 22 tackles, 16 interceptions, and 15 blocks. Newcastle average 17 tackles, 12 interceptions and 13 blocks in home games.
As for the loss to Newcastle the only stats that stand out to me are the pass combinations. Arsenal’s top five pass combinations were: Holding to Mustafi (23), Xhaka to Monreal (23), Holding to Monreal (22), Monreal to Holding (22) and Monreal to Aubameyang (19). That’s a whole lot of “not-midfield.”
Xhaka’s top pass combinations were to Monreal (23), Holding (12), and Chambers (10). Elneny was the same: to Xhaka (15), Holding (13), and Mustafi (10).
Without Ramsey, Ozil, and Wilshere in the team, the ball didn’t get to the forwards enough and when it did they often ended up passing the ball back. Iwobi completed just 8 passes to another forward (4 to Auba, 3 to Laca, and 1 to Welbeck). Aubameyang completed just 7 passes to another forward (5 to Lacazette and 2 to Iwobi). The rest of the time, those two played the ball to someone else.
I can assure you that what Arsenal did today against Newcastle isn’t going to work against Atletico Madrid.
Sources: Opta, my database, WhoScored.com
*In the Premier League table you’ll see 17, I don’t count own goals.