Week 23 7amxG Table

I was listening to the Totally Football Show Pod this morning and was surprised by something I heard from one of their guests, Matt Scott the former Arsenal reporter to the Guardian. Talking about Theo Walcott and why he was sold to Everton, Scott said:

“The reason why he’s been bombed out of Arsenal is because of the comments that he made after the defeat to Crystal Palace, in which he was the captain, last season, when he said, ‘we weren’t prepared properly for the game.’ Wenger, after that, has not played him, he has not started.”

It was such an incredible revelation that I had to fact check. I found that Wenger did indeed drop Walcott after that match though I couldn’t find any quotes from Walcott saying that the players weren’t properly prepared.

The loss to Palace happened on April 10th, 2017. Up to (and including) that match, Walcott had made 35 appearances for Arsenal with 28 starts. He even scored 19 goals, including important goals against City and West Ham in the two matches leading up to the loss to Palace.

After the loss to Palace, Walcott started just one match and subbed on in three more. He was also relegated to the bench for 6 of the last 10 matches – which included wins over City (FA Cup), Man U, and Chelsea (FA Cup). And as you know, this season, Walcott has only started in the League Cup, Europa League, and the FA Cup.

As for the quote from Walcott, I couldn’t find it. He was captain that day and his post-match interview with Sky Sports is available on Arsenal.com. In that interview he does say that “Palace wanted it more. You could sense that from the kick-off,” and talks about how the team have let the fans down but nothing about not being properly prepared by Arsene Wenger.

In fact, when the reporter says that “the manager will take the brunt of the criticism”, Walcott defends Wenger saying immediately “he shouldn’t (take the blame). Us players we go out on the pitch, we try and do a job, and we’ve let the manager down like the fans. And that’s all I can say.”

I reached out to Matt Scott on twitter for clarification and he sent me to this link which quotes Walcott saying that Palace wanted it more. Wenger did sort of contradict Walcott. When asked if the players failed to give 100% (which is what Walcott was sort of saying) Wenger says “I wouldn’t say that, no.”

That match did mark a sort of watershed for Arsenal but I’m not entirely sure that Walcott was dropped because of his comments. Wenger switched to a back three after that match and there was no room for Walcott: Wenger played Giroud or Welbeck up top with Ozil and Alexis behind the striker. Unless Wenger was going to play Walcott as the lone striker or as a right wing back, there wasn’t a place for Walcott.

The player I thought was most guilty of a poor performance in that 3-0 loss to Palace last April was Mesut Ozil. He had 10% of the possession in this match (yes Ozil had 10% of the ball among 28 total players, Alexis had 7.6%, took 4 shots and had a key pass), 5 corners, and generated exactly 0 shots for himself or his teammates. Predictably, Alexis Sanchez and Theo Walcott were blamed, with Welbeck soaking up some of the residuals.

Things haven’t changed much in the last 9 months. Arsenal still struggle… sigh.. why am I even writing this?

I’m going to go make burger buns. Then I’m going to eat burgers.

Here are the week 23 tables sorted by 7amxG


Crystal Palace is going to be a much tougher challenge than I think most Arsenal supporters are expecting. It is a home game, which should give Arsenal an advantage and under normal circumstances I would call this in favor of Arsenal but these are far from normal circumstances.

The upheaval over contracts and transfers is likely to weigh heavy on the team. But still I expect Arsenal to generate plenty of offense. The problem isn’t offense in the Arsenal system, it’s defense. The actual goals allowed by Arsenal is 30. The expected goals allowed by Arsenal is 30.

That puts Arsenal’s actual goals at 10th worst in the League, mid-table. However, a close inspection reveals that Arsenal’s 30 “expected goals allowed” is actually 5th best. What gives?

Well, the difference between top to bottom in expected goals allowed is 22 goals but the difference between top to bottom actual goals allowed is 35. That’s happening because the top five teams are all overperforming their xGa and United and Burnley alone are overperforming by 32.6 goals (combined).

Interestingly, I ran the R² for both offense and defense over the last 8 years and the fit between defense and table position is sometimes better than offense and table position (it’s about equal). In other words, better defense was a stronger correlation to table higher position than offense in just about half of the last 8 seasons.

