Hi folks, just a quick post. I’m still not feeling 100% but I want to give you all a thread to keep discussing things and if I don’t post a new “article”, the comments section of the old one will shut down automatically. This is done to reduce spam.
I was looking at some stats for Arsenal yesterday and I noticed a few things that stood out right away so, let me share them.
First, Arsenal are 4th in goals per90 this season, 5th in expected goals per90 this season, and third overall in shots taken per90. This are all hugely important data points which show that Arteta has seemingly hit on a combination of play which has improved Arsenal’s attack immensely.
It cannot be under sold that for the last two years Arsenal were TERRIBLE in attack. We were 9th in xG last season. People who complained about Arteta and Arsenal for the last two seasons, I think, had legitimate complaints.
The big problem at Arsenal was that we lacked a creative talent, someone who could get his teammate chances. Ozil was too old and was on his way out and Arteta tried to solve that problem by bringing Willian in, which fell flat.
We also played a stodgy form of football which limited creativity in the team in exchange for more defensive solidity.
So, how did shots go up?
Well, we signed Martin Ødegard for starters. When I did my season preview I was huge on this player and what I thought he would bring to Arsenal and sure enough he has delivered. Øde is 5th in the League in shot creating actions (SCA) per90 with 4.39. And he’s 3rd overall in SCA from open play with a total of 88. That’s just behind Bruno and Bernardo. Øde only has 4 assists (which is 46th in the League) but I feel like a lot of that is because of poor finishing at Arsenal – he’s 11th in expected assists. One last stat here for Øde: he’s 4th in the League in passes in the penalty area. That’s up there with guys like Cancelo, Bruno, TAA, and Salah.
Øde has been immense for Arsenal this season but I think he’s also had another effect, which is that he’s made the game a bit easier for Saka and Saka’s numbers have blossomed as a result. Again, to pat my own back, I predicted this. Saka has become almost the complete package in a wide forward. Saka is 4th is SCA from open play and 7th in xA. And he’s one of our main outlets this season where he’s 6th in progressive carries and 4th in carries into the penalty area. And he’s 9th in the League in dribbles!
What makes Saka a “complete” forward is that he can create for teammates and also gets shots for himself. He’s 5th in the League in total number of shots taken this season with 82. That’s just 6 fewer shots than Sadio Baldé.
The only mark against Saka is that his shots on target percentage is low. So far, he’s only getting 32% of his shots on target and that’s happening because he gets a lot of shots blocked. He’s had 32 of his 82 shots blocked this season with most of those blocked shots coming from the right hand side of the 18 yard box.
But that feels like a harsh criticism and I don’t mean to make it sound like that. I think it’s fantastic for a 20 year old to have the season that he’s having. I’ve said this many times before but getting shots is a good measure for how good a forward is and I think that it’s also a very useful predictor for how good a player could be in the future – the younger they are when they hit the magical number of 100 shots in a season, the more likely I think they are going to be a success. Saka has more shots this season than any other player under 21 in the big five leagues (I’ve been using 82 because that’s what fbref counts but Whoscored has him with 84 shots) and it’s not even close: second best is Patrick Wimmer with 54. And most important, he has 64 shots in the 18 yard box! 2nd best in that category is Georginio Rutter with 33 shots in the 18 yard box.
So, I think those two are playing a massive part in why Arsenal have had a renaissance under Arteta this season and why we are challenging for top four.
And to wrap up this post, I also need to say that we should watch out for Gabrielle Martinelli. He’s another player under 21 who is slowly getting himself a ton of shots. And! Let’s not forget about Emile Smith Rowe who has scored 10 goals this season. I can’t stress how important it is to have young, energetic players who want to perform for the team and who constantly look to improve themselves in training.
I’m still managing my expectations for this season (anything above 6th place is great!) but so far it’s looking like we might be legitimate top four contenders.