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Possession, pass success or shots? Which most influences Arsenal’s league position?

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Possession, pass success or shots?

By Alek Pan

 

Almost everyone knows that Arsenal is very successful in the areas of possession, pass success and shots on target, but which component is more influential in terms of league position? Which component helps more to be #1 in the league table?

I tried to find the answers on these questions by comparing some numbers of the biggest clubs of the biggest European leagues.

This is how the tables of the biggest European leagues looks like today.

La Liga pts Serie A pts Bundesliga pts Ligue 1 pts
1 Real Madrid 31 Juventus 22 Bayern 28 PSG 30
2 Barcelona 28 Lazio 22 Dortmund 26 Montpellier 30
3 Valencia 24 Milan 21 M’gladbach 26 Lille 25
4 Levante 23 Udinese 21 Schalke 04 25 Rennes 25
5 Málaga 20 AS Roma 17 Bremen 23 Lyon 23
6 Sevilla 18 Palermo 16 Stuttgart 21 Toulouse 23
7 Athletic 17 Napoli 15 Leverkusen 21 Lorient 20
8 Espanyol 17 Genoa 15 Hannover 96 19 St Etienne 20
9 Atlético 16 Chievo 15 Hoffenheim 17 Caen 19
10 Rayo 16 Parma 15 Hertha 17 Marseille 18
11 Osasuna 15 Siena 14 Cologne 16 Sochaux 17
12 Villarreal 14 Catania 14 Wolfsburg 16 Evian Thonon 16
13 Betis 13 Atalanta 13 K’lautern 13 Brest 15
14 Sporting 12 Fiorentina 13 Hamburg SV 13 Auxerre 15
15 Getafe 10 Cagliari 13 Mainz 12 Valenciennes 14
16 Mallorca 10 Inter 11 Nurnberg 12 Nancy 14
17 R Zaragoza 10 Bologna 10 SC Freiburg 11 Dijon FCO 14
18 Granada 9 Lecce 8 FC Augsburg 8 Bordeaux 13
19 R Sociedad 9 Novara 7 Nice 11
20 Racing 9 Cesena 6 AC Ajaccio 8

Let’s begin with average ball possession.

Team League %
1 Barcelona La Liga 71.8
2 Bayern Munich Bundesliga 65.2
3 Real Madrid La Liga 61.5
4 Juventus Serie A 59.6
5 Roma Serie A 59.1
6 Chelsea Premier League 58.9
7 AC Milan Serie A 58.9
8 Lille Ligue 1 58.5
9 Arsenal Premier League 58.3
10 Atletico Madrid La Liga 57.1
11 Manchester City Premier League 56.7
12 Valencia La Liga 56.3
13 Borussia Dortmund Bundesliga 56
14 Paris Saint Germain Ligue 1 55.6
15 Swansea Premier League 55.4
16 Marseille Ligue 1 54.8
17 Betis La Liga 54.8
18 Athletic Bilbao La Liga 54.7
19 Espanyol La Liga 54.5
20 Manchester United Premier League 54.4

You can see that possession gives no guarantee to be #1 in some leagues. Real Madrid, despite 10 points of negative difference to Barcelona, stands first in the league table. Chelsea and Arsenal are not in the first two positions in the Premier League.

Swansea are 15th best for the average ball possession of all biggest leagues but stands 13th in EPL table. Marseille are 16th best of all biggest leagues but stand 10th in the ‘Ligue 1’ table. Lille is not a leader of ‘Ligue 1’ but PSG is.

In Italy and Germany leaders had the biggest numbers of ball possession. Also Borussia Dortmund have a second best average ball possession of Bundesliga and stand 2nd in Bundesliga table.

And now pass success percentage.

Team League %
Barcelona La Liga 90.2
Bayern Munich Bundesliga 87
Real Madrid La Liga 86.3
Chelsea Premier League 86.2
Manchester City Premier League 86
Roma Serie A 85.5
Swansea Premier League 85.1
AC Milan Serie A 84.6
Arsenal Premier League 84.6
Juventus Serie A 84.3
Manchester United Premier League 84.3
Tottenham Premier League 82.8
Lorient Ligue 1 82.7
Atletico Madrid La Liga 82.6
Montpellier Ligue 1 82.4
Inter Serie A 82.3
Lille Ligue 1 81.6
Valencia La Liga 81.2
Lazio Serie A 80.8
Villarreal La Liga 80.7

The pass success percentage helps a team to the top position in the table in Germany more than in other leagues. Bayern Munich – 87, Borussia Dortmund – 80.5. For other leagues leaders it helps less. Especially for ‘Ligue 1’: Lorient, Montpellier, Lille and Betis have better numbers then leader – PSG.

