By Tony Attwood
Arsenal, as we all know, are rubbish at attacking. We know it because it is in the press, and have heard it in the ground. And as for social media, well…
Here are our goal scorers for the season just gone.
|Name||Premier League||FA Cup||Champions League||Total|
|Olivier Giroud||26 (12)||16||4 (1)||3||5 (2)||5||37 (16)||24|
|Theo Walcott||15 (13)||5||3 (2)||2||3 (3)||2||22 (20)||9|
|Aaron Ramsey||29 (2)||5||0 (2)||1||3 (2)||0||34 (6)||6|
|Alexis Sánchez||28 (2)||13||2 (1)||1||7||3||37 (4)||17|
So how does this compare with the rest of the top clubs? This original list comes from World Football – I have added a few more columns for the sake of this analysis…
|#||Player||Team||Goals (Pen)||Lge pos||Cuml||Club tot||%||Goal pos|
|1.||Harry Kane||Tottenham||25 (5)||3||25||69||36||2|
|2.||Kun Agüero||Man City||24 (4)||4||24||71||33||1|
|Jamie Vardy||Leicester City||24 (5)||1||41||68||35||3|
|4.||Romelu Lukaku||Everton FC||18 (1)||11||18||59||30||7|
|5.||Riyad Mahrez||Leicester City||17 (4)||(1)||(41)||(68)||25||(3)|
|6.||Olivier Giroud||Arsenal FC||16 (1)||2||29||65||24||4|
|Odion Ighalo||Watford FC||16 (0)||13||29||40||40||15|
|8.||Jermain Defoe||Sunderland||15 (1)||17||15||48||31||10|
|9.||Troy Deeney||Watford FC||13 (6)||(13)||(29)||(40)||33||(15)|
|Alexis Sánchez||Arsenal FC||13 (0)||(2)||(29)||(65)||20||(4)|
In the table above I have listed the ten top scorers in Premier League matches in the season. Three clubs, Leicester, Arsenal and Watford have two players in the list so after recording the player and his total I have given the club listings in brackets for the second player to reflect that they are duplicating an entry.
League position: there is a general tendency to have clubs with a top scorer near the top of the list (the top four in the league are all represented in the top 10 scorers) but after the top four it is a bit random – the other clubs in the list came 11th, 13th and 17th.
Cumulative: adding together the total of the two players where a club had two players in the top 10. Leicester is a mile out in front in terms of goals, followed by Arsenal and Watford, 12 goals behind. So clearly, having two goalscorers in the nation’s top 10 for league goals is a good idea as you would expect.
Percentage: What percentage of the club’s league goals did this player score? Most of these players scored between 31% and 36% of the club’s goals. Ighalo got 40% of Watford’s goals, stressing how lost they would have been without him.
Club total number of goals: this is the key point. How does having one or two of the top scorers in the country affect the total number of goals scored? The fact that Watford, with two top ten strikers was still 15th in the overall goal total in the league, begins to give us a clearer picture of what was going on here.
So is having a top striker better for the club?
Only up to a point. Clearly the more goals the better – but… Leicester had two players who between them got 60% of their goals. Arsenal had two players who between them got 44% of the club’s goals. Tottenham had one player who got 36% of the club’s goals.
This might seem attractive, but just consider what happens if any of these players get injured or lose their form. Indeed what would have happened to Leicester if both of their top forwards had got injured? Probably mid-table or worse.
Suddenly the issue of having a top scorer in the club is reversed – if no one is ready to step up instantly, the goal scoring vanishes and there is a danger.
This was always the worry about Thierry Henry – what would happen if he got a long term injury? It was hard to bring through a second striker who could not play in the team when he was playing, as he would hardly get a game, because Henry missed so few matches – which is why we were so successful during the early Wenger years.
But let’s come back to the brown column in the table and consider the number of goals scored by the top teams. The league table in goal scoring order for the end of last season read like this
|Clubs||Goals For||Lge pos||Top scorer|
|State Aid United||65||7||9*|
In short the notion of one, or better still, two top strikers is clearly a bonus, but placing a huge emphasis on them is, it seems, no more a solution that buying a big name player or changing the manager. It can help, but quite often it doesn’t. And for getting into the top five as State Aid Utd show, you hardly need a top scorer at all.
