Arsenal 2014-15. The 49UD review.

It has been a wee while since I last wrote. Slack I know, but I have just cause for not waxing lyrical on the keys about our beloved club. Amongst other things, I didn’t see the point while we were doing so well.

I started this blog last summer, because I was becoming increasingly fed up with the unrealistic expectations surrounding our club, due to “fans” being far more concerned about the clubs money, the players money, their own money and how much of that money they were voluntarily giving the club for the privilege of watching top flight football.

Of course we all know buy now that spending heaps of money gets results, right ?

I still believe that idea is still up for debate.

Anyways, I digress…the reason why I haven’t written for such a while is because The Arsenal had a rather good second half of the season, and to be honest, I didn’t see the point in fluffing the team further.

The results were doing the talking.

Sure the first half of the season could have been a bit better, we blew a few games, and we had a few injuries and a busy summer to contend with, but eventually the team began to find it’s form and for the latter part of the season at least, was playing very, very well.

But did we have a better season?

 
This question is once again up for debate. Despite winning some more silver (and making history in the process) folks are still adamant that we aren’t as good as we should be.

Arsenal finished this season with less points than 2014 (75-79) yet we finished a place higher up the table.

Back in early April – it this was well documented in the twitter sphere – Arsenal were in exactly the same position as the previous season:

31 games played, out of Europe in the knockout phase, final of the FA Cup and 63 points in the league. 19 wins, 6 draws and 6 losses. (Statto.com)

Arsenal league position after 31 games - 2014
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Arsenal league position after 31 games – 2014
Arsenal league position after 31 games - 2015
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Arsenal league position after 31 games – 2015


From a points and prizes point of view, Arsenal were in exactly the same position. The only major difference; our goal different was much better.

So when I say that Arsenal were the best team in the league this season – you’re going to disagree.

But hang on there for a minute…as I have evidence.

Disregarding the FA Cup – it’s a knockout contest and all about how you play on the given day and obviously, we are the best team in that regard – I have taken a long look at Opta’s statistics and scores via squawka.com and found out that Arsenal were, by some margin, the best performing team in the Premier League.

Now you may scoff at Opta’s statistics. They don’t relate to the results you see on the pitch, but they are applied to all players and teams in the same fashion, so are a level playing field for comparison of performance.

Arguably a more in-depth analysis of how a team plays, beyond the results we see and the opinions we are fed.

Looking at the team’s score over the season (14/15), Arsenal had the highest average score per game in terms of performance. It was slightly better than last season (13/14), but much worse than the previous term (12/13). The season when we celebrated that final game result at Newcastle.

Premiership statistical performance score per game, season 2012-13. Taken from Squawka.com
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Premiership statistical performance score per game, season 2012-13. Taken from Squawka.com
Premiership staistical performance score per game, season 2013-14. Taken from Squawka.com
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Premiership staistical performance score per game, season 2013-14. Taken from Squawka.com
Premiership statistical performance score per game, season 2014-15. Taken from Squawka.com
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Premiership statistical performance score per game, season 2014-15. Taken from Squawka.com


In terms of the top 10 Premiership teams, Arsenal are streets ahead of our close rivals, which means that the way we play is very, very strong. As fan, it might not be getting us the results we want, but we are a very strong footballing side.

This is also apparent when you apply the same statistics and compare Arsenal to our European competition;

European teams statistical performance score per game, season 2012-13. Taken from Squawka.com
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European teams statistical performance score per game, season 2012-13. Taken from Squawka.com
European teams performance score per game, season 2013-14. Taken from Squawka.com
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European teams performance score per game, season 2013-14. Taken from Squawka.com
European teams performance score per game, season 2014-15. Taken from Squawka.com
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European teams performance score per game, season 2014-15. Taken from Squawka.com


Over the 2014/15 season – going on Optas statistics – Arsenal are the 5th best team based on league performance in Europe, only behind the European champions, the German Champions, the French Champions and the runners up to the Spanish Champions.

Interestingly enough the only recent season where Arsenal have been beaten on score is when City won the title in 2013/14.

Funny how Arsenal were still the best performing team in the league during the 2012/13 season, despite celebrating a 4th place away at Newcastle on the final day of the season…

Something doesn’t add up here, so I’ll carry on exploring.

If the team as a whole is putting in such great performances, then surely the players must also rank up there in the upper echelons of performance ?

Yes they do.

Out of the 300 or so players in the Premiership, Arsenal’s group are up there with the finest, despite their lazy approach play, their inability to find those difficult cross field passes or even their reluctance to shoot from 1,000 yards.

Top 10 Premiership players performance score per game, season 2014-15. Taken from Squawka.com
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Top 10 Premiership players performance score per game, season 2014-15. Taken from Squawka.com

Five players in the top 11. FIVE. Almost 50%.

