Arsenal v Man U: the evidence based preview of the game

By Bulldog Drummond

I rather like the new phrase on Untold Arsenal: “Evidence based football reporting”, and as anticipated a survey of the media this morning shows very little of it. Endless opinion of course, but very very few stats.   Indeed the few that I have found seem to involve journalists knocking Arsene Wenger because he got a stat wrong.

That stat, which I haven’t had time this morning to check, was the one relating to Ospina’s appearances last season and how many were clean sheets.   Sneer-sneer go the journalists, Wenger got it wrong, although so it seems have most of the journalists, in that they disagree with each other.  I think it all depends if you just include League games, and if you just include games after he took over as number 1 keeper.

Except no one actually tells us what they are measuring – and that’s the point of evidence based football reporting.  You actually reveal what you are counting up, and then give the source and the total and draw a conclusion.

Amy Lawrence, in the Guardian, didn’t even get near that yesterday with “Arsène Wenger: Arsenal’s Champions League experience means nothing as same old naivety continues”.  It was a total piece of opinion.  And there’s nothing wrong with that as long as there’s some factual basis lurking in their somewhere to back up the phrase “same old naivety”, but there wasn’t.

Elsewhere Mr W said (or “insists” as the press now put it, to emphasise that the man is so discredited in the eyes of the Opinionariat that even his statements are to treated with disbelief, no matter what they are) he never made a move for Anthony Martial this summer – because Monaco told him he was not for sale.

Now I wonder, what is the point of interviewing someone, if you are going to suggest in your write up they are not telling the truth?  Why bother with the interview in the first place?  Why not just go out and make it all up.

Oh, hang on….

The Independent has had a whizzo idea of getting “The Fans View” although the lack of an apostrophe makes it unclear whether it is the view of one fan or all the fans.  Of course it is the former and should be “The Fan’s View” although actually that still makes no sense.  “A single fan’s view” is a bit better.

“Who plays at centre back? God only knows at the moment. They all look so weak,” is a prime part of the writer’s contribution.   Which seems rather unfair.  Gabriel in particular has looked anything but weak of late – indeed his contribution against the PGMO in the match at Stamford Bridge can hardly be called weak.   What on earth did the writer mean?  It is hard to work out.  Maybe some of his commentary was lost by the journalist.  Or perhaps he was told “Don’t mention the ref!”

And indeed it has been a week of having a go at Arsenal players.   The latest in the press on Per Mertesacker is that he is “rusty” or suffers from “rustiness”.  Quite what that means I am not sure but apparently it is a determining factor.

Although I quite liked the commentary in the Telegraph that read

“Arsenal and Manchester United remain two of only four clubs who are strong enough to stand absolutely any chance of winning a title until the next oil-rich Sheikh with an eye for gaudy lion adorned silverware comes along. And, perhaps, the influx of such money can help to explain why, despite the fact that the stakes are the same this Sunday, the intensity is so different now. Arsenal and United’s sky-high ambitions were always the same, if that was not the case there would be no rivalry, but until recently their difference in identity helped to fuel the hatred.

“Now, there is less to separate the pair. As Chelsea and Manchester City lurch from one transfer window to the next, forced to ensure the bothersome situation of actually having to play some football in between spending multi-millions on glamour players not quite glamorous enough to play in La Liga (yet); and as Liverpool and Tottenham continue attempting to figure out life without a mercurial superstar, balancing occasionally encouraging Premier League performances with underwhelming midweek 1-1 draws in the Europa League; so too do parallels exist between Arsenal and Manchester United.”

Utterly cynical of course, but at least the writing is quite engaging.

The Injuries

Laurent Koscielny is out with a hamstring injury.  Mathieu Flamini and Mikel Arteta are still out with their injuries.

Here’s the list with predicted return dates

  • Arteta (17 October),
  • Flamini (17 October),
  • Koscielny (24 October),
  • Wilshere (December),
  • Welbeck (February),
  • Rosicky (no date available)

For Man U, Herrera and McNair are said to be doubtful and Rojo and Shaw are injured.

Here is the injury league table from Physio Room.

1 Newcastle United 10 G Obertan
2 Everton 7 J Stones
3 Arsenal 6 L Koscielny
4 Crystal Palace 6 D Delaney
5 Tottenham Hotspur 6 D Rose
6 West Bromwich Albion 6 D Fletcher
7 Aston Villa 5 C Clark
8 Bournemouth 5 C Wilson
9 Liverpool 5 D Lovren
10 Manchester City 5 Y Toure
11 West Ham United 5 A Carroll
12 Manchester United 4 A Herrera
13 Stoke City 4 M Diouf
14 Watford 4 I Anya
15 Norwich City 3 L Grabban
16 Southampton 3 J Clasie
17 Chelsea 2 Willian
18 Leicester City 2 N Dyer
19 Sunderland 2 Y Kaboul
20 Swansea City 0  –

The Red and Yellow game

We haven’t really done that much on red and yellow cards thus far in the previews – apart from the indiscipline of referees of course and their consequent inability to give the right card to the right person in the right match.   So since we are into evidence based football writing, here are some bits and pieces.

