Arsenal v. Bournemouth: Cherry Pie

Good Brioche takes time. Anyone can make an egg and butter enriched dough but to make something that pulls apart in cloud-like whisps of gluten laced with butter just takes time. Which is the exact same thing I can say about 7amkickoff’s PREDICTRON 3000. In other words, my season predictions are not quite ready.

After a long study of the Premier League what I found was a very powerful correlation between – drum roll – the players on a team and the team’s performance. Specifically, I use a player metric for the top five players on a team and then map that to points earned in a season and I get an r^2 fit of .88. That’s a pretty ridiculously close fit.

The most important factor, so far as I can tell, is who starts the game. Nope, I’m not going to divulge how I came up with this. Not even remotely. Just like I won’t tell you my Brioche recipe.

But rest assured that Arsenal should have the firepower to beat Bournemouth at home tomorrow.

This is going to sound incredibly obvious but using my formula I see that right now, Arsenal’s best players are Ox (traded), Alexis (unfit), Ramsey, Kolasinac, Lacazette, Özil, and Giroud. Bournemouth’s top five players are Begovic, Francis, King, Daniels, and Surman. That’s a pretty lopsided affair according to my model: Bournemouth has 3/5 defenders as their best players and Arsenal 1/5 (if you count Kola). Despite Arsenal’s woes this early season, and low ratings for their top five players, Arsenal hold a significant edge in this match and should easily pick up the three points.

King, however, is not to be trifled with and Arsenal’s defense will need to stay switched on for 90 minutes or he will score. Arsenal’s defense have the 6th highest 7xG against this season.

That said, if I’m a Bournemouth supporter, I’m worried about this match. Bournemouth have the 3rd highest 7xG against and the 2nd worst 7xG for. Arsenal’s Lacazette hasn’t gotten much service this season and if Özil can get him the ball, he could wreck the Cherries.

For Arsenal supporters look for the following: Mustafi and Bellerin – need to have some good games, Bellerin is currently Arsenal’s 2nd worst player, Wenger has been talking a lot about Nelson and we know that Bellerin was tapped up by Barcelona this summer, could Nelson start? For Bournemouth: Begovich could be the deciding factor – Bournemouth have allowed a League leading 14 shots in prime and Begovich has only saved 25% of them. He will probably face a ton of shots in tough areas tomorrow and he could have one of those “world beater” matches that keepers sometimes have against Arsenal.

Match kicks off at 7am PST and is available in the USA on NBCSN.



    1. Good article. And spot on. But like Arsenal, they’ll do good enough business to stay in business.

      As for the game… for once, I don’t think that anyone can call tomorrow’s team with any confidence. Wenger has been all over the shop. Kolasinac in central midfield? WTH knows?

  1. Wild guess. R^2 implies linear model on overall points. Considering you have a mix of players it could be a holistic metric like (last 3 games Avg. rating/influence ?). 88% fit on overall season points is not bad. Is possession a metric?

    Wondering how you are calculating point estimates (match results). Are you also looking at expected Goal difference? Do you consider home vs away? recent form?

    Will be very very interesting….!!

    Predictron 3K 1 – 0 Brioche already…

  2. Well, the question is will Wenger start any of his best players? Or will Lacazette, Kola, Giroud, and Alexis all start on the bench, in favour of the likes of Welbeck et al?

  3. The question for me is still: wtf are we going to do about our central midfield?? Until that gets figured out, I can’t see this team having any sort of longterm stability (a few good performances, sure, but also capitulations and spankings), and I’ll remain pessimistic and, sadly, detached from this team (will still be fun to watch regular, proper football again, mind).

    1. Not the ideal solution would be to revert to a back 4 and move the spare player into midfield. Probably cocquelin with the instruction he must stay back and screen – assuming we can be bothered with providing that sort if direction.

      If Alexis doesn’t start would be tempted to play Ramsay next to Ozil, and add Jack to the midfield. Again, not ideal.

      1. Yeah, agree with both those points, though if Alexis doesn’t start I’d like to see Iwobi. Feel he hasn’t yet gotten the time his preseason form warranted.

        1. Cosign on Iwobi, but he wasn’t included in the Nigeria squad for the World Cup qualifiers over the last few days – something that wouldn’t happen except in case of injury. Perhaps he is/was injured recently?

  4. Between his prolonged period of poor form and his allegedly requesting to head back home, I don’t particularly trust Bellerín anymore. Unfortunately we have literally nothing left on the right side of defense (assuming we revert to a back 4: Debuchy is merely an illusion, a hologram; Maitland-Niles is being Wengered in there but it’s not really his position; Reiss Nelson is more suited to wing-back than full-back, I think, and is a potentially brilliant attacking player so why stunt his growth by sticking him in a back 4?)

