My comment is not relevent to this post. Its about the blog.
I like you tim. I always thought that you are rational, but you changed my mind. In the past, you used the numbers to prove that we are on the way up. You though and hoped that we will be the best.
Now, ypu use the numbers to remind us that we are shit, and it is only going to get worse.
I think your feelings drive you to look between the lines so you can back up your feeling, unfortunately, not the other way around.
Thanks for the comment and I want to tell you that I’m not picking on you with this response because I get this criticism a lot. I get this usually from people who want me to be more positive, or who haven’t been around much, and I want to respond.
This criticism is interesting because I get it no matter which way I write. When I veer into positive territory, I get the counterpart criticism to this one, which says that I only look for the stats to prove my positive outlook. Either that or, that “stats don’t tell the whole story.” Few people actually criticize the numbers. They, instead, go after me or say that all stats are bunk. As you know, these ad hominem attacks are off limits, however, I’m allowing it this one time because it’s so overwhelmingly common that I feel the need to end it once and for all.
I’m not sure which numbers you’re specifically referring to here because I haven’t written any articles about Wenger’s numbers for a while. I can tell you that I have been looking at Wenger’s trends over the last 20 seasons and I compiled this data as a precursor to a possible article.
This is just how I live. I don’t apologize for it. I also don’t apologize for the data being ugly: however, I do apologize to any readers out there who rely on screen readers – this picture is not compliant.
A few things stand out to me in this graphic.
First, Arsene Wenger has only had 6 seasons where Arsenal finished within 5 points of the eventual League winner. Wenger has had 3 seasons where Arsenal finish between -6 and -10, four seasons between -11 and -15, and seven seasons with -16 or more points away from the eventual winners. Just to put that in wins numbers; 6 seasons within 2 wins of the title, 3 of which he won, none of which have happened in the last nine seasons.
Now.. Two years ago, I believe I was one of just a few bloggers who were saying that the Arsenal were going to win the League. The data showed me that – we were creating great shots and conceding few great shots, and the goals we were conceding were from distance. Meanwhile, Leicester looked like pretenders – their shots ratio was wild and their shots allowed was even crazier. They needed to keep finishing at a super high level (and blocking shots at a crazy rate) to win the League and all Arsenal needed to do was start finishing at a normal level to win. In fact, I thought that the title race was between two clubs: Tottenham and Arsenal. This was all contrary to my own feeling that Arsenal were somehow not right, were missing pieces, and NO ONE was saying that Spurs were in the title race.
Here is the chart that led me to that conclusion:
If Arsenal had finished their Big Chances (97) at the normal 50% rate (48- 49), they would have won the League. And Arsenal’s Big Chances conceded (13!) was the lowest I have ever seen from them. This was a Wenger team, and let’s not forget that Wenger is always criticized for not playing defense, that was the best defensive team in the League (in terms of the shots they were conceding) and probably even his best ever defensive side, apart from the one assembled by George Graham which conceded just 17 goals in 1998/99.
And if you look at Leicester, they were just awful at allowing shots in prime and big chances. However, Leicester did something that few people had looked at before, they blocked an amazing number of shots. Especially in the second half of the season. When I say that Arsenal should have won the League in 2015/16 this is what I mean. It’s not an emotional reason, Arsenal’s numbers were just SOOOO MUCH BETTER than everyone else’s.
I will admit this, however: the numbers did make me excited. I saw a title race where I think few other folks saw one and as a fan of Arsenal that season is always going to be special to me for that reason. If anything, the numbers made me emotional, it wasn’t the other way around. I had nothing to be excited about until somewhere after the 15th game of the season when it looked like Arsenal were about to take the League by storm.
And so, now we come to last season. And Arsenal falling to pieces.
Last year’s numbers showed a MASSIVE deficiency. Once you take Coquelin out of Arsenal’s midfield, the defensive numbers rise like a fever. Arsenal allowed 59 Big Chances, 24 more than the season before and the most of any team in the top 6. Arsenal allowed 124 Shots in Prime, 27 more than the season before. Arsenal conceded 32 goals off Big Chances, 19 more than the season before. Arsenal conceded 27 goals off Shots in Prime, 13 more than the season before.
And on offense, Arsenal dropped through the floor. This doesn’t seem like a lot of events but Arsenal dropped 19 Big Chances from 2015/16 to 2016/17. That’s the equivalent of 9 goals, however. And in terms of shots in prime, Arsenal took a massive dump: -50 shots over the season before. Whether you agree with the methodology or not, you have to admit that both in terms of offense and defense, these numbers look like Arsenal shit the bed last season.
Even the comically lauded “holy trinity” of the back three only made Arsenal better in the context of how god awful we were for most of the year. Am I reading my own emotion into the numbers or are the numbers pushing my emotions? Again, I’d say it’s the latter. And I’d probably be the subject matter expert, considering the fact that they are my emotions.
Now you’re probably going to say “AH HA, the xG numbers aren’t that different!” I changed my xG formula last season. Under my new formula Arsenal’s xG for 2015/16 was 85 and their xGA was 34. That’s a -20 xG swing from 2015/16 to 2016/17 ([85 xG to 74 xG = -11] + [34 xGA to 43 xGA = -9] = Total swing of -20). Again, I didn’t change my formula to make Arsenal look worse – even the straight numbers from Arsenal look bad – I changed the formula because Big Chances weren’t being counted properly in my xG numbers and after a month of crunching the data, I came up with a more accurate model. If I use the 2015/16 xG model on the 2016/17 Arsenal, the drop from season to season is very similar(-17 on the old model, -20 on the new model).
So no matter how I look at Arsenal’s 2016/17 season it was a structural failure. Wenger has admitted that his contract talks caused problems in the team. I think there were a lot more problems than that, I think that there were and are problems with Arsenal’s midfield – Wenger can’t play with Coquelin unless he has Cazorla and can’t play without Coquelin unless he wants to concede dumptrucks full of shots – and there are problems with getting consistent production from his forward line (Ozil in particular). As far as my analysis shows, the back three doesn’t solve these problems – but we will get a full season (unless Wenger scraps it half-way through the season) to see for sure.
But to the original question at hand: my emotions didn’t make Arsenal drop in productivity both offensively and defensively – Ozil’s disappearing act for the year of 2016 and Wenger dropping Coquelin did that. However it is true that I am an emotional person, I am a human, but I don’t use my emotions to generate stats that prove my emotional state. Considering the amount of work it takes to compile this data, that would be truly insane (rather than just the borderline insane of doing this stupidity for free). What I will admit is that the data can make me excited or sad. Excited two years ago, sad last year.
What will the data hold for me this year? I don’t know.