Watch the Arsenal goal again, and again; plus some weird and odd statistics


Champions League – Group B 2023/24
Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Arsenal 3 2 0 1 7 3 4 6
2 RC Lens 3 1 2 0 4 3 1 5
3 Sevilla 3 0 2 1 4 5 -1 2
4 PSV Eindhoven 3 0 2 1 3 7 -4 2


Of course there are nine more points to play for, so nothing is settled as yet, but that has been a good first half in the competition.

However, we might turn away from the excitement of last night to ponder the implication of the figures that come out of that game.

Arsenal transformed their normal Premier League approach of dominating possession, into one in which the opposition could have possession, and this is not something commentators normally note as it is not seen as a “good thing.”

But the fact, as we noted at the very start, is that Chelsea are currently second in the possession chart in the Premier League but 10th in the league.  We can also note from the table below that West Ham are 9th in the league but 19th in the possession table.


Team P W D L F A GD Pts Possession
1 Tottenham Hotspur 9 7 2 0 20 8 12 23 60.7%
2 Manchester City 9 7 0 2 19 7 12 21 63.3%
3 Arsenal 9 6 3 0 18 8 10 21 60.2%
4 Liverpool 9 6 2 1 20 9 11 20 55.5%
5 Aston Villa 9 6 1 2 23 13 10 19 54.2%
6 Newcastle United 9 5 1 3 24 9 15 16 54.1%
7 Brighton and Hove Albion 9 5 1 3 22 18 4 16 58.6%
8 Manchester United 9 5 0 4 11 13 -2 15 54.2%
9 West Ham United 9 4 2 3 16 16 0 14 37.9%
10 Chelsea 9 3 3 3 13 9 4 12 61.2%


What last night reminded us, and the table above shows once again, is that while possession is generally a positive thing to have (obviously since one can’t score without it) and while possession generally equates to winning, these links are not automatic.

Chelsea have the second-highest level of possession in the Premier League but languish in 10th place.  Sevilla had 56% of the possession in last night’s game, at home, and lost.  West Ham United have a possession level that is worse than Sheffield United and Bournemouth, and only 0.8% better than Luton Town, and yet are ninth in the league.

My point, therefore, is that commentators who rage over some imagined Arsenal failing and base their view entirely on a single stat, after often missing a point.   While of course you can’t argue with the points total gained, picking one statistic and suggesting Arsenal should be doing better in that regard (whatever it is) will often be misleading.

Part of the brilliance of Arteta in my view is that he is able to change Arsenal’s playing style.  We noticed it (although I don’t think many other commentators mentioned it) when he moved Arsenal from being the most yellow-carded club in 2019/20 to having just one card more in 2020/21 than the great yellow-card avoiders, Manchester City.   Indeed this season Arsenal currently have fewer cards than Manchester C.

Obviously, you don’t win anything by having fewer cards, but as Tottenham with their 29 yellows so far will soon find out, a multiplicity of cards can start messing up the team selections.

The aim should always be to score more goals than the team gets yellow cards, and this season only five teams are managing that (in the final “percentage” these are primarily the clubs with a figure above 1.0.  Chelsea and Tottenham from the lower reaches of yellow card land are included below by way of comparison).


Team Goals Yellow cards Percentage
 Manchester City 19 17 1.12
Newcastle United 24 23 1.04
Aston Villa 23 22 1.05
Arsenal 18 15 1.20
Liverpool 20 16 1.25
Chelsea 13 29 0.45
Tottenham Hotspur 20 29 0.69


More anon.  Here’s the video

12 Replies to “Watch the Arsenal goal again, and again; plus some weird and odd statistics”

  1. The talking idiot on TNT UK last night should be nominated for the 2023 Lawrencing trophy.

    He was saying – I quote from memory – Arsenal have just 60% possession for the 2023-2024 PL season, like this was a huge issue and a failing…. just pathetic…

    This dropped casually when he had nothin else to say

    They just can’t control their anti-Arsenal vibes.

  2. Chris

    “Arsenal have just 60% possession for the 2023-2024 PL season”

    I know Chris. I am just doing a piece on possession and as you will see bellow, over the entire 2022/23 season in which as we all know we finished 2nd, our possession for the season was………..59.3%

    So in fact we are in fact slightly up on last season.

    Last season Man City had 64.7% possession, so they are in fact slightly down on 63.3%. One wonders what that idiot would have to say about that catastrophe!!!!

    Honestly Chris these people are beyond pathetic.

    Anyway, these are my thoughts on possession and it’s undeniable importance to success. Another one of my Hobby Horses I’m afraid.

    From above:

    “In the Premier League this season Arsenal are fourth in the possession table on 60%. Manchester City are top with 63.3%, Chelsea second with 61%, Tottenham third with 60.1%. Behind them is Brighton on 58.4%. Near the bottom of that table we might note West Ham with 38.3% possession of the ball in PL games”.

    I agree possession isn’t everything. I think we all know you have to do something with that possession, but by and large, as your article shows, most top teams have a lot of it, and the teams at the bottom do not.

    There is one simple truism behind this, if you have the ball the opponent cant score. So, as an extreme example, even if you go nowhere with it, if you kept the ball for 90 minutes at least the opponent won’t score either. I know that is extreme, but the reasoning behind it is undeniable.

