We’ve always asked for more stats and fewer opinions… but not like this

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…

Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Liverpool 8 8 0 0 20 6 14 24
2 Manchester City 8 5 1 2 27 9 18 16
3 Arsenal 8 4 3 1 13 11 2 15
4 Leicester City 8 4 2 2 14 7 7 14
5 Chelsea 8 4 2 2 18 14 4 14
6 Crystal Palace 8 4 2 2 8 8 0 14

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.

Now let’s do the table based on goal difference

Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Manchester City 8 5 1 2 27 9 18 16
2 Liverpool 8 8 0 0 20 6 14 24
3 Leicester City 8 4 2 2 14 7 7 14
4 Chelsea 8 4 2 2 18 14 4 14
5 Arsenal 8 4 3 1 13 11 2 15
6 Burnley 8 3 3 2 11 9 2 12

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.

Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Manchester City 8 5 1 2 27 9 18 16
2 Liverpool 8 8 0 0 20 6 14 24
3 Chelsea 8 4 2 2 18 14 4 14
4 Leicester City 8 4 2 2 14 7 7 14
5 Tottenham Hotspur 8 3 2 3 14 12 2 11
6 Arsenal 8 4 3 1 13 11 2 15

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.

Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Liverpool 8 8 0 0 20 6 14 24
2 Leicester City 8 4 2 2 14 7 7 14
3 Sheffield United 8 2 3 3 7 7 0 9
4 Crystal Palace 8 4 2 2 8 8 0 14
5 Manchester United 8 2 3 3 9 8 1 9
6 Manchester City 8 5 1 2 27 9 18 16
7 Burnley 8 3 3 2 11 9 2 12
8 Brighton and Hove Albion 8 2 3 3 8 10 -2 9
9 Arsenal 8 4 3 1 13 11 2 15
10 West Ham United 8 3 3 2 11 11 0 12
11 Wolverhampton Wanderers 8 2 4 2 11 11 0 10
12 Tottenham Hotspur 8 3 2 3 14 12 2 11

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.

23 Replies to “We’ve always asked for more stats and fewer opinions… but not like this”

  1. You can make statistics say what you want , it’s how the team perform each week on the pitch what people see and decide how to use the data from the match , there’s always going to opposite views .

  2. You have Not tackled the “Nucleus” of the argument; pivotal is the Manager/Head Coach, who “Selects the Players” and the “Positions” where these Players play and the “Formations and the Tactics”

    Unai Emery is an inconsistent, confused, bereft of intelligent tactics Head Coach as history proves; took 30 games before he played both Aubameyang and Lacazette together in the same game (Man.utd.), Played the wrong players vs. Palace and Brighton when Arsenal was 3rd in the league and thus lost “top 4” last season. Having bought Torreira as a Defensive Midfielder No.6 and Torreira having excelled as a No.6, then Emery decides to play Xhaka the slow lumbering ineffective as No. 6 and plays Torreira as No.10 where Ozil has excelled since 2013.

    These are only a few diabolical errors of the Head Cach Unai Emery; the most diabolical being his tactical error of “Playing from the Back” every time; which now both the “Players” and the “Club Chiefs” have reprimanded Unai Emery for.

    Evidence why Unai Emery must be sacked and backed up by 74% of the “Fan Base” much higher than when Arsene Wenger was ‘”Sacked”.

  3. Have you not seen the BBC this morning, commenting on how Arsenal, Spurs, Chelsea and United are all showing “significant signs of weakness” …

    “With the club currently third in the table, it may seem strange to say that Arsenal have had problems this season. But a goal difference of +2 suggests that all is not as comfortable as it seems, with no team having sat as high in the table with so low a figure at this stage since Phil Brown’s Hull City did so with a goal difference of zero in 2008”

    So, we’re matching Hull in 2008 … YAY !!!

