Dreamers vs the Nerds. Who will win out?

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Processed with VSCO with p5 preset

In a world where nerds rule and dreamers pay their respects, an unlikely hero has emerged.

His name is Unai Emery.

A man who defied the xG gods.

A man who outscored expectations.

A man who racked up points against all odds.

But could it last?

That’s the damn question.

This is the biggest divide in football society since the age debate of 28 or 29. This is bigger than Denilson. This is bigger than ‘what if Eduardo hadn’t.’

This confusing opener to a blog is driven by the reality that Arsenal are playing above their expected points total at the moment, and it’s leading the worlds premier stats nerds to question the viability of our standing right now.

All of that brings up a number of questions that need to be answered. One of them, and the one I am going to give a bit more information on today, is: does Unai Emery have a track record of his teams beating xG?

This is the operating narrative of managers like Sean Dyche or Lucien Favre – that they have special tactical things that they do that are not captured in the model. I have been asked if Emery also has this profile.

This is raw passion versus data. But, as I’ve lightly been saying since the start of the season, if you’re honest with yourself, we’ve been a touch pony for most of our games, and it’ll bite us in the backside at some point.

Alternatively, you could be of the school of thought where you think that beating out xG early on the season is obviously lucky, but as the matches get eaten up, Emery’s ideas will settle and we’ll start defending better and create far more chances.

For now, that’s how I’m dealing with a porous defence and an attack that’s been incredibly clinical this season.

It’s all part of the master plan!

Realistically, we’ll know by the time the Liverpool game comes around. I’d love the think Pep G showed us the way there, but I’m not sure he did. Wenger always struggled with heavy metal football, so it’ll be interesting to see how Emery is strategising that game. Slowing the game down, forcing Liverpool to play at a slower pace sounds like a good way in. Obviously easier said than done, but for once, we have a coach more than capable of dropping a semi-decent plan.

There were some positive quotes from Reiss Nelson in the press. He scored for England vs Andorra and has his sights set on a possible early return to Arsenal this January. I still think that’s an aggressive timeline. He should take the Sancho route and do a couple of seasons away from Arsenal, build up his fitness, his sharpness and confidence so when he’s thrown in the deep end at Arsenal, he has the tools to deal with the challenge.

It’s actually a pretty fruitful time for Arsenal youth. There are some genuinely exciting talents breaking into consideration at the club, now there’s a manager that can train the intellectual side of their brains. To make it under Arsene, you had to be exceptionally gifted because you weren’t getting a tactical education. I can’t wait to see where Willock, Smith Row, AMN and Neslon take their game. Hopefully, Project British Youth wasn’t a failure, it just took a bit of a delay!

Right, that’s me done for today. My US VISA was renewed in Paris today, so I’m off to scout Berlin. I’ll report back with my findings tomorrow.


P.S. I haven’t spend a huge amount of time in Paris, but damn, what a fucking dreamy place.

190 Responses to “Dreamers vs the Nerds. Who will win out?”

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  1. China

    Just like if we won the fa cup last year, he’d still be here

    What some of you guys claim you wanted wasn’t possible.

    I want to win the fa cup and I want wenger to go!

    Wenger wins the cup and gets a new 2 year deal.

    I Think wenger should leave on a high with respect and not get fired!

    Wenger plans to stay indefinitely until pushed

    These are mutually exclusive scenarios. You wanted wenger to pick up scraps like 4th place and FA cups, sure but it is impossible to realistically then think that he would have left or been fired. Impossible. A decade of evidence confirms this 100%

    So the next time victorious you remind us how you’re an awesome fan for wishing arsenal well in the last few years – fine – but you contradict yourself by then saying you wished wenger to go

    That’s like having a tender in your pocket and want to spend £7 on this and £8 on something else. The numbers are incompatible with your tender. Accept it

  2. Leedsgunner


    Further to the podcast I mentioned, an excellent article.

    It ties in nicely with Pedro’s blog piece as well.

    Having said all this, I can see a huge hole in all these mathematical models upon which these xG constructs are built on. It’s the human element. Every player handles pressure differently everytime (although I suppose you could train your responses as a counter argument to this!)