Here are the last eight seasons:

RSQ Between X and Table 2017/18 2016/17 2015/16 2014/15 2013/14 2012/13 2011/12 2010/11
Offense 0.74 0.83 0.68 0.82 0.72 0.72 0.66 0.60
Goal difference 0.78 0.89 0.90 0.88 0.89 0.89 0.87 0.86
Defense 0.44 0.68 0.83 0.65 0.73 0.73 0.75 0.75

For those wondering why I sort my tables using goal difference you can see the reason above. The correlation between goal difference and League position is very strong. This is also why I bang on about Arsenal needing to “get the balance right”. By which I mean offense, defense, and ultimately goals difference. Which is the most obvious thing in the history of the game if you think about it for a minute – of course you win games by having a superior goal difference and you finish higher up the table by winning games.

Anyway, game tomorrow. Let’s hope the goal difference is in Arsenal’s favor!


Stats Source: my databases


  1. Apologies if this sort of move is frowned upon here, but I wanted to respond to a remark of Claude’s from the last article:

    It would be a stretch to call Tim Stillman a “journalist,” though I do very much enjoy his columns. I don’t dislike him at all, just (what I see as (though this qualifier is obviously always implied)) his pro-Ramsey/anti-Wilshere bias.

    I’m not at all impressed by your stat, because “being involved” in goals isn’t a reliable measure of how good a player is (if it were, Theo Walcott would be recognized as better than Santi Cazorla, which is absurd).

    And it’s not “only me” seeing Ramsey get in Lacazette’s way, as our very own Tim Todd complained about this very thing several times in the autumn.

    Rest assured, your Ramsey infatuation is as amusing to me as my criticisms of him are to you. For the millionth time: when he plays well, I like him quite a bit. I just don’t think he was playing better than Wilshere is now, and forced to choose between the two, both in form, I’d take Jack.

    1. PS No way is Matt Scott right that Wenger’s sold Theo because of his remarks after the Palace game. Theo’s form and playing time had both dipped from the autumn by the time that game rolled around in the spring, and the formation switch was the nail in the coffin. The fact that his relative lack of playing time since then hasn’t been even remotely controversial among the fan base suggests that actual football-related concerns might have been a factor in Wenger’s choices, rather than it all being some mean-spirited power play, as Scott’s comment seems to insinuate.

      1. Nope. They don’t “show” anything of the sort (much less prove it).They’re numbers on a page.

        One can *interpret* them as indicating that Lacazette relies on Ramsey to play well. Or one can make the (much more conservative) interpretation that Lacazette hasn’t been as effective in games without Ramsey on the pitch (most of which have been recent games with Ramsey injured, but with lots of other issues affecting the team as well) for any number of reasons that may or may not include Ramsey’s absence.

        1. It’s disappointing that you would resort to the “stats are limited” argument, as if anyone here is unaware of the difference between correlation and causation. The numbers fly in the face of what you claim. Own up to that.

          1. Huh? Honestly, you *should* know the difference between correlation and causation, since you’re a smart guy, but you regularly seem to miss this point, since you often present a bit of statistical data triumphantly as if it establishes your view and wins you the argument.

            I was simply pointing out (not for the first time) that it does nothing of the sort. (I would say it’s “disappointing” that you repeatedly make this rhetorical move, but that might make me sound insufferably smug.)

            Do the numbers you point to establish that Ramsey wasn’t making runs at the beginning of the season that Lacazette wanted to make? No, they do not. Do they even strongly suggest this? No, they do not. They suggest (how strongly is very hard to say), that Lacazette has, by and large, been more effective (played better?) when Ramsey’s been on the pitch. I never denied this. Indeed, I happily acknowledged that before injury Rambo was in his best form in years (go back and look at the exchange I had with Claude from the last comments section).

            I merely expressed skepticism about Claude’s suggestion that Lacazette’s dip in form is wholly or largely down to Ramsey’s absence. The numbers to which you point do not “fly in the face” of this skepticism, since it’s plausible to think the explanation for Lacazette’s dip is far more complex than that, and as a whole I don’t believe our offense has massively missed the Welshman (missed, yes; massively, no): we weren’t exactly a well oiled machine that was blowing teams out before he got injured, and Lacazette was hardly banging in a ton of goals.

