Arsenal 74 Ipswich 5

By Tony Attwood

Over the years I have become increasingly bemused by the stats that are put out after each game, either because I just don’t believe they relate to the match I have just seen, or because I don’t understand what the hell is going on (which is of course my normal state of life).

The latter (not understanding) is especially the case with the web sites that evaluate players’ performances on a whole raft of issues.  The figures awarded seem utterly arbitrary and so give results that mean next to nothing.

There’s one, for example, that has 19 different measurements ranging from scoring (plus 40) to five for a shot blocked, and then on to minus 1 for a failed pass, minus 3 for a foul, minus 10 for a yellow, and so on.

If you accept the basis of all of this (ie that a goal is worth plus 40 and not plus 50 or plus 30), and the fact that the ref got things right and so the yellow was a yellow and not a red, and the fact that they saw the same game as you (according to the site I have seen today the only person who had a shot on target for Arsenal was Cesc), then I suppose it means something.

And just in case it does mean something then you might like to know our best players last night were

  • Cesc – 138
  • Bendtner – 106
  • Denilson – 103
  • Arshavin – 87.

Our worst players were those who were on the pitch for a limited amount of time, but leaving those aside the full-time worst was Szczsczsczny who got six for “goalkeeper action” and 15 for completed passes.  Obviously we need a new goalkeeper.

And so suddenly having thought, “what a load of twaddle” I find that this is actually gives me a moment of reflection.  Not because I believe in the maths, but because the result leads me to rethink who were the best players.  Jack was 7th in this analysis – was that really true?  I’m with Walter on this one – I thought he was brilliant.

And this in turn makes me recognise the obvious: that the players are working with different functions in different areas, and having different effects on the opposition.

If you were there last night you will know about the groans that went round the ground at every pass that failed.  There was an expectation of perfection in the air, which of course was never delivered most of the time.  But there were moments of perfection, and I’d include the first goal in this.

Bendtner, in the second match against Leeds and here last night is back to delivering what we saw him deliver in the past before the long set of injuries before and during the world cup.  The pass that led to Robin’s goal at Leeds, and the goal itself against Ipswich were superb – perfect even.  Nanometre perfect.

Which then made me think, if I were doing a table scoring individual players for things, I would want to be able to give extras for brilliance.   OK we were playing a second division side, but Bendtner’s goal would have worked in all matches – as would his pass for the goal against Leeds.  30 point bonus.

Which then leads to this thought – why do people demand perfection all the time, and make such a lot of groans when a pass goes astray?

I think the answer is because they’ve all got copies of the Henry/Pires era in which you get 90 minutes of football reduced to one or two minutes on a DVD.   Those two guys were of course utter masters of the game, and the way they could draw players out of position, and then fill in the gaps, was just beyond anything I have seen in a lifetime of watching football.

But, they didn’t do it all the time.   Henry hit shots that missed by miles.   Pires played passes from midfield that went to the opposition.   But we forget them because they are not on the DVD, and because after a couple of weeks (let alone a couple of years) the memory fades.

Last night I was trying to explain to Stuart, the son of my regular jive partner, who came with me to the game last night, how this works.   (He being a charming and respectful young man listened dutifully to the ramblings of an old timer, not least because at that stage he didn’t know which seats we were in, and I had the tickets in my pocket, and so telling me to shut up really wasn’t a good option at that time).

My example was taken from the final game of the unbeaten season, a game I can remember more than most.  But in relating my thesis to him (that there were dodgy moments even when the unbeaten team played) I found that in reality I can now remember little more than being 1-0 down at half time, the two Arsenal goals, and the post match celebration.

Which leads me to this thought.   This is a very different team from the teams that won the doubles and the team that went unbeaten, but it has its own qualities and special features which are comparable with the great teams of the past.   OK, If you have recordings of complete matches from ordinary run of the mill games in those earlier eras, then fine, compare our games now with those.  But don’t imagine that in the past every pass was perfect, every match won at a stroll.  It wasn’t.

I think my point a few weeks ago was valid when I mentioned the cup game against Port Vale early on in the Wengerian era.  We drew 0-0, and then won the replay on penalties.   I can still hear the comments of the time – “I told you that Wenger was a complete waste of space.  Can’t even beat Port Vale in normal time.  This is what you get from employing a foreigner who doesn’t understand the English game”.    We went on to win the double.

Anyway, back to Ipswich.  I don’t know what the score was when measured in shots, but I think my total in the headline is as  good a record as anyone.  It felt like that anyway.

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20 Replies to “Arsenal 74 Ipswich 5”

  1. Have to agree with you here ; )

    The most awesome thing about this team is not only the fact that it is a real team and they find each other perfectly. They also have all sorts of different qualities individualy. The pace of Walcott, the suber creativity and passing of Cesc etc.

    This can help the team over a dead point in the game, when the combinations do not work (when teams defend with 10 people).

    I think this is going to be a good season. united cannot have luck forever (although, it is united) and their remaining fixtures give us the advantage.

