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By Tony Attwood
Diverting the discussion away from Arsenal successes is a common feature of the chitchat that goes on in the run-up to each match. As with the headline ‘Not good enough’ – Gabriel Jesus will never be a great goalscorer, but can Arsenal still win the Premier League with the Brazilian up front? from Goal.Com
ESPN has commented that, “[Erling] Haaland doesn’t miss that chance; that’s the difference. If that’s Haaland, that ball is in the back of the net. Jesus just cannot do what he did there. That is horrendous, not good enough.”
But if we look at the league table for the end of last season Arsenal were the second-highest scorers with 88 goals, 13 goals ahead of Liverpool in third place in the goalscoring charts, and 16 above the fourth-highest scoring team – Brighton and Hove Albion. The club was in fact just six goals behind Manchester City overall. So why pick on one player?
Particularly since if we take the actual PL goalscorers in the league last season we have Martinelli and Odegaard each with 15, Saka with 14 and Jesus with 11 – a unique approach to goal scoring, and one that clearly bamboozled lots of defences who really had no idea where the next goal was going to come from.
In response to the that argument could be the notion that Jesus, at centre forward, was in fact inadequate because he only got 11 goals, but that would fail to take account of the fact that he only played 24 league games, and that he was playing in a formation that bamboozled most defences as they had no idea where the next goal was coming from.
Arsenal’s approach was utterly different from Manchester City who only had two players scoring in double figures in the league, and most of the goals coming from the obvious goal machine.
So it was a completely different approach for Arsenal from Manchester City who it must be admitted have a once in a generation scorer. But moving on, where we could see a change however would be a regular midfield of Partey, Rice and Odegaard which could look rather formidable.
All in all, Arsenal have used 20 players as starters in league games this season in the league. as opposed to 17 by Manchester City and 15 for Tottenham.
And there is another difference to be seen between the way different clubs are using their players. Arsenal have four players who have played in all eight league games from the start – the same as Manchester City. Tottenham however have eight players who have played in all eight games from the start. Liverpool have five.
Indeed, Tottenham’s complete lack of European competition and the fact that they were knocked out in the first round of the league cup by Fulham, have together opened up the possibility of having a very settled team from the off, and this has obviously been an advantage.
But what remains interesting for Tottenham is their level of yellow cards, which of course has been mentioned before. They have picked up 27 yellow cards, rivaled only by Chelsea on 26 and Wolverhampton on 24. Arsenal are on 12.
Thus we can see Tottenham are using only 75% of the number of players Arsenal use while picking up 125% more yellow cards, and that means that individual players are likely to be picking up more cards each and heading for suspensions.
In fact Bissouma is teetering on the edge already with four cards in eight games, and Udogie has three. Eight Tottenham players have two cards each. In fact only one Tottenham player who has played eight games has avoided any cards: Son.
Thus 16 Tottenham players have picked up a card in the Premier League this season. For Arsenal it is nine. The top carded player for Arsenal is Havertz with three. For Tottenham it is Bissouma with four and Udogie with three.
Of course matters can change, and Tottenham could alter their style, or indeed make a complaint to PGMO about the way they are being treated, but for now the combination of being top of the league for yellow cards in Premier League games, while using one of the smallest groups of players, looks to be a rather dangerous path to follow.
There may well be plenty of other factors involved of course – not least their ability to spread the cards around among the team, but the gung-ho policy to tackling could come back to haunt them. With 20 tackles a game they are in the group at the very top of the Premier League for using tackles as a central part of their game, putting in over 40% more tackles per game than Manchester City.
It is working, but as those yellow cards mount, it might come unstuck at some stage.
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