I included Sanchez at number 11 as you can’t really count Gabriel in there at number 7, as he only played in 6 games. All the others took part in over 20, so I feel those scores are a justifiable comparison.

I make that 4 of the top 10 players in the Premier League play regularly for Arsenal.

Chelsea have 1, Man City have 2 and Manure are just beneath us with 3.

This can’t be. We only finished 3rd!

There must be some flaws in our system for us to be only 3rd, if our team are ranked so highly in the Opta scores, so I had a look at the three key areas of the pitch, to gain an idea of how individuals rank dependent on position. Please bare in mind all these statistic and scores are on a per game basis.

Arsenal’s Defence.

 
With the cumbersome Mertesacker and the relatively unknown Monreal frequenting our back four, the point scoring prowess of our defence is sure to be somewhat inhibited. That said, Laurent Koscienly is so darn good, that his huge point haul probably makes up for the other players deficiencies;

Premiership defensive players performance score per game, season 2013-14. Taken from Squawka.com
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Premiership defensive players performance score per game, season 2013-14. Taken from Squawka.com
Premiership defenders performance score per game, season 2014-15. Taken from Squawka.com
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Premiership defenders performance score per game, season 2014-15. Taken from Squawka.com


Last season, 2 in the top 20. This season 4 in the top 20 with 3 defenders in the top 15, and Monreal on the fringes… Now again, I wouldn’t really count Gabriel in this average, so we have to settle for Laurent, Per and Nacho in the top 15, Not bad.

Arsenal’s Midfield.

 
On to the midfielders. This is one area that we should do very well in. Creative, attack minded, accurate passing and a strong team ethic is what the midfield are all about. So how do we fair?

Premiership Midfielders performance score per game, season 2013-14. Taken from Squawka.com
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Premiership Midfielders performance score per game, season 2013-14. Taken from Squawka.com
Premiership Midfielders performance score per game, season 2014-15. Taken from Squawka.com
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Premiership Midfielders performance score per game, season 2014-15. Taken from Squawka.com


Again, not bad on all counts. You could argue that Ramsey has had a bit of a shocker compared to the 13/14 season where he excelled and was ranked 7th, but who needs Ramsey when you have Özil and Cazorla pulling the strings. Heck Özil was out of action for three months, and he doesn’t even run!

Compare that to last seasons ranks, where Arsenal players accommodated 4 of the top 12 positions in midfield. That’s a THIRD of the top midfielders in the country playing for Arsenal last season, yet we finish 4th.

It simply doesn’t add up, does it?

Arsenal’s Attack.

 
And of course the final piece of the puzzle is our attack. I’m sure that you’re all expecting the insane skill and effort of Alexis Sanchez to be at the top of this one? Let’s take look;

Premiership Attacking players performance score per game, season 2013-14. Taken from Squawka.com
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Premiership Attacking players performance score per game, season 2013-14. Taken from Squawka.com
Premiership Attacking players performance score per game, season 2014-15. Taken from Squawka.com
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Premiership Attacking players performance score per game, season 2014-15. Taken from Squawka.com


And of course, at the top he is, infact his score is incredible compared to his peers both in his own team and against others in the league. But his colleagues didn’t perform too badly, taking into account perceived poor form, missed games and missed chances, Welbeck, Walcott and Giroud have all scored admirably and are all top 20.

Giroud actually performed better than he did last season, climbing the ranks by 4 places, but scored less goals.

One big positive for our handsome French bloke this season; He had a better goals per game ratio than the mighty Alexis. Imagine if both Giroud and Alexis were on form at the same time…

Forward players goals per game 2014/15 season. Squawka.com
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Forward players goals per game 2014/15 season. Taken from Squawka.com

Out of interest, Yaya Sanogo actually ended the season in 101 out of the 103 forward positions with a negative score of -7.85 and only 13 games played.

So why did we come only third?

The statistics, however you care to interpret them, don’t lie, but they most certainly don’t explain why we came third. Across the pitch, whether you see it or not, Arsenal’s current squad are real contenders, performers if you will, and have been contenders over the past three seasons at least.

So why do we never win? Why are we always fourth (or third)? I can only put this down to sport.

You see, no matter how you play, some days, the damn ball just won’t go in the net. Such is life.

Take a look at these match statistics from games this season (bbc.co.uk);

Chelsea 2 vs 0 Arsenal Sept 14
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Chelsea 2 vs 0 Arsenal Sept 14
Southampton 2 vs 0 Arsenal January 15
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Southampton 2 vs 0 Arsenal Jan 15
Arsenal 0 Vs 1 Swansea May 15
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Arsenal 0 Vs 1 Swansea May 15


With all our good play and attacking verve, we are still apparently lacking in the one key area; scoring goals.

In all three of the games seen above, we lost and scored zero times, despite having the upper hand in possession, corners, and shots taken.

