WEAPONISATION OF ARSENAL XG: WHY IT’S BANG AVERAGE ANALYSIS

by .

Well good morning to you, this will be a BIG week of writing and podcasting. I have a VERY special backroom guest lined up on Wedneday and I just know it’s going to be a banger. We’ll be powering on with a lot of writing because no doubt, because there will be a lot of people trying to take things off track this week.

First port of call? xG statistics.

There’s a table doing the rounds… sorry… a few tables doing the rounds that indicate Arsenal are the worst at everything this season.

We have two tables here. The bottom one is xG for the season, which has us in 16th. The on the top is Sky making a fuss of our attacking statistics this season.

So how do we react?

Firstly, on the xG table and data in general.

Statistics are there to point you in the direction of problem or an opportunity. In the world of football scouting, data tools allow analysts to drill down into a profile of player they are hunting, which gives finite scouting resource sharper direction so they get to what the club needs quicker.

In football, a statistic is rarely the ‘thing’, because it’s a nuanced game that is chaotic and difficult to measure.

Example:

INTERNET HOT TAKE: Aaron Ramsdale has been relegated 3 times. He conceded over 120 goals in his last two loans. He must be shit.

Ok. What contextual reference points do we have that might counter the above?

He won Fan Player of the Season at three of those clubs. Ok, interesting, so clearly, if fans of relegated clubs love a player, there must be something there. Especially if it’s the goalkeeper.

Sheffield United had 400 centre back combinations in a season that was ravaged by injury. Ok, so maybe the players in front of him weren’t that good?

There are hardly any 23-year-olds regularly making starts in the Premier League in that position. Ok, maybe he has something about him that is so unique, managers with weak squads keep going out of their way to have him as the first name on the team sheet?

He’s played for progressive managers and clubs, even if they have been poor. Ok, what are those guys interested in about his game? Maybe his passing is special?

If you scouted Ramsdale by his xG saves number, would you have bought him? If you scouted him based on goals conceded, would you have bought him? If you scouted him based on team success, would you have bought him?

No. Because context and the eye test are VERY important.

The xG table makes for grim reading this season, but only if you are an xG junkie that watches highlights of Arsenal. Remember, xG is a stat that is designed to give you a deeper understanding of results. Weaponising it when we’re 5th in the table isn’t sharp unless you have a good angle of attack, especially when context would say fans that actually go are very happy, and pundits were asking Arteta if Arsenal were a title threat before the Liverpool game.

Our start was brutal. We had a covid outbreak that wiped out 5 players, plus 4 injuries. We lost to Brentford, then had to play the European Cup finalists back to back. That was not good for xG. We deserved to lose, but there was context to those failings, and I think we’ve all accepted them now.

So a bad start for xG.

Arsenal then went out and rebuilt the defence, got injured players back to fitness, and covid patients recovered. We started Phase 2 of the season with a team that had 5 new starters. By the Spurs game, we’d finished with 6 new players in the starting 11.

What was the football trend? We started very fast, scored goals, then sat back to absorb the pressure.

Did anyone watching the Spurs game (eye test) come out of that thinking we were unlucky not to lose? No? Well, we lost on xG. If we’d won that game 5-0, no one would have thought us lucky. But xG had it as a loss despite the control and ease of the afternoon.

The Leicester game was the same. We should have won 4-0, we started majestically, but we let our foot off the gas and they had a few nice chances. Was the game ever out of control? Were we ever really in danger? No. But xG doesn’t record the context of the game or how we played it.

What is the reality of the season right now?

We’re 5th. Even after getting spanked by Liverpool this weekend.

We are 5th after our worst start in Premier League history. This position been earned.

We are 5th after reengineering our starting 11 with 6 players under the age of 24. These players have had 9 games together.

We are 5th after playing Manchester City and Liverpool away from home.

The xG sample size is small, it lacks context, and the eye test isn’t really telling us the things the Emery eye test was.

If we’re going to use context, let’s be fair here… let’s look at our performance since Arteta had all the players he wanted available for games.

Arsenal since Phase 2 of the season started (Norwich)

We haven’t scored a lot of goals, it’s true. But we’ve scored 2 less than Manchester City in the same period. Even with the absolute drubbing we took at the weekend, it’s safe to say our defence is going to be pretty good: Liverpool, West Ham, and an in-form Wolves have all conceded more than us. We have the 3rd best record defensively over that time period.

United has conceded 19 since Phase 2 started.

Attack is a worry, but again, only 4 teams have scored more than us. We have some problems here. Auba and Lacazette aren’t the full ticket. We know that. The coaching team know that. They have a very delicate political situation to deal with. How do you deftly deal with a captain that isn’t doing it? Eddie wants out, you can’t use him. Balogun is too young. Martinelli has been dreadful since the start of the year. Something has to give.