  3. China

    According to stats ozil is the world’s most creative player and Lukaku is an elite striker

    According to stats if you put Lukaku and ozil in the same team they’d be absolutely rampant…..wouldn’t they…?

  4. Leedsgunner


    That’s my point, you can build a team on stats all you want but if you ignore the human element you might as well be building a house of cards.

    Taking your example, based on the stats putting Özil and Lukaku might work but what if they had a personality clash? So you found out too late that they hated playing with each other?

    The stats can only measure the quantifiable factors they miss out the imponderables.

    That’s why Emery’s man management skills are just as valuable as the numbers. I think he is bringing out the best in people and motivating the individual players to pull it out for the team.

  5. Emiratesstroller

    I think that Arsenal may well be forward planning with Messrs Smith-Rowe,
    Nelson and Nkietah in mind.

    The first two played exceptionally well in their respective England age group games and Emery’s brief is to develop youth players produced by the Arsenal

    The decision to withdraw Ramsey’s contract may well be taken with this
    in mind.

    On the other hand I do not think that the club will necessarily sell Ramsey in
    January as many posters on here suggest. Frankly the ball is now in Ramsey’s
    court and not ours and the statement issued yesterday does not suggest that
    he is in any hurry to leave.

    Ramsey is a ‘family’ man expecting twins and that may be more important to
    him at the moment than moving to a new club in January.

  6. gonsterous

    at the end of the day the only numbers that matter is the points on the board. And atm it reads us 2 points from top. I’m not saying we will remain like that till the end of the season but I have no problem with saying we are genuine contenders for one of the top 4 spots. I hope we build on this and only be on the up. On a side note, it’s now been 2 weeks since I last saw Guns of hackney and I’m starting to worry about his health and well being.

  7. useroz

    This looks interesting and probably not a surprise to many :

    Arsenal without Lucas Torreira on the pitch this season:
    442 minutes
    9 goals scored
    10 goals conceded

    Arsenal with Lucas Torreira on the pitch this season:
    548 minutes
    20 goals scored
    3 goals conceded

    This is incredible

    — AFC (@aloe_vjera) October 7, 2018.


    Would be curious about a breakdown of the ‘with Lucas’ stats by his mid field partner ie Xhhara and Guendouzi. I don’t recall all three played together not for long anyway.

    Seriously, a couple of sensible additions in Jan TW would do us mighty good.

    I’d prefer Nelson finishes the year long loan and shows he’d deliver consistently over a season. If works out, Willock should go do the same 2H or the next season.

  8. useroz

    Well said, China.

    Leeds – read the same 7amkickoff post. Human related factors would ‘simply’ add to the ‘variance’ cited in the article. Though, in theory these less tangible factors could also be modelled when significant resource is available. ibanks, FMCG, insurance co. are able to produce such analytic readily these days. Not quite in football sector yet. Some startups in the US tapping in the NBA with so predictive stuff that could eventually b available to colleges, high schools, etc for improving shooting skills. Some stars ha invested. Just needs to find the, market. Perhaps call and ask Ozil for angel funds…

  9. Michael24


    Good morning from the South Coast of England.

    Have just read your 0:3:47 post.

    Hit the nail on the head.

    What many wished for was never going to happen under Wenger. Winning 3 FA Cups may have satisfied some but to all intents and purposes it only acted as a smoke screen.

    Look at what’s happened since Emery’s arrival. The whole “feel” around the club and, significantly, amongst the team, has changed. Players look happier, body language has improved, systems are developing. Yes, mistakes are still being made but you sense when they are, actions are in hand to rectify them.

    Fans who “wished Wenger to go” but applauded the status quo, were only helping to achieve one thing…………….continued regression and decline.

    Cheers China.

  10. Michael24

    Ramsey has been at the club for ten years and yet he seems to be the only one, along with his agent, who feels he is justified such a significant contract renewal.

    Always a 5-7 out of 10 player for me.

    Even though he scored in 2 FA Cup Finals, not a legend.

    Sorry Aaron.

  11. Michael24

    The more you think about the Ozil agreement, the more you realise what a mindblowingly stupid decision it was.

    That one decision alone showed that Arsene Football Club was finished.

