Arsenal are going to concede a shed full of goals soon, but it really doesn’t matter.

By Dr Billy “the Dog” McGraw

Arsenal’s upturn in form, in the guise of winning every single match in every single competition since the opening two games of the season, has caused some commentators a problem.

Their whole approach to Arsenal is that Arsenal is a failure.  If Arsenal win then it is by chance and doom and destruction is most certainly just around the corner.

Indeed we’ve been seeing that of late with two different approaches that aim to turn what, to most of us, seems to be Arsenal doing rather well, into predictions of a total collapse.

One approach uses the quasi science of expected goals (xG) – a system that is being used in a way that its originator never intended, and which is of dubious provenance.   In simple terms the argument says that so far in the league, Arsenal have scored 8.36 more goals than they would have been expected to.  

Those who take xG seriously say things such as “This is by far the highest differential in the division (Leicester are next with 4.09) and suggest Arsenal’s current rate of scoring is unsustainable if they continue to create the same number of chances.”

The counter argument is that Arsenal’s away form last season was an exception, and that Arsenal are now getting the away wins that they were getting regularly during the previous 20 years.   

Another argument is that Arsenal have had an easy ride so far, only playing two games against other teams who ended in the top six last season.  Arsenal, obviously, play 10 games a season against the other teams from the top six, which means roughly one game against a top six club every four matches.  Arsenal have played two such games in eight – so that is average for the season.  We’ve not had it easy in the opening games as some suggest – we’ve had it average.

As a result of such deliberations we now get such commentaries as: “Arsenal’s Defence Has Question Marks Over It Against Big Teams” which comes from Inside Futbol, and “Arsenal fans shouldn’t get carried away with title ambitions…” from the Daily Mirror.

However the key player in the Anti-Arsenal movement is now Paul Merson who has taken over the mantle from Stewart Robson.  Robson’s credibility was destroyed after he worked hard to convince the football world that Arsenal had more injuries than any other club and it was all due to Wenger’s outmoded training methods.

Untold kept publishing the real figures, and showing how Robson’s figures had been faked, and eventually most of the media closed their doors on him.  Now the mantle has been taken up by Paul Merson, seemingly forever bitter about being moved on by Mr Wenger while the likes of of the Romford Pele was nurtured at the club.

In September this year Merson was saying that Arsenal were playing testimonial football.  More recently he has been  saying that he believes Arsenal are ‘all over the place’ defensively and has warned Unai Emery that his side will be on the receiving end of a thrashing ‘sooner or later’.

So I wondered just how bad our defence is at the moment, by looking at how many goals we had conceded in the first eight games of this season, and seeing how that compared to the previous three seasons.

What I have done in the third column in the table below is shown the actual number of goals against, and then the number in brackets that we could have expected by taking the first eight games as completely average for the season.  As you can see in each year the goals against in the first eight games were pretty representative of the season as a whole. 

Year Goals against after 8 games Goals against after 38 games Goals expected after 8 games  Final lge pos
2015/16 7 36  33 3
2016/17 9 44  43 2
2017/18 11 51  52 5
201819 10 47

So we might expect to concede 47 goals this season which is the sort of performance we might expect from a club that ends up 5th or 6th.

But using the same comparison, judging by the number of goals we have scored so far, we will end up with 90 goals this season, which is in most seasons more than the top team gets.  In fact not just more than most teams get, much of the time 10 or 20 more goals than the champions got. The exception of course was last year when Man City ran away with the league and got 106 goals.

Arsenal, as I have pointed out before, are the second highest goal scoring team this season, and if we are to gain the third position in the table by the end of the season that I predicted at the start of the season, I would love us to achieve that by having an attack that scores at the drop of a hat.  Much more fun that a George Graham season of less than one goal a game.

Just to round it off, here is the league table based on goals scored

Pos Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Manchester City 8 6 2 0 21 3 18 20
4 Arsenal 8 6 0 2 19 10 9 18
2 Chelsea 8 6 2 0 18 5 13 20
6 AFC Bournemouth 8 5 1 2 16 12 4 16
3 Liverpool 8 6 2 0 15 3 12 20
5 Tottenham Nomads 8 6 0 2 15 7 8 18

 Maybe the old codswallop (by whom I mean Merson) is right and we will concede a hatful of goals soon, but if we do, it will be more than likely because we have just won 5-4.  And personally I’m all in favour of that.



6 Replies to “Arsenal are going to concede a shed full of goals soon, but it really doesn’t matter.”

  1. The pundits and the experts (and I use the term very loosely ) will soon’realise’ that the reason Arsenal seem to be doing well is due to the poor quality of the opposition .
    And piss poor refereeing by the PIGMOB.