Manchester City have approximately the same number as Chelsea. So for EPL this helps more than for Serie A, La Liga and ‘Ligue 1’.

Let’s take a look at shots per game:

Team League SPG
1 Manchester City Premier League 20
2 Real Madrid La Liga 18
3 Tottenham Premier League 18
4 Marseille Ligue 1 18
5 Barcelona La Liga 17
6 Werder Bremen Bundesliga 17
7 Atletico Madrid La Liga 17
8 Borussia Dortmund Bundesliga 17
9 Liverpool Premier League 17
10 Chelsea Premier League 17
11 Arsenal Premier League 17
12 Roma Serie A 17
13 Bayern Munich Bundesliga 17
14 Juventus Serie A 16
15 AC Milan Serie A 16
16 Fulham Premier League 16
17 Wolverhampton Premier League 15
18 Borussia M.Gladbach Bundesliga 15
19 Manchester United Premier League 15
20 Betis La Liga 15

Shots per game work well for leaders of La Liga, EPL and Bundesliga. And it does not work enough in Italy and France.

So we can’t say that for EPL the best way to be #1 is to make more shots per game. But we can say that leader of EPL exceeds all other teams in shots per game.

The leader of La Liga exceeds all other teams in shots per game too.

The leader of Serie A exceeds all other teams in average ball possession but not by much.

The leader of the Bundesliga exceeds all other teams in average ball possession and in pass success percentage.

The leader of ‘Ligue 1’ exceeds all other teams in … nothing.

There are no leagues (Ligue 1 excluded) where leader do not exceeds all other teams in average ball possession or in shots per game.

What does it mean for Arsenal?

These components are very impotent for leadership. And Arsenal is pretty strong on these areas. So strong that target to be in the big 4 this season as they normally are, is a perfectly feasible task.

If you look at the ball possession you can see that Arsenal have almost the same number as Chelsea.

Team %
Chelsea 58.9
Arsenal 58.3
Manchester City 56.7
Swansea 55.4
Manchester United 54.4

If you look at the shots per game you will see why Man City and Spurs are very successful today.

Team SPG
Man City 20
Tottenham 18
Arsenal 17
Chelsea 17
Liverpool 17
Fulham 16
Wolvs 15
Manchester United 15

May be in EPL (and in La Liga) at a moment more important to make more shots per game than to keep high ball possession?

If so then I think Arsenal can and will improve these numbers.
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“Making the Arsenal” – the book of Arsenal’s rebirth

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Write for Untold Arsenal

We really do welcome writers who have a positive view of the Wenger revolution, or who have something new to say about any of the topics that we regularly cover – all listed above.  Just email your idea to Tony.Attwood@aisa.org or send in the whole article as a Word file attached to an email.

24 comments to Possession, pass success or shots? Which most influences Arsenal’s league position?

  • lewq

    interesting piece, althpugh it doesnt take defensive factors into account. fo example shots against per game. also territory of possesion, it is very east to keep the ball in your own half. but still great work

  • Two Left Feet

    I’m sorry Alek but even though I love a good statistic, I cannot agree with your conclusions here. You have started with three parameters that by your own admission Arsenal are strong in, compared their relative importance across the leagues in terms of positions and concluded that because arsenal are strong in two factors they can rise up the league! If you had taken a wider pool of factors, not all of which may have been arsenal’s strengths, then the result would be more credible. Apologies if it sounds harsh, I certainly don’t intend it that way..just a thought for future articles 🙂

  • WalterBroeckx

    Two left feet, are there any parameters you can think of immediately?

  • Charlie

    This proves one thing. Statistics are not an effective way of evaluating a team. Sometimes this website is spot on, other times it descends into over-analytical nonsense. If you have more possession but not in dangerous areas that’s not helpful. If you have more chances but not good chances and not for players that have a chance of scoring from them that’s not useful. If you complete more passes but in your own half that’s not useful. Arsenal had loads of possession last season but weren’t clinical enough and made defensive errors. I expect that the possession stats are down this year but the defense is more solid and RvP is there to covert the chances.

  • Charlie

    One more thing, how would George Grahams’ Arsenal have done in this comparison ? Very badly i expect but still a successful team.

  • Sort of what Two Left Feet said. Use of statistics to try to prove that something shouldn’t be true undermines the statistics not the facts.
    You could probably come up with a Europe wide statistic proving that it is better to win one game and lose another than to draw two games, thereby proving that it’s always better to go for the win than avoid losing. Chelsea fans might disagree with you right now!
    More interesting stats would be:
    Average number of players changed from match to match versus league position;
    Number of players used within a specific unit (Defence/Midfield/Attack) versus league position;
    Number of players used within a specific playing position versus league position.
    I would guess we are weak in all three (and as our numbers converge with the league leaders our league position improves) but which of the above is most important I do not know.

