My kingdom for a shot

One of the first things we (stats nerds) look for in a goal scorer is number of shots. I use total number of shots as a quick way to “scout” young players. If they can get 80-100 shots in a season, regardless of how many goals they are scoring, then there’s a good chance that player will turn out to be a big talent.

If I look at U21 players in the big five leagues last season the top three in number of shots were: Haaland (93), Mason Greenwood (67), and Lil Chili (61). In 4th place is Fabio Silva with 48 which is a good return considering that he played 1357 minutes. And when I sort for shots per90 (with a minimum of 10 matches) the top players are Youssoufa Moukoko (BvB), Pellegri (Monaco), Haaland, Greenwood, Silva, Bialek (Wolfsburg), and Gabriel Martinelli.

It’s a stone-cold fact that to score goals you need to take shots and that the best players in the world get the most shots (Messi took 197 shots last season, and CRon took 168). Arsenal, the football club, took 455 total shots last season. That’s 90 more than Messi and CRon combined. As an aside, Barcelona “only” took 583 shots last season and shooting in general is down a little because teams have figured out that shots from outside the box are low percentage and shots from that area have dried up.

Back to the topic at hand: like I said, I often look at total number of shots first as an indicator of club health and of whether a player is doing well. If I see a player whose shots numbers are in a steep decline, there’s a good chance that player is ageing out. Though.. it’s also possible for a player’s team to be failing him. Goal-scorers can get their own shots but they also need teammates to help them get shots.

Last season Arsenal took a grand total of 455 shots (source: FBREF. Other sources vary). That was an uptick from Arsenal’s nadir the season before where the Gunners took 407 shots – the fewest total number of shots I’ve seen from an Arsenal team since 1995. And returned us to Unai Emery’s halcyon first season where Arsenal took 467 shots.

Because I know you’ll ask, in Wenger’s annus horribilis Arsenal took 593 shots. And it’s important to remember that Wenger was one of the first to drill his teams in shot selection so that season Arsenal took 369 shots in the 18 yard box and last season Arteta’s guys took 293 shots in the 18 yard box. The drop in shots and shot quality at Arsenal is astonishing: Arsenal’s expected goals number last season was 52, for Wenger’s final season it was 72.

What we see with Arsenal’s two main forwards mimics this massive drop in chance creation and in total shots.

Last season, Lacazette took 42 total non-penalty shots (45 shots total). That’s his fewest shots taken since 2012/13 at Lyon. Meanwhile, Aubameyang got 55 non-penalty shots last season. That’s his fewest total number of shots in a season since 2010/2011 when he was at Monaco. Arsenal’s shots leader last season was actually Bukayo Saka. I hate using “actually” because it’s an adverb but in this case it’s there to add emphasis as in “holy crap, actually”. Pepe is 3rd on the team with 48 shots, one less than last year, and less than half the number of shots he took in his final season at Lille (100 non-penalty shots, 110 total).

It could be the case that all of these players are losing shots because we have too many good players on the team. If that were so, we would expect to see the total number of shots stay high and the player’s individual shots numbers take a hit but what we see at Arsenal is a decrease in the total number of shots and a decrease in the player’s shots. This is happening because Arsenal don’t have enough creative players.

Bukayo Saka not only led Arsenal in shots, he also led Arsenal in key passes (passes which lead to a shot) with 38. Last season, Pepe led the team with 39 and Ozil was 2nd with 36, despite only playing 16 full 90 equivalents. One of the reasons why Arsenal spent so much money to get Willian is because he’s been a pretty good chance creator over his career, averaging 73 key passes per season over his last three years at Chelsea. That number dropped to 29 last season as his legs fell off in front of our eyes. Which goes some way to explaining why Arsenal are desperate to offload him this year and why no one wants him.

In Wenger’s final season, Ozil had 79 key passes with 7.4 expected assists. Chipping in at 2nd was Alexis Sanchez who played 16 matches for Arsenal but he had 48 key passes. Even Granit Xhaka had more key passes that season than Bukayo Saka had this season (41). It’s incredible how far the club has fallen since firing Arsene Wenger. Us fans often talk about how the club have failed to replace certain players but for my money the biggest failure of the last three years is that the club haven’t properly replaced Arsene Wenger. Maybe Arteta can turn out to be a great attacking coach but given the results of the last 18 months he’s got a lot of work to do.

One more wrinkle to all of this: a lot of folks want Arsenal to sell Lacazette but I noticed that in the stats it’s looking like he’s a striker who is just about to enter his prime. If I look at how many goals I would expect from Lacazette if he were to get 100 shots, taking his non-penalty expected goals per-shot and multiplying it by 100, it’s 24.

Now… I cannot guarantee that he would get 100 shots, nor that he would score 100 goals. But his shot selection is improving and at 30 years old his expected goals per shot is peaking. Meanwhile Aubameyang’s numbers are dropping.

Aubameyang looks like he peaked in 2017/18. Since then it’s been a steady decline in shot quality and a steep decline (this season) in number of shots taken. A forward can suffer from one or the other and still get a decent return but decline in chances and chance quality is a big problem.

That said, I’m not sure if I would advise Arsenal to sell or keep either player. Both players are over 30 and there will be diminishing returns if we keep them. But also both players will be difficult to sell because of their age and salary. I suppose it would come down to whether either player received an offer from another team.

However, it looks to me like Arsenal are going to keep both. In that case, it’s possible for Arteta to find a formula which gets his team back shooting 14-15 times a game while also maintaining our defense. Emile Smith Rowe is a huge talent, one who will only get better. And Arsenal should be looking to buy another attacking midfielder. If Smith Rowe has a full season in the forward parts of the pitch, I think we will see Arsenal getting back above 500 shots per season. And if we see an increase in chances created we should see an increase in chances for all of the forwards which should mean more goals.

In the long-run Arsenal will need to replace both Auba and Lacazette. I expect that the plan there is to grow Balogun and Martinelli into those roles, and both players look very tasty. We should also expect to see more from Pepe this season. I love that he’s been working on his two-footedness over the last year, that shows me a player who takes his craft seriously.

So, with all of that said, my formula for getting Arsenal into the top four again is simple:

  • Get Smith Rowe a full season
  • Keep Saka healthy and playing forward (no more wingback)
  • Get in another chance creator
  • Get Pepe plenty of chances and time on the pitch
  • Develop Martinelli and Balogun
  • Get Lacazette and Aubameyang more chances and maximize the money we are paying for them



  1. You’ve answered my question from previous post regarding ESR. Reassuring to hear you so positive.

    Assuming he – or new replacement- starts though, I’m not sure I understand how we juggle so many forwards while trying to maximise value from old legs plus game time for new(er) ones. Especially without European games to offer them.

    Who’s your first choice, especially if you don’t want Saka playing elsewhere?

    1. I think we need to seriously talk about limiting Auba’s minutes.

      I’d start

      Saka Smith Rowe Pepe

      as my front four.

      1. On balance you’re probably right – even though it seems nuts to limit minutes for the guy who is almost certainly still our best goal scorer. Curse of the Arsenal captaincy and all that.

        However if that is the case then I would hope that they are managed more like a Jamie Vardy than a Mesut Ozil. Time will tell.

        1. Why is it called Boxing Day? Is it because you put things in boxes, (seems like that should come before Christmas) or is it because you box each other over trivial slights? I know I could google it but this is way more fun.

  2. Well said,

    You only win games if you score goals and you only do that if you take shots.

    Auba has fewer goals because he has had fewer shots. He has had fewer shots because the way Arteta wants to play, the ball has to go to the wings to crossed into a goal area where we have no one there to do anything with it.

    That is not how Auba plays.

    I do not see Arteta changing his style in order to accommodate Auba’s real skills.

    We can expect Auba to play less and less games, because his strengths do not suit Arteta.

    I suspect Auba will be Oziled but in a more subtle way.

    He will play less games and be given less of the passes that he needs to do what he does best.

    As a vicious circle, he will pay less games and then play less games.

    The powers that be have placed their eggs in one basket and will allow Arteta to continue to waste their money by paying wages to players who do not play.

    The same applies to Willian but for a different reason. He is now a spent force and will be allowed to sit out his contract by playing the odd game,,

    We are in a mess from top to bottom and whilst Arteta is given a free reign our chances of improvement are likely to be nil or even negative.

  3. I wrote a column here for a couple of years, and then stopped reading for a while. But I’ve returned to regular visits over the last six months, and appreciate what you’re doing with the blog, Tim. I have vivid recollections of you predicting an Arsenal slide towards 10th, once Wenger left, (was pushed out,) and I thought that was impossible. But you were proven correct. I became a vocal Wenger Out pundit in his last year, and now realize it’s hard to replace proper legends. Even Man United has been adrift since Fergie left, and I hope Arsenal right the ship soon, because watching boring football is no fun. (Nor is all the losing.)

  4. Lacazette is much better than his reputation. I’ve always liked him and I think he’s a real fighter. Much like Giroud, though of course he’s different to him. But I agree with Josh, and now you, that he should be our CF. Play ESR, Pepe, and Saka/Auba with them. Add Martinelli, Nelson (another talent frozen out), Willock, and Balogun to that. With no Europe there’s fewer minutes to go around, but more opportunities in the cups to play the younger players and give them motivation to gain squad places in the league.

