Why Arsenal’s goals have dried up and how the problem can be solved



By Tony Attwood

The talking point in much of the media is Arsenal’s lack of goals, although interestingly this point is made in most cases without any reference to actual numbers, which when one thinks about it is a bit odd.

The Guardian for example says today “what they [Arsenal] really lack, the key omission skewing and stretching the rest of the team, is bullets, sharp edge, weaponry in front of goal. The one thing these Gunners don’t have is a gunner.”

And from one point of view we might agree – a bit.   Last season after 20 games Arsenal were scoring 2.31 goals a game.  This season it is 1.85.  (The defence is worse but not by much – last season after 20 games the club was letting in 0.85 goals a game, this season it is 1.0.  It’s worse but not by that much.

Now figures like that don’t appear in the British media because newspaper editors have the view that their readers don’t like and/or can’t handle numbers.   But if only they could take a look at numbers they would see exactly where the issue is and how it can be sorted.

Instead, the media likes its silly word games as with the Guardian proclaiming “The one thing these Gunners don’t have is a gunner.”  I’m rather glad I don’t have a subscription to the Guardian, for that statement alone would otherwise be making me ask for my money back.

So, with it clear that Arsenal are not scoring as many goals as last season by this stage, we can then ask “why?”   And we can do this very simply by looking at the scorers from last season, and adding in a simple extra column not normally seen: “goals per game” (that’s GPG for any journalists who have strayed over here by mistake).


Player Games Goals GPG
Eddie Nketiah 18 9 0.500
Gabriel Jesus 27 11 0.407
Martin Odegaard 39 15 0.384
Gabriel Martinelli 40 15 0.375
Bukayo Saka 42 15 0.357


Now with those simple figures to hand we can look at this season


Player Games Goals GPG
Eddie Nketiah 10 5 0.500
Bukayo Saka 19 6 0.316
Kai Havertz 13 4 0.308
Gabriel Jesus 11 3 0.278
Martin Odegaard 17 4 0.235
Gabriel Martinelli 17 2 0.118


So in simple terms, Eddie is firing at the same level as last season,  Saka is doing fractionally worse (0.041 goals a game worse to be exact).  Put this another way – if Saka had scored one more goal this season so far, his ratio of goals per games would be HIGHER than last season.

Now let’s return to the Guardian’s “commentary” (I use the word lightly)…

“The plan remains the same. Bukayo Saka will repeatedly try to trick his way past two designated defenders, while everyone else watches, then gets cross when he’s fouled.”

This nonsense totally ignores what is actually going on.  Saka is performing just about as well as last season in terms of goals scored, DESPITE being every more heavily marked.

Now there is an easy to see explanation as to how Arsenal are keeping Saka at that high level (again ignored by the media that I have read today).  And that is that Arsenal have successfully cut the number of fouls that their players are getting this season.  Last season it was 11,4 fouls per game.  This season it is 10.8. fouls agains the team per game.  This move has taken Arsenal from the fourth most fouled club in the league to the 10th most fouled club.  It is a move that is helping keep Arsenal players on the pitch for far longer in the face of attempts to foul them.

So to return to the numbers.   Eddie is performing exactly as well as he did last season.  Saka is within one goal of exceeding his record per game for last season.

Which leads to the question, ignored of course by the media who won’t do numbers on the grounds that English people can’t do maths: where have the goals gone?

The problem comes from Gabriel Jesus and Martin Odegaard.  Last season Jesus was on fire with 0.407 goals per game.   This season it is 0.278.  In short he is operating at around half the level of last season.

Martin Odegaard’s case is different because of his injury, and there is no doubt that the captain is taking time (quite reasonably) to get his goal scoring back on form.  He’s down from 0.384 to 0.235 goals per game.

Add those numbers together and last season the combined total for Jesus and Odegaard was 0.791 goals per game – an astonishing total.   This season it is 0.513 goals per game.

Which leaves us with Martinelli who has declined by 0.239 goals a game.  That is a huge drop.  It would not matter if others were taking up the slack, but they are not.   Is this a change in tactical approach, or him being marked out of the game, or a loss of form?  I’m not sure.

So what we can conclude is that Saka and Eddie are performing as before, Odegaard is recovering his form after injury, Jesus has slipped considerably, and Martinelli has vanished as a goal scorer.

What we can conclude is that the comment “The one thing these Gunners don’t have is a gunner.” in the Guardian is typical mindless gibberish.   Arsenal have a problem with the goal scoring of Jesus and Martinelli, while Odegaard is still making his way back to form.  

I’m not sure if Jesus can get himself back to his previous goal scoring peak, but I rather suspect Martinelli can, once whatever the problem is, is sorted out.

And here’s one final point.  Havertz scored one goal in his first dozen games for Arsenal.  But he has scored three in his last six.  That is a rise from 0.083 goals a game to 0.5 goals a game which puts him now at the same level as our leading scorer Eddie.

So, a solution?   Well, keep playing Havertz and Eddie, let Odegaard keep growing back into his form, keep Saka on the pitch, and while all that is going on, try and resolve the goal scoring problems facing Jesus and Martinelli. 

One Reply to “Why Arsenal’s goals have dried up and how the problem can be solved”

  1. Sorry I agree absolutely with the Guardian. It has been obvious for a long time that we don’t have an excellent striker. Someone who can make a difference when the team is struggling. We won’t win the league without it. Nketiah just isn’t good enough and Jesus is not a striker per se. Arteta must know this as it is obvious to everyone.

    Trouble is they are very difficult to find. I’m not sold on Toney or Solanke but who else is there? Osimhen’ not likely to happen and I can’t think of anyone else. Watkins…I can’t help feeling that with him it is a case of every dog has its day. Don’t think he is good enough either. MC has Haaland, Lpool has Salah and even Spurs have Son, but Arsenal has no one who comes close.

    I don’t know what the solution is, but we are being found,out due to not having a top class striker.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *