by Admir Pajić
Pundits from TalkSport can’t stop looking for reasons to make Mikel Arteta look like a Charles Dickens bad guy for handing 15-year-old Ethan Nwaneri a chance to enter the record books in our 3-0 victory over Brentford last weekend. Arsenal are top of the league after seven games just 13 months after it was a dead cert that Mikel Arteta would be sacked, deported and left in some dark place (which, in his case, would be a return to Liverpool), so the alarm level has probably been raised among the pundits to a new level.
In their eyes, reasons to hate Arteta are piling up. Arsenal finished August at the top of the league and now we will finish September once more at the top of the league. And it’s not just that we are top of the league – we also play the best football in the league with a team full of exciting young players, while new talents are just getting promoted on a regular basis. For instance, Marquinhos seems to be another sensational low-profile purchase from Brazil.
We have beaten Crystal Palace and Brentford away from home respectively in fixtures we comfortably lost last season, but the pundits don’t think it is worth mentioning because our only test so far was Manchester United in a game we lost. Just a reminder: Palace picked a point at Anfield and had a two-nil lead at Etihad at the break (even if they played without their best player Zaha) while Brentford thrashed Manchester United 4-0 just a month ago.
What we have all noticed is that Arsenal have been scoring goals – 2.44 per game. We have scored fewer than two goals in just one match – Manchester United away – and you could argue that we scored two goals in that match as well but VAR and Paul Tierney decided to chalk off Martinelli’s opener. (I happen to remember Marcus Rashford’s goal against Liverpool in 2019-20 which wasn’t disallowed despite a clear foul on Adam Lallana in the build-up). Can we do another 2001-02 and score at least one goal in every league game?
Looking through our goal-scoring stats feels like reading a chocolate box for ingredients – it doesn’t take away from the sweetness of what is in the box but you can learn something interesting.
I’ve been shocked when I realized Arsenal have scored 17 goals but just one of those 17 (5,88%) was a right-footed finish!?
Someone might say: “It’s probably down to a huge number of left-footed players in the team,“ but that doesn’t explain how we have 64,77% of left-footed goals so far. We have at most 50% players with a dominant left-foot (Gabriel Central Defender, Kieran Tierney/Olexander Zinchenko, Granit Xhaka, Martin Odegaard/Fabio Vieira, Bukayo Saka). Our top scorer is Gabriel Jesus (right-footed) followed by Gabriel Martinelli (right-footed) and Martin Odegaard (left-footed).
Now, if we take a look at Jesus, one of the outstanding performers in the league this season, he has scored four goals so far. The structure of his goals says: a right-foot finish, two headers and a left-foot finish.
His compatriot Martinelli has scored three – a header and two left-foot finishes including one from the outside of the area. William Saliba scored one of the most beautiful goals of the season with his weaker foot.
Perhaps it’s time to acknowledge how left has never been stronger at Arsenal. Jeremy Corbyn (the MP whose constituency includes the Emirates Stadium) probably likes it.
But, what can this extraordinary stat tell us?
Firstly, it is another example of how dangerous and versatile Arsenal are. We score from different positions and from different angles. When you have a player who is reluctant to use his weaker foot, it’s much easier to defend against him because his shooting options are limited, and if he receives the ball on his weaker foot, he will lose some time to switch the ball on his stronger foot which, of course, means the defender has more time to block his effort.
Second, it’s another reason to praise our staff’s coaching skills as our players have improved technically in terms of shooting technique. Martinelli’s goal against Leicester was a good example how a young player with a dominant right foot can execute a diagonal long shot while making it look easy on the eye.
When Aubameyang or Alexis Sanchez were playing on the left wing, our opponents knew what would happen – they would cut inside and shoot with their right foot. Now, with Martinelli being comfortable taking the shot with his left foot, opponents have to toss a coin: prepare for Martinelli’s switch on the right foot knowing that he can shoot or cross with his left foot instead or put your body on the line of his left-footed solution knowing he can just switch the ball to his right foot and do a Henry-esque finish.
Thirdly, we score a lot, even we are yet to get goals from our Hale End diamonds. Emile Smith Rowe scored ten goals from the open play last season while Saka scored eleven including penalties. So far, Saka has one goal and four assists to his name while Smith Rowe is yet to score due to problems with his injuries. Eddie Nketiah has opened his account in Europa League and sooner or later he will get his chance to bang a few in the league as well.
Arsenal are firing on all cylinders and it’s a joy to watch!
- Clubs are showing signs of fighting back at journalists
- Are Arsenal really making progress, or are we starting to slip back?
- Luton 3 Arsenal 4: maybe it is time to say positive things
- Luton v Arsenal – the referee, the team, Saka and Cliff Bastin
- Luton Town – how do they play the game. The tackles, fouls and cards.