Those papers that report reds and yellows tend to do so without any broader reference to anything.  As in…

  • Arsenal: Y8 R2
  • Man U: Y9 R0

Which doesn’t tell us much because we don’t know if this is high or low.  So here is the whole fair play table to date – note the position of State Aid Utd who won the Fair Play League for Europe last season…

It is three for a red and one for a yellow.

1 Sunderland 21 2 27
2 Newcastle United 16 2 22
3 State Aid United 12 3 21
4 Southampton 20 0 20
Tottenham Hotspur 20 0 20
PGMO 14 2 20
7 West Bromwich Albion 19 0 19
8 Leicester City 18 0 18
Liverpool 15 1 18
10 Manchester City 17 0 17
11 Watford 13 1 16
Crystal Palace 16 0 16
Bournemouth 16 0 16
14 Aston Villa 15 0 15
Stoke City 9 2 15
16 Norwich City 11 1 14
Everton 11 1 14
  Arsenal 8 2 14
19 Swansea City 13 0 13
20 Manchester United 9 0 9


Moving on, what of the match?

Manchester United’s 2-1 victory in the corresponding fixture last season was their first away win under Louis van Gaal.

But this season they come to the game without a defeat in the last four league meetings at the Emirates (W2, D2). On the other hand they have never gone five games unbeaten at Arsenal in the Premier League era.

Yet they are the team historically we find the hardest to beat in the PL era – our win percentage against them is only 24%.

The last three games turned out as…

  • Manchester United 1 (Herrera) Arsenal 1 (Blackett OG), Premier League, May 2015.
  • Manchester United 1 (Rooney) Arsenal 2 (Monreal, Welbeck), FA Cup, March 2015.
  • Arsenal 1 (Giroud) Manchester United 2 (Gibbs OG, Rooney), Premier League, November 2014.

Our problem is that the whinging and whining of “fans” (I use the word lightly) at the Emirates this season is now at such an intensity whipped up by the emotional commentariat that we don’t look fully comfortable at the Ems.  We’ve just won at home once this season, and indeed have only won two of the last seven home games we have played.

But trying to find a nice theme within this all, no one has more Premier League assists than Santi Cazorla.   32 since he joined Arsenal in August 2012.

Manchester United are of course top of the league – the first time they have been there since May 2013, and they are in the habit of scoring – they have scored three in four of their last six games.

At the other end the have let in a total of zero goals in four of their last six games.   But then at the moment Rooney is only scoring once every 1000 minutes so it is not all bad news.

We are however undefeated in 35 of the last 38 games

And so, the players.   WhoScored does an analysis of player ratings by all the normal stats that are used all the time these days, and here are the top ten ratings for the Man U and Arsenal team, with the players’ age shown as well, for no particular reason.


R Name Rating
1 Anthony Martial Manchester United, 8.07
2 Santi Cazorla Arsenal, 7.72
3 Alexis Sánchez Arsenal, 7.49
4 Juan Mata Manchester United, 7.42
5 Héctor Bellerín Arsenal, 7.41
7 Mesut Özil Arsenal, 7.40
6 Laurent Koscielny Arsenal, 7.40
8 Francis Coquelin Arsenal, 7.38
9 Chris Smalling Manchester United, 7.37
10 Luke Shaw Manchester United, 7.36


Bellerin, Mertesacker, Gabriel, Monreal

Cazorla Coquelin

Ramsey Ozil Sanchez


On the beach in the glorious October sunshine:

Ospina, Debuchy, Gibbs, Chambers, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Giroud, Campbell

Right time to pack the sandwiches and make the long trek south.

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60 Replies to “Arsenal v Man U: the evidence based preview of the game”

  1. Thank you Bulldog, a good analysis again! What are we in for?

    Now then. I just wrote a big long post on the previous thread about this stuff. I am glad that there is an intelligent them running through Untold. One of the point is made on the previous thread was that to sort out a problem, you need to see it for what it is. You then need to work out the most effective and efficient way of dealing with it, as much as in your collective capability. That capability is very high on here, which just goes to show that Arsenal has a core of loyal, intelligent fans who are prepared to go out of their way to see things as they really are, rather than the way it often appears.

    Can you guys who write such great analyses, get from presenting the problems in black and white for us, who sympathise, to finding a way to deal with the problems at source and present this ‘gold dust’ to the pundits and media in a way that they can do as little work as possible to present this corrected view in an entertaining way?. The human race lurches from one disaster to another and yet here we are. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. There could be a two-pronged attack on rubbishy football commentary and analysis if you keep up with these articles here but also present your hypotheses and arguments in an entertaining way, to the media. My guess is that they would lap it up. They would love to have their research done for them and be able to take an early lunch on Friday. What do we have to lose? Absolutely nothing! Journalists have time to copy-and-paste but not to do real, analysis themselves very often. Let us help them, not constantly rant and rave at them when they are under so much pressure to appease the baying mob with rubbish.