    1. I don’t think Wenger has any intention of switching to a back 4 just yet. Yes, he loves a back 4, but remember, AW is always the last man in the room to decide to switch his formation/tactics: usually takes at least 4 or 5 humiliating defeats before he tries to switch something that everyone else can see isn’t working. With that in mind, I predict our lineup will be:

      Holding, Kos, Nacho
      Bellerin, Ramsey, Xhaka, Kola
      Ozil, Alexis (or Laca if Alexis isn’t fit)
      Laca (or Welbeck, or maybe Giroud, if Alexis isn’t fit)

      Obviously, this isn’t a terrible lineup, and would at least address the whole Hector-on-the-left-and-two-LB’s-in-the-back-three problem, but I don’t think the 3-4-3 is going to work again unless we have a workable CM partnership, which we most definitely do not right now (the extra CB obviously isn’t an instant fix for having no defensive shield in front of them, no way to beat the high press, and woefully inadequate cover against the counter).

      1. The (lack of a) midfield is actually why I think we’ll revert to a back four. Funny enough, the same lack of a functioning midfield is at least partially why we ditched the back four. Something really should have been done in the window.

        1. I don’t disagree we probably *should* switch back to a back 4, but ‘should’ and ‘will’ don’t seem to coincide that often these days with Wenger’s Arsenal.

  5. I would absolutely switch to a midfield 3 (or maybe the old 4-2-3-1 with someone like Iwobi or Jack significantly tucking in from the wing into midfield in the buildup), at least in the short term, while we are desperately looking for some kind of stability in the middle of the park. Just don’t see it happening tomorrow. Hopefully it won’t matter.

  6. It will be interesting to see what Wenger does in midfield. He clearly wasn’t happy with Ramsey against Liverpool. A halftime substitution is either the final warning or the start of a long run on the bench. If Coquelin had been better I would have bet on the later but considering his performance and the home advantage in this game I think it will be the former. I hope that Ramsey takes this strong message and balances his game by providing the cover that is required from a central midfielder.

    If there was to be a big change in formation I hope that it involves an extra man in central midfield. Filling up the space will theoretical allow verticality without the loss of adequate cover.

    I just watched the Community Shield game again and we controlled the midfield in that game reasonably well with Iwobi playing Ozils free role but mostly taking up the central attacking midfield space and Xhaka and Eleny in CM positions. Welbeck was playing in the Sanchez position but stayed high up the pitch mostly and the shape was more like a 3/5/2. With three at the back this would help but some difficulties lay with fitting our best players into this formation.

    I believe Sanchez will start. He needs match fitness and he’s not going to get that on the bench. I also believe that you do need to play your best players and that means Ozil and Sanchez start. While Ozil could be asked to take up the central space and that would help in possession, he doesn’t offer the energy closing down that Iwobi did. Against mid to lower table opposition and especially at home this could be enough provided that whoever gets to partner Xhaka maintains positional discipline. When playing tougher opposition using Coquelin in a deeper role and playing a CAM that will contribute without the ball would be my preference and I would currently put Iwobi ahead of Ramsey and Wilshere for that role.

  7. Promised myself I won’t post on ex-Arsenal players, but I am enjoying the sight of Ox on the bench for Liverpool. Klopp may develop him as many have said, but he sure won’t indulge him. Thierry said, “I’ve been watching him for a very long time and I still don’t know what he’s good at.”

    Hope he doesn’t make me eat my words by scoring the winner…

    1. You mean after having practiced with Liverpool for less than a week ,you are surprised Ox hasn’t started?Im beginning to lose my confidence in your judgment my friend.

      I liked Ox but once he became the Liverpool player I won’t spend a minute talking about his game. Don’t care.

      If Thierry Henry still doesn’t know what Ox’s strengths are after watching him for years, then maybe he should give back some of that £5m he gets for doing punditry.

      1. I’m gonna take the great Thierry Henry’s punditry over your keyboard analysis every day of the week, Tom. No offence.

        1. Claude
          None taken.
          Great players don’t necessarily make great pundits and Henry is one of them.
          Im struggling to recall one insightful analysis by Henry, one you and I ourselves couldn’t come up with.

          If you can say with a straight face there’s not a single football skill Ox is good at, which seems to be the thrust of Henry’s opinion, then Chelsea and Liverpool are run by a bunch of mugs willing to piss £40m away on talentless hacks.

          Not to mention Wenger who wanted to give him £180k per week.

          1. “If you can say with a straight face there’s not a single football skill Ox is good at, which seems to be the thrust of Henry’s opinion….”

            Good grief. No one said that. Let it go, brods. You are way overthinking this, and are way too bent out of shape over it. I’ll still take the Arsenal great’s analysis over yours. 😉

            He did not say that Ox lacks talent. Nuance, my man. Nuance.

