Arsenal have a real problem with their away stats. My model uses top five players and ranks them based on their score home or away. Arsenal’s top five away performers this season are Koscielny, Ramsey, Mustafi, Cech, and Xhaka. Since I don’t count keepers, and Mustafi is 100% injured, the next players in that group are Sead and Monreal. Their combined score is 34.08 and they have a combined 1 assist.
Last season the top five away players were Sanchez, Mustafi, Koscielny, Ozil, and Ox. Their combined score was 36.39 and they scored 21 goals and had 13 assists. I have a way to account for Alexis’ drop in form this season while also keeping his numbers from last season.
So, with my projected top five starters – Alexis, Koscielny, Ramsey, Xhaka, and Kolasinac – I get an away score of 35.08.
Fortunately for Arsenal, Everton are in horrid form. They are at least scoring goals at home but they are also leaking goals. Niasse and Rooney are their only goalscorers at home (2 for Niasse and 1 for Rooney) but neither player figures in my “top five” calculation because they haven’t played enough. So, I have a projected starting top five for Everton of Keane, Schneiderlin, Gueye, Williams, and Baines. Their combined score is just 34.79
This is the statistical equivalent of two 11th-20th place teams facing each other and my model suggests a draw.
Arsenal were 36.39 in last season’s away games and Everton’s home combined score was 37.91 – that’s a 2-1 win for Everton according to my model, which is exactly what happened. But if you remove Alexis and Ozil for Arsenal and Lukaku and Barkley for Everton, both teams drop to being mid-table clubs. It’s hilarious to me that Everton and Arsenal fans expect more from their clubs when they are clearly missing their best players and no one has stepped up to cover the gap.
Arsenal might consider themselves a bit unlucky so far in away games. They have only scored the one goal (Meattower) but they have a combined expected goals scored of 5.7. Still, the Arsenal defense has been the problem this season with an expected goals of 7.1 and a goals allowed of 7. Even removing the incredibly distorted result against Liverpool, Arsenal have an expected goals allowed of 3.65 and an actual goals allowed of 3.
Arsenal’s defensive problems are largely a function of the fact they can’t score. They have 1 goal on an expected goals of 4.93 (removing Liverpool) and all of that high pressing and sending bodies into the attack allows teams to counter attack Arsenal. Against Red Star Yeast it looked like the Belgians were happy to concede corners and free kicks because they knew that Arsenal would throw 8 players forward and leave just two, inexperienced, fullbacks behind to mop up counters. Expect Everton to look to counter off Arsenal corners with Jagielka and Williams easily winning aerials against Lacazette and Arsenal continuing to struggle to win the second ball with their soft as lanolin midfielders.
Everton’s under fire manager Ronald Koeman hinted at the game plan for the weekend. After losing in the Europa League to Lyon he barked, “We have not got the finesse or the confidence at the moment to try and play out from the back, we make too many mistakes. We are better when we play more direct.”
Given the overall lack of quality between the two teams, I am expecting a fight from Everton because it’s their only real chance of winning. Koeman doesn’t have the big Giroud type he wanted this summer so he will probably look for Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Sandro Ramirez to hit Arsenal on the counters.
I’d also be absolutely shocked if Rooney doesn’t start: he’s scored 14 goals against Arsenal in his career, the second most of any club he’s faced.
Referee tomorrow is Craig Pawson. Everton’s record with Pawson is 1-4-2 and Arsenal’s record is 5-2-3. Pawson was one of the referees who allowed Marcus Rojo to put in a two-footed tackle and was spectacularly panned after a red card to Vardy last season. Things got so bad that Howard Webb called for him to lose a few weeks work. But Pawson was handed plenty of big games after those errors, including the FAC semi-final between Arsenal and City. City felt aggrieved when Aguero was denied a clear penalty from a foul by Ox, then had a goal denied for an incorrectly called ball out of play. Arsenal were also denied a clear penalty for Alexis when Jesus held him back.
Pawson has never awarded a penalty in an Arsenal match (for or against) and this is not unusual in recent years: the trend in Arsenal matches (in England) is toward fewer overall penalties awarded than expected.
Prediction: 1-1 draw.