    Looking forward to the media to resorting to attacking them both.
    Well, I can always hope, can’t I?

  2. That Merson link. He’s singing for his supper again. HMRC found a hidden box of tennis under his bed.

    I quote like the bit where Craig adds perspective.

    The Gunners fans were in full voice during the Fulham win, singing “we’ve got our Arsenal back” – a nod towards the positive work done by Emery since replacing Arsene Wenger.

    Craig Bellamy joined Merson as a guest on The Debate and he was confused by the chant.

    He said: “Arsenal were brilliant under George Graham, then Arsene Wenger took them onto another level. But because the last few years haven’t been as good, they [Arsenal fans] think they’ve got their club back? I don’t get it.

    Although then there is the link to Ramsey starting essentially, catching, transitioning and then scoring Jack Wilshere esque to finish a fine team goal.

    I think it will certainly make the list of goal of the season. But I think we can score a better one.

    Then we have some speculation after recent speculation; this lot of speculation cooling the last bit of speculation, whilst continuing speculation. Apply or ifnthe Monaco link is not simply speculation on top of speculation; oh could he follow a great man? But serioisly where did they get the title from?

    And after some sterling defensive work, on behalf of a beleaguered Josè, old faithful Gary Neville; gives us the truth, the other Neville has the ability to hold together a marriage and put England’s women on an unbeaten run spanning 7 games. Whilst Gary can’t commentate, can’t pundit or give unbiased analysis; and well may struggle managing because he’s, well arrogant.

    And we have a com0ilation of players born this millennium; so after 2000 and For an and Sessengion are the two most well known and capped in the league. So we can probably expect Emile to grace that list shortly. Meanwhile Reiss is getting something no other Gunner is and that’s Champions League football.

  3. To hell with xG or no XG. Arsenal are on the war paths this season in the Premier League and in the Cup games and have started scoring goals more than they’ve conceded to the opponent teams and thereby winning their matches.

    In this regard, we are all witnesses to Arsenal scoring 19 goals as against the 10 goals they’ve conceded in the last 8 games they have played in the PL. Which has culminated to their winning 6 games on the run after they’ve recovered from their opening season back to back 2 big games lose.

    After their initial 2 games lose setback, Arsenal have rediscovered themselves and have gathered strength pulling themselves together absolutely to win 6 on the run in the PL. But Paul Merson of all people and the likes of him didn’t like the good things they’ve seen happened to Arsenal as they are afraid Arsenal can win the PL Title this season if their winning run continues far far far into the season’s campaign. Thus, Paul Merson has hacked some reasons from no where to start castigating and condemning Arsenal as they’ve reinvent themselves to continue to win games on the run ceaselessly. But has Paul Merson anger kindled against them making him to make derogatory comments in the media attempting to drag Arsenal down.

    However, Arsenal who are on the ups can not be pulled down by Paul Merson with his negative comments dressing Arsenal down at any giving opportunity he finds to hit at Arsenal.

    Nevertheless, in as much as Paul Merson and his likes continue to berate Arsenal, the Gunners should not allow his mental warfare affect them, but rather, they should take his berating Arsenal as a challenge to continue to chalk up wins upon wins in the PL and in the Cup games unabated keeping their winning run fairy fire that is burning and ragging ruthlessly through the PL and in 2 Cup competitions burning on to burn any team that comes near it.

  4. i doubt xG creator ever intended it to be interpreted by media, it gets abused just like any statistic
    it is also notoriously open to different ways of calculation, eg it depends on the way someone interprets the shot (how many defenders are in the box, where is the keeper, etc), the amount of shots in database for each player and many other parameters (usually not disclosed)
    one way to interpret current Arsenal stats is that the strikers are exceptionally good, they certainly are to me

  5. Paul Merson’s ‘shedful of goals’ comments is just an opinion that Arsenal defense cannot defend well. What statistics did he have to support it? None. Let him also continue to ignore the winning records of AFC in their last 9 games. Sooner or later his paymasters will see how he has been unhelpful in derailing Arsenal cup winning chances and get rid of him.

  6. It is quite obvious that Merson has no experience of correct deduction as he has had issues with losses in gambling. Consistent winning as a gambler points to some semblance of correct deduction. So his ‘one of these days’ statement echos the Eagles lyrics more than any kind of factual possibility.

    UE has got the Arsenal playing in a positive way just like Wenger had some years earlier. It is not something new but something expected with a little bit of finesse. It has not detracted from the years of building but has begun to bear fruit together with the added in players that enhance the beauty of the individuals into a cohesive unit.

    The odd mistake might result in a goal against us but it is a team game & the results are shared by all.

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