    Partey ought to have a better season, so we might see some better play through the middle. Lokonga looks quite good. Xhaka is gonzo. No word on Torreira but probably gonzo. So we have Partey, Elneny, Sambi, AMN (probably not). I think we need to prioritise the CM ahead of the AM.

    I have a hard time trusting this is going to get better though. That Arteta won’t panic and try and shut shop even if we start getting more shots. Last season we got 13 points from the corresponding fixtures of our first 6 games of Brentford(Fulham), Chelsea, ManCity, Norwich(WBA), Burnley, Spurs. I’m not expecting as many this season.

  5. Near top of my list of your stat-centric pieces Tim!
    For the best of it to come to fruition? Arsenal must bring aboard another chance creator.

    ESR can’t be put on an island in his first full season directing the attack. Even with the limited number of matches (without Europe), he’s had assorted knocks in his time with the first team. Also, based on how frequently he is subbed off around 70 minutes– it seems the data is dictating ‘the when’ to prevent him redlining. Might change by his minutes being focused on PL versus cup matches– but still. The idea of ESR being the lone No. 10 in a team crying out for more chances– seems like gambling– with the possibility of a positive season.

    Aouar. Maddison. Odegaard. One of those three seem a necessity– in order of probability. The first is affordable. The second proven, but pricey. The third, might still be available as the Real fathoms deep cuts to their wage bill. If there’s a fourth somewhere over the horizon (or even Odegaard in January) but not available now? Arsenal still need to bring in Aouar ASAP. For £17-18M? A bet worth making regardless.

  6. Hope none of you spent lots of $$$ to go see the friendlies in Florida. Apparently Arsenal are pulling out due to COVID cases.
    I can only hope this ends up being a blessing in disguise and gives Arteta more time to work on things rather than travelling to distracting locales.

    And a reminder, speaking of shots, to get your shots of the vaccination kind. This pandemic isn’t over, and while the shots don’t 100% eliminate the chance of getting it (particularly with Delta), they do greatly reduce it, and they pretty much eliminate the possibility of severe sickness and hospitalization.

    1. it’s a mess. i watched the hibs game on espn+ but they didn’t show the rangers game…and i refuse to pay £8 to watch a friendly on a forum that used to be free. maybe if i owned a sports bar, but not just for me.

      i know a lot of people like it but i hate arsenal traveling to the u.s. for pre-season. wenger was absolutely right when he griped about the logistical nightmare it is and how it disrupts the season preparation with no real benefit other than making money. it’s a long way. good on arsenal for staying out of florida with that clown as their governor. last week, 20% of all new covid cases in the u.s. were in the state of florida alone. that’s despicable.

    2. Like to add to SLC’s very good advice– there is a good-sized segment of the population who suffer from immuno-deficiencies or take immuno-suppressant medications– who are at greater risk of infection even having been vaccinated. Transplant survivors and cancer patients are a part of that segment.

      Get vaccinated for your own health– and to help protect those in higher-risk categories.

  7. lacazette IS in his prime. this guy only started 22 league games last year. that’s less than 60% of the games and he still scored 15 goals. yet, gooners want to sell him to bring in some mythical replacement. nuts!

    if you want a center forward that can get you 15 goals in 22 premier league starts, not to mention the hold up play, you’d have to pay well over £50 million for that. if you want someone who’s better than lacazette, you’d have to pay even more.

    another player that’s in his prime that i’d be trying to hold onto is granit xhaka. i’d tell roma to give me the £17 million by friday or the price is going up to £20 million. next friday, i’d raise the price another £2 million. why? i don’t want to lose xhaka. it’s how valencia jacked the price up on mustafi.

    so many used to say that “if only fabregas had the right players around him…” well, i’m here to say that the same can be said about xhaka. since partey’s been fit, xhaka’s been excellent for arsenal. before partey, xhaka’s had to play with goal-hungry ramsey, torreira, guendouzi, willock, and ceballos. xhaka and partey are two great players in their primes. why screw that up with some “good idea”? it’s as foolish as wenger “improving” the back 4 when he got to arsenal back in ’96.

  8. I’ve been a Laca defender for a while, so I’m glad to see your support of him. Not that I dislike/don’t value Auba. It’s that when we looked our best last year, Laca was in the middle. He has really good interplay with Saka and ESR, and I think it’s more suited to how Arteta sees the attack.

    I would like to go off topic a bit here, because I’ve been pondering something. Does anyone else think we were awful in transition last year? For all of our attacking talent and speed, we just never seemed to succeed in scoring on the break. In fact, I recall many times that we held up the ball in obvious breaking situations. Even remember Pepe – ostensibly our best player on the break – holding up a few times. It’s got to be down to Arteta, and this seems like the most ludicrous attacking plan I can imagine. With the pace we have – Pepe, Saka, Auba, Martinelli – we choose to slow things down? I have to think this has contributed to our terrible goals/shots/chances numbers. When we did break, we lost the ball or failed to get a shot so often. I know we scored from the break a few times, but it was SOOOOOO infrequent. I haven’t seen or heard anyone discuss this, but it seemed obvious to me.

    Apologies for non sequitur rant.

    This was another great piece, Tim. Thanks!

  9. I’m enjoying the Laca boosterism, he deserves it. It’s an exhausting role however and I do remember periods last season where he looked physically off the pace, so I’m very interested in these Tammy Abraham rumours as well.

    It’s really interesting to see the drop off in shots since Wenger left. What was it about Wenger’s approach that drove those numbers? The team personnel didn’t completely change overnight but the numbers did. Was it because we stopped playing both fullbacks high up? Because let’s remember how that gave us kittens at the time.

    Wenger’s gung-ho approach relied on a certain level of quality and confidence that over the years we have lost, through poor squad management, to the point where we were not able to sustain the approach at all. I am convinced that both Emery and Arteta have been more conservative partly because it’s their natural inclination, but also because they knew that they just didn’t have the players to control games through attacking possession.

    So while I agree with Tim’s analysis that we need more shot creation, and we are crying out for a Maddison / Aouar type, I don’t think it’s only because we lack that player. We also need more quality full stop, Wenger’s “technical security”, which is why I like White and Sambi, but why someone like a Fabregas or Locatelli (or a Willock if he’s good enough) is also a massive priority for me. If you have control in defence and midfield, then that gives you a platform, you can take more risks going forward and be more creative.

    Incidentally, LAGunner’s very good point about our struggles to make the most of transitions points to this kind of player as well. Fabregas was a genius at finding that out-ball that would release a forward. We can’t, as Tim pointed out some time back, just give it to Pepe in his own half and expect him to run 70 yards and score.

    1. A big part of what changed from Wenger to Emery was Emery’s unwillingness to use Ozil and Ramsey in his first season (Ramsey then said “f this, I’m out”). Also, replacing Alexis with Mkhitaryan can’t have helped very much.

      However, the current form seems mostly self-inflicted. Why cross so often and so poorly? Why refuse to play to Auba’s strengths when you’ve just resigned him? If you need to sign an aging player, why sign a winger instead of an attacking CM? We probably shouldn’t relitigate the Ozil mystery.

      This team’s talent is probably worse than the 2017-2018 team, but the difference in outcomes is much greater than the difference in ceiling.

      We wouldn’t have seen Laca, Auba, Saka, Pepe, and even Eddie and Willian all going silent at once if it wasn’t due to bad instructions.

      Likewise, the simultaneous declines in so many of our experienced players can’t be coincidence, but rather it has to be the system.

  10. Fabulous post Tim. So much information to unpack and discuss.

    In terms of shots attempted that its just like any other stat and its interesting to discuss but at times it can be misleading and they can distract us for from the reality of what actually happened. For example, I suspect many of the passing stats xG and shot creation stats would suggest Arsenal was a high powered attacking team during the Ozil/Cazorla/Ramsey/Wilshere era under Arsene Wenger. However, during those years the average number of goals we scored was <70 per season and that was not a small sample size. Clearly the stats overestimated the effectiveness of our attack during those years.

    With regard to your statement for our current inability to score goals is not replacing Arsene Wenger but look at the players Arsene had compared with what Arteta had to work with this year. During most of the 2010-19 decade Arsene’s teams had players like Ozil in his prime, Cazorla Sanchez, Wilshere Ramsey, Giroud. Compare that with the group players from last season. A fading Auba and chance creators such as Willian, ESR, Elneny, Ceballos . Prospectively if you had to predict which of those groups of players would compile better attacking stats 100% would pick the group of players Arsene had. I doubt there is a manager in the entire world who could take the group of players Arteta had to work with this season and somehow get them to come close to matching the stats the group of players Arsene had to work with. Its just my opinion but Arsene never had to work with a group of players who were as overall underwhelming as Arteta had to work with this season and even in his prime I don’t believe Arsene could have taken the group of players Arteta had this season and somehow come close to matching the stats his teams compiled.

    1. I don’t get this comment Bill, surely the fact certain Wenger teams didn’t average more than 70 goals proves the opposite point to the one you are making?

      The players you mentioned (bar Sanchez) were all terrible finishers. A managers job is to get you to the goal, creating chances and Wenger’s teams rarely failed to do that but no matter how easy the chance the player still has to score it. Wenger consistently set up his team to create gilt edged chances but he had notoriously profligate finishers.

      Look at the 2015/16 season when we created soo many easy chances. Ramsey and Walcott had games where they missed a hattrick of simple chances each. And Ozil for all his great creativity was at least initially so bad in front of goal, seeming to lack the conviction in his shots.