          2. Claude
            Let’s not beat around the bush here.
            You’ve made a stupid and petty comment and you got called out.
            Trying to make it into something it wasn’t – me competing with Henry’s punditry for your approval isn’t gonna make it so no matter how many times you repeat it.

            But since repeating things seems to be something you’re into, allow me:
            Wenger offered £180k per week, Conte likewise £200k per week, and
            Klopp payed Arsenal £40m for a player Thiery Henry “doesn’t know a single thing he’s good at”.

            If what Henry says is true then all three managers should be investigated for incompetence and perhaps even a financial malfeasance.

            Now I’m done and can let go, something you supposedly did a few threads back 🙂

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  9. bournemouth played a 3-4-3 formation today and arsenal smashed them. you have to have the right people to do that formation and bournemouth clearly do not. more important, arsenal fans had the opportunity to see how weak that formation is; arsenal were dominant because they have better players.

    wenger took ramsey off pretty early. i thought, minus a few mistakes, he played well today. perhaps wenger doesn’t enjoy his bombing forward. maybe coquelin had a good week of training and he wanted to reward him. his injury looks serious; looks like he got shot.

    ozil looked good leading the arsenal line today. last season, when giroud was sent off in a champions league game, ozil lead the line well that day too, although arsenal still failed to win. lacazette either needs a strike partner or he needs to play behind a center forward.

    welbeck with two goals and an assist. good for him. he looked focused.

  10. I thought Lacazette was excellent again at Centre Forward today. He is one of the most intelligent Centre Forwards I have studied. After improving year on year at Lyon playing as a Centre Forward he looks ready to lead the line for Arsenal. His link play is excellent. The vision he has combined with his accurate passing range is perfect with the attacking talent we have around him. This ability to effectively provide an outlet to feet and then use the ball well and bring his teammates into play is a part of his game that is mostly unheralded because of the ease and efficiency of his play. A big man battering around into the Centre Halfs is more noticeable but Lacazette uses his own attributes intelligently to do an effective job.

    Lacazette’s positioning and timing of runs is right up there with the best CFs. A lot of this work again goes unnoticed but his high positioning and threatening running makes a difference regardless of wether he gets the ball. Surely we will start finding these runs as the season goes on but at the moment it’s frustrating seeing him time and again making a killer run but not getting the killer ball. His finishing is certainly world class.

    I hope he stays high and central where his attributes are best used. He could play as a Striker but why use him in an unfamiliar role when he is excellent at Centre Forward where he has played for years? The only reason would be to accommodate Giroud>Welbeck to play a more direct game at times but that should remain Plan B and used as required in games and for particular opponents where a lump it long outlet ball is required or a particularly deep sitting compact defense predicates crossing from deep and wide areas.

    The problem with going to 2 up top for us is that in our best 11 players we have Sanchez and Ozil taking up positions as forwards. Therefore there is only 1 more available position for a forward while keeping the team somewhat balanced. Sanchez even when played as a wide midfielder is playing like a striker and puts up stats that back it up. Ozil likewise even if counted as an attacking midfielder is still thinking attack when we haven’t got the ball and is more likely to be ghosting into space than trying to win it back. If we were to play 2 up top one of them should be Sanchez but we know that even when he is positioned at CF he gets drawn deep and plays his own game and he also doesn’t like to play off our big man. Play him with Lacazette and that would be fine but in that scenario you aren’t really playing twin strikers your playing with Laca as CF and a Wide/Inside forward.

    Leave Lacazette to play to his strengths as a mobile CF who is intelligent, plays nice and high up the pitch and has the guile to link play well with teammates (would be interesting to look at his stats for holding up the ball and linking with teammates, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him leading the line) and a deadly finish.

    1. all center forwards can play as a striker. for lacazette to play as a striker is not a challenge. i’ve always agreed that lacazette is a competent center forward; certainly better than alexis or walcott. however, the idea that he is a better center forward than giroud is tougher for me to believe. maybe it just comes down to preference.

      while he did do well yesterday, with respect, it was against bournemouth at home. their defense is at about the same level as caen, dijon, and guingamp, so he was always likely to shine. their formation, the same formation arsenal plays, allowed arsenal to dominate as arsenal simply have better players, not to mention a very balanced performance from aaron ramsey. credit to them on yesterday for realizing the formation was not working and making the change but the emirates is a tough place to play and the mold was already set.

      i like lacazette but we’ve already seen him lead the arsenal line with little to no effect against the likes of fc bayern and chelsea. we just need perspective and let’s give him a chance to prove his play is good enough against good teams. i always preferred morata but lacazette is a gunner while morata is not so i’m rooting for lacazette. we’ll see.

