Just how good is this Arsenal team compared to top clubs in Europe?

By Tony Attwood

Arsenal is not a top European team.  That’s the official word.  And yet year on year we get into the last 16, and sometimes the last eight of the Champions League.  For the three years from 2008 to 2010 we got to the quarter and semi-finals.  Which is more than quite a few teams over the last ten years or so have achieved.  And more than we used to do – its only been since 1996/7 that we have been in Europe each year.

So how does our current form compare with other top teams in other top European leagues?

This is difficult to analyse of course because not each league is the same – Spain is often a two team league, occasionally letting Atletico Madrid in to make things more exciting.  Germany is utterly dominated by one team – Bayern Munich.  At least in England we have four teams vying for the top, and two wannabes who scrap it out for the Europa.

And maybe that is the problem for Premier League teams in Europe.  There is too much competition at home, and too many matches in the Premier League are real matches where the clubs need to put out their first eleven and not rest any players who are carrying a knock.

Anyway, somehow Arsenal is on the up – and this is where I turned to the Who Scored web site which analyses these things.

Now unfortunately they don’t immediately show how they balance the various factors (I am sure it is on the site somewhere but I can’t see it) but even so, since they do a lot with stats, let’s assume for a moment that their analysis is fairly accurate.

The Cards column shows yellows total first then red.  The aerials column is for successful aerial challenges.

Of course these factors don’t make for a perfect analysis of quality or success, but it is still an interesting perspective.  Here are their findings.

Shots Cards Poss% Pass% Aerials Total
1 Bayern Munich 17.4 27/1 70.2 87.3 20.1 7.52
2 Barcelona 16.4 55/2 69.2 87.8 10.3 7.50
3 Real Madrid 18.2 68/3 58.1 86.2 13.4 7.50
4 Wolfsburg 15.3 31/1 55.5 79.4 27.6 7.42
5 Arsenal 15.5 62/2 55.3 82.9 20.4 7.41
6 Bayer Leverkusen 16.4 64/4 52.0 69.5 35.5 7.32
7 Chelsea 15.6 56/3 56.2 83.5 18.4 7.32
8 Juventus 16.3 58/4 58.8 84.7 13.2 7.30
9 Borussia M.Gladbach 12.4 39/1 52.7 82.4 22.6 7.27
10 Manchester City 17.9 63/2 61.2 85.2 16.2 7.27

Three Premier League teams in the chart with us fifth overall.  An encouraging sign.

Now having gone this far they go further with a more detailed table… these figures give the number of shots

R Team Total OutOfBox 6yd box PenaltyArea Rating
1 Bayern Munich 17.4 5.9 1.1 10.5 7.52
2 Barcelona 16.4 5.1 1.6 9.6 7.50
3 Real Madrid 18.2 6.9 1.2 10.1 7.50
4 Wolfsburg 15.3 6.5 1.3 7.6 7.42
5 Arsenal 15.5 6.1 0.9 8.5 7.41
6 Bayer Leverkusen 16.4 7.7 0.9 7.7 7.32
7 Chelsea 15.6 6.2 1.2 8.2 7.32
8 Juventus 16.3 7.1 0.7 8.6 7.30
9 Borussia M.Gladbach 12.4 5 0.7 6.7 7.27
10 Manchester City 17.9 6.3 0.8 10.9 7.27

The figures go on and on and you can play with them forever but the point comes across, we are consistently playing in a style and with results akin to the top half dozen teams in Europe.  Which put simply means given what we have we are underachieving in the Champions League.

But then so are the other English teams – quite possibly because of the demands of our season with a much stronger mid table set of sides than one finds in other leagues.

Whoscored do all sorts of funny things with their stats – including, for example, using them to predict the outcomes for forthcoming games.  Here’s what they say about the next match – against Burnley

There will be a low number of cards shown
Arsenal will score from a setpiece situation
Arsenal will dominate possession
Arsenal will steal the ball from the opposition often
Arsenal will score from a wingplay situation

The web site also does team predictions based on who is getting the most points statistically for the team in each position.  Here is what they have for the Burnley game…


Bellerin Mert Gabriel Monreal

Coquelin Cazorla

Ramsey Ozil Sanchez


And then the snippets of facts that come up before each match…

Arsenal have won their last 7 matches in the Premier League.
There have been under 2.5 goals scored in Burnley‘s last games in the Premier League.
Arsenal have scored at least 2 goals in their last 7 matches in the Premier League.
Arsenal have been winning at both half time and full time in 6 of their last 7 matches in the Premier League.
There have been over 2.5 goals scored in 8 of Arsenal‘s last 9 games in the Premier League.
Burnley have seen under 2.5 goals in their last 3 home matches against Arsenal in all competitions.
Burnley have failed to win 9 of their last 10 matches in the Premier League.