      Lacazette on the other hand is a great finishers (usually) and Auba’s movement is so good he makes chances easier despite his so/so finishing rate. They both scored at a far higher rate then expected over the last few seasons. They don’t get nearly the same service Ramsey, Walcott, Ozil & Giroud used to.

      That is entirely on the management.

      If you want to make the case for the team not being good enough to create for them, that would still be on the management who have sold off or ostracised all our creative players in recent years. The management forced out Ozil, sold off Iwobi and Mhiki in the same year. They let Ramsey go for free, lost Cazorla post recovery and replaced them with *checks notes* Pepe and Willian. I like Pepe and think he will be great for us next year and was underrated last & we all know about Willian. However you don’t prune your squad of that many creative players, replace them with only one and still be allowed to hide behind “It’s the players fault we dont score goals, no manager could do anything with these lot.”

      But again I don’t buy that. Wenger teams made chances with players like Song and Eboue. Arteta’s attack fell apart when he was missing a CB (Luiz) and LB (KT) when he had Pepe, Saka, Partey and Auba still in the team.

      1. I actually know the 2015/16 stats intimately and the missed big chances which cost Arsenal points were:

        Giroud (Spurs 2x, Stoke, Liverpool 2x, Wham, and Swansea)
        Ozil (Norwich, Southampton 2x, Southampton)

        Now, they also scored goals in some of those games but those were the big misses.

        The first 6 matches of the season Arsenal created 18 big chances and scored just 2 of them. Walcott missed 6! Though to be fair to him most of those were in a big win over Stoke which would have just increased our goals scored tally and not the points.

        1. That season was so frustrating!!!! Only buying Cech in preseason, loss in the first game, the ridiculous number of missed chances and the feeling of absolutely throwing away a perfect opportunity to win the league.

          1. The mistakes of that season were the beginning of the end for Wenger. The players, the fans, the board, everyone except Wenger lost belief that he could create a winning side again.

            The problems of the post Wenger era started when we lost Gazidis and then proceeded to carry out a purge of all the Wenger era faithfuls. That team was built to challenge for the top 4 with players of the 28-31 age group leading from the front with some young talent to back them up.

          2. Definitely broke me.

            I feel like I was the only one saying “guys, we really should be winning this!” And I really believed we would turn it around and that Leicester would collapse (revert to the mean). The big thing I learned from that season is that teams can have season-long deviations from the norm in terms of stats, that blocks and blocked shots have a lot of value, and that we really missed Santi Cazorla.

    2. Lol.. Bill, I’m not going to have you slandering Arsene by trying to tell people that 70 goals a season isn’t that good or was an underperformance.

      I can’t tell if you’re being serious. I’m actually exasperated. But here are some facts:

      In Wenger’s 2nd half of his career (2008-2018) his team averaged 72.40 goals per season.
      In the first half of his career, his team averaged 72 goals per season.
      Averaging 1.9 goals per game is a fantastic result.
      72 goals would be top 14 of all the clubs in the top 5 leagues.
      Arsenal scored 55 goals last season.

      I’m not sure what you’re getting at here, unless it’s the thing you always go back to which is that all of football is down to just one player and all that matters is having one guy who scores lots of goals.

  11. Arsene’s teams from 2013-16 had Ozil in his prime, Sanchez in his prime, Cazorla, Wilshere, Ramsey Wilshere Arteta, Kos Mert, Nacho all in thier prime. That group of players had as much technical skill, passing acumen and creativity as almost any team in the world. Its certainly not a surprise those teams would compile excellent attacking stats. However, I would argue for that group of players to average less then 70 goals/season represented a significant underperformance.

  12. Sorry, chaps, mild dissent incoming.

    I dont get the Lacazette love. He’s never lived up to his billing, and has underperformed expectations in all of his time at Arsenal. Yes, he is the best CF/hold-it-up player at Arsenal, but that’s like saying that tone-deaf ClaudeIvan is the best singer in his family. That is as much a reflection on the rest of them. We can and should do better, younger in the market.

    Sell. I get Tim’s statistical case, but still I’d sell. We cant have 2 aging strikers clogging up the pipeline. Leaving aside malaria and home-related problems, one of the reasons that we didnt get the best out of Auba last season was the very chance and shot creation numbers that Tim cites here. We did not play to his strengths. Dont buy a Ferrari and park it because you lack the skill to properly drive it. Arteta is very conservative in attack.

    Wenger sold Henry to Barcelona for a good price at the time, when our all-time leading scorer was nudging 31. Laca is 30, and at the perfect point in his contract to (1) sell and recoup something from his t/f (2) save on salary by bringing in at a lower wage (he’s one of the highest paid players at Arsenal, on six figures a week) (3) refresh. Adebayor was poised to break through. Arsene said he “had to play.” That remained true even though he was not at Henry’s level, and did not have a similar game to Thierry’s (Ade was a classic hold-it-up CF, Henry was not)

    Handing another fat contract to an average thirtysomething player makes no sense, financial or footballing.

    1. More….

      Even in Auba’s annus horribilis, he scored 3 fewer goals in 2 fewer games than Laca in the Premier League. Auba also managed one more assist than Laca in the EPL.

      This is Games/Goals/Assists/Goal Involvements in all competitions except Community Shield

      Laca 43….17….3….20
      Auba 38….14….4….18
      Pepe 47….16….5….21 (played 5 more Europa games than Laca and Auba)
      Saka 45….7…..9…..16

      Notables. Nkatiah and Willock each got 3 Europa goals; Willian was assist leader with a paltry 5. Pepe had 4 of his 5 assists in Europa.

      Auba, playing less than Laca because of myriad problems, had two fewer goal involvements. Two.

      Europa being the big, fat caveat, Pepe also had one more goal involvement than Lacazette. He ended the season like a runaway train, which rather pumped up his stats as well. Yes, I know that there are other intangibles that the stats alone cant capture, but we’re arguing for Laca partly on the basis of his bringing others into play, are we not?

      I’ll say this is Laca’s favour. His understanding with ESR and Saka is a beautiful aspect of our play. he seems to be able to pick out Emile’s runs in his sleep. But refreshing makes so much sense.

  13. The rose tinted view and the wishful thinking that has infected other blogs appears to be taking hold here as well.

    Tim, you said it all, and yet so many of our colleagues are missing the point entirely.

    Until the Chel$ki game, were dropping like a stone. Losing to anyone who turned up and playing football, a la Arteta, which would disgrace League II.

    There was nil creativity and the bloggists were all, almost as one, calling out for a change.

    Then came the stroke of luck, by default, not design.

    Willian was not available, was that not when he skyved off to Dubai and had to isolate and the only player available was ESR.

    We won, because Chel$ki was not prepared to face a team with a number 10.

    From then onwards ESR played but to Arteta’s rules. The ball had to go to the wings to be crossed to no one in particular.

    I think you may find that the number of goals scored throughout the EPL was down, so the fact that we only let in 39 has to be set off against the fact that less goals were being scored.

    Our performances were dire and the number of shots on target hovered around 3, that is one shot on target every 30 minutes. Are we not all embarrassed?

    You don’t win, if you don’t shoot.

    The team play awfully because they are required to follow Arteta’s instructions.

    Auba does not score, because he has hardly any chances, because what suites his style of play, does not suit Arteta’s.

    Handing out plaudits to Arteta because we did better in the second half of the season, was it not against poorer competition than the first half, and raised us from 14th to 8th, is absurd.

    It is simply wishful thinking and a case of the blind leading the blind because the sighted people choose to walk around with their eyes shut.

    1. Hey JJGSOL,

      I can promise you I find your cynical negativity just as annoying as you find my point of view. You know what’s even more annoying is your insistence that you alone see the truth. Give it a rest would ya? We know how you feel. Repeating it over and over and over and over just makes you sound desperate for others to agree with you. Those of us who have different opinions will not change ours no matter how convinced you may be that we are wrong.

    2. JJG,

      Time is a great healer, it’s human nature to have hope etc etc. Those are all expressions for a reason.

      If Arsenal (and therefore Arteta) play well / win then that will be justified.

      If we revert to Q4 2020 football even after the new signings etc then I wouldn’t worry too much, memories will quickly return and Arteta will be gone by Christmas

  14. Sorry about that bit of unpleasantness. Chap has a real chip on his shoulder.

    I’m excited about Sambi and about White. I think those players improve this team. Sambi has a kind of Diaby-esque grace and power on the ball but without the fragility, and White reminds me of a more technically polished Koscielny. Both players improve the vertical elasticity of the team, by which I mean our ability to rapidly expand and contract our shape with changes in possession. That to me is a crucial aspect of modern football and one I’m grateful to see being addressed. What gets a team shots is the ability to progress a ball quickly and both White and Sambi will be part of the machinery to help us do this for years to come. Great signings. I worry a litttle about BW on set pieces but that’s why we have the much taller Gabriel, Holding, Chambers and Mari around him. This team is starting to take shape into a squad resembling thoughtful planning.

    Another area to improve shot generation is when facing a low block. That’s where artists like Odegaard really shine and that I believe is why Arsenal are ready to hand out a large sum for a player who is polished enough in that regard to make an impact immediately. Smith Rowe is the future but it’s too much to ask him to shoulder that load with that target on his back every match day. Just as Sambi is the heir apparent to Partey, ESR is the heir apparent to Maddison or Auar or whoever the club decides to bring in to fill that role.