    The sceptic in me feels it was a deliberate ploy to fuck things up.

    What other explanation is there?

  12. Leedsgunner


    The stats that you posted show how important Lucas is and how long we’ve needed someone like him. The previous manager knew this but for reasons only known to him he didn’t managed to do so, or perhaps he didn’t know how.

    Since we have now such a midfielder we need to either find another midfielder like Torreira or train another player to play in a similar fashion in case he becomes injured.

  13. useroz

    The thing with FA Cup is, anyone could score winning goals! That’s its magic. It’d be Ramsey, or a CB… Remove that, not a lot would go for Ramsey and the reported 250k pw ask.

    The only thing matters is whether we can savage some fees in Jan..

  14. useroz

    How should Emery (or would you) use

    * Torreira + Xhara
    * Torrerra + Guendouzi

    say, in situations like

    * home and away
    * vs stronger / weaker teams

  15. Pierre

    I posted my own set on state 3/4 weeks before Torriera was a regular starter highlighting how effective he had been with the limited time he had been playing and the need to get him in the side asap .

    thankfully the manager has seen sense and is now starting Torriera and Lacazette and if Kosielny returns fully fit ,we will at long last have a strong spine to the team


  16. Pierre

    If Ramsey and welbeck leave on a free transfer at the end of the season….
    Who is to blame for this now that wenger has gone….we stand to lose around £70million..

    Do you think that maybe some supporters were wrong in thinking the ozil/Sanchez situation was all of wenger’s doing due to the fact that the ramsey/Welbeck situation is a very similar scenario……if not then why haven’t the club learnt from last year.

  17. Pierre

    It appears a little strange to me that many on here are congratulating the club for their stance on Ramsey even though there is a strong possibility that Ramsey will leave on a free transfer ,losing the club £50 million.

    If wenger was still Arsenal manager ,would these same fans be congratulating the club for taking this stance ……of course not.

    Some people would call it double standards and maybe they are right because in the case of Sanchez/ozil and Ramsey/Welbeck, there is no difference except we haven’t got a scapegoat anymore.

  18. useroz

    Don’t know about Welbeck. The Ramsey situation would still be on Wenger (and Ivan).

    When players run down contracts towards the final year it’s already gone in terms of leverage.

    With the Sanchez (and Ozil) saga happened right under his nose, Wenger. (again, and Ivan) didn’t learn. They had the entire 2nd half of 2017/18 season plus the TW to sort Ramsey out when the club might still have had some residual leverage such as a fire sale towards end of TW.

    Instead, both Wenger and Ivan came out at different times telling us the Ozil deal was reasonable/ good given his calibre blah blah blah. Pure face saving self interest…

    AFC would stand to lose less with Welbeck I suppose. Should have flocked him to one of the promoted clubs. May be, just may b not too late if we have a winger lined up.

  19. Pierre

    “The more you think about the Ozil agreement, the more you realise what a mindblowingly stupid decision it was.That one decision alone showed that Arsene Football Club was finished.”

    I agree with you that to give ozil such a contract was an act of desperation by the club.

    Would you regard letting Ramsey and Welbeck leave for free a “mindblowingly stupid decision” ……if not ,why not.

  20. useroz

    Ivan had the added TW (not Wenger) to sort Ramsey out.

    People may wish to deflect some to th new contract guy but…. he’s new.

    Can’t recall who (from ex player pundits) it’d not happen during Fergie time at the manure, and I think that’s right, for those they wanted to keep anyway

  21. Pierre

    So you believe that despite the fact that the club knew that wenger was leaving in march/April, that he is to blame for the current situation …..

    Do you not think that it would have been wise for the club to reassess the contract situations in march/April if ,as many believe ,it was wenger who made all the decisions when handing out new contracts.

    Could there be a possibility that wenger didn’t have the final say on everything or else why are the club following exactly the same path as when wenger was at the club.

    Doesn’t make sense to me …

  22. PessimisticPat


    Ramsey and welbeck both were going into the last year of their contracts when wenger said he was leaving,therefore the club have zero leverage in negotiations. And as wenger has been overpaying this lot for years,and ozils ridiculous deal then the club will have little room for manouver.