And then their prediction

  • Burnley’s daunting run of fixtures comes to an end of sorts against Arsenal and the Clarets would no doubt take another point at home, though the goals have dried up of late.
  • Keeping this Arsenal side out will be no mean feat, however, and if the Gunners were to win on Saturday their winning streak of 8 matches would represent the longest of any Premier League team this season.
  • Dyche will have his team as well-drilled as ever but Arsenal’s form, particularly going forwards, is likely to prove too much for the hosts, who will be looking forward to facing more favourable opposition again soon.

So there you are – hardly worth going now is it?

On this day – highs and lows of Highbury

9 April 1992: Arsenal 1 Coventry City 0.  The crowd of 14,133 was the lowest of the season at Highbury despite being match 11 of a 17 match unbeaten run.

9 April 2004: Arsenal come back from 2-1 down to beat Liverpool 4-2.  The 31st league game of the unbeaten season.  Henry scored a hat trick.

18 Replies to “Just how good is this Arsenal team compared to top clubs in Europe?”

  1. I’m not a very stats orientated supporter as they can be manipulated to prove any desired outcome, so believe in just the evidence of actually seeing how we perform against all European teams we play. To date we have merely done quite well ( apart from nearly winning the CL one season ), and there is still much room for improvement which I’m sure will come soon. This season was a massive disapointment as we really expected to progress to the quarter finals, but I think we have the potential to be a better side ( in Europe ) than people give us credit for.

  2. In Europe season after season we have beaten top teams, including in their own grounds. These victories rarely get the coverage they deserve in the press and are soon forgotten. This season we were very unlucky in that our big off day happened in that vital match against Monaco – though the press made it seem worse by underplaying the strength of big-spending Monaco, then fourth in the French league.

    These stats are very interesting because they place Arsenal top out of Premier League teams in Europe on a number of important counts, and, as you say, Tony, show that we are on a level with top European teams. I think that is how we are viewed in Europe. It’s only in Britain that we are deliberately undervalued.

  3. I think this also explains why we get seeded higher than city in Europe for example. Having appeared in a final shows we’re good enough to win this thing, there’s a very fine margin between winning and losing that I can think of sides who literally did a smash and grab job to win this trophy; Liverpool in 05 and di Mateo’s Chelsea. I don’t think anyone in their right mind could claim these two merited their wins, but hey, it’s winning that counts in the end.

    Just seen a headline (didn’t read the article for obvious reasons) by the daily wail saying something like ‘Arsenal insist Jack Wilshere is going nowhere, but Manchester city could bring the best out of the England man’s. So according to them, Jack Wilshere is having his talent and progress hampered by being at Arsenal. And at city he will realise his full potential. Jokers.

  4. The qualifying question is “How many teams are allowed in the ‘Top European Teams’ club”? without knowing that then it would be difficult to argue without having won the CL. But there are many other supposedly ‘Big’ teams far blow us in the queue even with a better European silverware history, due to recent form (Forrest and Villa to name just 2).

  5. No arguments here. I would say the fact that AW won the manager of the decade award shows that Arsenal are the most consistent team in Europe for at least that particular decade. His teams are much better in this decade taking in account also the slow demise of Milan clubs, Man City, Man Utd, Dortmund and etc. Every team that I know, in Europe or in South America struggled very hard when their star players leave, but never AW’s team. The fact that every year they achieve at least their minimum requirement is amazing considering the fact that in the same decade, he lost a lot of core players, built an icon of a stadium in London and going equal punches with clubs with bigger, harder gloves in Oilers club and traditionally country clubs. I think it’s the open system and team incentive and responsibility installed by AW resulted in average players becoming great. The only obstacle is that how much time taken to blend in, how great your talent is and the form of your teammates. Fair deal for me. Guess, the reason why almost all players leaving Arsenal for greener pasture eventually suffered from the new rigid training and match play setup. Even, Van Pussy was like a free bird in a garden in his first season at Man Utd courtesy by a retiring Scot. We all know how he is right now.

    Been supporting Arsenal exactly since the season Arsene Wenger came in and took the job in October, I think. Changed English football forever. For me, love at first sight. No matter what the formations are until now, they always play the same way, Wengerball. AW’s rebuilding of the new Arsenal is relatively similar to the economical rise of China and India. China went all for it without any regulations, very fast, huge results but evidently some grey crumbling bricks at the moment, similar to MC, MU and Chelsea. What I like about India is that it took its time, steady, ready and still progress consistently in a regulated free market. I believe India’s politics, society and economy are progressing in a parallel line. Maybe India’s current admin are taking some points from AW, that’s how much I admire the man. However, AW never will be understood, accepted and appreciated in a spoilt society culture in England ever, very similar to the the culture of the Chinese. If I was a president of a country, I will continue to appreciate AW by taking him into the admin. No doubt what so ever.

  6. Arsenal has always been a good side, capable of the most outrageous success coupled with the most bizarre failures.
    On many occasions, Arsenal have clutched defeat from certain victory and vice versa.
    No-one of a weak or nervous disposition should ever consider becoming a serious fan of Arsenal, as it is far too pressurised a path to follow.