    We are building a pipeline of talent for every position, and recruiting players of the appropriate age profile to plug gaps in the squad at each of those positions. Mistakes will be made. But I love the thought behind the process and I think people will be surprised by this team. In a Good way.

    1. Agree. I said in previous a post that our signings and targets look like athletes. One thing we look as if we’re getting is pace and running.

      And yes, verticality. From Sambi especially, balls to forwards’ feet through a forest. Thomas Partey has that ability too, btw. He’s better, much better, than a stopper type, defensive DM. Big second season for him. The choice of midfield partner for him and the allocation, exchange of roles will be interesting to see. Now, footballing gods, can you make Locatelli see the light?

      Emile is about movement and ghosting, rather than lock-picking. One-touch, runs into space. That said, I hope that he gets the 10 shirt, without the hexes that it has brought of late. ESR reminds me a little of Rosicky in his runs; and in his final-third, combination play intelligence, of Jack.

  15. claude, i won’t go so far as to say your argument is not made in good faith but i will say that it’s unfair. first, you can’t compare a center forward to a striker. their roles are completely different and require different skill sets. it’s plain to everyone showing lacazette love that the arsenal attack is better when he’s leading the line than aubameyang. it’s because auba is not a center forward.

    second, what was a reasonable expectation from lacazette when he came to arsenal? i didn’t expect him to score 30+ goals like he did in ligue 1. with that, i think if he played more, he’d score more.

    third, bar harry kane, all of the top center forwards in world football are older than lacazette. it’s because the position requires experience to do it well. likewise, we all remember that henry didn’t go to barcelona for a lot of money; £16 million if i recall. lacazette is no henry. besides, no one is interested in signing a player over 30 with less than a year to run on his current deal. it was the same with aubameyang when everyone was waiting for him to “sign da ting”. he wasn’t going anywhere for the same reason arsenal won’t be able to make any money selling laca. only a fool would sell a player like that. even luis suarez only went for £4 million. ask barcelona how that deal helped them win the league. oh, wait…

    fourth, and most importantly, the biggest difference between lacazette and other top center forwards is they are the undisputed #9 for their team whereas lacazette has been forced to split time between other players for his entire arsenal career. he only started like half of the arsenal games at center forward and still put up 13 goals. if he started 30-ish games at center forward, he’d get 20 goals. “of this, i am not uncertain.” most teams would kill to have a center forward who can play with his back to goal and still get you 20 in 30.

    1. Josh, that all centre forwards are strikers but not all strikers are centre-forwards is surely something that you dont need me to tell you, of all people.

      Adebayor replaced Henry as Arsenal’s premier striker. They were absolutely not the same kind of striker. Van Persie in turn was different. All were strikers with different skillsets. Two of them came to strikerdom from wide, but superlative strikers they were.

      You disagree on Laca. I get that, and that’s fine. I know very well what the respective roles of strikers are, thank you, mate. But I appreciate the tutorial, nonetheless 🙂

      I think that the time has come to sell Laca, and clear the pipeline. Though he had his best season in an Arsenal shirt last term, to me, overall, he has underperformed expectations. The market says he’s worth 28m GBP. I’d take 25 and re-invest. That CFs are at their best over 30 is debatable. Kane has lost half a step. The result is that he has adapted his game to come deeper for the ball. Not all CF’s successfully make that transition. It is true that classic CFs have always been facilitators, but Kane is doing that much more than he has in the past. He’s feeding the runners… Son for Spurs, Sterling et al for England.

      Auba is a far better striker than Lacazette, and no, he is not a centre forward. If Arteta leaned heavily on his captain to re-sign, he should have deployed him in a way that maximised his tremendous goalscoring skill. He didn’t, as the shot stats show. And even in Auba’s worst season and Laca’s best, and with Auba getting less playing time, their numbers are almost identical.

      It’s really important that we get line breakers like Locatelli; and a block breaking 10 to free our forwards.

      Im glad that you chose not to use overheated terms like “bad faith”, even if, like a naughty trailing leg from Kane, you did dangle it there. I dont like to categorical, black and white in debates and that is why I said, in Laca’s favour, that his combo play with Emile and Saka are very good aspects of our forward play. Of course, there’s an argument for keeping him. But I think that the case for selling is stronger.

  16. Auba had a poor season last time around, and I’m sorry, but I disagreed with the decision to keep him out of the NLD. He was just getting back into form and that put the brakes on him. I do think all 3 of Auba, Laca and Pepe have more goals in them this season. I’m not sure Saka is quite ready to make a significant step up in that regard, but he could. Martinelli could. Balogun will be interesting. If we can incorporate Willock to contribute goals from midfield, the potential to score 65-70 goals is there. We’re not a bad team. Certainly much better than we’ve been showing.

    I guess it’s hard to be convinced by a coach that picks up talking points from social media to incorporate in his match analysis. My favourite was when he used pure maths and spamming 33 crosses to suggest that was a sure way to goals.

    And before someone jumps down my throat, I’m genuinely curious to see how we do this season. I’m no longer excited since Arsenal asked for money for pre-season games. It goes beyond the coach and even recruitment. If the club were holding true to its character I would have more confidence in the process. At both the organisational level, and with the squad, we’re trying to change too much, and I think we’re going to struggle because of it. All the more reason to not try and make money from selling Lacazette. We’re not going to upgrade for less money. We might even end up spending more to downgrade. Whether we should extend him or not is a tougher question. I probably wouldn’t, after the Auba contract, but it depends.

  17. Thanks for writing about Lacazette and our striking problem. I love Lacazette as a player because he is a good shooter, because if he gets a rebound he will most definitely score the goal.

    My argument for his sale is based on the style we would like to play. Yes, Lacazette is entering his prime, but Arteta mentioned transitioning to a 4-3-3.

    For Arsenal, Lacazette has worked best in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Transitioning to a 4-3-3, we would have 3 forwards with Aubameyang suiting the central striking position in a 4-3-3 better than Lacazette.

    On the flanks, Pepe, Martinelli, Saka & ESR play with pace. Centrally Lacazette lacks the pace to finish moves from surging runs or balls over the top.

    So, we do persist with a 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3 or do we keep mixing it up as we roll?

    In my opinion, sell Lacazette and focus on increasing the quality of the supporting attackers (attacking midfielders and box to box midfielders).

    If we can improve our profile of technical players with players who can keep possession, play press-resistant football, and attack with confidence, then we could do well this season and aim for the top four.

    A lot of the “if’s” depend on Arteta and his vision.

    A midfield with Joe Willock or Sambi + Partey or Elneny + a new signing seems to be on the cards because if Xhaka goes, a new central midfielder will come in. Except Mikel decides to play ESR & Saka as an 8 like De’Bruyne.

    Playing both formations mentioned earlier is experimental and unsettling for a team aiming to return to the Champion’s League. And selling Lacazette would shut the door on the duality of formations.

    In trying to make up for Lacazette’s goals if he is sold, the idea would be to develop Willock as an integral part of our 4-3-3 to score more goals, and that would require a mature central midfielder in the mould of Locatelli or someone with a similar skill set.

    1. The main formations we used last year were 4-2-3-1 and 4-1-4-1 once Partey was match fit again. In either scenario, I prefer Lacazette as the central striking option because of his ability to hold the ball and link play. No other striker on our roster currently has that ability. It will be interesting to see where that leaves Aubameyang given his slide in form and the emergence of genuine competition on the flanks in the form of Saka and Pepe. It’s a good problem to have and may the best man win!

      In my opinion, Sambi was brought in to be an alternate to and pupil of Thomas and essentially a replacement for Guendouzi. With those two plus Willock (and AMN, if he stays), the club is well stocked with athletic runners in midfield. I really don’t see a need to go after another high profile player in that role, so I don’t expect any movement on Bissouma. The biggest remaining hole in the squad is a possession oriented CM, hence all the smoker around players like Neves and Locatelli. This is crucial to the balance of the squad in midfield, especially in the more difficult fixtures where I expect to see a double pivot.

      The club seems to be in the market for a player who can assume that role right away, what with Xhaka and Ceballos leaving. It’s a real problem for the club because we don’t have any up and comers in that mould either, so it’s not fanciful to expect a double dip at some point. For now, I suspect we’ll try to secure one first team caliber option and play the longer game on alternates. This leaves us vulnerable in the event of injuries or loss of form, but that’s a risk all clubs take.

      In my estimation, we are still working on at least 3 big deals:

      1. CAM in mid 20’s to be first choice in a 4-2-3-1
      2. Posesssion oriented CM in mid 20’s to be first choice in 4-2-3-1
      3. Goalkeeper. Who knows what’s going on with that one. I suspect we don’t have half the info.

      and possibly striker. I saw Tammy Abraham mooted which wouldn’t be the worst deal but he would want to play and surely there are cheaper, non-Chelsea options out there with a similar skillset.

      1. It’s really interesting because Lacazette was a part of the best team-plays we had last season and some folks think Aubameyang might be sold or moved on, hence the Tammy Abraham links.

        It’s going to be interesting watching what happens in the lead-up to the first game of the season and how the transfer window swings.

  18. Tim

    Regarding your comment at 6:29AM. I guess it depends on your expectations. Averaging 72 goals/season is a really good scoring output if you want to compare us to West Ham or Everton but during most of the 2008-18 Wenger era we were telling ourselves that we were playing the best football and we were one of the best attacking teams in the world and objective supposedly was to compete with the teams at the top of the PL table and the teams who were going deep in the CL and most of those teams were scoring >85-90 goals per season and some of those teams we said we were competing with were scoring >100goal/season.