    The club did however tie down 6 or more players with 2 years left to new contracts. Because they have a bargaining position there. Understand.

  23. un na naai

    England are shit

    Our record in the World Cup was shit too

    We beat Tunisia, Sweden and Honduras. The rest of the games we drew or lost against anyone of note. All those lauding Gareth Southgate after need their heads checking. Sterling is only decent as a support act to proper players like aguerro, KDB, coutinho, Suarez. Make him the main supply line and he withers. Maybe he needs better players to play off but to me it seems his decision making and ball skills disappear for england. Too many nippy, tricky wingers for England these days. Need to go back to basics in midfield and cut the weak minded little boys out of the team. Sterling and Ali being the first to go.
    He should start Welbeck. He offers more. And Sturridge. In support of Kane

  24. Pierre

    “Zero leverage”….are you sure?

    The club could not have done anything more to resolve the situation could they ?
    maybe taken the £50 million offer for Ramsey might have been a good idea .

    They gave new contracts to xhaka , iwobi,elneny ….all the players that have historically been slated on le grove..

  25. ddkingz

    good morning pals…

    In every institution, there is a scapegoat when things go wrong….sadly, like it or not wenger should take the stick for what’s been going on at arsenal even after he has left….

    my only wish is swap oezil for any great winger (nic. pepe, ziyech) available, sell Ramsay to any club available in Jan. and by another box to box creative midfielder, then by a younger competent left back…..

    probably all this happens in January

  26. ddkingz

    England is the most:

    1) overrated team ever…
    2) most over hyped team, squad and country in football history for over half a century…
    3) the most unrealistic country ever……..

    beat Panama 6-1, and they were shouting, it’s coming home, wtf, who the fuck is the fucking Panama….Japan beat the 3nill a fortnight ago..

  27. ddkingz

    England beat Tunisia and they were still screaming its coming home….fucking pussy citizens and supporters… fucking happy, when virtually you haven’t played any body at the world cup….

  28. ddkingz

    then the real test came….against Belgium..
    but guessed what, when all coaches were having a game plan, Garreth south gate was having a tournament plan, and decided to field in his second string players, so he could lose the match, and have a one way path to the final.
    and that he did, but never managed to make it to the finals…

  29. ddkingz

    England had the easiest route to the finals, but they choked when they played against a resilient Croatian side…

    England played just 4matches at the world cup.

    Lost 3 and won 1
    Belgium—lost 1nil
    sweden—won 2nil
    Croatia—lost 2-1
    Belgium—lost 2nil

    fucking pathetic footballing nation…

  30. VicVic

    Un na naai/China/TheLegendaryDB10,

    I’m really grateful people, really grateful.

    And thanks for the link Un, grateful.

    Life can be difficult to understand, I have been fighting to get to the top all my life, top was a distant dream; from very humble background. Lots of hill climbing and like trying to swim against a big ocean.

    But I was always happy, my hope as strong as a bull, I was certain I would get what I wanted if I kept on believing.

    Then finally it’s happening bit by bit, the dreams are turning to actual reality.

    Then bang!

    From no where, since late last year, I started having wrong emotions, fear and all.
    I looked it up: DEPRESSION!

    Until then depression was just a silly word to me, you just had to stop thinking and depression would go and that’s what the Mrs always says to me now. ‘Stop thinking, take it easy.’

    Things I would really hate to think or have said around me started popping up in my mind.

    Is there a christian brother out there?

    My mind and body are manipulating me to believe I’m headed to hell no matter what I do. I think the reason for that is because that is the one thing that can really make me afraid. Despite all my faults, I love Jehovah God, I love the Holy Trinity.
    Death doesn’t even scare me much again, I would have eased myself out if not for the thought that I might miss heaven if I did and the pains my family would be faced with if I did.

    I can’t even tell them all to the Mrs, why should I load something like that on a woman who has really stood my me?
    She loves me so dearly, and if i should let her into the details, it might make her really sad. I have mentioned it to her that I might be depressed, but just like any other person, she does not know the true meaning.