  2. Okay, if we are doing the player ratings thing, then here is my two cents worth:

    Chesney 4 – gets deducted two points for almost decapitating Sagna. Otherwise didnt have anything to do.
    Sagna/Eboue 7 – our 2-headed right-back monster was solid.
    Clichy 8 – Is it just me or is Clichy suddenly looking like the Clichy of 2007-09. Could it be related to Gibbs getting fit?
    Koscielny 8 – Outstanding.
    Djourou 8 – Outstanding MK II.
    Denilson 7 – Did his job. Cleaned up, passed to the open man, and covered the back-4. No need to say more.
    Wilshire 9 – What a talent. What a worker.
    Cesc 6.5 – I thought his passing was a bit off in the first half(by his standards!!!!). Much improved in the 2nd half.
    Bendtner 8 – Once again, did his job and scored a peach. How interesting it was to see him flit from wing to wing.
    Arshavin 5 – Sorry, he worked hard but it just isnt falling for him right now. His assist was quality but the game was up at that point. He needs to bundle in a goal off his shin from two yards out. He needs a change of luck.
    RvP 7 – Typical performance from Robin. Great center-forward play.


  3. I thought Arshavin got 2 assists Paul C? I could be wrong as I don’t rightly remember BUT didn’t he take the corner for Koscielny’s goal?

    I would have rated Cesc quite low (I agree on that) as he was often the weak link last night… although I am not of the opinion that you are only as good as your last game – so I still rate him highly as a player.

    @Dark Prince – Statistics can also reveal many things… meaningless statistics are just platitudes.

  4. Very interesting point Tony, i have to agree with you, altho i also have to confess having spent at least a couple of nostalgic hours watching Pires on Youtube last night.

    i just dont get some of the comments i read nowadays comparing the “perfect” Arsenal of the recent past (viera, henry era) and the post-Henry teams. the Invincibles were not perfect all the time!

    In contrast with all the fond memories of EPL brilliance from the Viera-Henry teams of the past, i have an impression at the back of my mind that Arsenal have been doing consistently better in the Champions League (Round of 16 and above) ever since first, Viera, then Henry, left (aside from THAT final)? I certainly remember many many frustrating, excruciating moments in a decade of Champions league football in spite of Arsenal being THE (ok ok, to be fair, ONE of the) dominant force in the EPL. We used to struggle through the Group stages remember? Terrible away record remember?

    Another point is, notice that in spite of all the doom and gloom predictions about Arsenal dropping out of the “top four” a couple of seasons back, the only time we were really in trouble (save for some dodgy pasta, of all things!) was when Henry was around? Post-Henry, there has been a noticeable gap between the 4th team and the rest of the EPL (granted, we were initially closer to 5th than to 1st). this is now a NON-ISSUE. even if, say Fabregas leaves for B#$@ca tomorrow, does anyone still doubt Arsenal can be a challenger for the title? PPle do not understand the system / institution that wenger has built. Arsenal have got a production line of pedigree. we were competitive in the past, wenger has ensured that we will be competitive for the next decade.

    So personally, i seldom need reminding of the imperfections during the “good old days”. there were many moments excruciating to live thru, but it still is to me a rewarding journey as a fan. if Wenger is still around as manager in the post-Fabregas era (and I am not even taking for granted that he will not renew his contract!), i will still look forward to the next “version” of the Arsenal team… and the next one… and the next one… amen!

  5. Surely if ratings were minus for negative actions, e.g. misplaced passes (even regularly hitting the opposition), failure to control a ball or failure to beat an opponent 1-on-1, would Arshavin not have ended up with a negative rating last night?

    And what about the difficulty of actions taken. For example, Wilshere was constantly attempting defence-splitting passes, all of which carry a high risk factor. Conversely an anchorman who tackles and then knocks the ball 5 yards sideways to a colleague will always be the top-rated passer.

    This rating ideal is all a nonsense, although I would agree with OPTA in the Premiership year leading up to the World Cup, which rated Robert Green the poorest keeper in the Premier League. Events eventually proved OPTA right and Capello wrong.

    But I do think it is all hit-and-miss.

  6. PRE 2006 arsenal didnt keep possession nearly aswell as this team. they started fast and conceded few goals (which this team is beginning to do).

    Henry missed glaring chances any one with a decent memory will remember his most notable misses coming in the champions league final when we were 1-0 up.I WOULD STILL LOVE HENRY TO BE 10 years younger a complete and utter legend. and the best finisher arsenal ever had IMO was wrighty.

    You are right TOny the past teams had many missed placed passes but I would say they were much more direct and had less square passes the current team works on making the opponent tired. pre 2006 arsene’s team counter attacked with such pace that teams were frightened at times to attack us and I feel we play too much in front of the other team, But I will say once this team produces a trophy people wont harp on so much, this team has some amazing players, we have some players who are ever so close to being world class, the defence is better this year, we are pressing much better. and we have a strong squad.