Arsenal scored three goals fewer than the champions this last season, and yes, if we had scored just half a dozen more in the right games it would have helped our league position.
But the more and more of these analyses we do (big money transfers, new manager, buy a top scorer) we find that although each factor can help SOMETIMES they are never a complete guarantee. In fact there are no simple answers.
Indeed this is why our recent analysis on Concrete Thinking and Abstract Thinking (Can possible reasons for unsupported opinions be understood, explained and contribute anything to Untold Arsenal?) and the follow up A new view as to why the media insist on ignoring the key issues in football day after day after day have some importance here. Simple answers (like the concrete thinkers on social media, broadcast media and the press deliver) are only the right answers in a small number of cases.
These simplistic views which state there is one simple answer (new goal scorer, big transfer, new manager) are just that – simplistic views. Yes Leicester got it just right with two very good goalscorers who stayed fit most of the season, but in the end they still only scored a few more goals than Arsenal.
So now let’s try it again with shots on target.
The absolute complete and total winner here is Tottenham Hotspur who got 250 shots on target in the season. That’s 19% more than Arsenal in second place. But all those extra shots on target resulted in just four more goals. Four more goals from 40 more shots on target. Indeed Man City got more goals than Tottenham and Man City like Arsenal had 40 fewer shots on target. These figures once again come from the excellent Footstas website.
Clubs in terms of Shots on target
|Lge pos||Team||Played||Shots||On target||Goals|
If I take the same table and run it just in terms of shots (remembering that many people have written and said in the past year that Arsenal are goal shy and simply can’t or won’t shoot) we find this.
|All Shots||Shots On Target||Goals|
|7||State Aid United||556||184||65|
Now this surely is interesting. Leicester who won the league so convincingly came 10th in the shots table. Leicester had 138 shots fewer than Tottenham, the great shooting kings of the League last season.
Once again the point is proven: there are no simple answers. Indeed one might say, beware of people with simple answers.
I am going to finish with one point that will delight everyone who has written to Untold saying either “you can prove anything with statistics” or “there are lies, damn lies, and statistics”.
My answer has always been that this is wrong. If the statistics are accurately presented, and the person writing the analysis is honest, these statements are not aphorisms but old wives tales.
This final table shows the clubs in a very specific order: the number of times a shot on target turned into a goal. So Leicester scored 68 goals, and it took them 181 shots on target to do so. In other words 37.57% of their shots on target turned into goals. They ended up top of the league and top of the efficiency league in terms of turning shots on target into goals.
Arsenal took 19 more shots on target but scored three fewer goals. Their conversion rate was 30.95% – so about 6% worse, but Arsenal end up 13th in the table analysing shots on target into goals.
|Shots||On Target||Goals||%on Target||%Goals|
The table shows something even stranger – Tottenham, so wildly applauded by the media in terms of the efficiency of its forward line turns out to be one of the least apt at turning shots on target into goals.
My point in including this table is to conclude my general thesis – that simplistic answers, such as buy a new striker, or make the strikers more accurate, in addition to get a new manager or shoot more, are just that: simplistic answers. The manager’s refusal, if it is that, to sign a new striker, or perhaps the obstinacy that leads him not to do what everyone says he should do, is actually none of these things at all but is in fact a clear understanding of which statistics influence league position.
If we were to take the table above as representative of reasons why teams win or fail to win, Tottenham should have called their much lauded forwards in for endless extra training to show him and his fellows how to beat a goalkeeper.
No, the starting point should clearly be the much more obvious factors such as…
- How many goals did the team score and how to increase this very slightly?
- If we brought in a new centre forward, would that diminish the goal scoring of Alexis because it would force a different mode of playing?
- If we brought in a new centre forward, would he be one of the 25% who make an immediate impact, or one of the 50% who take a year or two to come to the boil, or one of the 25% who simply never make it, despite their price tag?
That is the sort of thinking that is needed – for the simple reason that it reflects the reality of contemporary football.
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