The attacking issue is also more complicated. Overall, it’s clear, we aren’t creating enough high-quality chances. But I also think part of that is because we don’t have elite quality in the final third when it comes to strikers, that is combined with having two rookie players as the focus of our chance creation in Saka and ESR. Would I change those two for anyone? No. But we have to accept they aren’t Mane and Salah… yet.

Let’s look at attempts at goal this season. The Sky stat box doesn’t have shots on goal, a number we usually use. In total, we’re at 13.25 a game. An improvement on previous years, but not amazing. However, when you take out the top 3 teams we’ve played again, the average goes up significantly to 16.3 per game. How does that look against previous seasons? Well, that number would have us higher than Liverpool for the whole of last season. That number would have us higher than Arsenal of 2014-15 when we had Santi, Ramsey, Ozil and Sanchez in the side. Take out the top 3 teams this season and our attempt production isn’t that bad. We are 9 games into the new regime, my guess is that when the cognitive style of football kicks in, we’ll see better chances, more will be taken, and our attempts on goal stat will climb.

Now imagine we had a striker in the system that could hold the ball up and make a nuisance of themselves like DCL or Ivan Toney. We don’t have anyone that can make something of all the great crosses we know we can deliver.

I know we don’t have other tools available now. We don’t need another striker to challenge for top 6 this season. But let’s be honest, it’s going to be tough against the top 2 teams until we change that.

Final point on all of this.

This is Project Youth 2.0.

We are not ready to compete with Liverpool. Our aim is to compete with everyone outside Liverpool, City and maybe Chelsea. I think this calendar year, we’re at 36 games and only City and Chelsea have more points than us, so again, when you put some noise cancellers on the drama queens, we’re actually demonstrating the sort of consistency required to be seriously considered in the mix for top 4 this season.

There will be peaks and troughs. The boys just delivered a 10+ game unbeaten run after a shocking start. This catastrophizing over bumps in the road does nobody any favours. It’s just a shame the most moronic voices on the internet are rewarded because tech algorithms prioritise confident bad takes over those grounded in reality because one is exciting and the other is boring.

These players have had 9 games together, that isn’t an excuse, it’s reality. They have so much work to do to start playing the cognitive style of football this system requires. They have so many lessons to learn until they are ready to deal with shocks to the system as a group and on the pitch. Sometimes the football will be fluid and dreamy, sometimes it’ll be clunky and tough to watch.

… but when everything beds in and clicks – and it will – this team will be ready to go to the moon.

The current strategy is the only way we make it back to the top. We spent 8 years trying to sign ‘ready-made’ players and it was a fucking disaster we still haven’t managed to get over. The simple truth is this: If you want to make it back to the top without the most money, you have to take some pain. We are going to take some pain this season, but at least it’ll be for an idea that stands a chance.

The biggest issue on our agenda right now isn’t trying to find an answer for losing at Anfield. That shit happens to the best teams in the world. The biggest agenda item is beating Newcastle, then taking advantage of a United side in disarray. Win those two games and we’re right back on track (sorry, I mean more on track, because we are already on track).

Our season works in phases. We’ve won the last two after a poor start. The objective now is to take 20 points from the next 27 in Phase 4. That’s going to be a tough ask, but so was 20 points from 24 in Phase 2 / 3, but we managed it.

Spitting distance of top 4 by January 2nd is the goal. If we’re there, I promise you, we’re going to be in with a shout of top 4 come the end of the season, because the chances are, our young players will click during those months and start delivering a more consistent flow of performances.

Finally, I know I am going overboard in answering a loud minority of people that don’t really exist in the ground, but I do think it’s important to reiterate… how we react after a defeat is important. It’s painful to watch people go to the worst possible outcome as soon as there’s a single bad moment. #ArtetaOut after yesterday? It’s so childish. If the players behaved like that, we’d be truly fucked. The great hope I always carry is that the people that go know better, as they’ve shown over and over again this season. I am so thankful for that. I cannot wait to go to some games in December and experience it myself.

So in short, I wouldn’t let xG worry you too much. We have good players, there’s a clear vision, we’ve hoovered up a lot of points, maintained a good defensive record, and hopefully our attack will kick up a gear in December.

On that note, check out our latest podcast below OR if you are feeling frisky, check out the Latte Firm video where I hang with FK, Walid and Rohan and talk xG and that ‘fight’ on the touchline.