  2. see you at one o’clock Tony, fingers crossed this game is decided by the legitimate actions of the 22 players on the pitch and not by the referee

  3. “Sneer-sneer go the journalists, ”

    C’mon now, 75% of Unold Arsenal’s articles are sneering sarcasm, often not unjustified, but sneering all the same.

  4. Hopefully our boys can beat ManU to reduce the negativity. Please no more deflections or own goals from our side.

  5. Didn’t read it all bulldog!! As it seems same on drivel that untold now spouts (mostly) maybe Amy what’s her name was referring to the the calamity that was Tuesday night and the evidence is so obvious is don’t need mentioning anymore. Gary Neville spoke intelligently in the week and Tonys attempt to discredit it was embarrassing to say the least. Stats and facts can be very informative and helpful but when they become your last line of defence, no where left to hide, it then looks desperate. Cue the sycophants.

  6. “Shriek” to get his customary goal/s today.beyond that it’s anyone’s guess.thank god we have our coq back!

  7. Keeping a cool head and waiting for the openings should see us through . Not retaliating is a must , but going in hard on the said perpetrator would send the message .
    Keep the shape and probe them and hit them hard. Hold gungho on short lease .
    Arsenal to win 2-0 for me and the referee to be carried out early due to injury !
    Up the Gunners !

  8. I would also get those fake / knock off Arsenal jerseys with poor stitching quality , so that they rip off easily when the ManUre players grab them !

  9. I feel A.Taylor will fuck it all up today so much so that it would warrant another petition against him. This is actually what the PGMOL will want so as to come out and say Arsenal fans are a bunch of cry babies.

    Hoping for the best; yet somehow braced up for the worst.

    “when worse comes to worst, that is the end of fear”

  10. i’d take a hat trick from og for us or the other og( preferably the french og 🙂 lets be positive !!

  11. I will not watch today’s encounter coz I can’t trust myself to stay calm seeing that cheat from pgmob trying to screw us.

    On that note, don’t if anyone is watching the Merseyside derby, Atkinson doing his best to shaft Everton. And these cheats do it so blatantly…

  12. Mr Drummond, After starting 2 back to back games, don’t you think Walcott should start from the bench while energy tanked-up Olivier Giroud starts this game? Yes, I think so. Arsenal will today beat Man Utd 3-0 and go 2nd in the table. But to achieve this incredible result, the Gunners MUST first bind arch Red Devils Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick including the Red Devils of Chris Smalling, Juan Mata and the newly recruited Red Devil Anthony Matial, and cast them all out entirely from the playing of this game on the field of play of the Emirates Stadium playing turf. The Gunners MUST resist being bullied around and being dominated by the Red Devils during the total course of the game. All Gunners MUST convert their chances to goals. No Gunners should MISS a sitter. They MUST defend as a unit and attack as a unit. And our defenders and midfielders MUST have their takes on the Gunners goals tally today. They MUSTN’T leave the entire burden of scoring our goals to Giroud, Sanchez and Walcott to do the hard job alone today. No Gunners SHOULD sky the ball in front of de Gea’s goal mouth or hit his woodwork neither shoot to de Gea hands or miss the target narrowly. I know the Boss must have concluded his starts and bench by now. But let me repost my starts and bench that I have posted early on today on Cech. BellerinRhino’DeAbreuMonreal. CazorlaCoquelin. RamseyOzilSanchez. Giroud. Bench: OspinaDebuchyChambersGibbsOxladeWalcottKamara.

  13. get facking in ttttttttttttttttthhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhheerrrrrrrrrrrrrrreeeeeeee!!!

  14. oooooooooohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaacccccccccccccccckkkkkkkkerrrrrr!!!!

  15. it’s not over yet by a country mile. Walcott scores a goal a game so hw is DUE

  16. You just know that ManU are going to push forward to try to get a goal in the next 15 minutes…there are going to be opportunities on the counter.

  17. We are looking absolutely awesome. We just need to keep it tight in the back (as we have done in the 1st 45 minutes) and we’ll score more.

    Come on Arsenal!

  18. Rooney reminds of the angry boy villain in the Incredibles – Syndrome…convinced of his own genius and righteousness.

  19. The Independent clearly asked a ceiling fan for it’s opinion.
    They’d have been better off asking a desk fan!

  20. What if the game at that shithole was fairly refereed….

    Robbed of the top spot….

  21. @john Piers Morgan will say that this shows that we should have won (name the previous game) and that AW is to blame.

  22. Good game. Good result. PGMO as expected cheated & kept the Toilet brush on the field.

  23. Well done boys.
    Now, over to Piers for an about face.
    He is not a stranger to that.

  24. Great result, and scintillating football at times. The first 20 minutes were just top notch and encapsulated all the reasons why football is the beautiful game. We´re just so lucky to have Alexis and Özil in the team: hard to think of 2 players that are more delightful for the eyes. The mentality was excellent too, and just goes to show how much the players love their coach, after the shitstorm he was submitted to by the press this week; that loyalty is well deserved, given how much Wenger trusts his players even in bad times.

  25. Fred, Mr ‘stats and facts can be very useful’ but when we beat United 3:0 with £200 million in the bank, you have no comment..Are you happy and you know it?

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