I have no opener here. No paragraph where I mention some music I like to listen to and then go on to make a connection between that piece of music and my thoughts. Such as why the Koscielny-Mustafi partnership is like Philip Glass’ Akhnaten.
I went and did something I have been avoiding all season: I watched the Trump-Clinton debate. The only stat I have from that debate is that we didn’t have a policy question until the 30th minute. By that time I was chugging wine. By the end of the debate I was clutching my debate partner like Arsene Wenger hugging Pat Rice. I think she was sitting there staring at the TV, her mouth agog. I was burying my head. I can’t take this election. I can’t.
I would love it if the next debate had the following rules: you get 30 seconds to answer the question and you cannot mention the opponent. It would be like couples therapy where both debaters can only use “I phrases.” For example, “I will solve the problem with Social Security by eliminating the $110k cap” and “I will build a glorious wall, the best wall and I will make Mexico pay for it.” It would be like couples therapy for our nation.
I guess this is my opener. I guess this is my culturally relevant segue into talking about Arsenal.
I had a look at the stats for Arsenal this season. I have been avoiding this because I was traumatized by the stats from last season. If you recall, I was big on Arsenal’s chances to win the League last season because all of the stats seemed to indicate that Arsenal should win the League.
For the first few months, Arsenal were creating so many golden chances, more than any other team, and we had the best keeper in the League, saving more big chances than any other. I kept telling you, dear reader, that Arsenal were just on the verge of breaking out. That Arsenal were doing everything right, that Arsenal’s problem wasn’t chance creation, it was finishing, and that finishing is temperamental, it swings with peaks and valleys. Just as soon as Arsenal start finishing all these chances, man, then we are really going to win the League.
You may also remember that I often pointed to Leicester as pretenders to the throne. Their finishing was simply ridiculous and the number of shots they were allowing was among the worst in the League. They were relying on blocking shots and hustling defense. They also needed teams to attack them, to create space in behind so that Vardy and Mahrez could counter. It seemed unsustainable.
It turned out that Arsenal’s attack was unsustainable and Leicester’s counter-intuitive approach was enough to win the League. Enough… They won the League by 10 points. Arsenal finished the season scoring four goals below their “expected goals” and Leicester, thanks largely to 10 penalties, finished the season scoring eight goals above their expected goals.
So, I went and looked at the stats for this year (thanks to blog reader Scott Willis for compiling this data) and sure enough, it looks like Arsenal are the ones now who are distinctly average in terms of shot creation but are the ones finishing at the highest rate in the League.
Scott calls it Chance Quality, which I prefer to expected goals, because that is what we are actually measuring, the quality of a shot and not our expectation of a goal. But regardless of what you call it, Man City, no surprise, are the best in the League. They may even be the best team in Europe at the moment, in terms of Chance Quality. Man U is right there behind them, buoyed by the Zlatan. And Arsenal are all the way down below Everton in 7th place in terms of Chance Quality.
In real terms, Arsenal have scored five more goals than their Chance Quality would indicate and Arsenal are doing that because they are converting 14% of their shots. 14% conversion isn’t unheard of under Arsene Wenger. His golden era team (the Invincibles) converted 18% of their shots in their prime (04/05). And Arsenal converted 13% in each of the three seasons between 2011 and 2014. Only Watford surpasses Arsenal in terms of goal efficiency.
But what does this mean? It just confirms what some of have observed: that Arsenal are clicking sometimes and other times not. Arsenal are just inconsistent at the moment. It also may indicate that only a certain level of chance creation is needed to be successful. Though that’s a bigger topic than I have energy to address today.
It also means that I’m not predicting ANYTHING. Certainly not the presidential election.