    JACK and B52 were amazing I feel sorry for chamkh atm, I can only assume that referring back to wengers previous words about not wanting to play chmakh so much during the early part of the season means he is using him sparingly now

  7. Jondemassey – I did not feel that way about Arshavin last night. Everyone knows he has lost his form, but I felt that prior to the semi final he turned the corner, and although still massively below his ability, he was starting to improve. Against Ipswich I felt there was further improvement and far fewer misplaced passes. But that was a feeling from watching the game live, so maybe I am wrong.

    But that of course also raises the issue of what you do with a player of immense talent who suddenly loses it. I know many people say, “just don’t play him, we can’t afford to carry anyone” but every manager whose teams I have watched has not done that, but has tried to help the play to play himself out of his problems.

    I have never played football at a high level but I have a modest experience in the creative arts and know that there the answer is to relax, stop thinking about it, and just do it. Unfortunately many supporters can’t come to terms with this – but I am sure that when we saw Arshavin have a terrible miss over the bar (at Leeds I think, but I can’t quite recall) and then grin, he was following Wenger’s instructions just to keep playing and wait for it to come back.

    I really felt it was coming back, and I am hoping we’ll see him again on sunday, and that there will be further progress. At his best, as we saw him when he scored four against Liverpool, he was awesome.

  8. Casual Observer – I dont really consider the corner an “assist” although statisticians probably do. He put the ball in a good spot but I didnt think it was terrific delivery or anything like that. I thought the ‘keeper didnt really do all too well on it.

    Tony – absolutely right about Arshavin. The thing with a guy of that talent is that if he does get hot, he can carry a team for a stretch of games singlehandedly. You have just got to let players like that play themselves into form (similar with Rooney at Utd right now). That doesnt mean they are automatic choices but it means that you continue to feed them games and encourage them. I think Asrhavin has been poor, but he hasnt hidden from the battle and is still TRYING to do things. That is why I talk about the goal off the shin, he just seems to need a change of luck to get his confidence up again. Maybe we wont see the real Arshavin this season. Maybe he will get hot in March and win us the Championship. But with guys like that, you just have to keep with them. My rating of AA from last night is based on what we know his top level of play is. He is capable of so much more and that is why we get more frustrated with him. I like the guy, I hope he hits his best form. But even if he doesnt this season, I am not in the “sell him” club at all.

  9. Arshavin is better suited to a 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1 he has never been prolific but does provide many assists throughtout his career. the ball to cesc was quality. with a fit squad he has to compete with nasri, theo rosicky,B52 and even eboue on the wings I personally dont see him as first choice on the left but is def a key squad member

  10. Thanks Tony for the thought provoking and witty article. I think that our current team has evolved into a real team and therefore can overcome the odd poor performer in any given game. I am also noticing that a few players have added a little something to their game as the season has progressed: for example Cesc’s positional play when he does not have the ball has come on leaps and bounds. He no longer needs the ball to play. Nasri has also added a couple of dimensions to his already burgeoning array of skills: his running on to the ball in tight areas in and around the penalty area is neigh on unplayable. All together this team is becoming a nightmare to play against. There is really no single player that you can neutralize to stop us is there? We will no longer – I don’t believe – play well and lose for the rest of the season! That’s great for the confidence for all concerned..

  11. just something for the arshavin debate, wenger chooses the team based on what he sees in training, he is obviously up there with the first team and i dont doubt if there was real cause for concern, the lord weng would drop him sharpish. anybody seen rosicky lately?

  12. Tony, you have touched on something that is spot on.
    When people look back at things their selective memory keeps the things they want to remember first. The wonderful goal from Pires, Bergkamp, TH,…… always will come first. And when you dig deep you will remember them missing a ball in front of an open goal.
    And after 10 years this last memory will be gone but the goal will still be remembered.
    Yes Bergkamp, Pires, TH also had bad games but they don’t come in the DVD games as those are games we lost.

    I just accept that players have bad days, weeks and even months. They are human and that is part of why I love them. Would hate to see football played by robots who cant do anything wrong. Would be boring as the opponents robots will also do nothting wrong and at the end of the game: nothing has happened.

  13. According to the official stats Ipswich had 46% of the play. Do they count the ammount of time it took them to retreive the ball from the back of the net?

  14. Hello Tony Attwood. No contact email, eh? (Can you tell I am Canadian?) Do you want to talk/learn about statistics? Among other things, the minor in my M.Eng. was Statistical Mechanics.

  15. arshavin is the sole reason that we kept our place in cl last to last season. Never forget that..

  16. i don’t know much about andy grey but richard keys was an admirer of arsene wenger. I saw him on espn’s “first edition” and he usually supported arsene on his stance for quick passing game. I haven’t heard anything silly from andy grey either during his commentary involving arsenal. So why does people are celebrating their sacking????
    i mean, everyone can joke around. They just can’t be serious about their comments. One needs to add humor in one’s life.
    i don’t know about u guys but commentary will not be same without andy grey. “emirates is rocking to it’s very foundation”, “it’s payback time” those kind of words and tones will be missed in the game.

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