  4. People use statistics the way a drunk uses a lamppost.
    For support rather than illumination.

  5. I was most annoyed with the top article on the BBC football website today making claims about the four of the “top six” who were “struggling” i.e. not Liverpool and Man City. It went on to draw comparisons with how those four had performed in previous seasons and how they were so much worse this year. It does things like compare the joint number of points those clubs have achieved in various seasons and how this season they’ve only got 49. Well hang on a minute, firstly three of the top six are in the top three places so why are we dragged into a group of underachievers ffs! And just taking that one stat, we’ve actually got almost a third of those 49 points. This shouldn’t be about us. The BBC just can’t help themselves though.

    And then they go on to identify why each of the four is doing so “badly”. So, of course, they’ve identified our defence. Thankfully though they made huge mention of the fact that we had had only one of our first choice back four all season……………..no they didn’t, I made that bit up. They made no mention of it whatsoever.

    And just for a little bit more evidence of the anti-Arsenal BBC, I was listening to Radio 5 on the way into work this morning and in the sports bulletin they mentioned a number of sports events of the last 24 hours including Man City ladies achieving a 1-1 draw in the womens Champions League. They couldn’t, however, be bothered to mention that the current English womens league champions had actually won 5-2 away from home with the current English womens golden boot holder scoring four times. They are absolutely pathetic. And like Mike Riley, they don’t even bother paying lip service to farness any more.

  6. Mikey

    To be fair to Radio 5 they would most certainly of mentioned us had we lost.

    So in effect it’s our own fault. If only we could lose a few more games we’d be all over the bbc!!

  7. @ Nitram

    Fair point, well made 🙂

    I’ve just finished my complaint to the Beeb. I’ll let you know what patronising nonsense they come back with this time!

  8. There are people who mis-use statistics. I think it is required that one understand the philosophy of statistics. What is it you are looking to do? Most of tghe people quoting statistics in the medja just want to make Arsenal look bad.

    An older book on numerical methods by Hamming, has a quote to the effect that:

    The object of computing is insight, not numbers.

  9. Clearly, Unai Emery is clueless and should be sacked. Who should replace him?

    Obviously, it has to be Umar

  10. Well, I think the spys in the TV companies have finished finding out when Walter and other members of Arsenal Belgium have book travel to watch Arsenal over the festive season. They (the TV dolts) have rescheduled 8 matches: +2d, +2d, +1d, -2.5h, +1d, +5h, -2.5h and -1d.

  11. If not for his hand ball fouls committing in the box that had seen the opposition teams getting penalty awards against Arsenal in some PL matches. I would have agitated for Holding to start the Arsenal away match in the PL against Sheffield Utd as centreback pairing with David Luiz on Monday night in preference to Sokratis starting the match. Why? Sokratis could both be travel and game playing fatigued after traveling to play for Greece during the international break. But I’ll be against Emery if he bench Chambers for Bellerin to start the match just because of some Gooners popular opinions who want to see him start. Why? After all Chambers is in top form for Arsenal in their last 2 matches in the PL. Therefore, he shouldn’t be dropped. Bellerin should bid for his time to start for Arsenal in the PL. But he can be on the bench for the match to cover for Chambers. Many Arsenal fans in South of the border are seriously eager to see Tierney start the Sheff Utd match. Well, they could have their way to see him start the match because Kolasinac who could be travel and match playing fatigued after also playing in the international matches for his country could be bench in the match. But what of Xhaka, Torreria, Guendouzi and Ceballos? Won’t they too be match playing and travel fatigued having played for their countries during the international break? But Ozil, Willock, AMN, Saka, Martinelli and Rowe are all available to take their places in the team for optimal performance in the match for Arsenal.

  12. Guardian has an article in support of Solksaer, saying that he has been unlucky with results. It mentions that MU were robbed by VAR against Arsenal.!!!

  13. WTF John L….. robbed by VAR??? LOL So making a correct decision based on VAR is being robbed now….

  14. John L and Walter

    “It mentions that MU were robbed by VAR against Arsenal.!!!”

    When I read that I thought, ‘that can’t be right’ PEA was yards on side, so I had a look and yep, quite unbelievably that’s what they say.

    The following is a prime example of just how far these muppets are prepared to go, either in defence of one of their darlings, in this case Man Utd, or to undermine Arsenal.