ACAST | SPOTIFY | GOOGLE | CASTBOX 

 

322 Responses to “WEAPONISATION OF ARSENAL XG: WHY IT’S BANG AVERAGE ANALYSIS”

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  1. Terraloon

    China

    Rich maybe if We had a team of experienced vets we’d have done better. Lola, luiz, mustafi, Willian, xhaka, el neny, soares, Leno all experienced players from last season who always covered themselves in glory if I recall correctly

    Of course they didn’t work well but there is still plenty of experience in the current set up but they too don’t seem to be able to focus on anything other than their own game. The major things that are missing is that ability to calm thing downs not to play at 100mph , not to play balls blindly, not to chase lost causes in other words mentor players on field.

    I saw Silva on Saturday at 37 he is one of the reasons Chelsea’s average age seems so high but he brings so. Much to the table it was staggering .if only Arsenal had a37 year old !!

  2. Rich

    China1

    Our experienced players weren’t good enough

    But still last season we did finish 3rd in the head to head against the traditional top 6, with 13 points

    We went to Old Trafford and won for the first time in the league in 14 seasons, with this team:

    …………………….Leno
    …..Holding Gabriel Tierney
    Bellerin Partey Elneny Saka
    …….Willian………..Aubameyang
    …………..Lacazette

    We went to Stamford Bridge and won fir the first time in 11 seasons:

    ………….…….Leno
    ….Holding Mari Gabriel
    Saka Partey Elneny Tierney
    …Odegaard …….Smith Rowe
    ………..Aubameyang

    We beat Man City in the FA cup semi final 2-0, we had 3 starters under 25 that day, Niles, Tierney + Ceballos, all 3 were young, but still had a decent amount of experience

    We beat Chelsea 2-1 in the final, again only 3 players under 25, the same 3 who played the semi final against City

    We beat Liverpool in the Charity Shield 5-4 on pens, again we started with just 3 players under 25

    The idea experience + cohesion isn’t a vital part of competing against the very best, stands up to zero scrutiny

  3. TR7

    Charlie

    Romantic delusion ? If a player is quality age should not matter. We all saw Pedri play for Spain in Euros and anybody could tell the guy was special and could play in midfield for any team in the world. Who cares if he is only 18. Sane at 19 was the best player at City a couple of years ago. Saka and ESR are gifted players. If there’s anything holding them back it is our deficiency in midfield and forward areas, not their age.

    With all the experienced players we were in relegation form last season around Nov-Dec. ESR and Saka turned our season around. Even this season ESR was at the core of great football against Spurs and Villa. It is one thing to say these players will get better with more experience which is logical but another to say their inexperience is holding us back from becoming a much stronger team.

  4. Champagne Charlie

    “If a player is quality age should not matter.”

    This is the regurgitated line reserved for advocating a young players inclusion in a team. It’s not the issue facing Arsenal whatsoever, they’re playing, and everyone more than appreciates their talent/ability.

    “It is one thing to say these players will get better with more experience which is logical but another to say their inexperience is holding us back from becoming a much stronger team.“

    Holding us back is your interpretation of what’s been said. The reliance on them as leading members of the first XI is a problem for Arsenal because we will have to absorb their learning curve. It’s not the fact they’re young that’s the issue, it’s the fact they’re the best of what we have that’s the issue.

    Deliberately ignoring the basic premise that young players are prone to significant inconsistency, are immature in their football, more impressionable mentally, and finding their feet in the game at the top level is nothing short of dishonest.

  5. Kegunner

    Arsenal were blown away by Chelsea, Man City and Liverpool. All sides are capable of winning the Champions League. Arsenal at the moment does not play in the Europa League and probably can’t even win it.

    The gulf in performance is apparent. Still a long way to go. The silver lining is that Arsenal is now superior to lesser sides. The next step will to compete with the elite three teams in the league.

  6. China1

    Rich yes and that same experienced team came 8th and tanked the first half of the season

    Experience is very useful but our team is not as good as Liverpool’s and our tactics were not either

  7. China1

    In the first half our only offensive strategy was pass to Saka and hope.

    Fair enough if he got any joy out of it but Saka didn’t have his best day and got nothing out of his man but arteta never told the team to switch it up and go left or central instead.

    The in game management wasn’t good. That cost us just as much if not more than the players themselves

    We could blame that on the inexperience of the manager but again I’m not a fan of falling back on that as an excuse because some of it was quite plain to see and shouldn’t require 20 years in the game to notice and try to address

  8. Graham62

    Kegunner

    Not disputing any of that but let’s not brush under the carpet things that need to be discussed.

    Being a young team, it’s a process, we’ve got to accept these things will happen, be patient etc etc etc.

    If you genuinely think that Arteta is the man to lead us forward, that’s your prerogative but don’t ignore the visible signs of mismanagement and questionable actions.

    I don’t.