    During the Fabregas era we were competing with ManU and Chelsea and we had arguably the best chance creator in the world and we surrounded him with a group of creative players and we played an aggressive attack first style of football to the point that we accepted we would concede more goals every season for the sake of playing attacking football. Despite all of the attacking mentality we were out scored every season but ManU who did not have as much creative talent and who had a more balanced philosophy and style. We were even outscored by some of Mourinho’s Chelsea teams and he was arguably one of the least imaginative most defensive minded managers in the world.

    The difference was even more pronounced during the Ozil/Sanchez/Cazorla/Giroud era. Those squads had as much creative talent and passing ability as almost any team in the world and theoretically I think we should have been scoring a lot more the 68 goals per year we averaged. Mourinho managed Chelsea for 3 seasons and for all of his defensive mindedness his Chelsea teams outscored us in 2 or those years.Leicester outscored us in 2015/16. Brenden Rogers Liverpool team scored 102 goals one season. Ancelloti’s Chelsea team that won the PL scored >100 goals and Fergies teams outscored us by an average of >10 goals/season despite a more balanced philosophy. The point of all of this is that 72 goals/season from a team who claimed to be one of the worlds best attacking teams with an attacking manager and arguably some of the worlds best creative talent during that era.

    The one thing Fergies teams and Mourinho’s teams and all the other teams that have been consistently outscoring us for all of these years is they had more goal scoring firepower. Mourinho’s first Chelsea teams had Drogba and Lampard. The fact that we have never really been a high scoring team despite all of our creative talent, attacking philosophy and a world class manager is the whole reason I have come to believe the critical factor in scoring goals is having the firepower upfront. The other option is that Arsene was just not as good as we thought. To me the lack of firepower explanation is much more plausible

    I hope that all makes sense.

    1. This whole argument is fairly pointless. Not that you don’t make good points Bill, it’s just that this is typical talk radio fodder because everyone has an opinion and nobody can ever be proven right.

      The PL has changed dramatically and continues to change. The standard of competition, the standard of management, the player wages, the media coverage, the global fan engagement, the pandemic, the influx of gobs of TV money and investment from global billionaire cabals has all skewed the game dramatically. Every season is its own adventure now and you can hardly make comparisons to past seasons while holding all else constant anymore, even going back as little as 2-3 years. The invincibles and Fabregas and Wenger, they all belonged to their own time. Instead of doing endless counterfactuals I wish we could just celebrate that instead of always measuring the present against it or measuring various iterations of the past against each other. The present will never live up to our ideals of the past, but then we don’t get to enjoy it if that’s how we think about it. At the end of the day, this is all about fun. Let’s not lose sight of that.

    2. There’s no question that having a dominant striker helps the team score more goals. However, having the most dominant striker in the League rarely translates to a league title or even to a scoring title (which is what I’m now calling your thing with most goals scored).

      Let’s look at the last 10 years:

      Last season, Harry Kane 23 goals, Tottenham 68 goals
      2019/20, Vardy 23 goals, Leicester 67 goals
      2018/19, Aubameyang 22 goals, Arsenal 73 goals – Liverpool had two guys who tied Auba with 22 goals EACH.. FUCKING EACH!!! and they scored 89 goals. 44 of their goals from two guys! They also finished 2nd in the League.
      2017/18, Salah 32 goals, Liverpool 84 goals and 4th place – so far none of the golden boot winners have a league title!
      2016/17, Kane 29, Spurs 86 goals – this is peak Spurs, 2nd place finish, this is their best team.
      2015/16, Kane 25, Spurs 69 goals – Leicester win the League with 68 goals, Vardy has 24 and Mahrez chips in 17.
      2014/15, Aguero 26, Man City 83 goals. Chelsea win the League this year scoring just 73 goals, Arsenal scored 71 with Alexis getting just 16
      2013/14, Suarez 31, Liverpool 101 goals. Man City win the League with 102 goals. This is one season where I would accept your argument that having the most dominant striker probably should have won the league, but for that Stevie G slip.
      2012/13, van Persie 26, Man U 86 goals. Here it is! Here’s the last time a player won the golden boot, his team was the highest scoring, and they won the League. Here’s the last time a golden boot winner won the league.
      2011/12, van Persie 30, Arsenal 74 goals

      What I’m getting at here is that this is a team sport and generally speaking the best team wins. When evaluating the deficiencies in a team (like, say, last year’s Arsenal team) we look at where they are weakest and suggest that we strengthen there. At this time, Arsenal have two players who – if given 100 shots a season – will likely score ~20 goals. The problem is that they are getting HALF that number of shots. I am 85% certain that adding a creative player to this team will improve the overall goal-scoring not just of the forwards but of everyone (which is the key) by increasing the number of chances. And I’m also fairly happy to say that if we get a player like Auba and Laca scoring again that will open things up for other players to score.

      I also think that Arsenal need to start moving on from Auba and in the next two years Lacazette. It’s true that we need to have a goal-scorer, however, the point I’ve been making these last few years (years??? I guess it has been years now) is that we need creative players.

      Actually, the point I’ve been making is that we need improved quality in a lot of positions on the pitch – which I think you agree with – and until we do that (which is probably in the 300m range of investment – whether through outright purchasing or through exploiting untapped value in the market or in developing players) our chances of winning the League are low.

    3. One last thing: it’s not true to say that we surrounded Cesc with a group of creative players. He carried that burden almost entirely alone and also often didn’t have anyone to play the ball to. Wenger’s biggest failure was to properly buy players for that Fabregas team, if he’d done so, I think Cesc would have won at least one league title with us. Wenger would say that he didn’t have the money and that we needed to sell every year and that’s probably true but when we did have the money and had the need (2015/16) he only bought Cech so, there is some doubt in my mind that he’s being 100% truthful about the Cesc era.

      Look at the 2009/10 season. Fabregas was our leading scorer with 15 and leading playmaker with 13 assists. 2nd on the scoring list was Arshavin with 10 goals. Van Persie was crocked the whole season and Bendtner started 13 matches.

      This was a repeat pattern from 2008/09. Van Persie led Arsenal with 11 goals! Adebayor half-assed it to 10, Bendtner was 3rd with 9. Nasri was there but just scored 6 and Arshavin also scored 6. Denilson and Song played 51 and 48 matches each. Bendtner played 50.

      The point here is, again, that teams will often have weaknesses (sometimes glaring, like 08/09) and it’s the club’s job to address them. In this Arsenal team the weakness is creativity.

      It is possible, however, that Lil Chili and Smith Rowe have a big season. Saka had 38 key passes last season, he’d need to double that. Smith Rowe had 27 but he only played a half-season, so he’d need to treble that. Could it happen? Low probability. But they are definitely “high ceiling” guys, who I would like to see given 3 years together to see where we end up. In that span, both will be at the top of their craft and we could see the kinds of numbers I’m talking about. Or even better.

      I also get the sense that you keep arguing for top of the table. I think you need to adjust that WAAAAY down. Getting into top four next season would be a huge result. From there we could talk about building. But we aren’t getting into top four if we are scoring just 55 goals a season and we aren’t scoring 70 goals a season unless we get a lot more creativity into this team.

      1. Funny. In a comment to Bill several months (weeks? it’s all a blur with this pandemic) I suggested that you could write a piece on this exact topic and Bill would preserve with his argument regardless. Heh

    4. you also have to remember the origin of the “parking the bus” strategy. it was because it was the only way to survive the arsenal attack…to play what wenger called “anti-football. a 0-0 was a good result for mourinho against arsenal.

  19. A bit torn on all of this thread’s Lacazette speculation. Admire him for his hard-nosed work ethic. No one (who springs to mind) battles harder physically than Laca in the final third. He’s a throwback center forward. There aren’t many left from that mold. To mean, the best of ’em are all aging. Giroud, Suarez, Lewandowski, Aguero. With the exception Robert Lewandowski all of them have become journeymen. Romelu Lukaku is about the only true beast CF left– in the prime of a career. There are pretenders like Christian Benteke or Tammy Abraham– but it’s hard fathoming either becoming an efficient, accurate shot-taker. Can a player like Patrick Bamford replicate his 2020-21 performance? Kelechi Iheanacho flashed briefly last season– though he’s more a Welbeck-type. Danny Ings may be the best of the rest– where even he’s been hit by extended injuries the past 2 seasons. Chris Wood/Ashley Barnes– now we’re officially scraping.

    ‘They don’t write’em like that anymore…’ to turn a lyric.

    Where I’m torn is– as much as I value Alexander Lacazette’s attributes? Arsenal’s future doesn’t travel the path where Laca’s presence takes us. Does a best-case of 15-17 goals in an improved attack for a season– maybe two– warrant resigning him? Or do Arsenal trust that Auba returns to form with more, quality chances? Then give Martinelli Laca’s minutes– hoping for a reasonable facsimile of an Henry-like breakout?

    Very tough call.

    1. As much as has been made of the decline in form and/or advancing age of Lacazette and Aubameyang, few clubs can boast a striker duo like that. How much longer and to what extent that’s still the case can be debated, but it’s not as if either of them is washed. Not at their absolute physical peak perhaps, but age does have other benefits.

      I think this applies to both of them: If a good bid comes in then the club is going to be hard pressed to refuse. If not, then I think of it as a case of their sizeable transfer fees being paid forward for another year and that will inevitably result in goals for Arsenal, sommersaults and choreographed dancing. And all of that will make me very happy.

