By Bulldog Drummond
I want to break off just for a moment from the Arsenal v Brighton commentaries for something rather amusing.
You may have noticed that we spent a lot of time examining the Newcastle fans’ somewhat aggressibve claims that Arsenal were the great cheating time wasters in the Premier League. In fact we found that some of these claims were a bit silly (Although perhaps not as silly as an article in the Mail headed REVEALED: The Premier League’s worst time-wasters… and often-criticised Newcastle AREN’T the worst offenders, which actually shows that yes, Newcastle are the worst offenders.
But now we can go a bit further and look at time wasting across the season for all clubs, and Opta has kindly provided us with the details..
Measuring the percentage total of match minutes with the ball in play for this season so far we find these rather interesting figures.
- Brighton and Hove Albion: 56.1%
- Arsenal: 55.4%
- Newcastle United: 51.7%
In fact it is now clear that Newcastle United have the least amount of time of the ball in play in their games of any club in the Premier League. And incidentally, it shows that Newcastle followers are the most deluded in the league. (If you would like to know more about this type of self-delusion the series we recently concluded has all the details…
- The dark arts: how football is not quite what we think
- Why do two sets of fans see a match in such a different way? Part 2.
- Why football fans believe the opposition cheats.
Arsenal in fact are 10th in the league when measured by the amount of time the ball is in play across all league matches this season – exactly half way down. But more important than that, what is the position of Newcastle United who as you can see from the little table above, have the ball in play less time than Arsenal?
The answer is that they are bottom of the league – Newcastle, whose fans and manager made all the complaints about Arsenal being masters of the dark art of restricting the time the ball in play, are actually the team who have the ball in play less time than any other club in the league!
So OK having sorted that, back to Arsenal v Brighton, and we focussed in the last article on the position of the clubs in the last six games.
Brighton’s rise has been something special in recent years. They got promotion in 2011 from League One as Champions, and from the Championship by coming second in 2017, (having been 20th just two years before).
Since then they have come a long way, and have this season introduced a new striker – the story of which is somewhat interesting. From 2019/20 to 2021/22, the top scorer from Brighton was Neal Maupay. Across those three seasons he scored 10, 8 and then 9 league goals. He then went to Everton where this season he has scored… one in 27 games.
Brighton’s top scorer this season is Alexis MacAllister who has scored 12 in 35 games in all competitions.
This contrasts with Arsenal who uniquely have three players in the top ten scorers in the Premier League. These figures come from Sporting News, but we have added the final column of minutes on the pitch per goal excluding penalty kicks.*
|Mins per goal*
So Arsenal have three of the top ten strikers in the league, and when we measure how effective they are by the simple measurement of goals scored (excluding penalties) divided by minutes on pitch they rank 6th, 7th and 10th in the league.
Which is quite an achievement because not only does no other club have three strikers in the top ten, none of them even have two strikers in the top ten.
Brighton’s performance in the league this season however should not be ignored not least because it comes in a season when they lost their manager (who must be wondering why on earth he left in order to go to Chelsea) and in previous Premier League seasons came 15th (twice), 16th, 17th and then last season ninth.
Arsenal and Brighton have played each other 27 times in competitive games, eight in the domestic cups and 19 in the league. But we should not mistake their previous lowly positions in the league for meaning they have always been a pushover. Since they entered the Premier League in 2017/18 Arsenal have won four games against them in the league, drawn three, and lost four.
In 2021/22 there was a goalless draw in Sussex, and a home defeat 1-2 in April 2022. This season we won the away game 2-4 with goals from Saka (2 minutes) Odegaard (39), Nketian (47) and Martinelli (71).
So it might not be as easy a game as a few might be expecting.
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- What takes clubs up and down the league: attack or defence?
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