  9. Positive pete

    Hey “ Bedwetters”.Here’s a novel idea .set up your own blog of misery.The masses as you describe yourselves is a misnomer for starters.A rabid hardcore,dozen or so appear daily ( particularly after a defeat) to endlessly bore the majority on here to death with their negativity.Outside of their obsession with getting rid of Arteta are loathe to credit him with an ounce of improvement.It would be hilarious if not so sad.Someone mentioned a sense of balance is needed on this blog.Something which I thought was happening pre to the Liverpool game.But oh no.One heavy defeat & all hell breaks loose.It’s like they( bedwetters) were at bursting point & had to relieve themselves.Oh well,soggy,smelly mattresses until after Newcastle match I guess.

  10. China1

    One thing I haven’t seen mentioned as well is that liverpool were very lucky that about 8/11 of our team had a bad game (especially second half)

    If you replayed the game tomorrow don’t tell me 8 or 9 of our players will all have stinkers and the manager to boot.

    Play it again and maybe Auba takes the one good chance he gets. ESR is more involved and creates a couple of good chances. Saka as well. Even if all the other players had the same performances as last time that might have given us a completely different result. Even if we didn’t win it might have been respectable like a 3-2 or a 2-2.

    The fact is if any team goes to anfield and only the keeper has a good game then safe to say unless liverpool also have a freak bad day you’re going to get spanked. Whether you’re 20 or whether you’re 30

  11. Graham62

    Well said Positive Pete.

    Don’t agree but what the heck.

    By the way if it was Pep, Klopp, Tuchel in charge, I’d still be highlighting the same issues.

    Have a nice day.

  12. S Asoa

    Readers largely make a blog too by their contributions.
    Situations might get so dire one gets pissed off which is sometimes misinterpreted by the naive.
    Whatever
    But shitters always leave a turd …and stink up the place. Appreciate the difference fish eyes.

  13. China1

    Also when push came to shove the experienced players we did have out there did not do enough

    Auba was anonymous and when he had one good chance with the weight of expectation on his shoulders as captain to bring us back into the game and give us a boost, he fluffed his lines

    Laca worked hard but was not a difference maker.

    Partey was average and did not use his ability or experience to calm the game down and give us some control.

    Those were the players with the age and experience to drag us forward and none of them did.

    Meanwhile mr relegator, our young inexperienced keeper played another blinder and once again was a stand out performer.

    It’s the same story again and again – the players who win us points are mostly young and it happens in spite of rather than because of our experienced players. Experience is great but our experienced players have given us nothing like enough over the last several years and it is the kids who have far more often shown up to be counted. Against liverpool the kids had a bad day mostly. Never mind. But ‘but inexperience’ covers that there’s a wealth of contributing factors for our result and the age of our team was by far one of the lesser ones

  14. Terraloon

    Kegunner

    The silver lining is that Arsenal is now superior to lesser sides.

    Sorry I think the jury is still massively undecided on that.

    Yes beating Spurs, Villa and yes Leicester is promising but none of these are exactly pulling up trees this year and that really is validated by the fact that two of that number have already dispensed with their managers the other team, Leicester ,commenced their decline in the league performances which seem to have started around March and their results since have been to say the least inconsistent.

  15. MidwestGun

    “A game of two halves” according to Matt and Pedro.Why was that?
    _______
    I can answer that.. will take more then a postcard though.. But short answer is Mane and Mo Salah are much better then anything that we can offer. So we were setup to neutralize them. And it worked the majority of the first half. Partey and Loko however were both locked into defending them and were unable to get forward. Partey because Mane was torching TT repeatedly over and over.. Did you know TT did no register 1 tackle the entire game.? Shocking I know.. But thats why Partey couldnt do much as well as Ben White.. He tried to make one run from deep but that was about it. On the other side Loko and Tavares shutdown MO Salah. but again Loko was no impact at all in attack. So when your two central midfielders are locked into defending 2 of the best players in the world right now. . that leaves a donut hole in the middle of your attack. Laca in the first half was able to drop in there and make some effective linkup play mostly to Saka. but he ran out of energy after the Tavares error and also the air was let out of the balloon. Sure Teta could have tried a few different things with hindsight.. he did try to bring in AMN for Loko. But Tavares made the error trying to make something happen. something he did a lot.. I think he knew we were struggling getting the ball through the middle and made some bad errors trying to do the right thing. .Should he have started Tierney? Not sure its a tough call. Tierney mght have been better going forward but worse defensively. Could he have used a different formation… hugeky risky since thats not what we have been tarining to do and we were on a successful roll.

    However, for me this match was not a loss because of our manager it was because we were out classed by the difference in quality between our strikers and theirs and them playing at home a place we haven’t won in 10 years. Hopefully, we can use this as a learning tool and bounce back the next 2. Not sure what else Teta was supposed to do… You can yell Martinelli and Eddie and Ode and whomever all you want.. but fact is none of them are better then the combination of Mane and Salah either. And yes I hate Liverpool.. so it gives me great pains to say this.