            Other partial explanations for Lacazette’s dip, just off the top of my head, would include (a) the absence of Ozil from several games, (b) a loss of confidence that has snowballed in part because he knows that if he’s not doing well he’ll get yanked at the 70 minute mark, and (c) the fact that the crowded EPL holiday schedule is always especially tiring for foreign players adjusting to the new league (I think Wenger touched on this in regard to Laca recently).

            But by all means, don’t let such nuance complicate your thinking, Doc.

    2. By bias you basically mean his opinion? I hate it when the term is used like that, it makes it anatically worthless and sounds just dismissive enough.

      1. Nope. (See my detailed answer below.) There are always some idiots who yell “bias” on Arsenal websites every time they encounter an opinion they don’t like. But I don’t.

        But let me ask you this: are you really not familiar with the phenomenon of other fans scapegoating a player?

        What I have in mind is the experience of noticing that another fan–whether online or in real life–has a strong negative preconceived opinion of a player, and because of that view, it seems to you that they are super quick to blow up every time that player makes a minor mistake, they are likely to miss the player’s positive contributions entirely, and they inevitably will (in your opinion, unjustly) blame that player for a loss or bad performance. Presumably you have experienced something like this before. But what is such scapegoating if not a manifestation of negative bias?

        Suppose, in the face of you suggesting to that other fan that they are unfairly laying too much blame at that player’s feet due to a negative bias, they were to respond, “by bias you basically mean my opinion?” Would this go any way at all to showing that you were wrong to think they are scapegoating the player rather than offering an accurate assessment of the player’s performance? Obviously not.

    3. I’ll say it again, those who perceive the most bias are usually most full of it themselves.

      And, we are all biased. None of us are objective because we are humans. Some try harder than others not to be biased, with varying effect.

        1. Ok Chaps,
          Let’s take this slowly, one at a time:
          1. “I’ll say it again, those who perceive the most bias are usually most full of it themselves.”
          Is this a claim you can support with rational argument or evidence, or are you just blowing hot air? I know which option I’m going with there.

          2. “And, we are all biased. None of us are objective because we are humans.”
          This is a truism, and I never denied it. But being biased (to some degree, in some ways), doesn’t make it impossible to legitimately point out bias in other people’s views, since if it did nobody on earth could ever point out bias in others, which is absurd.

          3. “By bias you basically mean his opinion? I hate it when the term is used like that, it makes it anatically [sic] worthless and sounds just dismissive enough.”
          No, I don’t mean that. I mean bias. I know the meanings of the words ‘opinion’ and ‘bias’. But I OBVIOUSLY haven’t given evidence for why Tim Stillman’s love for Ramsey (and comparative non-love for Wilshere) is bias rather than mere (decently supported) opinion, because that would be difficult and take several very long comments on here to make a case for it, and I already get ribbed for my comments being way too long.

          4. Of course the view that someone else’s assessment of Arsenal players’ ability/performances is biased is an opinion on my part, and I could be wrong.
          But unless we think that the value of a footballer is an entirely subjective matter, like a matter of taste (e.g. whether vanilla or chocolate ice cream is “better”), there is a fact of the matter as to how good Ramsey’s contributions are, relative to the contributions of other footballers. And to say that the value of a footballer on the pitch is a subjective matter is an indefensible position, since it has the consequence that we can’t claim that Lionel Messi is an objectively better footballer than Charlie Adam, which is absurd.
          So the question is whether someone, e.g. Tim Stillman, is accurately or inaccurately (over- or under-) valuing Ramsey’s contributions on the pitch. I obviously can’t *prove* that he is doing so, if that means deductive proof, but then many/most true things that we know we also cannot prove. At best we can offer inductive support.
          When I think someone like Stillman or Arseblog is biased for/against certain players, I mean that their past assessment of that player seems to me to skew their assessments of how that player performed in a game or games. E.g., when I think Bellerin’s had an absolute stinker, and Mangan gives him a “7” on his ratings and said he was “solid”, and I notice this sort of thing happening repeatedly.
          OBVIOUSLY, I could be wrong and he could be right, or we could both be wrong to a degree. (There’s also *some* wiggle room in how much our opinions can diverge without either of us being biased, or even wrong.) But it’s not just a matter of opinion. There are (incredibly complex, and difficult to describe or quantify, but nonetheless real) FACTS about what a given player did positively and negatively in a game, and how those contributions made a difference to their team’s performance/result. Although these facts are very difficult to describe in detail much less measure quantitatively, I think experienced football watchers are decent enough at gauging this aspect of reality based on watching a game.
          This is not to deny that we are all sensitive to bias when watching football. But we can guard against such bias when watching (and stats are a limited but important additional tool in that regard). Since I’m me and not Stillman or anyone else, naturally I think I’m doing a better job than he is at screening off my preconceived notions (i.e. biases) of players when watching them and judging how they’re doing. If I have to trust someone’s viewpoint, I go with my own, as we all do. Once again, I COULD BE WRONG. But the *mere possibility* of being wrong doesn’t make claiming someone else is biased illegitimate, or mean I’m mis-describing opinions I don’t like as biases.