  7. This Arsenal squad is a contender for strongest in Europe, surely strongest squad in England. The 1st 11 – quite a few top teams have quality 1st 11s. I expect as the squad has been upgraded this far that the additions will be players that add to the already powerful 1st 11. Is that not a scary thought for the opposition?


  8. Sorry, that is hubris.
    Just saying – the management team know what they are doing. Keep up the good work.
    Although I daresay after all the years of hacking I would like dominance for this classy and cultured team, squad, club, manager.

  9. TailGunner

    “I’m not a very stats orientated supporter as they can be manipulated to prove any desired outcome,”

    That is simply not true.

    Of course statistics aren’t perfect but they are very good barometer.

    I will bet you a pound to a pinch that the team with the:

    -Most possession.

    -Biggest territorial advantage.

    -Most shots.

    -Most shots on taget.

    -Allow least shots at there goal.

    Will be top, or very near the top of the League.

    And those with the opposite will be bottom or near the bottom of the League.

    Ok, of course we all have our opinions on what we see, and can all make a subjective judgement, but to dismiss statics out of hand and to claim they can be manipulated to ‘prove any desired outcome’ is, as I say, just not true.

    Government decisions. Big business, little business decisions. Sporting decisions. Domestic decisions are all made on the back of Statistics.

    I know you don’t really like to get into ‘arguments’ as such, but you said this or something like the other day, and it is simply not true.

  10. Jambug,
    “I will bet you a pound to a pinch that the team with the:

    -Most possession.

    -Biggest territorial advantage.

    -Most shots.

    -Most shots on taget.

    -Allow least shots at there goal.

    Will be top, or very near the top of the League.

    And those with the opposite will be bottom or near the bottom of the League.”

    Brilliant 🙂 Anyone who still dismiss stats after this perfect explanation.. well, what can I say.

    Micheal Ram
    Any leader of a country who wants his country to be successful should not only hire Wenger, but give him the finance portfolio. Sure the greedy bankers wouldn’t be so happy about his appointment though 🙂

  11. Jambug & Al

    Tony himself more or less says that the stats can be manipulated when he says that “Whoscored do all sorts of funny things with their stats”, which isn’t saying they are false, but using them selectively.

  12. It is possible to calculate things which have no meaning. But the manipulations are not arbitrary. The joke about the statistician (accountant, …) asking the client what they would like 1+1 to be is not true.

    To give you an example, Jambug said something was a barometer. This was a very good suggestion.

    All molecules have mass. All molecules are travelling in some direction with some speed until they undergo a collision and change the direction and speed (mass staying the same). The product of mass and velocity is called momentum (ignore that sports people misuse this word). The average value of the momentum of gas molecules, IS the pressure. That is truth, there are no arbitrary manipulations to get that as an answer. The only thing required, is to convert the units from units used for molecules, to units used for big objects.

    Another statistic, is the average kinetic energy (mass times velocity squared divided by 2). IT is the temperature. Again, no arbitrary manipulations. Both values are just plain old averages.

  13. Micheal Ram
    April 9, 2015 at 12:30 pm

    India have not got a structured system. They have a system that is corrupt & bribe (hafta) led & fed. The buildings that have recently fallen with fatalities are a case in point, as is the jailed IT satyam scandal Raju.

    Wenger is unique in his honest dedicated structured approach to football & business.

  14. TailGunner – I agree that stats are not infallible. In fact anything can be manipulated by presentation method. Possession is not key but ‘status of game / time’ is just as important.

  15. well. Menace,

    India has got a structured system. But the number of structures in place is the issue. India wanted to have a decentralized system, in which on one single institution can have all the power. And this over the top faith in this system has lead to many pockets of power. India continues to grow despite all this is an indicator of what is possible with an organised/cleaner system in place.

  16. Asenal 13 – damn right. There is an unbelievable amount of intelligence & capability if proper controls & education is put in place. By education I mean respect for environment, society and self.

  17. TailGunner

    It is not the statistics that can be manipulated, they are what they are, but the result can be manipulated by the selective use of specific statistics in order to support your premise.

    But that’s the great thing about statistics, the more you use, over the longest term possible, encompassing the broadest field possible, the more reliable the results.

    Of course within any statistical trend there will be anomalies.

    For example it is possible for a team to have a lot of possession and yet fail to win many matches, as it is possible to have little possession and win.

    Just look at the statistics of the Crystal Palace v Man City Match the other Night to see proof of that.

    But, if Man City produced those statistics every week they would win the league.

    If Palace produced those statistics every week, they would be relegated.

    But that’s not how you use statistics. Picking and choosing very small samples IS, or at least can be very unreliable. So yes, if you want to manipulate a result, carefully select statistics to suit your premise.

    But you are NOT manipulating the statistics you are manipulating the statistical sample.

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