    This from the main article as referenced by John:

    “….the fact they were robbed by VAR against Crystal Palace and Arsenal”

    So, no ifs, no buts, it’s a fact, VAR ‘Robbed’ United, and by definition, gifted Arsenal 2 points.

    Then from a link to Arsenal in the very same article we get this:

    “Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang supplied Arsenal’s equaliser after VAR had overturned a rotten offside decision….”

    So they (The Guardian) KNOW United were NOT robbed. They know !

    In other words

    “….the fact they were robbed by VAR against Crystal Palace and Arsenal”

    is a complete and utter lie made with absolute knowledge of the truth.

    Why would they do this if not to create a narrative of their choice. To create an alternative reality that suits their bias?

    Their are other things in that article that highlight the alternative approaches to Arsenal and United.

    They highlight Uniteds injuries to forwards as mitigation for their dreadful attack, latitude not afforded our defence despite similar injury issues.

    The tone of the entire article, though critical at times, is that of sympathy and understanding. A World away from the insults and abuse so previlent in articles about Arsenal.

  15. @ Nitram
    I’m not supporting the article re MU being robbed by VAR but did read an explanations regarding Arsenal’s goal .
    There was a suggestion that the referee blew his whistle upon the assistant referee putting his flag up for the alleged offside , the MU players supposedly stopped playing and PEA scored now at that point the game is dead
    Is it then thought as the game has been stopped VAR then can intervene as the referee blew for offside and the game has been stopped . I’m confused .
    When can VAR intervene , against Bournemouth we supposed had a nailed on penalty which the referee didn’t think so , so VAR didn’t advise the referee because it would compromise his decision .
    Again most reports I read couldn’t believe the penalty wasn’t given .

  16. If that indeed is what happened then I must give kudos to man utd players and officials for taking it lying and allowing the refs to get away with it. I have been on the wrong end of that kind of rubbish officiating, trusting the official who screwed my team and I had to take some of the blame. I was playing in goal, the opposition had a free-kick, the player took it, it looked like an easy one. Immediately after he took the shot, the ref blew, I had already started diving towards the ball, on hearing the whistle I of course assumed it was a dead ball and tried to make it an acrobatic save since even if I missed it won’t count. I missed and the next thing I saw, the ref was pointing at the center circle. I protested, people said I shouldn’t have gone for the ball at all. It was an amateur match, we were leading and still went on to win the game, but I’ll never forget how bad that incident made me feel.

  17. ManU have Guardians in all sorts of places including the PGMOL & media. The old toilet paper version sometimes referred to as the groniad has to resort to dishonest verbage to get sales. I presume knocking Arsenal is a great hook for readers.

    Minesy covers the BBC abuse of Arsenal by grouping with poor performing teams in an earlier comment. This is standard practice for poor reporting by media gurus. It is shameful that fee payers money is wasted on such drivel.

    It will be a long time before Arsenal is revered as much as chicken shit (Spuds) or manure.

  18. Steve Vallins

    I’ve never heard anything about the ref blowing the whistle.

    What I will say is, watching the replay on the camera from behind the goal the defender in the middle first looked gutted when the goal went in, he then looks across at the assistant and sees the flag. On seeing the flag his relief is tangible. He then high fives his team mate.

    As far as I could see, and I’ve seen it many times, at no time did either of those players, or any other player infer either visually or verbally that they had heard a whistle. He looked across at the assistant NOT back at the ref, which he surely would have had it been blown.

    Until your comment, at no time since the game have I heard they reacted to a whistle. As I say, watching the replays it certainly doesn’t look like they did and neither do they appear to suggest to the referee that they’d heard a whistle.

    Of course i don’t know, but this whistle business is news to me.

  19. As nobody’s come back with any evidence to suggest otherwise, can I take it that it’s all just misdirection that there was a whistle ?

    In other words any suggestion of a whistle is pure fantasy?

    In other words no ‘kudos’ to Utd players is necessary?

    In other words the Guardian WAS simply Lying in order to support their pro Man Utd, anti Arsenal narrative.

    As Manace says: “I presume knocking Arsenal is a great hook for readers.”

    Why any Arsenal fan feels impelled to ever come to the defense of these odious media cretins is beyond me.

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