          1. You need to drop the whole itemized response/professorial tone thing. I’ve been guilty of that in the past and though I’ve stopped on my own accord, it’s only through reading your comments can I appreciate how annoying it must’ve been for everyone else. I am truly sorry I used to sound like that. The funny thing is, you didn’t use to sound like this. I wish you’d just be yourself, that was a lot more pleasant.

            Content wise, how did you expect me to respond to all that nonsense? You just told me you think you’re less biased than Stillman, which is laughable to be honest, and you ridiculed my statement on bias due to lack of proof only to go on to admit that you yourself could provide no such proof either. How did you think this was going to go down?

          2. 1. I didn’t tell you I was less biased than Stillman. I said that given a choice between going with my own assessments of players and someone else’s assessments that I systematically (though quite subtly) disagree with, all else being equal I’m going to go with my own view, as you would go with your own view. This is not surprising. This is natural (and by-and-large reasonable) human behavior.

            2. I didn’t say you couldn’t provide proof (though that’s obvious). I said you couldn’t provide rational argument or evidence. Because your statement (that those who cry “bias” typically have the most bias) is an absurdly sweeping generalization about people that no one could even begin to establish (and doesn’t even strike me as especially plausible to begin with).
            By contrast, while I did say I couldn’t provide deductive proof for thinking Stillman has a Ramsey-bias, I *didn’t* say I couldn’t provide a reasonable argument or some evidence for thinking so. I think I could. Rather, I said that making a decent inductive case would take several ridiculously long posts that no one would want to read (and which would be a massive waste of my own time).

          3. Oh, and thanks for the insults not-so-subtly masquerading as condescending “advice” on how to write my comments.

            Never change, man.

          4. Ah! Tim Stillman. A Gooner from the womb and one who travels to every single Arsenal game home & away; a great blogger and my only caveat would be that it’s only a weekly blog.

          5. Masterstroke,
            I agree he’s a really good blogger and I enjoy his articles a lot, so I wasn’t attacking him, just made one offhand critical remark that got blown out of proportion.

  2. Scott is wrong. It’d totally be against Wenger’s character freeze out Walcott to that extent for a comment as innocuous as that. You’re right, it was the back 3 switch. Theo can’t play wingback, and he’d had his time as CF.

    Part of me is sad to see him go, and I hope he gets 20+ a seasom at Everton.

    1. Ah, something we can agree on 🙂

      Whatever else we may say about him, Theo is a classy guy, a classy professional. I wish him well playing for the walrus.

  3. Three gone (Ox, Theo & Coquelin), one to go; have we ever sold off so many players in one window? That’s fair old bit off the wages bill.
    As noted above, Theo is a charming young fella and IMO one who still could make an international impact; and I hope he does. I was surprised that he chose to go north when there might have been clubs closer to London, but wish him the very best.

      1. Hello Claude
        Been away for a few days but wanna address a few things you raised in your last comment to me from a few threads ago.

        On Alexis’ wages and City’s wage structure – since we have heard it from the horse’s ( Pep’s) mouth , I hope that settles it for you.

        On mine making it personal – I don’t think I have.
        If I wanted to do that , especially after you called my reasoning(which was confirmed by Guardiola) ” laughable” , I could’ve told you that you didn’t know what you were talking about and obviously you have never played at any level, proffesional or even Sunday league , where things like huge wage discrepancies between players of similar talents and contributions , or even amount of playing time can ruin teams chemistry and balance .



