Why having a scoring centre forward is not always essential.

By Tony Attwood

Just because people make a lot of noise about an issue, that doesn’t mean that the issue is important.

Take for example the issue of Aubameyang and goal scoring.  We know Mr Arteta seems to want to emphasise authority, and seemingly he is doing it again here.  Very different from the public face of Mr Wenger, but then each manager is different.

But the issue of who scores the goals is not really an issue of Aubameyang at all.

First off, what is often skated over in the discussion of Arsenal’s goal-scoring is that despite having one of our two goalscorers who is frozen out of the squad, and despite a lot of moaning about Arsenal’s poor goalscoring in the media, we are the fourth highest-scoring team in the league.   Which seems quite reasonable given that we are also fourth in the league on points.

In goals scored order the top of the table looks like this…

Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Manchester City 19 15 2 2 50 12 38 47
2 Liverpool 18 12 5 1 50 15 35 41
3 Chelsea 19 12 5 2 42 13 29 41
4 Arsenal 19 11 2 6 32 23 9 35

Now of course we might slip down that table because the teams not far below us in goal scoring have one or two games in hand, and West Ham, although generally losing games, are still knocking in a goal or two.

But even so, we are in the upper part of the league when it comes to goal scoring, and we have scored 14 goals in the last four league games.

So do we really need to go into worry-mode concerning our two strikers, one of whom is not scoring and is in disgrace and one of whom is not scoring much and is getting ready to leave?  The Sun certainly thinks so and is providing a list of five possible players we could sign while Football.London is talking about a £40m striker we must sign in January.

The general talk around this situation is that if we don’t get a new forward, Aubameyang is vital to our cause, and yet he has scored four league goals in 12 games as we have risen to fourth in the league.  Does that sound like a vitally essential type of player?

Instead, let us have a look at who our top scorers are – and since we are now halfway through the season and it is dead easy to do so, let’s see how many these players will have accumulated by the end of the season at the current rate.  The figures relate to league games only – not League Cup.

Player Position Games Sub Goals By season end
Emile Smith Rowe Midfielder 13 4 8 16
Bukayo Saka Defender/Midfielder 17 2 5 10
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang Forward 12 2 4 8
Gabriel Martinelli Forward 8 4 4 8
Martin Odegaard Midfielder 13 4 4 8
Alexandre Lacazette Forward 9 5 3 6
Gabriel Defender 16 0 2 4
Thomas Partey Midfielder 14 1 1 2
Kieran Tierney Defender/Midfielder 13 0 1 2

So at this rate we will have two players in double figures, although since both those players have upped their level of scoring of late, and Smith Rowe has gained quite a few when coming off the bench those numbers could be significant under-estimates.  Martinelli has scored four in eight, but again has come into the goals of late.  I’d back him to be well over 10 by season’s end.

Now you may recall, if you have a really long memory, that way back in 2015/16 Amy Lawrence, then a regular with the Guardian, wrote that what made Arsenal so awful was that they had only two players who scored in double figures that season.

It was a real hatchet job of an article, and based on a typical piece of misleading journalism, for although it was true that Arsenal had two players in double figures in terms of league games, only one of the 20 teams in the league had three players in double figures, while the vast majority had just the one.  So the the phrase “only two players” was utterly misleading, suggesting that it is commonplace to have more.

Now this season, as the table above shows, counting league games only we are projected to have two players in double figures (Smith Rowe and Saka).  But they are players who have only recently come into goal scoring form, so they could do even better.

Of course having a big goalscoring centre forward type player hanging around the box can disrupt defenders, of that there is no doubt.  So the centre forward’s job is not always to score, but it can be to manipulate the defence around him to allow others in to score.

And in fact last season we did have three players scoring in double figures in the league

  • Lacazette: 13
  • Aubameyang: 10
  • Pépé: 10

Total 33 goals.

In 2019/20 we had two – it was Aubameyang with 22 and Lacazette with 10 – total 32 goals.

Now obviously it is better to have goals shared among many players rather than a few, simply because that protects us against injury troubles with defenders who find themselves immune to refereeing attention picking off our attackers as they try to get the shot in.

But just because of the situation in 2019/20 we should not be pushed into believing that a 20+ goalscorer is vital.   After all, Arteta has shown us that having defenders who tackle is not essential, and indeed the reverse can mean we can take on the PGMO officials on more equal terms.

So maybe we should be thinking about spreading the goals around a bit, not about buying a 20 goals a season centre forward.

5 Replies to “Why having a scoring centre forward is not always essential.”

  1. I see Spurs dropped 2 points today with a 1 – 1 away draw against 10 man Southampton.

    This is the 2nd game in a row Spurs have had to play 10 men for more than half the game,only this time they failed to make their numerical superiority count.

    In the last 3 matches Spurs have committed 30 fouls for just 3 yellow cards. 1 in 10

    Their opponents have committed 34 fouls for 8 cards twice resulting in reds. 1 in 4

    Just for comparison in our last 3 PL matches we have committed just 23 fouls for 5 yellow cards. 1 in 4.6

    Our opponents have committed 10 more with 33 fouls for the same 5 yellow cards. 1 in 6.6

    It seems of late either playing AGAINST Spurs or FOR Arsenal is an extremely hazardous occupation.

  2. @Nitram,

    good result for Arsenal however. A war of attrition that is what the PL is. Which makes Arsenal’s victories against lower table teams that more precious and a very good sign. As I’ve commented before, we used to lose quite a few of these games. Winning them more often then not – and scoring goals – is going to go a long way towards presence in the CL.

    As for referees, it beats me that no one is questionning the profesionnalism, competence, intelligence of the referee corps and the referee organisation. I’m not surprised that neither the so-called press, the pundit parrots and the PL do not say anything, they are part of the gravy train. But the Arsenal owners do watch the games, I imagine. So they’ve spent billions, and a group of maybe 12 individuals are costing them hundreds of millions over the years and they take it like ‘business as usual’, ‘cost of doing business’ ?

    On the other hand, as many governments and organisations have shown over the past couple of years, incompetence does represent a way of doing business and politics, so maybe to them this is nothing new and they just shrug it off.

  3. Pepe is for me the biggest conundrum.

    At no point have I thought he was a bad buy. He shows moments of brilliance and I believe he always gives his all. The problem is when you pay £72 Million for a striker you want more than ‘moments of brilliance’ and him ‘giving his all’. You want a fantastic buy. You want 20 plus goals. The question is can he ever deliver that?

    Personally I still think there is a brilliant player in there somewhere, but will it ever show itself enough to deliver that 20 plus goals we would all like ?

    Unfortunately time is running out to find out.

  4. I’d rather see Nketiah lined up more regularly and kept. The future of Arsenal is <23 years. And 3 or 4 scorers of + 10 goals.
    Spread the load, make any defense not capable of disabling our scoring capabilities. I'm kind of fed-up with depending on a single scorer who can have his mental issues. Mr Wenger's way of not renewing contracts past 30 years was I think the good one, even if there were a few exceptions (Mertesaker ?).

    The name of the game in managing a football squad is to buy low (or build) and sell high. Unless you are a subsidiary to a country or the toy of a tycoon. But last time I checked, Arsenal were owned by a sports group. So from a business sense, what is happening with the squad does make sense. Good sense.

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