by Tony Attwood
Imagine that Arsenal had played eight games this season and won them all 4-3, the club would be second in the league but would have the worst defence in the league. The headlines would be “The statistic all Arsenal fans should be worried about this season.”
Here’s another one. Imagine was had won all eight games 1-0. We would again be second in the league but would have the fifth worst attack in the league. The headlines would be “The statistic all Arsenal fans should be worried about this season.”
Now you might well be thinking by this point, “this is crazy,” and yes it is, but no crazier than the headlines we are getting at the moment. They are not about Arsenal being third in the league, but rather…
“The disastrous defensive statistics Arsenal must improve ahead of Sheffield United clash.”
This comes from the notorious FootballLondon site which tells us that “The Gunners have conceded 11 goals already this season, more than all but three teams in the top half of the table, with expected goals against up at 13.41, according to Wyscout.”
So yes we might might think life would be better with fewer goals against, but in fact we are conceding fewer than the expected goals tally leads us to expect, and we are still third in the league. It would always be good to have a better defence – at least up to the point where the club gets to be like George Graham’s team of 1986/7 which in nine consecutive league games scored one. That is when the club has a problem.
And yet everyone wants to tell us how we should feel, as with Lastwordonfootball – a blog that has proclaimed that, “Arsenal fans should be worried about the underlying statistics,” concerning the season so far.
Let’s try and be serious about this. Here is the league table…
What really matters is the final column. Would you feel less worried if we scored more and conceded less but had fewer points? Probably not.
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Now let’s do the table based on goal difference
Oh dear we have slipped down to fifth. But actually the league table isn’t based on goal difference.
But the naysayers say, the goal difference column, like expected goals, tells us more. And maybe so, but the recent article here comparing the first eight games with the final outcome of the season shows us that the first eight games is itself not a reliable indicator of what happens in the rest of the season. It can be, but often it isn’t.
But let’s try another one. Goals for. Here’s the table in order of goals scored.
Oh no we are sixth. And sure we would like to score more goals, but two more goals, which would lift us to fourth, would not affect the position in the real table. Shuold we be worried? Well, we have Lacazette to come back, plus Martinelli hovering in the background plus Pepe who is a scorer but who is taking time to adjust, plus…
But really it is our defence that is so bad that is where we must improve.
|8||Brighton and Hove Albion||8||2||3||3||8||10||-2||9|
|10||West Ham United||8||3||3||2||11||11||0||12|
Oh my goodness we are down to ninth. But fortuntely still above Tottenham in 12th. And look Manchester City, one of the mega money giants is in 6th only just above might Burnley and Brighton and Hove.
It is nonsense of course. The facts are we would, the team would and the manager would like us to score more and concede fewer. In terms of achieving the former we have an experienced player to return and several up and coming new or younger players who are stepping up.
And we would all like to concede fewer goals, but we have Bellerin, Tierney and Holding all ready to take their places.
The long and the short is that all these analyses don’t mean much because the first eight games tell us little, and because all teams can change. What all these negative analyses ignore are the missing players, the fact that eight games is not a valid guide to the league’s outcome and the fact that it is points that count.
Actually that is quite a lot to ignore when you think about it.