Chelsea converting, City creating, Arsenal conceding

Do you see  what I see? Other than the fact that I don’t have Man U on the list.

First, Liverpool are the most open of all the teams in the top six: scoring 58 and conceding 36. They create a fair number, the most shots in prime with 125 (shots inside the area between the penalty spot and goal) and second most Big Chances with 57 (shots that normally we would expect a team to score, such as penalties), but also have allowed a ton of chance; 40 big chances and 62 SiP. As a result, they score a lot and concede a lot.

But look at Chelsea for a second. They have the best defense in the League and have allowed less than one big chance per game along with just 50 shots in prime. This defensive prowess makes up for their relative lack of attack.  I’m not suggesting that they don’t attack but they have the fewest big chances created (44) and shots in prime (71).

What Chelsea are doing extraordinarily well is finishing. They are scoring on 15% of their total shots. To put that in context, average for the Premier League is 10%.  When I do my expected goals formula for them they are 18 goals above where their total shots would normally see them.

Arsenals’ big problem this season is not in creating chances. It’s in conceding them. Of this group, Arsenal have conceded the most big chances (42) allowed the most shots in prime (88) and conceded the most goals from each of those positions. Remember that there is crossover from big chances and shots in prime, in other words, many big chances are shots in prime. In fact, Arsenal’s expected goals numbers are just average. We are scoring the number I expect and conceding the number I expect.

And finally a word about Man City. They are absolute creative beasts. The British punditocracy cackled gleefully when Pep Guardiola said that his 1-1 draw at home against Liverpool was the best his team had played. “How stupid of Pep” they all laughed. Yeah, it seems weird. But looked from a different perspective: City created 5 big chances in that game and 8 shots in prime. They only converted 1, which is bad, but to create at that level is highly impressive and we would have expected more goals from City in that match.

One thing to look for this weekend is that Arsenal are the team who have conceded the most big chances in this group and City have created the most. That does not bode well for the Gunners.



  1. Last season Mesut Ozil was out of his mind in big chance creation, I have him at 26 big chances created, compared to just 5 this season. On a per 90 basis he was at 0.76 big chances created last year and 0.24 big chances this season.

    If he were at the same creative level as last season that would be an additional 10 big chances and likely another 4-5 goals for the team. That probably wouldn’t put Arsenal in the title picture but it would put them in a better spot for top 4.

    1. Recent Daily Canon article suggesting that Sanchez playing as striker has cost Mesut his form.

      Seems reasonable. Superficial statistics bear this out, but would require focused viewing of games to be sure.

      But let’s accept it for argument’s sake, if we then also accept that Alexis is leaving and that Mesut would at least consider staying. Who would you want to pair up with Mesut so he ‘gets his groove back’? Is there someone unsettled who we could get in return for Sanchez, with cash going one way or the other?

      Sanchez for Benzema and cash… win now
      Sanchez for Morata… most Wengery, speed, finishing, dribbles, builds for future
      Sanchez and cash for Greizeman… pair with Giroud and double down on the Frenchiness? Not sure Atletico would do it.

  2. Question on definition, I know you have written about it before but what do you consider shot in prime?

    I track danger zone, which is 6 yard box plus the center of the 18 yard box.

    I have city creating 11(!) danger zone shots against Liverpool and an overall chance quality (xG) of 2.5 for that game.

    1. I wanted to just use your DB but last I checked it didn’t seem up to date.

      SiP is the area from the six yard box out, in a circle to the penalty spot.

      I double counted, I’m only seeing 8 shots in prime, 5 of which were big chances.

      My SiP is a bit more restrictive than your danger zone. Because I’m not counting that block and that miss off to the right of the pen (though I allowed the one shot saved which was 1/2 yard past the pen spot.)

      1. The premier league data base should be all up to date. I have been trying to get the minutes played data all updated into all of them during this international break.

        Ok, that makes sense on the SiP info. My Danger Zone is bigger but similar.

  3. Is BC converted/allowed a function of counter-attacking? Wasn’t Leicester converting at an absurd level last year. That would be my theory; Chelsea are predominantly a counter-attacking team this year and paired with clinical finishers like Hazard and Costa it results in high conversion rates of big chances.

    Liverpool, like us and to a lesser extent City, seem to be vulnerable to counter-attacks. We lack a Kante who can keep your defense from being run at… we had that two years ago with Coquelin – before he had that coached out of him.

    Two years ago it looked like we were transitioning from a possession oriented team to a space oriented team and we had some very good run of games where we were devastating on the counter. Now we’re just bleh. Against West Brom we were back to the worst of possession-for-possession’s-sake type of football.

    We need a new manager with a fresh vision of how to get these players to play.

    1. That is a theory! But the problem is that Opta doesn’t track counters in a way that the rest of us think of as counters. Chelsea does lead the League in counter attacking goals with 5, City is second with 4. But I bet if you watched every goal for Chelsea this season, you’d probably consider at least 15 of their goals as counters. Opta is just VERY restrictive on what they consider a counter attack.

      Last season, Leicester led the league in shots from counters with 13 and tied in the lead with City on goals from counters with 5. Arsenal were second in shots from counters last year with 11 but notably only scored 3.

  4. I believe the City game will be a disaster. I can’t decide whether watching it will bring any pleasure other than, perhaps, some laughter at the absurdity of hoping anything would actually change. And it is funny, when you think about the earnestness with which our players bumble about the field.