  • Alek

    I am not so naive to think that other components is nothing and not worth to consider.
    This is just a bit of stats which can help IMO to understand situation some more.
    If it is not helps you at all – sorry.
    But if it helps you a bit – my mission accomplished.)))

  • Mango

    It is a good piece on how the 3 components are important factors of attacking gameplay.

  • Alek

    @Charlie

    This proves one thing. Statistics are not an effective way of evaluating a team.

    This is not true. Every team use stats for team evaluation.

    Sometimes this website is spot on, other times it descends into over-analytical nonsense. If you have more possession but not in dangerous areas that’s not helpful.

    You just say a biggest nonsense ever. Because if you have more possession but not in dangerous areas that is helpful. This is very helpful because your opponent can not to score without ball. Possession is a defense component too.

    If you have more chances but not good chances and not for players that have a chance of scoring from them that’s not useful.

    This is next biggest nonsense ever. Do you hear about auto goals? Do you hear about mistakes of defence?

    If you complete more passes but in your own half that’s not useful. Arsenal had loads of possession last season but weren’t clinical enough and made defensive errors.

    And have many referee errors. I never said that if you have possession there is no need for striker or strong defense.

    I expect that the possession stats are down this year but the defense is more solid and RvP is there to covert the chances.

    But to create chances you need possession, right?

  • Alek

    @Woolwich Peripatetic

    Sort of what Two Left Feet said. Use of statistics to try to prove that something shouldn’t be true undermines the statistics not the facts.

    Tell me please what is not true which I wanted to make look like true?
    Do you think that average ball possession and shots per game not very impotent for leadership?
    Do you really think this way? May be you can prove that statement? Do you?

    Tell me please what do you read in article which is not true?

    More interesting stats would be:
    Average number of players changed from match to match versus league position;
    Number of players used within a specific unit (Defence/Midfield/Attack) versus league position;
    Number of players used within a specific playing position versus league position.
    I would guess we are weak in all three (and as our numbers converge with the league leaders our league position improves) but which of the above is most important I do not know.

    Suppose we are week in all three. And because of this weakness Arsenal in crisis now, right? I thought that Arsenal win the games because of his strongest components. But now I see that Arsenal win the games because of our weakest components.

  • @Alek,
    “Almost everyone knows that Arsenal is very successful in the areas of possession, pass success and shots on target, but which component is more influential in terms of league position? Which component helps more to be #1 in the league table?”
    Are we top of the league table? No.
    What are we good at? Average possession, passing success, accurate shooting.
    Are we better than MCFC? At holding onto the ball but not significantly better. At passing, no we’re worse. We don’t shoot as much either. Other teams placed above us in the league shoot less or lose the ball more often.

    I see your analysis as trying to suggest that we should be higher up the league table by focusing on those three metrics. Whereas I would look for where other teams are doing things better and focus on those areas.

  • Domhuaille MacMathghamhna

    Good review Alex and here are a few more things for your next article that could be considered in determining any Club’s efficiency and success:

    a)Shots on Goal versus goals scored(separated out by competitions)
    b)% of time spent attacking versus defending over the entire match
    c)# of passes required before scoring a goal
    d)% of poor referee calls that directly led to a Club losing points
    e)# of saves that both keepers made from clear scoring opportunities

    By the way, where did you get your statistics from?

  • Alek

    @Woolwich Peripatetic

    I see your analysis as trying to suggest that we should be higher up the league table by focusing on those three metrics.

    Now I see. You get it from this.

    Almost everyone knows that Arsenal is very successful in the areas of possession, pass success and shots on target, but which component is more influential in terms of league position?

    It supposed to read this way: … but which [of these] component[s] is more influential in terms of league position?

    I took 3 components and tried to understand how much these 3 components impotent and which one of these 3 components impotent more than other 2. And this you can take from context of article. I made article this way and nothing more.

    I don’t know why people get it like I wanted to prove that these 3 components is most influential ever. Because to prove it one need to compare may be 100 or 1000 components or more. My goal was more modest.

  • Alek

    @Domhuaille MacMathghamhna
    You are very kind.

    By the way, where did you get your statistics from?

    http://www.whoscored.com

    I will think about a, b, c, d, e)))

  • Laundryender

    The only way to evaluate is at the end of the season, points win prizes. Within the bigger picture there are many acts all with their own identities. It is why we love it. Nice article but I will wait till May and in the meantime I will be engulfed by the twists turns and rollercoaster ride that is the biggest attraction in town.

  • nicky

    @Laundryender,
    I’m afraid I have to agree with you. In my failing years I simply cannot absorb all these statistics and in-depth surveys. Consequently, I concentrate, like you and so many others I think, on points, performance and goals each game.
    I think we who are crumblies, must leave the higher considerations of the game to those who can dissemminate them.