      1. Fair enough. I should give you a bit of history to show why preference is for Lacazette over Giroud. I had two major influences so far in my time in football too many years ago when I made a move from playing as a Striker in a 4/4/2 to a Centre forward in a 4/3/3. The first was from a Classic Big Man (at 6″3 in his playing day 30 years ago he was very much a giant). He taught me the nuances of using your body, holding up the ball, making effective runs to get on the end of crosses and much more. I did learn plenty and I do appreciate the many benefits a big target man brings to a team.

        Later on I was fortunate enough to get some time working with a CF/Striker who despite not being the tallest or quickest players nevertheless had a successful career internationally and in Europe. He used guile to overcome his moderate physical attributes. He had an excellent understanding of using positioning (both field and body) to gain advantage on defenders. He talked a lot about finding blind spots, making angles, working along the high line and timing the run among other important skills. He was big on when to come and link up play with teammates and when to stay high. Like myself he had played as a 10 and a 9 in the two Striker system and later as a lone 9 so he spoke about the differences both obvious and more subtle and over the many years since I have watched the best in the world in the positions keenly.

        My preference for the more mobile number 9 who looks to get in behind but tempers it with clever work with the ball to link and create plus press effectively without the ball comes from my own experience and from watching the hyper-effectiveness of players (staying with the current or the list could get too long and the role has changed a little even recently) like Suarez as perhaps the best example of a player who tore the Premier League apart but others like Aguero and Vardy have topped the tree in the Premier League too.

        Players like Lewandowski and in time Morata who combine the traditional target man style with athletism and skill that allow them to effectively do it all are of course the ideal and arguably the future. In the absence of one of them in the squad and choosing between Giroud and Lacazette I believe the more mobile player suits the football Wenger wants to play. Having two completely different CF is great for the squad though and allows for an excellent plan B and makes us more difficult to play when we suddenly change it up.

        In saying all that I would be interested to see a partnership develop between the two but one where Laca plays off Giroud by mostly staying high up where his clever runs can cause chaos and create space rather than playing a truly withdrawn role which isn’t really his game.

  11. Happy for Welbeck… perhaps should have had the opportunity to get (his first?) hat-trick. He has too many other good attributes to be such a poor goalscorer. Still think about his miss at 0-0 versus Liverpool. Might not have changed the outcome (they were much better), but taking the lead early may have made it more difficult for them.

    Team looked more balanced, with square pegs in square holes. Made the Liverpool team selection all the more baffling

  12. The more I think about it, the more it seems that the Liverpool team selection had some hidden messages in it. Wenger might be stubborn but he is not stupid. There is definitely some power play going on in the top echelons of the club. Just wish that the players will work hard to take some responsibility on the pitch.

  13. I will be very keen to see how The 5 clubs cope with the rigors of champions league and if our players will work hard to capitalise on the advantage they might have in the league if Wenger rotates the first team for Europa league games

  14. “Wenger might be stubborn but he is not stupid.”

    This is something that doesn’t get said enough.

    An analyst may disagree with one of Wenger’s decision. Said decision might not work out. Arsenal might even lose a game in part because of said decision. These are all legitimate subjects for commentary. But I don’t feel that it adds anything to say that a decision was ‘stupid’ or that Arsene is ‘senile’. Even saying the decision is ‘baffling’ is counter-productive and shows a lack of imagination on the part of the commentator.

    I understand the purpose of television, to capture eyeballs. The ability to capture and maintain attention determines the economic value of a commentator, and hence their compensation. That’s why we have to listen to former stars in fancy suits making alternatively glib and provocative comments, instead of the football equivalent of Bill James.

    I get it. And that’s why I don’t pay much attention to match of the day.

    I come here for thoughtful analysis. Which we have in spades. But the one thing I think we often miss (and sadly I’m not able to provide) is insight into what Wenger was probably thinking from a tactical and strategic sense. Why he thought his Liverpool selection would work in that game, how that selection would help the team in the long run and why it didn’t work out.

    1. Agreed.

      You should be able to debate and discuss the actions of a 67 year old without accusing them of being ‘senile’ or ‘losing it’ when you don’t agree with or understand their reasons for doing what they do.

  15. I agree he is not stupid, in fact i hate to second guess the decisions of anyone paid millions or pounds to make such decisions when no one will pay me 100pds to make the same decisions. But to be candid I have privately pondered the senility angle a few times of recent though I have never voiced it all honesty (does this count?). A single stupid decision or two does not a stupid man make. But I think it’s a series of ‘baffling’ decisions that have given rise to such thoughts. Consistently playing so many players out of position, offering Ox 180k even though he was never going to play him in his preferred position whilst not proving how he will fit elsewhere, going so many seasons before realizing the need for a DM and allegedly trying to get one in the last few days of the last TW, persisting with Bendtner, attempting to get rid of Mustafi after letting Gabriel go without a serious attempt at a replacement, etc etc etc etc etc.

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