    1. I don’t know about disaster. City tend to play down to the level of their opponent so I’m not expecting a 5-0 win or anything, but I am fully expecting a City win. Something like 3-1 or 3-2 would be my guess. Bottom line is that they are going to create a shit load of shots in good areas while dominating the ball and limiting Arsenal’s counter attacking by pressing high up the pitch. Alexis might not play and I wonder if Özil will be fully recovered as well.

      I’m super negative at the moment (forgive me posi-Gooners!) Couple of predictions here:

      Mustafi is going to be found out in possession.
      Arsenal will have a season low pass completion rate and number.
      Probable red card for Xhaka who will be done for “pace” by one of the City forwards and will react with a stupid tackle, the kind he said he’s not going to eliminate from his game.
      I’d be surprised if Arsenal take more than 5 shots.
      Alexis season high turnovers.
      Welbeck late goal.

  5. I’m actually surprised to see us with as many BC on target as Liverpool. I wonder if there is a noticeable change in that in our last 14 games from our first 13 games. It definitely feels like we have had a lot of sterile possession as of late without really creating anything.

    1. I only have non-penalty shots in my database. For the first 13 games I have Arsenal with 25 big chances. For the last 14 games I have them with 22 big chances.

      1. Thanks! I guess that’s not too bad (1.92 per game vs. 1.57) but we probably also conceded BC at a higher clip making the net differential significant.

        1. I include penalties. The reason people don’t like to include pens is because 1) they are converted at a high rate and 2) people feel like they are capricious. I disagree with the 2nd position. I think penalties are earned and should be counted. I also hand code using the 442 Stats Zone App. The Stats Zone App is known to have some BC discrepancies with other apps like WhoScored and with other methods of scraping this data. But it’s the app I have always used.

          For Big Chances, I have Arsenal creating 29 in first 13 and 22 in the second 14.

          But the real problem is that Arsenal’s midfield has vanished and Arsenal are conceding massing quantities of shots.

          First half: 132 shots, 20 big chances, 12 goals conceded.
          Second half: 160 shots, 22, 21 goals conceded.

          We are BLEEDING goals.

          1. Why are we bleeding goals?

            Are we getting caught with too many men up field?
            Turning the ball over too much?
            Getting caught with Coq too high up the field?
            Xhaka too slow?
            Ramsey too far up field?
            Iwobi switching off?

          2. Right now I can tell you: Arsenal conceded 0 goals from headers in the first 13 matches and 6 from headers in the last 14. All the other stats are really close. I also notice that Arsenal have been intercepting the ball a LOT less, despite having the same amount of possession. So, it looks like we are getting beat in the air and not winning the ball back as much as we did before.

          3. So, basically we don’t have the same fight as we did in the first half of the season? Concentration problem which stems from the manager situation?

          4. Yes that’s exactly what I was alluding to – our mid field. It’s really interesting to see how the data bears that out.

  6. First of all, congratulations on tabulating and presenting valuable data in a coherent way. This is why I love this site!

    Of course you’ve opened the door to inevitable, fascinating, delicious conjecture. Everyone will want to explain what you’ve observed, including me. However, I’ve been taught that complex phenomena have complex causes. I don’t expect there are any easy answers.

    Ok, fine, I’ll opine: This is by design! But an imperfect one.

    “We have a responsibility as well to play the game the right way, for our fans” (etc etc). And he tries like hell to give us the best, but something always throws a wrench in the clockwork. The universe, it seems, has been trying to get Arsene back for the past 13 years for daring to achieve perfection once. Yes, go on and ruffle your feathers at me, instruct me about all the ways he’s been the architect of his own failures. I’ve heard it all and I don’t really care because I know it too, and probably so does he. Nor should he apologize for himself; he coaches the way he knows/thinks is best and that’s all any of us can do. With that will come mistakes, some more avoidable than others. The sad truth in this game is that it’s better to be lucky than good. Arsene’s been good all his career but I don’t think you can accuse him of being lucky, at least not lately. I don’t want this post to be yet another referendum on him, but the way we play football, the high risk high reward style, is a direct consequence of his ethos. Problem is, the high risk is translating into too much value for the opposition and the high rewards aren’t forthcoming. Despite all the recent tinkering with the squad, he hasn’t been able to find a mix that maximizes attacking threat without leaving the back door ajar. So, here we are.

    1. Come on Doc, are you saying our troubles in the last decade or more may possibly be attributed to some sort of a cosmic retribution? I hold your opinions in high regard but that is frankly ridiculous.

      1. It’s equally a spiritual/faith based system that supposes that a person can control or influence all the factors that affect their life.

        Doc didn’t use the ‘cosmic’ angle to make excuses for Wenger. He even said he knows Wenger’s been the architect of his own failures and how his philosophy contributes to this. There’s nothing irrational or ridiculous about suggesting that luck (factors outside of Wenger’s control) plays a part.

      2. Well I wouldn’t have summarized my comment in quite such a way. It was a bit of a rambler though wasn’t it? Not my best work. Still, I suppose where I was going with that is that we don’t like to admit how much of a role luck plays in this game. It’s easy to predict a reductionist backlash to that where I’m accused of excuse making and my opinion is boiled down to an absurd sounding statement, so I probably should’ve known better than to write such things.

        1. Of course we were unlucky at crucial points during one or two seasons where we could have won the league, I don’t think anybody would deny you that. Your point got muddled when you connected bad luck and our performance in the last 13 years together.

  7. Seems to me all the keyboard warriors have all the answers once again, sell all the players,sack the manager,= win all the games,untill it doesn’t, then its repeat ad infinitum.
    Oh to have an opinion without responsibility.

    1. i don’t recall reading anywhere on this thread where anyone said anything about selling a player or sacking the manager; how donald trump of you.

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