        On your self proclaimed objectivity and my obvious bias:

        I dislike Man City ownership as much as the next guy and I’ve never claimed their business model is something to be proud of, but I’m able to separate between where their money cames from and what they do on the pitch under Guerdiola.

        Regarding your assumption Pep only chooses a “sure thing” – hardly true.
        The season before he took over at Barca, Real finished 18 points above them in the first place and the next season’s title predictions were split almost evenly 50/50 slightly leaning in Real’s favor.
        Barca finished 9 points ahead of Real the following season – 27 points swing.

        Before this season’s start pundits’ predictions ran about 55-60% for a City title with United close second.

        Hardly a “sure ” thing by anyone’s standards.

        I didn’t bother looking up Bundelsiga predictions for Pep’s first season in charge at Bayern because those were probably all in his favor.

        So your “objectivity” meter read out in that regard is at about 33% .
        Hardly impressive, pal.

        And finally I would argue , and this is just my opinion, that one of the reasons Man United got to where they are commercially and financially is because of two things:
        One, SAF’s genius and longevity
        Two , his more than cozy relationship with PGMO , FA and the media.
        I don’t believe any manager should have active referees’ personal phone numbers and use them as he did.

        As an Arsenal fan who believes we never got this sort of preferential treatment from the refs, in fact quite the opposite , that would be reason enough for me to never want them to win the title ever again.
        Never mind the small matter of the most vile , obnoxious manager in charge of their club now.

  4. Nice to get a convincing home win. The return of seasoned performers in defense was significant and the move to a midfield three seemed to catch Palace out in the early stages. Mesut Ozil had one of his better games too as he seemed to relish the space and usage without Sanchez in the side. We looked utterly bereft of attacking thrust once he went off. Friendly home confines helped, as did the Palace right winger’s (Zaha?) utter indifference to Monreal’s runs into the box.

    In other news, hearing on the interwebs that we’ve bid for Aubameyang (Arseblog news) and that Mkhtaryan should be announced soon (Guardian).

    1. Apparently they’ve turned down our first bid of £40 million and want £53 million plus Giroud. Still a bit of negotiating to do on this one.
      I hear the Sanchez/Micky deal has gone through today.

  5. Could you possibly try running a model between offense and defence metrics and the probability of finishing first over the years?

  6. Can you be MOTM in less than a half? Monreal scored the first goal and assisted the next two. Nacho is definitely one of our unsung heroes. A solid, unassuming professional who has always done whatever has been asked of him to the very best of his not inconsiderable ability. Whether that’s been the thankless job of being a fullback left on his own in Arsene’s defensively chaotic 4-2-3-1, an emergency central defender, or as part of a back three he’s simply got on with the job. Definitely deserves more credit than he gets.

    1. Absolutely! Goal + 2 assists for Natxo.

      Also, since we always talk about how bad Arsenal are at things and how we don’t prepare, we scored from 2 corners executed in pretty much the same way, delivered by Xhaka to Monreal’s run. That’s training ground stuff if I ever saw it.

      1. As superb as Mesut and several others were in that first half, Nacho is the clear MOTM for me. What a legend.

  7. Nacho has been – to Christmas – turning in premiership all-star performances. Both statistically, and on the evidence of our eyes. His performance should be no surprise, except by degree. It’s probably his best in an Arsenal shirt, but he’s been terrific this season. He (and arguably Aaron Ramsey, again statistically and by eye) have been the two Arsenal players who were turning in prem all-star, consistent performances, up to the point that they both got injured.

    I’m glad Nacho’s back because teams were beginning to target Maitland-Niles, by concentrating their attacks down our left, and taking him on the cross on the outside.

    If the team can continue play like this without Alexis, that’d be truly wonderful. The way that Ozil, Wilshere, and Lacazette worked Lacazette’s goal was great.

    Btw, Mkhitaryan (90% a cert) and Obameyang (about 30% I’m guessing) can’t some soon enough. The attacking bench looked really threadbare, with Welbeck and Giroud injured, and Walcott and Sanchez gone.

    1. It makes a huge difference to have Bellerin-Koscielny-Mustafi-Monreal as our rearguard. I don’t think those two Bournemouth goals happen with that crew, compared with Chambers-Holding-AMN back there. Just such a gap in experience, quickness, and frankly, quality between those groups.