      1. Nearly every European club is in a static situation with regard to selling above-average valued assets at present. A buyer’s market– where Arsenal might not be able to move Lacazette even if they wished to.

        Thanks to broadcast rights monies– PL clubs are in better situations than most– with several snapping up bargains across the continent. Believe this situation is how Arteta and Edu have convinced KSE to fork over some cash for an immediate rebuild. Might not be bargains like this again for some time. Still, it’s tricky navigating these waters. A full-tilt rebuild requires augmenting or complimenting ESR’s creativity as a priority. Without another Aouar/Maddison/Odegaard aboard at CAM? Arsenal risk losing the productivity for another of Auba/Laca’s remaining seasons– were ESR out for an extended period of matches.

        So here’s to– sommersaults and choreographed dancing. 🤸‍♀️

  20. During the 10 seasons from 2005-16 Arsene’s teams have had as much or more creativity and top quality players then Mourinho’s teams but Mourinho;s teams have had a lot more firepower. Mourinho’s teams averaged around 88 goals/game compared to Arsene;s teams 72 goals/game. If ever there was a stat which suggests the ability of a team to score is mostly dependent on how much firepower the team has that is it. Give a defensive minded unimaginative manager enough firepower and his team will score. Give a more aggressive attack minded manager all the creativity he wants but give him less firepower and its going to be a lot tougher for his team to score.

    1. Bill, you are making a distinction between firepower and creativity. Your definition of “firepower” therefore seems to correlate to the efficiency of a team, their ability to convert chances rather than create them – otherwise the distinction is meaningless.

      In 2020 Arsenal were top of the efficiency league, measured in goals per shot, level with City and Liverpool. We finished 8th and champions City scored 44 more goals than us. Why? Because City had 330 more shots than us.

      The season before, we were also joint top of the efficiency table with champions Liverpool. Liverpool scored 17 more goals than us because they had 134 more shots than we did.

      The season before that, we were only joint third in the efficiency table, again with Liverpool. Again, Liverpool outscored us by 9 goals because they had 52 more shots, and they finished 2 places higher than we finished in 6th.

      In other words, over the last few seasons we have been at or near the top of the efficiency (“firepower”) table, but have scored fewer goals. That’s why we bang on about creativity.

      The only thing I would add to Tim’s analysis that we need more shots, is that this comes not just from adding creative players, but from the whole team structure, including players further back who can progress the ball quicker. In other words, while I kind of agree with you that it’s not just about creative players, I agree for different reasons.

      1. This set of ideas on advancing the ball forward more quickly– encapsulates why I feel Granit Xhaka’s statistical body of work– is Fool’s Gold. Strike the two or three times per season he’s involved in a boneheaded event on-pitch. What you reap from Xhaka’s never-ending minutes and left-sided forward-passing– is cancelled out by a necessity to rein-in other players in his immediate orbit. IMO, the short-leash on which Arteta kept the attack last season– is directly related to the need to limit Xhaka’s exposure defensively. The smaller the radius that Xhaka is responsible for in defense– the more he can benefit the team being on the field in both phases. But the smaller that sphere– the more other players’ efficiencies are affected as a detriment.

        ‘Consistently’ and ‘reliably’ sound positive.
        Until you modify each with ‘repetitive’ and ‘predictable’.

        Roma beckons. Take the next offer Edu.

        1. Not to be too pedantic but raw data is just that: numbers. The interpretation of those numbers is the eternal bone of contention.

  21. SHARD: “All the more reason to not try and make money from selling Lacazette. We’re not going to upgrade for less money. We might even end up spending more to downgrade”.

    Fair point. I dont disagree, but it depends on what the short, medium and long term strategy is. We did two things of late (1) re-signed our main striker, who had the a higher strike rate than Thierry (2) persuaded the highly regarded Balogun to stay. What was promised to Balogun, in a season in which we’re playing fewer games? You’d have to think that there was some medium term thinking behind that. And if there was some medium term thinking behind it, do not re-sign an aging, highly paid forward player.

    We seem petrified about making the kind of well-timed offload decision that other clubs make in their sleep. Unless the player is young with a high ceiling, that is. For the right money, let Laca go. Even if we dont have somebody (unless we offload and buy)who exactly replicates his hold up play. Can I mention Thierry and Ade one more time, please? I do not accept that wecant do better than Laca, even if the returns arent immediate.

    Laca is eminently replaceable, given age, contract position and the fact that he isnt — has never been — particularly prolific. I think it’s absolutely nuts to not find a system in which Auba plays ahead of Laca. After all, with him absent in stretches and Laca the main man, last season was our worst in goalscoring for long time. Dont park the Ferrari.

  22. Dear Dr Gooner,

    Thank you for your kind comments.

    Enjoy the forthcoming season.


    1. yeah, doc. you were a bit dick-ish. he was expressing an opinion and you reacted like he spit on your mom.

      1. Sure, he expressed several opinions. I don’t mind his opinion that Arteta is garbage. I disagree firmly, but that’s football talk and that’s why we’re all here. What I DO mind is the opinion that anyone who doesn’t see things like he does is wrong, or worse, deluded. Calling someone deluded is a patronizing way of telling them you know better, not becuase you’ve both seen the same evidence and come to different conclusions but because the other person simply lacks the faculties to see things as clearly as you do. That’s not a football opinion, it’s an insult and the opposite of wisdom.

        Where I will accept criticism is that I took it upon myself to point this out. While I don’t believe in vigilante justice, this is just an internet forum and that was just a comment. While pointed, I believe it was above board. If you take it upon yourself to call your fellow fans deluded for believing what they believe, I don’t think you can be surprised to receive some blowback. JJGSOL got just that from me. Rightly or wrongly is for you to decide for yourselves.

    2. Taking the high road now won’t make your earlier comment go away. I hope you can understand why I reacted strongly.

  23. claude, your laca argument lacks nuance. you’ll gripe that’s he’s not prolific as he only scored 13 league goals. however, he only got to start half the league games at center forward because of arteta’s good ideas. whether it’s playing laca as a cam or playing aubameyang and nketiah at center forward, it’s affected his output…and he still managed to outscore the likes of marcus rashford and sadio mane. i believe if he starts 30 of the arsenal league games at center forward, he scores at least 20 goals, not to mention arsenal will score more goals.

    the biggest flaw with your argument is you believe that arsenal can get money selling lacazette. sorry brother, but we haven’t even heard a bad rumor linking lacazette with a move away; certainly not someone willing to spend anywhere near the neighborhood of £25 million. no one is interested in paying that kind of money for a center forward who’s over 30 with less than a year to run on his contract. at the beginning of last season, i was saying arsenal needed to extend lacazette. now, they’re at his mercy…unless he gets ozil’ed.

    no one in the squad can do what lacazette can do. you keep mentioning adebayor but i don’t know what your point is. ade was always a center forward, including when arsenal bought him from monaco. van persie always had the tools to play center forward. auba does not and that’s okay because neither does mo salah, messi, or timo werner. we saw what happened when barcelona moved on 34-year old luis suarez. we also saw what happened to psg when they replaced 34-year old cavanni at center forward with mbappe. wasn’t it you singing cavanni’s praises last season? how about a bit of respect for the elders.

    1. …even mbappe doesn’t have the tools to play center forward. you can’t simply train everyone to do everything.

    2. Youre right that my valuation is optimistic, Jo0sh. But hey, you are arguing for his value while saying that he has little to none on the market. TBH, I may well be guilty of the same, from the other direction.

      The thing about your argument — a defeatist one — is that youre saying because no one in THIS squad currently does what Lacazette does, that he shouldnt be replaced. Everyone is replaceable. Laca, for me, isnt special enough or good enough a player not to cash in and upgrade on, even if the financial return from a sale is nowhere near his current assessed market valuation.

      You dont understand my point about Adebayor? It’s simple enough, brother. The striker that he replaced as the spearhead of the Arsenal attack was a TOTALLY DIFFERENT TYPE OF STRIKER. Ade was a classic CF, Thierry was not (even if Thierry was far, far and away a better forward… Im talking about their styles of play). Even Thierry had an offload time. Laca isnt good enough or special enough to keep, regardless of his age and contract situation.

      Nuance? Im the only one of the two of us allowing for the fact that the other has some good points, and not being 100% categorical either way.

      No one is arguing that Mbappe should play CF. Remember, every CF is a striker, but not every striker is a CF.

  24. Best News All Day Dept: ESR signed da’ ting!

    “Everyone knows the number 10 is a big shirt and a big position.
    I’m buzzing to be honest, I can’t wait to get on the pitch.”

  25. You guys are all missing the forest for the trees. There’s definitely one big striker/CF that’s younger that hasn’t been mentioned. Haaland. He’s not yet signed with PSG, Barca, City, Utd or RM. That must clearly mean he’s in negotiations with us, right?

    1. Ya’ know… I omitted EB in my rundown of CFs upthread intentionally. A force of physics– when he moves through the box– defenders are gravitationally drawn into an orbit. Not sure it can be described as hold-up play. 😮

      (Also left out Kane. More of a CAM last season anyway. Without Son paired in attack? Not sure he’d achieve as much.)

  26. Greg @ 9:04AM

    To me firepower means having players who are good at scoring goals. Auba for the last 2 1/2 seasons before this was our firepower. He was just flat out good at scoring goals even when he played for teams that did not provide him much in the way of service.