    You name the 5 teams above with the most possession in the PL this season and 3 of them sit 1st 2nd and 3rd. That is no coincidence. It would not surprise me if at the end of the season the correlation between possession and where you finished ran very close from top to bottom.

    The following is last years teams with 50% + possession, and where they finished:

    1: Man City 64.7% – 1st
    2: Liverpool 60.8% – 5th
    3: Brighton 60.2% – 6th
    4: Arsenal 59.3% – 2nd
    5: Chelsea 58.7 – 12th
    6: Man Utd 53.7% – 3rd
    7: Newcastle 52.3% – 4th
    8: Tottenham 50.0% – 8th

    Okay, not an exact correlation but out of the 8 teams with 50% plus possession 7 finished in the top 8. Aston Villa where the interloper in 7th, and they had 49.3% possession.

    Chelsea were the team that missed out. They seem to be having very similar issues this year. Lots of possession but not not getting results. It seems, as yet, Pochetino has not resolved whatever problem it is causing that, because as last years table shows, with their possession, they should be doing better.

    Oh, how those Chavs laughed when they gazumped us to get Mudryk. Oh, how they laughed when they sold us ‘agents’ Jorginho and Havertz. Maybe that explains their problems? Not so funny now is it Chavs? Sorry went off on a tangent there!!!

    But back to possession. No it isn’t everything, but I bet you top of every coaching manual is:



    If you do that, statistics prove you will do better than those that fail to.

    It all starts with POSSESSION.

  3. Nitram,

    I’m not arguing any of the tactical/philosophical choices of posession….was just pointing out the Lawrencing about it on Uk TV. As said, just pathetic.

  4. “Football is a simple game based on the giving and taking of passes,
    of controlling the ball and of making yourself available to receive a pass.
    It is terribly simple.

    Bill Shankly.

    He is also credited with saying that while you have the ball , the other team can’t score
    But he nicked that one from Vic Cunningham when he was manager of Ajax.

    But in effect two great managers from the past , but their philosophies have stood the test of time

  5. @ Porter => Vic Buckingham, AFC Ajax 1959–1961 / 1964–1965. In 1964 Johan Cruyff made his league debut under him. Buckingham is considered to have been a pioneer of the footballing philosophy known as Total Football, later further developed by his protégé Johan Cruyff.

  6. Chris

    I know. My comment was really a response to Tony’s article, in particular the following:

    “And yet last night Arsenal had just 44% possession and Sevilla 56%. Yet despite that lack of possession Arsenal had more attempts on goal (10 to Sevilla’s 9) and twice as many on target (4 for Arsenal, 2 for Sevilla). Which suggests that getting overly excited about possession may not give us the full picture”

    Because, yes you can, and teams often do win with less possession. Sometimes teams win with hardly any possession, and one shot at goal. It happens. Some teams are set up, specifically to ‘play on the counter’, and some do it very successfully.

    But my point is, despite that, the fact remains that possession of the ball is the corner stone to being a consistently successful team.

    I only really addressed your good self in agreement with your observation that the guy at TNT was an idiot, especially when, as I pointed out, we actually have more possession this year than last.

  7. I would agree that TNT seem to have decided that commentary needs to be taken down another level, as TV football watchers are poor simple souls who don’t know much about anything.

  8. I do enjoy listening to Ally McCoist.

    He is the exception that proves the rule. The rest of the commentators and punditry would be more suited to life in my pond.

  9. seismic

    Ally McCoist on the Kovacic second foul and non sending off:

    “Yes, it was a yellow card and yes it was the wrong decision, but I found it refreshing to hear Michael Oliver clearly say, ‘No it was not a yellow’ and not send him off, even though it was the wrong decision”

    That’s and ‘exception to the rule’ I could happily do without. Sorry seismic, it’s very rare, but in this case I have to disagree with you.

  10. Let’s face it, the ref last night saw non-existent fouls when they fell over and let some extraordinary stuff go against us. I’m not sure why and it’s possible that I’m biased…..but not nearly as biased as he was!

  11. Mikey

    I thought exactly the same.

    The bare statistics suggest he was harsh on Sevilla as they were given 2 yellows for just 7 fouls where as we received just 1 yellow for 13 fouls. But I don’t believe that in this case it tells the true story.

    We were called for the merest touch, which could explain the high amount of fouls, but also why they were not worthy of cards.

    Where as Servilla were given much more latitude, and as such were much more aggressive in their challenges, hence the low number of fouls but the relatively high card count.

    I think by and large we get much more balanced officiating in Europe, but not Tuesday night.

  12. Mikey & Nitram
    After watching the game I came to the conclusion that I haven’t a clue what does & doesn’t constitute a foul in the modern game. I seems referees don’t enforce the laws of the game but give their own personal interpretation of the laws. But when they have 22 players disputing every decision from throw ins, corner kicks, goal kicks & waving imaginary cards in their faces maybe they can be forgiven. And that is without mentioning the play acting which has gone beyond parody. Footballers don’t seem to realise that TV shows contact in slow motion & while they are rolling about holding their shin in agony TV is showing the audience he wasn’t touched on his shin. No wonder fans have & show little respect for both of them but the show goes on.

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