  8. Did something scouting on our new boy to be, Henrikh. Super unscientific, but A few things stood out:

    -Strong, direct runner with the ball: can move it between the lines on his own with quickness to beat defenders to knock-ons or loose passes, rapid change of momentum to open up passing angles (sound familiar?), counter attack threat
    -Instinctive goal poacher: scored some screamers for BVb but for Jose he was more of a Fox in the box, getting on the end of goalkeeper parries and deflections as well as popping up on the end of crosses
    -Inverted winger: For BVB he played as a right footer on the left flank (sound familiar?). He likes to cut inside from there and have a shot or make a decisive pass (sound familiar?).
    -Through ball maestro: probably his best skill is the ability to slice through the lines with a ball on the ground, even while running at full tilt he can put a lovely weight on the ball. He also takes set pieces.
    -Same age as Sanchez (turns 29 today) but with a contract through 2020 and an option for an additional year

    Verdict: This is a far better outcome than we could’ve hoped for from the Sanchez situation. Henrikh is not quite as disruptive or skillful as Sanchez on his best day but I do think he will be just as productive, far more emotionally stable and likely to mesh very well with Arsenal’s style as a team and with Wenger’s style as a coach.

    Goodbye, Alexis. I have no ill will for you but I will stop short of wishing you well. Thanks for all the goals, all the sweat and all the memories you helped make at Arsenal. I enjoyed watching you play.

  9. Half an hour on the pitch. 1 goal and 2 assists. Alexis? Ozil? Laca? Nope. It’s Nacho nacho man.

    It makes it so much easier and fun when Arsenal play like that. I thought Elneny did a good job too. Not spectacular but kept the ball ticking over and was generally in good position. Also, is it just me or is Xhaka not actually slow?

    The 4th goal was a thing of beauty and Ozil’s touch was brilliant. I know it’s unlikely but I really hope he stays. His game is so often a thing of beauty.

    If we can get the Mkhi and Auba deals over the line, I think we’d be in with a chance of blitzing our way into the top 4. It’s not just in the aftermath of a victory yesterday. I know it’s a huge ask, but I think it is just possible we make it. We also have the Europa League to think about.

  10. I like Monreal. Always gives 100%. He appears to be vocal on the pitch. He has more goals than the Ox to date.
    What a stunning 20 minutes to kick off our post-Alexis second half of the season.
    I’m no longer afraid of what this team will play like after he’s gone, there will be no crying…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VCDOr6au_H8
    We had become too Alexis -centric to the detriment of our team play. Good riddance.
    One of the most amazing things I saw yesterday was El-Neny actually making forward passes into the channels. Don’t get carried away El-Neny.
    Amusing comment from the announcer: (I’m paraphrasing) Crystal Palace has now gone 13 minutes since Arsenal last scored.
    Leave it to Sp*rs to try and sign a player linked with us: Malcolm. Have at him because he is clearly not ready for Premier League prime time at this point. How’s that Victor Janssen signing working out?

  11. Isn’t just amazing how many players have been seduced and abandoned by Mourinho: Lukaku (Chelsea edition), Mata (Chelsea edition), Salah, Cuadrado, de Bryne. Let’s see how Alexis fares under him.

  12. I merely expressed skepticism about Claude’s suggestion that Lacazette’s dip in form is wholly or largely down to Ramsey’s absence.

    I was going to stay out of the Ramsey thing that PFo initiated , but that statement ^^ is inaccurate. That twisted — probably unintentionally — what I said. Which was, generally, that the two players combine really well. Lacazette is too intelligent a player to rely on one colleague to be productive. Their games are strikingly complementary and those two find each other instinctively on the pitch, almost from Game 1. But it’s not the same as saying that “Lacazette’s dip in form is wholly or largely down to Ramsey’s absence”.

    On the bigger debate, Doc has nailed the bad arguments. I don’t need to say anything more.

    1. 1. You’re right that there’s a difference in those two statements, and that my misrepresenting your claim was unintentional. I don’t really think their games are strikingly complimentary (nor that they’re uncomplimentary), but that’s too vague a statement for me to take issue with it. There’s obviously wiggle room for us to see the matter differently without sharply disagreeing on anything substantive.
      2. Doc has done nothing of the sort.

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