    That is interesting data about our conversion percentages equaling Man City and Liverpool the last couple of seasons I find those numbers hard to believe and I have never heard that before. I can’t prove it but I am reasonably certain our conversion percentage would go down quickly if we took a lot more shots.


    I agree with your assessment of Laca. He has been with us for 4 seasons under 3 different managers and 3 different systems and during that time his league goals production has been 14, 13, 10, 13. I think we can safely say his ceiling is low teens and that is likely to start dropping as he moves into his age 30 and above seasons. I have heard people say the reason he does not score more is he has had to share the CF job and his minutes have been limited. However, I would argue the reason his minutes have been limited is because he does not score enough to justify being the 100% first choice CF. If he would score more often his managers would have given him more minutes

    1. Data was fbref, toggle the tables by goals per shot. 0.13 gps in 2020, 0.14 in 2019, 0.10 in 2018.

      2021 it was 0.10 and we were joint 5th I think, so you definitely have a point that our conversion rate – firepower – wasn’t great last season, but I think Tim is clearly right on the broader point that if you up the number of shots you score more goals, more or less irrespective of who your striker is.

      1. There are a lot of ways to look at this and more than one way to score. Finishing rates (goals per shot) are generally seen as ephemeral – in other words variance can play a big part in finishing rates, even over a season with 500 shots. For example, when Leicester won the League their xGA-goals against was +9 (they saved 9 shots over xG) which indicated some “luck” was surely at play. Meanwhile Arsenal’s xG-goals was -9 that season (meaning some luck was at play).

        One caveat to that, there can be times when players are bad at finishing. Aaron Ramsey is one of those players and that season his xG was -4 which is the worst season of his career but he’s almost always in the red in terms of finishing.

        Statistically, and footballistically, the thing that’s easier to control is more and better chance creation. Basically this is what most managers are doing when they set their team up. They are trying to leverage the strengths of their players (attacking and defending) to increase/limit both the quality and quantity of shots. In other words: it’s easier to get the team to get a player like Auba good scoring chances (especially at his age) than it is to teach him techniques for better scoring. Not that they don’t do both but the manager can really only control the one thing (how his teams plays).

    2. Laca’s 13 league goals were the lowest for a chart topping player for Arsenal since 08/09, when Van Persie led all Arsenal players with 11.

      (But overall RVP had 20 in all competitions, and 11 assists).

      1. ironically, the reason rvp’s numbers were so low in the ’08-’09 season is because…….he had to split time at center forward with adebayor and bendtner. imagine that.

        van persie never proved prolific until he was the undisputed #9 for arsenal and stopped sharing center forward time with others. adebayor was never prolific until he stopped sharing minutes with henry and van persie. imagine that.

        i’ve given recent examples of how psg and barcelona released their center forward without adequate replacement and how it affected their campaign. both their center forwards are 4-years older than lacazette. even you were singing the praises of man utd’s cavanni where his effectiveness was not much different than lacazette’s.

        look, i’ve never been opposed to selling lacazette. i appreciate that you’d prefer to sell him. i’m just trying to get you to see that it’s not easy to replace what he does. likewise, i’m trying to get you to explain why selling lacazette now is a good idea.

        1. JOSH: “i’m just trying to get you to see that it’s not easy to replace what he does. likewise, i’m trying to get you to explain why selling lacazette now is a good idea”.

          Fair enough, Josh.

          Yes, I’m a fan of Cavani. I said here that I hoped we’d nab him when it was known that he was leaving PSG. He was outstanding for United, adapting instantly to the EPL. At the point at which he joined he had I reckon, at most, 2 seasons in him.

          Age isnt the only, or even the main factor. There are a lot of teams after 34 year old Lewandowski. The combination of circumstances, to me, makes selling Laca optimal. Contract position, age, offload timing, creating space in the pipe for Balogun and Martinelli, in a season where there are only domestic games. I dont believe that we got Balo to sign by telling him that 2 starts in early round Carabao games is his lot for the season.

          Yes, Laca does add considerable value to the team, as the attacking fulcrum, and in many games he works his a** off to exhaustion. Emile’s emergence has liberated him too. When he’s linking in the middle and has runners either side of him, he can be very effective. I can and do appreciate what he brings.

          Oh, btw, if he stays and re-assumes the role of attacking fulcrum, Im going with Pepe/Saka and Auba either side and Emile in the hole. Im playing our premier scorer. I adore Saka and sang his praises before his breakthrough, but Im not benching Auba for him when everyone is fit and firing. In a bad season for Auba, he either scored or assisted in a goal 18 times in 38 games last season; to Saka’s 16 times in 45 games. Of course stats dont tell the whole story, but they are illustrative. If I had to make a really tough call, Pepe is making way for the teenager. It’s a nice problem to have.

          1. I go the other way on Auba/Saka/Pepe. I give the preference to Saka: he’s younger, higher ceiling, and as we saw in the Euros ready to make the jump up. Auba is a great option to bring off the bench for 30 minutes, start some games wide, and start some games in the middle.

            Also, priority has to be given to Pepe’s development. We need to either maximize his goal-scoring or we need to sell him and take a bath on his transfer.

          2. okay, claudeivan. i think you appreciate the qualities of lacazette that i do. personally, i can’t imagine arsenal having even a decent season without him unless balogun does a major step up….but it would have to be major.

            as for lacazette’s contract, i agree it’s a mess. i mentioned at the beginning of last season that arsenal needed to extend him before christmas, understanding that they’d have to pay him a bit more but make it where the club has the option to automatically extend him an additional year at a time. as far as i can tell, arsenal haven’t even offered lacazette a new deal. at this point, if you were laca and had a good start to the season, would you extend? as for selling, you’re simply not going to collect a huge premium on a 30+ year old with less than a year to run on their contract. i anticipate teams coming for him to sign a pre-contract agreement in january.

            as for “clearing the pipeline”, my theory is this. if the young guy wants to play ahead of lacazette, it’s simple: be better than lacazette. i don’t believe in making room for an inferior player. after 17-year old anelka’s first training session, ian wright knew he had a year and a half tops. he was gone in 6 months. same with ashley cole. his quality moved sylvinho to the bench, not making room in a pipeline. arsenal don’t benefit lowering the bar for the starters. it won’t help them win games.

    3. I love that you use Aubameyang to prove your point for a need of more “firepower” because ironically, Aubameyang is a capricious finisher who, more than many forwards, requires great service. He’s not the guy who is out there getting his own shot and as we all now know (which I knew and pointed out when we signed him) he misses a high number of big chances which shows up in his xG-goals numbers which fluxuate from season to season.

      The reason his scoring dried up at the start of this season is because Arsenal didn’t get him any big chances (which I also wrote about here)!

      In short, Auba proves my point exactly. You need to get Auba more shots, more big chances, than you would need to get a player like Messi who can create his own shot.

      I’ll let you in on a little secret: when I was writing my columns about how Arsenal need more shots, I was specifically thinking of Aubameyang and how crucial it is that he gets more shots. We aren’t selling him (not on his wage) and while I would start to phase out his minutes (if I were coach) it’s crucial that while we have him and while we are paying him 15m a year, we NEED to get him more chances. It’s the only way we are getting top 4.

      As for finishing percentages, no, there is no inverse correlation/causation of increased shots taken=weaker finishing. The correlation between finishing and number of shots last season was 0.12.

      Now if you’ll excuse me, this whole thing is exhausting.

      1. Haha try not to get too exhausted in the comments Tim. Let us all argue it out, don’t know if I speak for everyone but I prefer when you are happy and writing about anything be it arsenal, cooking or trips out with your son (would love an update on how things have been but understand if you don’t want to share) than overwhelmed and not. Others will beat their heads against the Bill wall.

    4. Hello Bill! These stats on number of shots and conversion rates (firepower) are, to say the least, intriguing new elements that point to the need for more creativity, not firepower. It looks like a good moment to admit that firepower is, maybe, not the only answer. You chose the opposite tack and found the stats “hard to believe” and you suggested a new phenomenon that, for Arsenal only, entails that conversion rates would drop if shots taken would increase. I wonder if you might have transitioned from opinion to obsession…

  27. If Arsenal are anywhere near this blog’s comments in terms of form, we are in for terrific season. Cheers to all!

  28. Tim

    Auba was a golden boot level scorer for the 2 seasons when he played on teams managed by Emery and then Emery/Arteta. I don’t know what the numbers say but the almost unanimous opinion on this blog was those managers were overly conservative and poor tacticians and our style was boring and our over all creativity, chance creation, and total shots were down significantly. I don’t understand how we can think that Auba needs great service when he thrived and was one of the most productive strikers in Europe during those 2 seasons.

  29. Doc Gooner @ 5:48AM

    I agree with your idea the league has changed a lot over the years and the competition for the top spot and the competition for slots 2-8 have increased significantly. Arsene’s greatest team was 03/04 and that team lead the league in goal scoring with only scored 73 total goals. In Arsene’s last 2 seasons the invincibles goal scoring totals would have been 5-6th. In most seasons now it takes >85 -90 and sometimes >100 goals to lead the league. The problem we have had is our total goal scoring has been essentially stable around 72 while the rest of the league has gotten a lot better.

