Arsenal’s problem of late? Shots, goals, and (last season) accuracy

By Tony Attwood

We’ve spent quite a bit of time talking about the defence at Arsenal of late for two reasons.  The most important is that it has been the scene of the most extraordinary tactical reformation that I’ve seen in my time as an Arsenal supporter (a period which goes back to the Neolithic era, at least according to some of my friends).

If you have missed those, the key articles were

But there has been a second reason – the fact that the media at large has ignored this revolution.  They have, it is true, dropped their insistence on ripping up the entire defence, but moving in several new players is still on the agenda, according to “reports” (ie fantasies).

However the real problem has been in attack as we can see from a very simple chart of the number of goals Arsenal have scored in recent seasons compared with Manchester City.  The “shortage” column shows how far behind Man C we have dropped.

Season Team Goals Shortage
2020/1 Manchester City 83
Arsenal 55 28
2019/20 Manchester City 102
Arsenal 56 46
2018/19 Manchester City 102
Arsenal 73 29

Even if we reset the target to one suggesting that Arsenal should be aiming initially at a top four place there is still a gap.  In this second version of the table below the comparison is with the team coming fourth each season.

Season Team Goals Shortage
2020/1 Chelsea 58
Arsenal 55 3
2019/20 Chelsea 69
Arsenal 56 13
2018/19 Tottenham 67
Arsenal 73 -6

But suddenly the gap looks much more manageable, and although fourth is not a trophy, it would be quite an improvement on the last two seasons, and hopefully a stepping stone to greater things.

And so, to look at this in more detail…

Just as we have looked at tackles and yellow cards in relation to Arsenal’s defence so in terms of attack we can look at shots and goals, and from this derive an accuracy figure, showing what percentage of Arsenal’s shots result in goals, compared with the rest of the traditional “big six”.

In the table below we have three season’s worth of shots and goals and the derived accuracy rating.  Numbers in red are the top for that column, in black the bottom.

Club Shots 20/1 Goals 20/1 Accuracy 20/1 Shots 19/20 Goals 19/20 Accuracy 19/20 Shots 18/19 Goals 18/19 Accuracy 18/19
Liverpool 608 68 11% 591 89 15% 575 95 17%
Man City 599 83 16% 745 95 13% 683 89 13%
Chelsea 556 58 10% 625 63 10% 607 63 10%
Man Utd 526 74 14% 544 65 12% 526 65 12%
Arsenal 459 55 8% 406 73 18% 467 73 16%
Tottenham 443 68 7% 444 67 15% 537 67 12%

As we can see at once, Arsenal and Chelsea are the teams with the most black numbers, but while Chelsea’s stopped last in 2019/20, that is when our numbers got really bad.

But also do note: we had 53 more shots in 2020/21 than in the previous season and scored 18 fewer goals!

Why this happened, I think, is because all the emphasis was on getting the defence to adjust to its new approach of not tackling, leaving the forwards to pick up the scraps – along with the well recorded problems of Aubameyang.

But we must also note that the accuracy of the shots is incredibly varied across these six clubs over just three seasons, ranging from 7% for Tottenham last season at the bottom, and 18% for Arsenal in 2019/20 – the latter reminding us that this is not a long term decline as some have suggested.

Arsenal’s problem was that after two seasons at the upper end of the conversion rate (16% in 2018/19 and 18% in 2019/20), they suddenly sank to 8% in 2020/1, undoubtedly largely due to the problems with Aubameyang who having got 22 league goals in the previous two seasons, sank to 10 goals last season.

As we can see, having the most shots does not equal getting the most goals – not in any of these three seasons.  And being reliant on one prime goalscorer as Arsenal have been recently can lead to major difficulties.

So let’s conclude this little series of pieces about the stats behind defence and attack with that most simple of lists….

Arsenal’s top scorer season by season

Season Lge goals Club pos Top scorer Goals (all comps)
1999–2000 73 2 Thierry Henry 26
2000–01 63 2 Thierry Henry 22
2001–02 79 1 Thierry Henry 32
2002–03 85 2 Thierry Henry 32
2003–04 73 1 Thierry Henry 39
2004–05 87 2 Thierry Henry 30
2005–06 68 4 Thierry Henry 33
2006–07 63 4 Robin van Persie 13
2007–08 74 3 Emmanuel Adebayor 30
2008–09 68 4 Robin van Persie 20
2009–10 83 3 Cesc Fàbregas 19
2010–11 72 4 Robin van Persie 22
2011–12 74 3 Robin van Persie 37
2012–13 72 4 Theo Walcott 21
2013–14 68 4 Olivier Giroud 22
2014–15 71 3 Alexis Sánchez 25
2015–16 65 2 Olivier Giroud 24
2016–17 77 5 Alexis Sánchez 30
2017–18 74 6 Alexandre Lacazette 17
2018–19 73 5 Pierre-Emerik Aubameyang 31
2019–20 56 8 Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang 29
2020–21 55 8 Alexandre Lacazette 17

A goalscorer knocking in 20+ very helpful but it is not the only way to get a top four placing, and indeed it carries with it a danger of the player getting injured and then all goal scoring falling apart.  Having two good goalscorers can work – but the key point is the number of goals, not the goalscorer.

In short, it is shots and accuracy that matters, as the top table shows.

The four dangers that could stop Arsenal’s return to greatness

One Reply to “Arsenal’s problem of late? Shots, goals, and (last season) accuracy”

  1. Maybe, just maybe, picking Laca – who has a 40,6% (13 goals for 32 shots!!) conversion rate – more often, would have improved our 20-21 goalscoring record.
    And giving real opportunities to shine to Joe Willock might have helped, too.
    As delighted as I may have felt for our lad during his magpie spell, there was someting truly painful about watching Partey’s sky-rocketing attempts, right after or right before admiring Joe’s darting runs into the box, and lethal accuracy … only in a black and white outfit
    I remain very sceptical (understatement) about our headcoach’s man-management; but I think he’s a very intelligent lad, and can improve
    We’ll know, soon enough, won’t we?

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