    Most times, I can’t even read the news, everything makes me feel guilty. I have caught my mind a number of times looking for something to kick start fear; anything from the past, present or future, anything that could break me down in fear, nature of things I know a 5 year old should not even pay attention to will actually break me down in fear these days.

    But I’m hoping for healing.
    My spirit remains strong, I have a feeling in my spirit that the monster will leave suddenly like it came.
    I believe God still loves me, no matter the trap in my mind to suggest otherwise.

    God bless football. Amazing that God can use things that are not important to sustain things that are important.
    I can’t believe that I still get almost the same joy from football like I used to get before the monster jumped at me.

    Thank you, people.

    And of course, I’m still here, just not as VicVic from now on.

    China, I’m sorry about your bro.
    Un, I’m glad you made it. Hope I will too.

    Maybe someday, I will be back with a testimony.
    And if I go, I go.
    Just want to make heaven!!!

    Pls Darling Jesus Christ, don’t forsake me.

  31. Champagne charlie

    “If we came 4th but embarrassed ourselves in the cl, won nothing and we’re 15 points back of the title winners, wenger would still be here“

    “Just like if we won the fa cup last year, he’d still be hereWhat some of you guys claim you wanted wasn’t possible.“

    Weird, because the only reason in both scenarios that Wenger continues is because of Stan having no interest/sack. Both are entirely reasonable outcomes were we run by someone with them clubs success at the forefront.

    Wouldn’t be the first time a manager wins a domestic cup and gets the sack because it falls below expectation (pay attention, key word), same with scraping a top 4 place and never challenging. Point of focus is expectation.

    Stan doesn’t care for sporting success, he’s proved as much in his tenure. Only time he’s gotten involved is when we dipped outside the financial cash cow of top 4. Spending a decade in there with “not even close to a challenge” as some state, is just about the most clear and obvious display of the mans ambition for Arsenal football club.

    Alas, it’s a long running pantomime for many on here and Wenger is the one and only villain of the piece. That’s cute and all, but plain wrong. Nothing stated about Stan above can be refuted, it’s not my opinion it’s quite literally an account of the facts. Only time they’ll appear not as they were is when a crowd of obsessed Arsenites come spewing a rehashed version deflecting here, there and everywhere.

  32. VicVic

    Thanks so much, you have done sufficiently enough, and I’m
    really grateful.
    I will see a doctor.
    It has got really bad these days.
    My head is just messed beyond belief, and i look okay on the
    ‘Pls Darling Jesus Christ, don’t forsake me.’
    Line above is from my previous post, but I have been having
    a war going on since I used it. The word ‘darling’ was not
    right enough maybe or maybe not
    So i’m changing it to make sure it’s right:
    MY LORD Jesus Christ, pls DO NOT FORSAKE ME.
    Take pity on me in this public place, forgive me my secret and
    open sins and take my pain away.

  33. China

    But you won’t see me arguing that Stan has been a good owner. I think entirely the opposite and regularly call him and Ivan as guilty as wenger.

    All 3 of them should equally share the blame for driving this bus off a cliff with gay abandon whilst merrily just paying attention to their bank balance and personal egos. All 3 of them are/were awful in the last 5 years at least (10 if we’re being serious)

    So you won’t find me saying Kroenke is blameless. But you will find me saying the club higher ups and wenger himself consistently said he could spend proper money and eventually he even started doing it.

    So kroenke’s failures stem from not insisting on a winning mentality or taking action earlier. I never asked for Stan to invest his own cash in the club so this isn’t something I’ll blame him for not doing

    And I’m also not comfortable implying that Stan should even need to tell a 70 odd year old veteran manager on 6+m a year that winning is actually important and necessary. Like what kind of person is arsene to have been so comfortable with failure whilst asking for a huge pay rise? That speaks volumes about all 3 of those guys.

    At least 2 of them are gone now and immediately some positivity and enthusiasm has returned

  34. China

    Vic if Jesus is real then I’m convinced he would be saddened that you worry about being forsaken.

    As long as you are not a horrific person I think there’s little to no chance of a benevolent creator holding you to impossibly high standards. Just being a decent person is probably more than enough for him to be proud

    I’m sure if he’s real he would just want you to be a good husband/father/member of society