“Nicolas Pepe adds welcome risk and directness to Arsenal’s shot-shy attack”
So says an article in the Daily Telegraph. To find out how they justified this odd statement, if at all, one would have to pay the Telegraph a subscription fee, and at the moment I am trying not to give money to organisations that think that the UK leaving the EU without a deal is a good idea, so I’ll let someone else tell me what was there, if they do wish to give the Teleg people some dosh.
But the headline is enough to be going on with I think. And I wondered, “did Arsenal really have a shot-shy attack last season, and if so, does it matter?”
Let’s take the second bit first. Shots are in a sense neither there nor here nor anywhere, because you don’t get points for shots. What matters is goals. Here is the top six from last season organised by goals scored…
Arsenal as we can see came third in the goal scoring chart – so on that basis could not be too heavily criticised. Yes the gap between us and Liverpool was 16 goals – 0.4 goals a game, or less than one in every two games. A big gap but one that could be closed. And not enough to call us shot-shy.
But we must also note that Liverpool and Manchester Money were soaring away at the top of the league, Liverpool being 27 points above Arsenal, and 25 points about Chelsea in third. Aiming to close that gap in one season is probably not a very sensible thing to do as it could mean too many changes too quickly. But beefing up the attack could be a step forward.
So let’s focus on scoring more goals that the club in third place – Chelsea – and oh, look! We did. 10 more in fact. But seemingly we were “shot shy”.
OK, so let us turn our attention to the number of shots we had. And yes, let’s be fair, we were quite a way down the league
Now here’s a funny thing. Yes we were 11th – the other members of the top six in the league last season occupying positions 1 to 5. So not that good.
Except, well, Chelsea had the second highest number of shots – a massive 140 more than Arsenal got. Wow, that is bad news for Arsenal, although… come to think of it… Arsenal scored 10 more goals than Chelsea last season. So maybe shots don’t matter that much.
In fact, shots is not what it is all about. It is of course, scoring goals at one end and not letting them in at the other, and as I have mentioned in the past, this is not just down to having excellent defenders at the back.
You see, Wolverhampton, Newcastle, Everton and Leicester all conceded fewer than we did – but all ended up below Arsenal. Newcastle you may recall were 13th.
And this starts to give us the clue as to what is going on. One way of stopping goals is to have big solid defenders whom the opposition cannot get past. Another way is to have such a frightening forward line that the opposition tend to pull further back to stop any of your three amazing forward players from running in on goal.
Now there is a certain attraction in this approach because it forces the opposition to rethink their own defensive tactics – and that can jolt them out of their normal pattern of play.
Also of course they don’t know who you are going to put into the team on which day, so they can only guess – which means if you have choice you can play with your tactics. We have often seen Emery make substitutions early on in order to change the whole approach around, and with three flying attackers who can all score, this could certainly be something that could be done very readily.
There is one other thing to note in choosing Pepe as opposed to buying in another defender (in addition to having Holding back). Arsenal drew seven games last season. If one of those seven had actually been a victory we would have been in the Champions League once again. That is how close we got.
That draw to victory could have been achieved by a better defence, but also by an awesome attack. And that is what Arsenal appear to be going for.
Of course not everyone is happy. The “supercomputer” (whatever that is) predicts that Arsenal will come sixth this summer, just as the Guardian has done. Here is their prediction as revealed by the Daily Mirror, owners of FoLo.
- 1. Manchester City
- 2. Liverpool
- 3. Tottenham Hotspur
- 4. Chelsea
- 5. Manchester United
- 6. Arsenal
So I suppose if you believe that, there’s not much point going to any games this season. On the other hand the Daily Mirror, which has taken a leading part with its FoLo site in running the anti-Arsenal media attack, with all the £40m limit on expenditure etc, thinks it is big news.
So maybe we don’t need to worry.
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