For comparison, here are the statistics from Chelsea at the Emirates in April. Yes, one where they secured the title. Not too different from the away game. Perhaps we defended slightly better, or Chelsea sat back more, but we did commit quite a few more fouls. Perhaps we scared them into defence. Still no goals though.

Arsenal 0 Vs 0 Chelsea April 15
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Arsenal 0 Vs 0 Chelsea April 15

If Arsenal had managed to score just two of the chances we created in each of those 4 games we would have been 8 points better off this season, Chelsea would have been 5 points worse off and we would have been double winners.

If Arsenal had taken more of their opportunities in front of the onion bag, we would have been much better off in league position.

But is that down to Arsenal? Not all the time.

In sport there is this thing call opposition. You know that other team that also want to win.

The more measured among us understand that and can appriciate another team playing a good or savvy game. That is the aim of sport.

I’ve said this before, and will probably say it until I go blue in the face, but if a team will place 9 defenders in the 18 yard box, you are going to have to be very, very good to get through to find the net, let alone get a shot on target.

It’s not just Arsenal that suffered from this team sport annoyance, which possibly explains the reason why we finish higher but with less points.

Could the other teams be getting better?

That’s my conclusion. The opposition aren’t just going to sit still and let us walk all over them, so if anything, Arsenal really do need to become more predatory with those chances we create.

This season, Arsenal played very well. They won big games, they scored many goals, they defended resolutely, maintained possession and created many scoring opportunities. The statistics tell us so.

We don’t need new players, we don’t need new defenders or midfielder or a world class striker to replace Giroud. Giroud just needs to put a few more away. Just a couple more.

So does Ramsey, Ozil, Cazorla, Sanchez…

Saying that, so does Falcao.

Football is a games of fine margins, the luck of the bounce and how much water is on the pitch. As one of the most respected team in the league, we have to bypass all the other 19 other teams that undoubtedly want to spoil our fun. Twice.

Fortunately our players are pretty good at doing that.

Mesut Ozil - Key Passes per game 2014/15
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Mesut Ozil – Chances created per game 2014/15
Don't be blue - make the world Arsenal!
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2 Comments

  1. Hi,

    Firstly, kudos on the comprehensive post!

    I feel that we may be closer to putting two and two together if we knew what elements made up the Attacking and Defensive scores.

    For example, if passes, pass completion, key passes, take-ons, goals scored, and chances created made up the attacking score then it’s no surprise that Arsenal are up there. The team plays a passing/possession game. Plus, the likes of Ozil, Cazorla, Sanchez, Ox, are going to drive our numbers up because they’re all creative and willing to beat a man.

    Interestingly, Arsenal scored pretty much the same amount of goals this season as two seasons ago, but the attack score is higher from two seasons ago. Wonder why? If these are per 90 minutes stats then my only guess would be that we had more one-sided games two seasons ago than this season. Either way, it’s the result that matters.

    What else I find interesting is Chelsea having a lower defensive score than us. Again, we don’t know what makes up the defensive score but just because we have a higher score, doesn’t necessarily mean we were performing better. I believe it’s an indication of the contrasting playing styles.

    Arsenal’s defense have to work a lot harder than Chelsea because of the way we play – our midfield usually tracks back very late. This forces, in my opinion, our defenders and Coquelin to do a lot more than their counterparts. The result? Higher numbers of interceptions, tackles, headers etc. Chelsea’s midfield drops behind the ball pretty quickly, usually frustrating the opposition into giving the ball away hence lower number of tackles etc. required. Yes Matic is a destroyer but he alone will not drive their score up. Mertesacker had to make 72 interceptions over the course of the season versus 32 that Terry had to make, the latter didn’t miss a single game – more work for our defense.

    I like how you nailed it down to inability to convert chances in some key fixtures and that makes sense. However, once again, the games versus Chelsea had very few shots on target, while versus Swansea most of the shots were straight at Fabianski.

    Nevertheless, you’re right, we need to be more ruthless in our finishing (there’s a fantastic statistics piece on 7am kickoff on Giroud’s potency) and that could be the difference between winning the league and a champions league spot.

    It’ll be interesting to see if Theo can fulfill the promise he has shown in his last two starts as a CF.

    Anyway, these were my two cents 🙂

    • Thanks for the kind words.

      It would appears the stats are logged by humans who watch the games, and record what happens, based on the critera seen in the lists on Squawka.

      Other stats gathering agencies have different ways of collecting data, but all take into account positive and negative actions over the course of a game.

      I guess the thing with statistics is, as we all know, you read into them however you want to, and manipulate them how you like.

      you can ignore negative statistics, to paint your opinion in a positive light and vice versa.

      Points, at the end of the day, make prizes, regardless of how you play or where you come in the stats count.

      Now if Arsenal can maintain this kind of form, but get the results…we are laughing 🙂

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