    During the 2005-2012 era we played a very eye pleasing brand of football built around Fabregas and I don’t know the numbers but I am sure we had more ball possession probably had more total passes, key passes and touches in the final 1/3 and we played an agressive attacking brand of football to the point where we accepted the fact that every year we would concede more goals then the more defensive minded teams such as ManU and Chelsea. If you are going to accept conceding more goals then the only way to beat your rivals is to significantly outscore then However, despite all of that ManU outscored us every single season during that time period. We were not as efficient or effective at turning possession, touches and passes into actual goals scored.

    The same thing happened from 2012-18. We played visually pleasing football and our passing and creativity stats were strong but we were never really very close to being as effective in terms of scoring goals as Man City, Mourinho’s Chelsea,Liverpool. We were even outscored by Leicester in 15/16

    The bottom line to me is the league has certainly gotten better in terms of scoring goals but our relative efficiency in front of goal has meant we stagnated and we have not kept up with the rest of the league. Averaging 72 goals per season was top of the league great in 1998-2004 and it was good enough to hold on to the top 4 for a lot of years until the rest of the league caught up with us. In Arsene’s last 2 seasons we scored 77 and 74 goals which is more then the invincibles scored. However the invincibles lead the league in scoring but in Arsene’s last 2 seasons we finished 5th and 4th in scoring. Defensive problems especially in Arsene’s last season was a big part of the problem but our relative inefficiency in front of goal certainly contributed to falling out of the top 4.

  30. Tim

    I am not suggesting that we don’t need more creativity. However, my argument is that we have had world class creativity and chance creation and chance creators during nearly all of the Wengerball era, especially during the early part of the Ozil era and during the Fabregas era and despite all of that creativity we were never we able to catch up to the teams we were trying to compare ourselves to in terms of scoring actual goals. As you pointed out during the Fabregas years he was great but he just did not have players who were good at turning his chances into goals scored. I can give you another long list of all of the players we brought into the team especially during the early Ozil years who we thought would improve their ability to score because they played with all of this creative talent but I can’t think of a single player who actually improved his efficiency and scored more goals when he came to Arsenal.

    Its just my opinion but our last 15 years of history would suggest that more creativity is good but it is not going to help us that much in terms of actually scoring a lot more goals until we add some players who are good at turning passes into goals scored.

  31. I am suggesting we need to have the golden boot winner in our squad but its unlikely we will move back into the top 4 when our 3 best scorers only scored a total of 33 goals and the 1 player who really has been a high scorer in the past is now in his age 32 season and our next best scorer is age 30

    Where do we add more creativity. Saka and Smith-Rowe are already taking 2 or the 4 attacking spots in our lineup and both are primarily creators and neither has been much of a scorer. need to have someone in the other 2 attacking slots that can score and we can’t afford to replace one of our scorers such as Pepe or Laca or Auba with another creative player who does not score much. Do we replace Saka and/or Smith-Rowe with a better creator? Lokanga had 3 goals and 2 assists last season so at least on paper he does not look someone who can significantly improve our creativity. If we add someone like Locatelli it would almost certainly mean dropping Smith-Rowe.

  32. bill, your argument is not without fact but rather without merit. you redundantly state historical data but you’re not being taken seriously because your position lacks nuance. it’s such a bad argument that everyone here is arguing a completely different point from yours.

    arsenal has one of the highest efficiency rates of any team in the league. this means, compared to other teams in the league, arsenal has guys that are more likely to finish chances. to use a different vernacular, arsenal has guys that are good at scoring goals. that makes sense as arsenal paid a lot of money for those players. the question most are debating is how to get the arsenal attackers more chances, which will lead to more goals. you, however, prefer to look at the raw data with goals per season and say that arsenal’s goals are down because they need better goal scorers.

  33. arsenal have screwed up the lacazette contract situation so bad. you never let a player enter the last year of their contract. that way, if someone wants to buy them, you can charge a premium. however, if you’re like lacazette and in the last year of your contract, why would you leave and why would any club pay unless they were desperate?

    if i were atletico madrid and wanted lacazette but arsenal asked for £17 million for him and i still believe suarez had another good year in him, why would i buy laca? i would tell laca to enjoy his last year at arsenal and, instead of giving that money to arsenal, i’d give less than half of that £17 million to lacazette as a “transfer bonus” because i didn’t have to pay a transfer fee. you know who else likes that deal? lacazette. to receive an extra £7 million to his salary over 3 years would suit him quite nicely. the losers? arsenal.

    these are arbitrary numbers but likely very close to the real deal. not only that, but to replace laca’s productivity would cost arsenal at least £50 million. laca came on in the second half yesterday and played a role in all 3 of arsenal’s second half goals. his name only comes up once for goals or assists but he made all 3 happen because of good center forward play. simply put, the arsenal attack is better when laca plays center forward. he’s a lyon academy product who’s predecessor was karim benzema. the kid knows what he’s doing

    tammy abraham? nah. he’s just tall…not a center forward. he couldn’t get a game ahead of werner, giroud, or even a center mid in kai havertz out of the side. i know abraham has fans on this forum. we’ll see.

  34. Josh

    Its hard for me accept the idea that an argument can be factually correct but still without merit.
    Obviously there are occasional exceptions but for the most part history tends to repeat and using historical trends is easily the most accurate way to predict future trends. The players who are the best goal scorers tend to score more goals and ones who don’t score tend not to score a lot in future seasons. Teams with several players who are good at scoring with tend to score more goals then teams whose players have not been very good at scoring in the past. The whole payment system of transfer fees and players wages in every sport in world history are based on the players historical averages. It seems like the wrong approach to simply dismiss and ignore clear cut historical evidence that is factually correct by saying it lacks nuance just because some of those historical trends point to conclusions that go against what you want to believe.

    1. “The players who are the best goal scorers tend to score more goals and ones who don’t score tend not to score a lot in future seasons. Teams with several players who are good at scoring with tend to score more goals then teams whose players have not been very good at scoring in the past.”

      The amount of insight is staggering. Do Leicester, Leeds and West Ham have better goalscorers than Arsenal and Chelsea ?

      Also, is the Messi at right back plan still on ? That’s a guaranteed 30 goals right there.

    2. bill, your arguments include facts but they are the arguments themselves are full of stuff you’ve made up. using facts to make an argument doesn’t automatically legitimize your argument; it requires context and nuance.

      sure, arsenal didn’t score a lot of goals last year. the question is why? your argument is that arsenal need better goal scorers. well, tim’s table shows that arsenal were among the most efficient teams converting chances last year. that means they had the best goal scorers in the league. the thing most are debating is how do we get them more shots, hence the thread title. you’re talking about better goal scorers, completely ignoring the table tim made. you could have the best goal scorer in the world but if he doesn’t get shots, he’s not going to score a lot of goals. that’s all we’re saying.

      likewise, you talk about creating chances or getting assists as if it’s a technical skill such as passing or dribbling. it’s not technique. it’s a tactical and cognitive skill. most professionals have the technical skill to “create” or “assist” but not the tactical nous guile, and vision. likewise, the situation dictates; if a situation doesn’t presents you with a chance to create, you need the vision to recognize that and the humility to respect it.

      lastly, my arguments have nothing to do with what i want an outcome to be. if anyone tries to do that here, it’s you. i don’t take stats and make up bad hypotheses’ to validate an illegitimate point. i have a healthy respect for the game and assess situations based primarily on what i see on the field, not what the stats say. stats work in baseball because that sport is all about technical skill. the moneyball approach doesn’t work in football. i understand how difficult it is to score and create in this game. stats in football are meant to help you understand what you see, not define what you see. stats say arsenal are efficient scorers and most accept that…with you being the only exception.

    3. 1. The players who are the best goal scorers tend to score more goals and ones who don’t score tend not to score a lot in future seasons.

      Not factually true. There are a few players who stay consistent over the years (for example, Auba) but most players have ups and downs and all players start from 0 goals and go up from there, usually gradually, until they reach a peak. This statement you have made is factually incorrect. How many goals did Henry score before he moved to Arsenal? 23 total goals in 7 seasons, his first season at Arsenal he scored 17. His second season 17. Was that a bad move for Arsenal? Under your logic, the correct move would have been to get Kevin Phillips – he was the Golden boot winner in 1999/2000 with 30 goals and had scored 25 and 35 in the previous two seasons. Clearly Kevin Phillips is a guy who “tends to score goals” and thus would “tend to score more in the future”. What happened? He scored 14 goals the next season and 11 goals the season after and 6 the season after that.

      2. Teams with several players who are good at scoring with tend to score more goals then teams whose players have not been very good at scoring in the past.

      These tautologies are exasperating but let’s just ask a question: if this is true and if Arsenal had not just one but two proven goal-scorers, why did Arsenal score 73 goals in 2018-19 (after 20 years of scoring 70 goals a season) and then suddenly just score 56 goals and 55 goals in the next two seasons, both times having a striker who shared in the golden boot or nearly won it? What changed? How do we change it back?

      3. The whole payment system of transfer fees and players wages in every sport in world history are based on the players historical averages.


      no it’s not. some players, sure. but everyone working in sport understands that carries some risk because they all know about Kevin Phillips or Michael Owens, etc. etc. Look at Harry Kane: you would assume that he’s worth £100m+ based on his historical averages but a team actually need to analyse his future value based on a number of factors, which include his age, ball usage, shots, etc. Teams might be willing to pay that but they are doing a risk assessment.

      meanwhile look at what PSG paid for Mbappe. That was in no way based on his past performances, that was a different risk assessment.

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