  • Alek

    @Two Left Feet

    “If you had taken a wider pool of factors, then the result would be more credible.”

    You are right. Result would be more credible. But if I will take 10 factors more you still can say the same ‘If you had taken a wider pool of factors, then the result would be more credible.’ How much factors I must to take for you can’t talk about ‘a wider pool of factors’?

    Result of this article is credible. It is not credible on 100%. But it is still credible.

    “I cannot agree with your conclusions here… and concluded that because arsenal are strong in two factors they can rise up the league!”

    I concluded that these two factors will help Arsenal rise up the league. Especially if Arsenal will improve these factors. There were no conclusions that Arsenal can rise up the league ONLY because of two factors. So I cannot understand what you cannot agree with.

  • Alek

    @Laundryender

    “The only way to evaluate is at the end of the season, points win prizes.”

    Sorry but I cannot agree with you. This is the best way but not the ONLY WAY. All other ways less credible but they still credible.

  • Notoverthehill

    Ignore the nit-pickers, Alek!

    No possession = no goals, no shots = no goals, no passes – no goals unless it is a solo effort such as Bale against Inter Milan for example?

    It is clear from AA23 article that Mr Wenger is a great believer in statistics, period. From the data Mr Wenger knows when players can and will “hit the wall”. AA23 is a sprinter and not a stayer. Is Walcott a sprinter after 70 minutes?

    Alek, you will need a team of 20 number crunchers to match what the EPL teams have!

  • Alek

    @Notoverthehill

    I think that not all of these guys who disagree with me are nit-pickers. Some of them just do not quite understand what I mean. Some time it is my bad because I did not make my point crystal clear.

    “Alek, you will need a team of 20 number crunchers to match what the EPL teams have!”

    Some time I think that people believe that I have this team. )))

  • Laundryender

    @ Alek

    when i see a trophy awarded for possesion, shots on target or any other of your criteria, i will accept your theory, until then i say “points win prizes”

  • Alek

    @Laundryender

    Do you believe in the theory that Arsenal needs a strong defense? Or you do not believe because there is no trophy awarded for strong defense? 🙂

  • Rhys Jaggar

    Try analysing:

    1. Number of shots/headers from within 15 yards or 10 yards. If you have 10 shots from 25 yards, you’d be lucky to score more than two. Most would be lucky to score one.
    2. Pass completion in the final third and defensive third. The former is important for scoring goals, the latter not conceding them. Playing tippy tappy on the half way line achieves nothing.
    3. Analyse percentage possession in final 3rd.

    What you’ll find is that if Barcelona are great at stopping opponents getting into the final third (they seem to be to my untrained eye), that’ll really show up. Equally, if you analyse how Inter beat Barcelona over two legs, it wasn’t by dominating possession. It was by stopping Barcelona penetrating in the final third.

    Why don’t you analyse number of attackers in the box when crosses come in: I’d be amazed if there isn’t a correlation between that and number of goals scored as a result. There was a huge difference between Utd and Arsenal on that until recently…….the new training regimen appears to be changing that for the better………

    Why don’t you analyse % of corners used productively. That means:
    1. Clears the first defender.
    2. Isn’t a gift for the goalkeeper.
    3. Isn’t a free header or clearance for a defender.

    You can have as many corners as you like, but if you’re rubbish at taking them, you won’t gain any advantage.

    Do the same with crosses. The stats for Arsenal the past 5 years would be awful. They seem to be doing better the past 2 months.

    Hat tip for those wanting to analyse stats. Use your footballing brains before you do the stats. The stats bit is easy. Determining what to do stats on is what matters………

  • Alek

    @Rhys Jaggar

    Playing tippy tappy on the half way line achieves nothing.

    48% of actions of Barselona going in the middle third. In the half way line they start attacks and defend themselves because without ball their opponents cannot to score.

    What you’ll find is that if Barcelona are great at stopping opponents getting into the final third (they seem to be to my untrained eye), that’ll really show up.

    They stop opponents by possession. And their opponents just afraid to attack Barcelona with big forces because they afraid of Barcelonas counter.

    Equally, if you analyse how Inter beat Barcelona over two legs, it wasn’t by dominating possession. It was by stopping Barcelona penetrating in the final third.

    Inter cannot to dominate Barcelona by possession. Therefore there is no other tactics besides parking the bus.
    England cannot to dominate Spain by possession. Therefore there is no other tactics besides parking the bus.
    And sometimes the parking the bus works.

    Set pieces, strong defense is more impotent for teams which cannot to dominate by possession because there is no other way for them to win. For Barselona and Arsenal set pieces and strong defense are less impotent but still are very impotent.