By Bulldog Drummond
This seems to have been an eternal break without league football, but now we are back to the old routine, and the opening question of who is available and who not as revealed by the EPL Injury Table.
For Arsenal Nicolas Pepe is back from the Africa Cup of Nations, Credric Soares has a 75% chance of being available after recovering from a hip injuury, Xhaka is available and so is Partey following the multiplicity of cards which have so interested the media and the anti-Arsenal-Arsenal
That leaves two members of the first team squad who are out: Mohamed Elneny who played in the African Cup of Nations final and Takehiro Tomiyasu who has a leg injury and is predicted to be out for a couple of weeks further.
The Wolverhampton data shows Neto with a knee injury, Boly who is under treatment, Jonny who is still recoverinig from a knee injury, plus Yerson Mosquera and Hee-Chan Hwang who both have thigh injuries.
Which brings us on to the defensive tactics of each team and the refereeing response. The clubs have both played 21 games which makes life easier in comparing statistics…
In terms of the ratios we have
|Tackles per foul
|Tackles per yellow
|Fouls per yellow
As we can see the referees are considerably more “understanding” of Wolverhampton in that this is a team that can commit more tackles before a foul is called, and more tackles before getting a yellow than Arsenal are allowed. But as a result when a foul is called against Wolverhampton it is more likely to lead to a yellow than is the case for Arsenal.
We have seen this sort of pattern before, and it seems to be a consquence of Arsenal’s cut back on the tackle as a means of defending. Indeed Arsenal have committed fewer tackles than any other club in the Premier League this season, although to a degree this is because half the league have played at least one game more than Arsenal. Nevertheless it shows the success of the tactics revolution at Arsenal that we have been tracking since we first noticed the weird Leicester statistics two seasons ago.
With yellow cards Arsenal are in 16th place with Leeds at the top of the table having almost twice as many yellows as Arsenal.
And although it is difficult to generate any meaningful statistics from red cards due to the lowness of the numbers, because of the wild ravings of the media concerning them we need to add that in the League Arsenal have two red cards this season along with eight other teams. Ten teams have had one red card in the league and one club has none. So anyone wanting to make ludicrous claims based on data can say Arsenal are top of the red card league (in alphabetical order).
But being more sensible, from the statistics we can see that Wolverhampton will be likely to commit more tackles and more fouls than Arsenal, and ultimately might expect more yellows. It would indeed be interesting to see how many of those Wolverhampton yellows are given at home, but those stats are not available, and would take a little too long for me to work out, given that I’m already running late.
Finally in our opening salvo: the home and away table. This makes the teams look closely balanced.
|Wolverhampton Wanderers home
Wolverhampton have one fewer defeat and one more draw than Arsenal, but are an incredibly low scoring team (if Arsenal were delivering this level of goal scoring at home the media and the critical fans would be going wild with demands for managerial and player change.
The fact is Arsenal have scored and conceded around double the number of goals away that Wolverhampton have at home.
Indeed overall in the league table Wolverhampton are 18th when it comes to scoring, with only Burnley and Norwich having got fewer goals. What rescues them is that they also have the second best defence in the league. Only Manchester City have conceded fewer goals this season.
Only 16 goals have been scored at Molineux this season as the table above shows. Even Burnley supporters have seen 18.
Today in Arsenal’s history: 9 February 1957: 18 goals across two games!
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